Nelson Mandela: the embodiment of a freedom's dream realized.
Madiba: The iconic leader in the struggle against apartheid. Today, South Africa's most honored citizen. Incarcerated. Resurrected with spirit intact. A political prisoner who rose out of shackles and removed the shackles of black South Africans. His meteoric rise to power, encompassed the imagination of suffering African people around the world.
Mandela: The first Black South African president, transitioned from incarcerated terrorist to a triumphant miracle dismantling white supremacy in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela: A formidable agent of change, unwavering in a resolve to end separate and unequal criminal oppression. Embracing former repressive enemies in a reconciliation for peace.
South African President Mandela: secured justice and equality for the masses avoiding a civil war. Father, husband, lawyer, leader, countryman and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. "Spear of the nation" who eviscerated racism.
Nelson Mandela: The emergent revolutionary of the 20th Century, inspiring millions to seek peaceful solutions to the injustice of a nation's oppression of its citizens.
This moral evolution must spread throughout America and the universe. In that way Mandela's life will not have been in vain.
Rest in Peace, Madiba.
When I visited Dakar in 1987, I was reluctant to eat the African cuisine. My apprehension stemmed from the precautions one is given prior to embarking on foreign soil. However,upon my return in 1988, I decided to return as an African. Hence, this time I traveled as the prodigal daughter, returning "Home" at last to enjoy the feasts after a long famine in the States.
I could not wait to have Thiep Bou Diene, the national dish of rice, fresh fish, escargots, pumento peppers, and vegetables. And each evening, savored a new dish: Yassa, rice with marinated onions,spices, and chicken: Mafe, chicken with peanut sauce: Couscous, meat served with gombosauce over sorghum:And I drank Bessap juice from a little plastic pouch on the roadside as well as coconutmilk from its coconut shell. I ate the fruitof the Baobab tree, "pain de singe" or monkey bread with its tart coollemon/lime flavor and pulppy texture. And. Itasted the roasted nuts from the fields. I enjoyed Sapotie, a plum flavoredfruit with a potatoe-likeskin as well as succulent melons and fresh strawberries from the Keramel Market. I sampled the delicious nougats and donut puffs from the African ladies in brightly colored boubous and galees.I drank the Kinkiliba tea as an aperitif... a light beverage. And now, as I sit and recall all the Senegales cuisine...so rare, I know je reviendrai a Senegal. I shall return.
Africa will forever be the place of common ancestory for all the Blacks ofthe Diaspora. And when we return we can bond anew in spirit and fellowship. We can create a "bridge" which will be called friendship. Its foundation is our common origin, its network is the interlacing of hands clasped in mutual aid, and the path will be suspended over the painful"Middle Passage" of the past and carry us as far as our hearts permit. Jereviendrai.
NB Dictionary Reference Bessap juice is the cooked calyx of the Hibiscus flower. It has a cranberry like flavor and is also used in the southern United States.The Fleur d'hibiscus du Senegal is the national flower of Senegal.
Sorghum is a leadling cereal grain in Africa.It is resistant to the drought and heat.For food, it is usually ground into a meal. The grain is similar in composition to that of corn except in being higher in protein andlower in fat.
The teacher stands beneath a leafy tree and towers over his young charges outside the Grand Mosque in Dakar. He holds only a strip of leather lace and swats the children occasionally for any activity he perceives to be lacking in discipline.
The children chant their lessons rocking backward and forward. They are reciting Quranic verses written in Arabic on wooden slates.
The slates are reminiscent of the tablet in which the Quranic laws were inscribed. A brown soluble ink is used to write each verse from the Quran. This verse is washed away once it is memorized by the student. The slate is placed next to the tree to dry. The next verse in the sequence is written on a clean slate.
The older students (13-15) are separated from the younger students (5-6). They also chant their lessons rhythmically. They appear not to notice me. They are completely absorbed in the verses of the Quran..
A headmaster was also present this day to observe all the lessons and monitor all activities related to the school. My guide served as an interpreter. He had a working knowledge of Wolof, a native language, French, Arabic, and English. My guide made my requests known to the headmaster. I offered the children small oyster crackers and showed them how to raise their hands if they had received them. This worked out just fine because the teacher did not want the children to leave their places on the ground or become unruly while clambering for the snack. Raising their hands to gain attention returned the calm to the little group which was initially present. And now everyone seemed pleased.
The headmaster wrote a prayer for me on a wooden slate. He read it aloud in his miraculous voice. It was indeed a touching gesture..a moment to treasure.
After making a small donation to the school, it was time to visit the Grand Mosque and the Islamic Institute.
As-salam alaykum Peace be onto you.
He is the embodiment of hope and the agent of change. President Obama: The most powerful leader in the free world, crisscrossing the nation: crisscrossing the globe to affect change.
He is our 44th American President. The people's choice. The winner of a contentious race, he stands tall, with arms which remain extended outward, embracing all of his constituents. President Obama, the deliverer, securing the future dreams of Latino youth caught is a quagmire of despair.
He is Barack Hussein Obama, father, husband, scholar, and friend : the one that burns the midnight oil in the White House as the nation sleeps...while the disquieting events at home and abroad which need addressing, keep him awake at night.
He is the Commander in Chief of the U. S. Armed Forces who organized and ordered the death of the venomous Osama bin Laden. As a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, he reigns as hope personified in an era of economic depression, political challenges, and environmental unrest.
President Obama is "the best that is yet to come." And we trust that God will hold him close and grant him the fulfillment of the hope and change that he earnestly prays for.
A library's place is in the heart of a school. It is where different nations are housed peacefully together on shelves in ordered silence. It is where new learning takes place with every turn of a page. It is where life unfolds and begs answers; Where old questions were answered and new questions begin.
The library is the doorway to past, present, and future all rolled into one history. It is where the very young and very old find refuge; And where their imagination can take flight. The library is where old tales are told and new tales are crafted; where special guests display their gifts and talents; where the applause from their audience beckons new patrons and new listeners into the author's circle.
Schools need libraries to showcase author's day, spelling bees, chess tournaments,puppet shows, read-aloud days, literacy teas, storytelling, and holidays. Schools need libraries to introduce students to great authors and even greater than life libraries. Libraries are needed to introduce the youth of today to the world of computer technology,research, and cyberspace of tomorrow.
Surely, libraries have something for everyone. Free access is granted. Joining the Library costs nothing but means everything. We must protect our school libraries as well as the public schools that house our libraries.
Teaching is a noble profession. The esteem, reverence, and awe which students hold for their teachers is often captured in the students' words. In 2006 our students wrote about their teachers. They were writing about teachers who were professionals in every meaning of the word. Through the children's words, you can see how "a practitioner's superior depth of experience" made a difference in the academic life of each child. Surely, a qualified teacher in a classroom can mean the difference between the students' academic life or death because the students' future depends so desperately on the quality of their education.
WHAT IS A TEACHER?
A teacher is a symbol of learning: a leader of learners and a miracle to education.
A teacher is the captain of our educational journey; exact about everything.
A teacher has the courage enough to teach; and knows mostly all the answers. Teachers become our heroic inspiration.
Teachers educate us with all of their knowledge. Smart and spirited, teachers can make our brains work like computers. Yet, our teachers can also hold our hands when we need it.
Teachers reach to the sky to get what we need; and exit a subject just at the right time.
A teacher possesses the academics and grace that we all love. Teachers care for us in every imaginable way.
Our teacher is the hero in our learning lives.
Education is the key to success. That is what our teachers have taught us.
Teachers are a class struggle in liberty: believing in kids; reaching out to kids; and instilling pride within all of us.
Our education is important to our teachers. Therefore our teachers struggle hard to teach every student: checking exams after school; explaining things so they are easier; and reading to us or teaching us how to read.
Each one of our praises we give. And for everything our teachers do, we will thank them today, tomorrow and always.
By Bibana, Ashanti, Jamal, Ellenah, Diana, John Henry, and Mohammed, fifth graders at P.S.75x. Dedicated to teachers Ms. Sharin Terado, Mrs.Gisella Montalvo, and Mrs. Elena Garcia.
Mr. Isaac, like a brilliant lawyer, has skillfully placed the facts before the people to examine. Surely, teaching has its challenges as teachers earnestly try each day to engage students in a lesson. Our young audience today, unlike the audience of yesteryears, centuries ago, are bombarded with drama and glitzy presentations all day in the media which catch their attention. No longer can teachers present mealy-mouthed lessons and expect kids to stay tuned. "So let the rumpus begin!" (to quote Maurice Sendak,) as we use every visual and tactile and auditory device possible in the classroom. In fact, we are encouraged to bring the lesson to life because of the various learning modalities, learning styles, or multiple intelligences of our students.
The Cleveland Avenue bus, which Rosa Parks made famous in December of 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white man in Montgomery, AL. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Therefore, I re-enact Rosa Parks' bus ride scene with children each year. And the students remember years later. "What is the color of your money?" Even 5 year olds know that it's green as they finally get on board the bus and sing freedom songs. Yes, as teachers, we sing to and with our students, play chess with them and enjoy teaching and learning with them. Teaching is a lively art. "That's what we do!"
However, in my opinion, there are two things we don't do: We don't tread on the American Flag. And we don't threaten the President.
It's just unAmerican.
"The dream of a new and just American society must not die."
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The historic march on Washington, D.C. took place on August 28, 1963. At that time Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had the support of labor unions, religious groups and "all people gallantly engaged in the struggle for freedom and dignity." On March 14, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the first African American to receive the John Dewey Award of the United Federation of Teachers.
Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of Teachers, presented this award to Dr. King for his outstanding contribution to the education of all Americans. The award citation recognized King's belief that all students should have an equal opportunity to achieve success. It acknowledged King's further understanding of the important role educators play in our society.
During King's acceptance speech, he stressed the need for the passage of the Civil Rights Bill in the United States Senate. Dr. King felt this bill would help rid America of every vestige of segregation. He also stated that segregation was "a new form of slavery," "a caste system." King viewed segregation as socially and morally wrong and sinful.
"Segregation is not only sociologically untenable, segregation is politically and economically unsound," said King. "Segregation is wrong, to use the words of the great Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber, because it substitutes an "I-it" relationship for an "I-thou" relationship. Segregation is wrong because it is nothing but a new form of slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexity."
Dr. King urged all persons of good will to join the thousands of Americans who were "gallantly engaged in the struggle for freedom and human dignity." He wanted to make the American dream a reality for all citizens. Nonviolent direct action would be the means to that end.
The Civil Rights Bill was passed in 1964. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968.
"The sudden and violent death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., places a serious and profound obligation on all Americans, black and white -- an obligation to continue and broaden the now still efforts of Dr. King to build a society where racial justice and peace prevail," said Shanker. "That dream of a new and just American Society is shared by million upon millions of Americans -- and that dream will not die. We have been proud to walk with Dr. King in Mississippi and in Washington and to work with him in establishing freedom schools in the South. In this tragic hour, we rededicate ourselves for his cause."
Today, 'the sixties' (1960-1969) are remembered as the turbulent decade in which five civil rights leaders were assassinated: John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Martin L. King. The sixties are also remembered as the decade in which three courageous young civil rights workers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney were murdered in Mississippi by the Klu Klux Klan: Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were shot to death at point blank range and James Chaney was brutally beaten and shot three times in the face. All three bodies were buried in a dam until they were recovered by the FBI.
As we move through the 21st century, the dream of a new and just American society must not die because "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." The dream of a new and just American society must not die because it is a dream based on the American dream of liberty and justice for all. The dream of a new and just American Society will not die because "the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice."
This I believe.
"If a man is fortunate he will before he dies gather up as much as he can of his heritage and transmit it to his children. And in his final breath, he will be grateful for this inexhaustible legacy, knowing that is our nourishing mother and our lasting life." -- Will Durant
The African presence in Scarsdale is as old as the Village itself. We can start
with the West India Company's charter of Privilege and Exemption for the Patroons. In that document for the purpose encouraging agriculture, the company agreed to furnish colonist as many Africans as they conveniently could. And by 1712, eleven years after the formation of the Manor of Scarsdale, the inhabitants numbered only 12, of whom four were white, the remaining eight were enslaved Africans. Therefore, it's not an anomaly to see that by 1915 seven houses were owned and occupied on Saxon Woods Road by African Americans.
