In prior posts, you’ve heard me speak of the ‘21 Day Renewal Mind, Body and Soul Devotional by Andrea Rodgers. Well on June 22, 2020, I studied “Day #20: Today focus on the power of spoken words. During this devotional, the Author/Pastor stated that one of her mentors had introduced her to the concept of ‘word curses’. Rodger further explains, that it could include ‘things spoken over us’. These ‘words shared with us as an adult and even those things taken internally that hurt us....” Essentially these ‘word curses’ can ‘stunt’ our ‘growth’ and “block our vision to what is possible.’ Rodgers writes.
As I meditated on ‘word curses’ that I’ve experienced, it reminded me of how young I was when I experienced my first racial encounters. I further thought about how said experiences have shaped who I am. My Blackness.
In the third-grade, I attended Schultz Elementary in Detroit, Michigan. I’d had a myriad of experiences like most children, like being bullied, made fun of; “kid stuff”. However, I hadn’t encountered adults (Teachers) that made it a point to intentionally make a kid feel bad. Or intentionally try to demean them. Like, I didn’t understand and couldn’t articulate my feelings and/or what was happening.
Let’s just say, my third-grade teacher was a Bitch!! Okay, those are my adult words. LBVS! That said, she was a horrible person. This Joka always had something to say about me. As a result, I’d get a spanking once Mom read the note. After weeks of dealing with this, and I’m sure me complaining to my Grandma; resulted in a surprise visit she made to the school.
Sitting in class, quietly doing my work. I looked up and saw my Grandma looking into the classroom, observing. She smiled at me and gave me a signal to continue working. Soon after, the teacher walked my way and stood over me. Continuing to observe from outside the door, and the teacher still oblivious Grandma’s quiet observation. As I continued to work, ‘click, click’ the teacher was heading my way. My stomach sank! She put her white wrinkly finger on my paper and questioned me about what I was doing. As normal, her voice elevated which pierced me; and made me feel bad as all the other kids watched.
Continuing to demean me in front of the entire class, my Grandma’s knock on the door of the classroom interrupted her. The teacher opened the door with a smile. I just sat there, no tears; I knew Grandma had caught this heifer!
Opening the door with a warm welcome, the teacher replied, “How may I help you?” Grandma responded, “Hello, I work for the Board and am doing observations. What is going on with the little girl you were disciplining?” The teacher responded, “Well, I have to make sure she knows she is no better than the other students.” She continued, “That little girl is always neat and taken care of. I don’t want her to think she is any better than the other kids in the classroom. This is a poor area, and she needs to know her place.”
Grandma listened attentively. As the teacher continued, I sat there pencil in hand wondering what would come of this situation. My Grandma could boss my Mom around, so I wasn’t worried!
Having heard enough, Grandma stopped her. “That little girl you have wrongfully treated for far too long is my Granddaughter.” The teacher’s mouth dropped. She began trying to rationalize her actions. Grandma looked at me and said, “Dinky, it’s time to go. Get your thingz. You won’t be back!” Looking at that third-grade teacher with pure disgust. As Grandma put her arm around my shoulder, she advised the teacher, she’d be hearing from her. And we were out!
Due to the treatment of this teacher, coupled with potential better educational experiences, my Mom thought the move to my Aunts would be good. Now as a parent, I know you do what you have to do to create impactful educational experiences. That said, Gull Lake Intermediate here I come!!
I was open to the idea. Not that I had a choice. JS! I’m from a generation where children weren’t a part of decision making. Even if it involved their respective lives. Most summers were spent in Kalamazoo as a kid.
So, what would be the difference, RIGHT??!!
Man, you talk about an adjustment. It was literally a hand-full Black students. LBSVS!! Not only was I a new Black Girl in this all-white school. White kids referred to me as ‘that Black Girl from Detroit’, living away from her Mom. The assumptions made, endless I’m sure. To top it off, upon arriving at the school; every time something went wrong, I was one of the Black kids called to the Principal’s Office. Over time, all the White students knew what would happen if thingz went wrong. “Please send..insert Black students’ name) to the Office. Literally there were times multiple of us would wait outside of her Office.
At my young age, it was clear to me that Black Folks were not really welcomed. However, we were going to be around. Weekly, there were racial slurs. 'Nigger' was a word I heard regularly during school hours. I’d ignore and remove myself from the situation. Until this one time during Recess...
So, one day I was having a fun lunch Recess. My guard was down for once at school. I along with other girls (none of which were Black) were jump-roping in the space between Hardings and the school’s playground. As we switched out turns to twirl and jump, it was my turn to jump in. I was actually being a fourth-grade child with no worries. The day was going well! No N-word so far. Yay! Right?! We continued to play. As I exited my jump, I accidentally bumped my arch-nemesis as she watched wanting to say something hateful to me.
Laughing and having a good time, I apologized for the accidental bump as I gained my balance and looked her in her face. As I looked at her, she frowned and wiped off her arm where I barely touched her. I couldn’t believe this heifer wiped her arm off like I was contagious! I'd been having a good day, so I prepared to walk away. Before I knew it, her favorite word for me came out of her mouth...... “N-i-g-g-e-r!!!!” Before I knew it, I’d pulled my arm back, balled my little fist and punched her in her nose. I’d had enough!!!
Little miss Bully ran to the office holding her nose. I stood there in tears because I was fed up with her foolishness. The bell rang to end recess and to return to class. Walking into class my Teacher knew something was wrong. Before class even could really get back into flow, the PA came on “Please send Zenda to the Principal’s Office.” I gathered myself as I walked, no more tears. This was a matter of right and wrong and I was tired of being made to feel like less than. As that was contrary to the way I was being raised.
"Keep your head up and walk like you're a millionaire." ~ E.K. Beasley
As I approached the Principal’s Office, raised my head, pushed my shoulders back. Of course I made sure it was okay to come in. Upon my entrance, the Bully who liked to call me out of my name; sat there crying and holding her bloody nose. I looked at her with little to no remorse, sat down and faced the Principal. With no intention of asking what happened. She began with, “Zenda, because you hit her I am calling your Aunt and you may be suspended.” The Principal continued, “hitting is not a solution to any problem. I don’t understand why you would hit someone.” I sat there and couldn’t believe that I was going to be suspended and I was called the N-word; like it was on my birth certificate. TH! This White woman was defending this little girl.
I tried to remain calm! I almost began to cry. