Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 2 – Self-determination

SELFDr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966.  It is a holiday celebrated from December 26 – Jan 1.  There is a focus principle each day of the holiday.  Although these principles are based on African values, I believe if we apply these principles in education we could improve our education system.   Today’s principle is kujichagulia/self-determination – to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

During my winter break, I learned about the Rosenwald Schools and viewed a videotaped lecture “Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald, and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South” given by Stephanie Deutsch.  Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald Sears, Roebuck and Co. President, partnered together to bring schools to black children in the south.  Although Washington died a few years after some of the schools were built, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, “By 1928, one-third of the South’s rural black school children and teachers were served by Rosenwald Schools.”

This reflection by Deutsch towards the end of her lecture stood out to me:

But of course the true legacy is the people themselves, not the physical structures.  This is the fact that I find the most amazing.  In Virginia, the African Americans who built the schools and who attended the schools contributed twice as much money, dollar for dollar, as the Rosenwald fund did.  These were people who were almost universally poor.  Many of them were people who had no education themselves, but they knew that this was the road forward for their children. They wanted their children to have something that they hadn’t had.  They made it happen.

“They made it happen.”  Today, I know parents who are trying to make it happen and I know educators who are trying to make it happen.  I say stick with it.  I know it is hard.  If black people in the rural south when lynching and racism was rampant made it happen, we can do the same in 2018 and beyond.

One of my favorite bible verse is, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”  Galatians 6:9.  It’s the verse, I say to myself when the road gets tough, when I want to be part of creating opportunities for children and when I write and advocate for good schools, but it seems to be in vain.  When you are doing what you know is right and people are challenging you, that is the time to dig deeper and stay the course.

I think about my great-grandparents who fled Georgia in the middle of the night and made their way to Indiana after the KKK burned down their home a second time.  My great-grandparents couldn’t read or write, but they were determined to make sure their children would learn how to read and write and have a better life than they did.

To the naysayers, (especially those who have directed their attention to the education of minorities when many times they know little about minorities, their communities, but apparently know what is best for them and their children), I leave you with this quote that I have had on my desk since my first year in education in 2006:   

People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.  Chinese Proverb

If you don’t understand why a parent or educator is determined to make certain educational choices, the least you could do is get out of the way.  To my education warriors, stay the course; you will reap the rewards soon!

Related Read:

Applying Kwanzaa Principles to Education: Day 1 – Unity


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