Robert Purdy (1823-1890) and Lena Landrine Purdy (1813-1880) were African American residents and homeowners on Saxon Woods Road, in Scarsdale, New York. Donna Lockley is a descendant of Robert Purdy. It is interesting to note that as a great-great-granddaughter of Robert Purdy, she has traced the family history using maps, census records, archives and an oral history. Lockley has stated that Robert Purdy was a runaway slave from Louisiana. He was able to establish himself as a runaway on Saxon Woods Road, which is in Scarsdale, N.Y. Unlike the South, New York State abolished Slavery in 1827.
Lena Landrine, the wife of Robert Purdy, was a Native American. The Purdys traveled to Quaker Ridge in Scarsdale, N.Y., which was a safe haven. Robert Purdy worked on local farms and purchased 12 acres of fine land for $270 from George A. Willets. There were other sellers of the additional acreage. However, there should be no confusion as to what the acreage was used for. These men were farmers and were practically 100 percent self-sufficient through growing vegetables, fruit, and raising many types of animals and fowl.
Lockey found the following information recorded in The Selected U.S. Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850-1880:
George J. Williets was the Enumerator in 1880. Robert Purdy was an owner of his property on Saxon Woods Road, Scarsdale, New York: "The Tilled including fallow and grass in rotation (whether pasture or meadow) (5)of farm including land, fences and buildings (1,000) dollars of farming implements and machinery (50 dollars)of Live Stock (80) dollars Estimated value of all farm productions (sold, consumed, or on hand for 1879) 400.00 dollars. Mown Acreage (3) not Mown (2) Altogether Robert had about 5 acres here Hay (6) TonsHorses of all ages on hand June 1, 1880 (1) Yea he had a horse Cows (1) Other (1) Claved dropped (1) Cattel of ages Purchased (2) Sold living (2) Butter made on the Farm (50 lbs) Swine on hand June 1, 1880 Number (1) Poultry on hand, June 1, 1880 exclusive of Spring Hatching barn yard (50) Eggs produced in 1879 were (175) Indian Corn 1879 Acres (1) Crop (Bush) 70 Irish Potatoes in 1879 he had 1/4 Acres of Crop (20) Apples 1/2Rearing trees 40Bushels (1879) 5 Total value of orchard products of all kinds sold or consumed dollars (2) Bees (1879) 20lbs."
Robert Purdy was the only one reported during 1880 who sold 20 lbs. of honey who raised bees. One descendant remembers the deep, deep backyards at the homes of relatives during childhood visits. It is also interesting to note that these large individual parcels of land existed even after the annexation of acres Purdy land by Westchester County. Donna Lockley has the deed of this bill of sale as well as other family documents that tell the story of Purdy's journey from slavery to freedom.
Several houses were built on the Purdy Estate. This property has housed descendants of the Purdy family for generations. The Robert Purdy Homestead was at 307 Saxon Woods Road. This house was built for his wife, himself and family. When each of his daughters married, he gave them a piece of land for a house. In time all the houses were occupied by family members and remained so until the mid-20th century.
The Education of Purdy children was very important. "All of the children attended the Quaker Ridge School. It is important to note that by 1840 the Purdy family members were educated in a one-room Quaker school along with the neighboring white children," said Robinette Purdy Allen Robinson.
One textbook attests to the academic rigor that is still important in Scarsdale schools today. Robinette Purdy Allen Robinson adds, "One book is named 'Gill's Oxford & Cambridge Spelling' and appears to have been used for Grades 2 - 5. Unfortunately, it is in very poor condition today and the first 3 pages are missing so I can't determine when it was published. By the handwriting on the inside cover and some pages, I'm guessing that Maude & Millie, the Peterson twins, ( grandchildren of the Purdys) shared this book and that they were quite young when they received it. The inside cover and the first remaining page (actually page 3) as well as some subsequent pages will give one an idea of the scope of learning in those days, from grades 2 thru 5 (?), starting with 'phonics' and going through Latin and Greek roots of words. Some French terms were also included. The book was 142 pages long and small in size, as one can see from the copies." Certainly, this is a treasured remembrance.
