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7 Days of Holiday Blogging: Imani

First, the Shoe Personality for the Week is being suspended in order to complete this 7 Days of Holiday Blogging in honor of the #OccupyKwanzaa movement. Depending on how this day flows, I may just do a double post & take advantage of the 1st day of 2012 falling on a Sunday. In the meantime, lets go...

Habari Gani, Villagers?

It's Imani, the 7th & final day of Kwanzaa. Today's principle is all about Faith, & is specifically defined

To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

As Kwanzaa got in full swing this year I've had more than 1 friend identify their favorite principle & what it means to their lives. As a child, my favorite days were as follows: Ujamaa, cooperative economics, featured the annual marketplace with all kinds of great handmade goods. After Ujamaa, my favorite would have to be Kuumba. It is not only my sister's birthday, but also 1 of the more exciting days of events. Naturally, with the day belonging to creativity, folks would show out & show off in grand flair. It would be assumed that any kid's favorite day would be Imani because it's the day the gifts are distributed. As much as I love the wonderment of opening beautifully wrapped bags & boxes, the whole of celebrating Kwanzaa was as much a gift as any table full of Zawadi. With others making note of their favorite days, for the 1st time I've actively thought about what day has the greatest effect on me. This year, it would have to be Imani.

Though I am an adult, I still enjoy receiving gifts. Though I'm an adult, my mother still makes a point of picking out unique gifts that bring broad smiles & great joy. This, however is not what stands out for me. This year in particular I'm able to see the enormous role Faith has played in my Life. The day before yesterday, as I stood in a line with friends at a Kwanzaa celebration, I was informed that 1 of my former students had been shot & killed last month. I've not seen this student in 7 years but his face is still etched in my memory. He was too young for my group, with the oldest kids in Freedom School, but wouldn't go to be with his rightful group. I kept him, making room for him in the family that my classroom had become, & by the end he was like my son. I loved his sweet face, his beautiful eyes, & the way he both sought my approval & tried to get away with murder. He was small for his age but had a big presence. Old enough to be his aunt, even his mother under more tragic circumstances, I loved him best of all in that group of children that I loved like I do all the children I work with—as though they're my own. The news of his death literally hit me in my gut, taking my breath away & relieving me of the ability to form coherent sentences. I stammered & gaped & stammered some more. I fought back tears. & then it was all replaced by a calloused outer shell, wondering how many times I'd have to feel those emotions & trying to steel myself against them early. He, Ercell, loved me because I had Faith in him & now I must find something to have Faith in as I return to work in a few days to work with children who have a 50/50 chance of meeting the same or similar ends. Though it is hard at times, I have to have Faith that someday the value of Life will finally ring true in the hearts of these babies who don't love themselves enough to love another.

It is these same children that make me question the future. I can proudly boast the experiences crafted to build my critical thinking skills, making my classmates & I among the best & the brightest as we left the safety net of our independent African centered school to attend public schools. We read early, delivered speeches, & won science fair categories that our ages should have disqualified us for. We skipped grades & got accepted to the colleges & universities that merit the positive nod. We've pursued careers in noble fields that contribute to the betterment of our communities, many of us working for &with children. Many of the children we work with, however, do NOT come from parents who've had the experiences we've had, who've had their minds intentionally cultivated to be intellectual contenders. We fight to pass on the beauty of learning to children who could give a shit about us, what we're “selling,” or themselves. They are ill prepared to be Employee of the Month at places that feature registers with picture on the buttons. They are ill prepared to speak in complete sentences with proper subject/verb agreement & can barely tell you what either of those things are. They are ill prepared to show up for interviews & convince anyone that they are worth the time it takes to learn on the job because the ways that they speak & dress are negative distractions. They do not know that success is subjective or that it takes time, effort, & diligence. When meals can be heated in seconds, products purchased on virtual streets with dollars they've never actually seen or had to account for, why should they believe us when try to tell them that knowledge is power & that they DON'T know everything (or anything...or enough of anything)? As an educator, it is my job to have Faith in children. As a human being, concerned for the plight of us all with the fast food generation behind us to take the reigns, it is my challenge to continue to find sources for that Faith. I have to have Faith that 1 day the direction we're headed will cause the parents who don't quite get it yet to wake up & do better. There is too much information at our fingertips for not knowing to be an excuse. There's a tutorial, a YouTube video, a website devoted to every topic real & imagined under the sun. If we don't know something we have to be courageous enough to admit we do not & seek information. It's a [quality] of Life or death situation here. When some more of these households start assisting us, the teachers, then you will see what teachers are able to do & have more Faith in us. Right now, our hands are tied & things look bleek. Help us help you.

