Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Marilyn Rhames Says We Need Media To Tell More Inspiring Stories From The Black Community

11 Jun

My friend Michelle, who is completing her Masters in Education, sent me this blog post from Marilyn Rhames’s blog, Charting My Own Course, which appeared recently on the Education Week website.

I’ve often thought about how when it comes to race, the images we see in the media–read about in books and magazines, watch on television and at the movies, and hear about on the news, all seem so narrow.  First of all, we might say people of color are often absent from the majority of what we see in print and on the screen.  And, when they do appear, too often, it’s the same recycled images–the hip-hop star, the black criminal (on television crime shows and in the news), and the black comedian whose “black jokes” we cautiously laugh at.

I’m not saying we haven’t progressed, or that there isn’t more representation of people of color in these arenas that is positive, and more well-rounded, but I think we still have a way to go.  We’re all individuals.  There are many ways to be black, to be white, to be Asian, etc.  And, I think if we can show this, and tell the stories, let the stories be heard from the black community that are positive, we, and our children, can learn that we are not all that different.  We desire the same things in life.  We can learn that “the other” is not to be feared, but to be revered.  We are all the same.

I’ll end, on a lighter note, saying I was flattered when Michelle said that she could easily picture me as the Jewish woman noted in the article here.  Enjoy the read!

Charting My Own Course

 The Secret Lives of Black Teachers

By Marilyn Rhames on June 6, 2012 12:56 PM

This weekend, I am hosting a spiritual conference for teachers of all pedagogical preferences, political persuasions, and ethnicities. It is designed to allow educators of like faith to pray together and to encourage us to express an aspect of our personality that we often conceal from our peers at work. Like everyone else, teachers hold secrets—some so painful, some so joyous it’s hard to contain.

Just last Sunday, a Jewish colleague of mine came to visit my church, a predominately African American congregation. She wanted to hear the soulful sounds of a gospel choir. She wanted to sit with me in my women’s Sunday School class. She wanted to have an authentic African American worship experience.

The love, strength, and exuberance she witnessed left her pensive and deeply moved. Borrowing from the words of the sermon, she said she had “a God moment.”

She saw a black male teenager in a black hoodie and cornrows do a tribute to Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black 17-year-old who was fatally shot in Florida by an over-zealous Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer. The young man, Darius Malone, did a touching tribute without saying a word. Instead, he danced. He danced ballet up and down the altar. And in the fall, Darius will move to Austin, Texas to enjoy a four-year scholarship at a fine arts college.

My white friend heard an extremely talented band play and watched a large choir dressed in white end a song and start it back up again just because they felt like it.

She got to meet black university professors, lawyers, businessmen, and fellow teachers who live in the community of the church.

She watched how black mothers and black fathers worshiped together and doted on their children.

She wanted to know why aren’t these images—images of successful African American people who are joyful and prosperous—routinely displayed in the media, especially on the local news.

I told her that racial stereotypes are sexy, and sex sells. Just like a car wreck: People know it’s horrible but they are still compelled to watch. And the lack of diversity in the upper management of the newsrooms keeps the status quo.

My friend’s visit made me realize that success in the African American community is almost like a secret. And many of us black teachers seem to have secret lives outside of work. At the end of the day, most of us go home to “our” community, and everybody else goes home to “their” community. What makes it hard is that “our” community is the one many other people look down on and want to avoid.

When I have invited members of my school staff to my house for parties, for example, people don’t come. But when I am invited to “their” community for parties, I see everyone there having a great time. I don’t take it personal; where I live, though in the same city, is foreign and perceived to be unsafe.

I live in a charged city. Chicago. It’s racially charged. It’s politically charged. People here are over-taxed—both literally and figuratively. And no one feels it more than the police and teachers.

But feeling misunderstood and keeping secrets only add to the pressure. While tragic stories like the killing of Trayvon Martin deserve abundant media attention, there are many other inspiring stories about the black community that will never get told in the press.

How about that hoodie-wearing, cornrows-wearing, Darius Malone who can twirl and leap across the floor in a jaw-dropping dance of ballet? He’s a typical kid from the neighborhood whose mom sings in the church choir.

Now that’s a secret worth telling on the local news!

Marilyn Rhames

Marilyn Anderson Rhames is a science teacher at a charter school in Chicago and holds masters degrees in education and journalism. A former reporter for People and Time, she also won various awards while at Newsday and The Journal News in New York. An educator for eight years, Marilyn is currently a Teaching Policy Fellow with Teach Plus and the founder of a start-up nonprofit called Teachers Who Pray. This blog offers her perspectives on health and wellness in the classroom, charter schools, and the need for education reform.


SOURCE:  Education Week, Charting My Own Course blog, The Secret Lives of Black Teachers, by Marilyn Rhames, June 6, 2012

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