In addition to Robert Purdy's early days as an entrepreneur, Robinette Purdy Allen Robinson, the great-great-granddaughter of Purdy, states the following:
"Robert Purdy is credited to being one of the founders of the A.M.E. Zion Church in Mamaroneck N.Y., which is now known as Barry Ave. A.M.E. Zion Church. The early services were held at his home on Saxon Woods Road as well as at the Cedar Street home (Mamaroneck) of Mrs. Dinah (Granny) Hicks. Mr. Purdy and 4 other trustees were instrumental in the purchase of the current church property, subsequently erected at its current location, 645 N. Barry Avenue, in 1903."
Robert and Lena Purdy were buried in the African Cemetery in Rye, N.Y. The land for the cemetery was donated to the Town of Rye in 1860 by Underhill and Elizabeth Halstead with the condition that it "shall forever hereafter by kept, held and used for purpose of a cemetery or burial place for the colored inhabitants of the said Town of Rye and its vicinity, free and clear of any charge therefore..." This information was provided by the Rye Historical Society in conjunction with the African American Cemetery Project sponsored by Building Community Bridges Org. at the Memorial Day observance this year. Today the African Cemetery, North St., Rye is a National Historic Place and Westchester County Tricentennial Historic Site.
A reunion of close to 100 descendants of Robert Purdy took place in August 2012. This coincided with the 160th Anniversary of the Barry Avenue A. M. E. Zion Church in Mamaroneck. Thus, the legacy of Robert Purdy is now unrolled for understanding. It is the legacy of family unity; the legacy of self-determination and education; a legacy of responsibility and integrity. And finally, it is a legacy of faith. Faith in one God. The Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. The God that reveals a way, when there is often no way.
Donna Marie Lockley and Robinette Purdy Allen Robinson, who are the direct descendants of Robert Purdy.
Photo of the 1850 Purdy Estate in Scarsdale, N.Y., researched by Donna Lockley.
In 1988 Chancellor Richard Greene asked the following rhetorical question: Can New York City, a World City, live up to the test of valuing diversity? At this time in history Greene was being installed as the new chancellor. On March 3, 1988, he was challenging the stakeholders to build a quality of life that placed trust and caring at the apex of our human relationships. He envisioned all people as worthy and entitled to share in the American experience. What he felt was essential was for our city to "reject illiteracy as a norm in some of our communities and move toward a quality of life which is the very foundation of an educated society."
Unfortunately, we have not reached this goal. The reports, surveys and statistics show how much further we must go if equity and access to a basic education is possible for all.
Richard Greene pointed to the fact that New York City had a long legacy -- not just as a city, but as a "world city" -- educating its immigrant population. He pointed out how the world of these immigrants changed. Similarly, he felt there should be an investment in all children because their diverse origins were essential to the future of our nation.
Greene cautioned against pointing the finger of accusation and any one culprit for the problems when he said, "We, the collective we, can say that we rose to the test by making our society better for all students. Our greatness as a school system and as a city will ultimately be judged by how we treat the least of those among us. Education is everybody's business. We must believe that we can reform, reinforce and save our schools and ultimately celebrate as a renaissance in learning and achievement."
Today, the challenge remains. And the facts elicited from 1988 seem to almost mirror what is still happening today. "Can we continue to ignore the facts that Latino students are more that 34 percent less likely than the general school population to graduate from high school in New York; the actual number of high school diplomas have declined even though the high school population has remained the same; the dropout rate for black youngsters is at an all time high; and some of our buildings are in a condition not acceptable for any children?" questioned Greene.
Certainly as indicated by the DOE, "choice-based system may be leading to an over-concentration of students with disabilities, English language learners and/or students that are performing below proficiency in certain schools." And as stated by Jackie Bennett In Power Speaks Truth:
"What with complex, market-driven enrollment policies on the one hand (which favor the families best equipped to negotiate the system), and high-stakes accountability systems on the other (which reward schools that teach fewer at-risk kids), students have been disenfranchised by Bloomberg's policies."
Now it is our turn, we, the collective we, will have to fix it. And if Richard Greenie were here today he would add the following: "In the final analysis, we must remember that we will be judged by only one standard -- the extent to which we have improved achievement scores for all students."
To this end, I feel we must collaborate, negotiate, and renegotiate. It's all hands on deck. The time is now!