February 14: Sonia Sanchez
Sonia Sanchez said in a 2017 interview that "Howard didn't really want me there" -- she was too radical, and not quite a member of the Black Bourgeoisie that Howard groomed. Hers is a story that is Howard-adjacent -- she was a recurring guest lecturer, not a tenured faculty member. But there's a story to be told about people feeling like outsiders in spaces created for them, too, right?
Sanchez is a teacher, a master poet. An activist. A Black feminist. She briefly joined the Nation of Islam, but left after three years because her views on women's rights conflicted with the views of the faith. She is a key figure of the Black Arts Movement and an originator of the spoken word art form. At 87, she continues to be a voice for Black culture, civil rights, women’s liberation and peace as a poet, playwright, teacher, activist. She is one of the earliest champions of Black studies as an academic discipline -- her Black studies course at San Francisco State University pre-dates the first recognized program. She also taught the nation's first course on African-American literature at a predominately white institution.
But her appreciation of the English language came almost out of necessity. She developed a stutter as a young child after the death of her grandmother, who was one of her primary caregivers at the time; her mother had died in childbirth. When she moved to New York to live with her father, a school teacher, she started to pay close attention to language and the sounds of words, in an effort to overcome her stuttering.
Young Students (K3-2nd Grade)
Sonia Sanchez took something people often tease others about -- stuttering -- and turned it into her superpower. She became such an master of words and sounds in an attempt to overcome her stutter that she became one of the best poets and writers of our time -- and pioneered a new kind of speaking in spoken word. What do you dislike about yourself, or find people tease you about? How can you transform it into a superpower?
Middle Students (Grades 3-8)
Sonia Sanchez didn't always feel like she fit in in the spaces she found herself, but she thrived anyway, and held onto the things that were important to her. What's important to you? How will standing up for those things make the world around you better?
High School Students (Grades 9-12)
Sonia Sanchez said Howard "didn't want me there," because the institution preferred more tame individuals who wouldn't rock the boat with the establishment. Many of the institutions (and individuals) that are important and central to the advancement of Black people are equally riddled with contradictions about propriety and a need to "go along to get along." Do you think there's a place for propriety as a way to advance one's goals? How does it -- or does it -- fit in with other approaches to protest and advancement?
Are you shaping a life-long love of learning in your students? Or are you participating in a system that would push out their excitement to learn? How will you help to shape the way they view the world through the role you play in their lives?
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About the Series
A Black Child Can was founded to create a better world for students by empowering the adults around them with the knowledge they need to advocate on their behalf. The 2022 blog series builds on this foundation, encouraging educators to participate in the discussion and reflect on the ways they're showing up for their students.