& then I look at my mother. A couple years shy of 60, my mother's mobility is at times comparable to my grandmother's, who is 82. A woman who wore strength like a shield, my mother has been backed down by an illness that has changed her into a woman at times I don't recognize. They have the same face but 1 of them stands erect & moves with fire from her heels while the other walks assisted by 2 canes & other times zips around on a motorized scooter. My mother moves in slow motion through a reality I cannot imagine. She worries me with her inability to feel, her slow reaction time, & the potential target on her back in this society that devalues children & ignores elders. My mother sits tall now, instead of standing tall[er than me]. Even with these changes in her that I struggle with accepting, my mother smiles & laughs, a lot, & does the things she wants to do, even when it requires her to push through some of the same fears I have for her. More my Shero now than she ever was as the tough as nails, no nonsense woman who could carry a refrigerator on her back & tune up a car, I am learning to have Faith that it is possible to overcome ANYTHING. When we are not faced with maladies, we take for granted that we won't be & make assumptions about what we can & cannot handle. Watching people maintain their will to live after having their face removed by wild animal; finding ways to keep getting up when the parts of the body made for standing are absent or non-functional; watching a child play basketball with his hand permanently burnt into a claw...living is about the spirit within overcoming the shell that encases it or helps it travel. I am not interested in debilitating diseases or other infirmities, accidental or physiological, coming to test my abilities, but I am sure that these things are able to be overcome. Watch any elder go about the business of living while old[er] & be inspired by the possibilities.

I often say that Life will kill you, but along the way we learn some great lessons that assist us in navigating this terrain with a little more aplomb. I am thankful that I have been taught the value of reflection, or that this is something that is naturally a part of who I am. I love having the good sense to assess my experiences & take away the lesson, getting better at leaving behind the rest. In order to even get here, I had to have Faith that the direct kicks in my ass would prove worthy of something positive in the end. There is a lot happening in the world to test our Faith, but ultimately most of us have cause to rejoice in what we have—whether earned or given--& our ability to continue in forward motion. Whatever you believe in or pray to, connect to that on this day & fortify your Faith.

All of the things I've recently set out to do have been done. They may not have happened exactly according to plan, but they have been done. The power of words & intentions have propped me up as I move along my personal journey toward my Nia. With Kujichagulia I chase the source of Imani so that I may find reason to continue to participate in Ujima. Ujamaa is something I must work on, but something I will work on as those of us a part of this community understand more & more about quality & customer service. My Kuumba is developing, working toward finally cranking out bodies of work that benefit us all, adding to our Umoja.

Asante sana, thank you, for coming on this personal & educational journey through Kwanzaa with me & the ladies who so graciously shared themselves with me & you. I hope that, whether you choose to celebrate Kwanzaa in the future, that you have at least been given food for thought & a reason, if not reasons, to respect what the holiday is about. While you've been quiet, asking no questions & leaving no comments, I have been able to track the readership & know that you've at least read the words. Moving forward in 2012, I hope to provide more occasions for you to think a little deeper on what's happening around us all, as well as to laugh at the absurdity of the things that happen in Life. I look forward to you finding your voice & sharing it, guiding some of the conversation pieces that land here. I wish you & yours a safe & peaceful ringing in of 2012, henceforth referred to as the TwoZeroOneTwo in a voice that is dead wrong but near & dear to some of us. May the new year bring you all that you desire & that you work toward having.

Happy New Year!!

Watch me move.

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