Tuesday, May 22, 2018

I Don't Want A Woman Teacher

Pan African History teacher, Obi Egbuna, Jr., and LionHeart at the first Sankofa Homeschool Graduation.

"I don't want a woman for my teacher," LionHeart said to me.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I'm a homeschool parent, his first teacher, but you don't want a woman for a teacher! When I turned around he could see the emotions in my eyes.  So he started trying to explain himself a little more.  "Well, mom, I don't mean it like that," he corrected.  "I just want Baba Balvin to stay.  Mom, he let us use a blow torch!"  It seemed the blow torch was symbolic of all the things that a man understands about what boys need to do and experience.  So, instead of getting all in my feelings, I started to think about what he was really saying.  I knew he loved me to the moon.  But on Fridays, that was his day to be taught by what he would one day become, a man, a husband, a father, and perhaps, a business owner.  On Fridays, the Sankofa Homeschool Collective, meets for 20 weeks out of the school year.  We find people in our community who are passionate about what they do and we seek them out to instruct our children.  Along the way, something very unique happened.  More than half of our instructors are men! This is very unusual in an educational setting, even in homeschool cooperatives.  Then I thought a little further and realized that on Fridays every single one of  LionHeart's teachers is a man.  Wow!

Metals Works & Jewelry Making Class

Baba Balvin introducing the blow torch.

Baba Balvin, founder and owner of Balando Designs, taught the art of metal works and jewelry making using techniques such as beading, wire work and copper etching.  On the very first day of class each child created a beautiful necklace.  His class was so popular, we had to offer it twice.  He quickly became a favorite teacher of the students.

Pan African History Class

Baba Obi making a point about the Bombing of the Move Organization.
Baba Obi has been teaching Lionheart since he was 5 years old.  From performing in plays with Mass Emphasis History and Theatre Company, to memorizing all 55 African countries, Pan African History has been weaved into his being.  This is not just a history class to check off the homeschool requirement box.  LionHeart is learning that he has an obligation to carry on the work of the great men and women leaders who came before him.

Junior Mastermind Class

This class was all about expanding the mind through brain games and critical thinking.  Baba MenaqAmurr is a professor of Psychology, founder of Mind on the Matter, and will be soon publishing his 5th book, Practical Psychology 101: A psychological manual for Black Loved Matters and all other movements.

Baba Menaq brain training with critical thinking tools.

Frederick Douglas Writing Club

Baba Got Bars, Baba Bomai,

This class was taught by Baba Bomani, founder of Baba Got Bars. He is an accomplished writer, poet, teacher and Hip Hop artist who understands boys.  He is the father of three, including twin boys and he gets them.  The boys learn to write through the study of the Autobiography of Frederick Douglas, boy-friendly literature, mind-mapping and other multi-sensory approaches.

Boys Construction Class

While this class technically took place on a Tuesday and was not a part of the Sankofa line-up, it was still an instance where he was being taught by a man with more than 30 years experienced as a tradesman.

African Drumming Master Teacher

Circa 2013 at the DC Watermelon Festival.  LionHeart is pictured with his teacher and mentor Baba M and his best friend.

Drum class has become a part of his soul.  It is the highlight of his Friday, the highlight of his week and the weekend when there is rehearsal for the performing companies.  I had to beg and plead with LionHeart to attend summer camp two years ago.  He didn't want to miss rehearsal.  Mountain biking, swimming, zip lining, it didn't matter. He didn't want to miss rehearsal. I couldn't believe it.  He has a special connection with his favorite teacher who gets him.  Baba Mahiri (or Baba M) knows how to pull the genius out of children.  As he recently said, after teaching them and getting to know them for years, he understands how their minds work.  Drum class is not just a class, but it is a place where young boys grow into men.

Prepping a drum

Here he sits, long after rehearsal has ended, hanging out with the older brothers and prepping a drum.

Birthright 2017 ~ One of the Lead Djembe players for Farafina Denu
For a young boy who lost his father at age 7, Fridays (and Tuesday) must represent something truly amazing to his spirit and I had no idea until that day.  Now, instead of being upset, I wanted to cry because I could really feel where he was coming from. He is truly blessed to have so many men as consistent teachers in his life. I know this is crucial for males.  I am even more grateful for the Sankofa and Farafina Kan community and the men who are a part of it.

A mural in Cambridge, Md., my hometown.

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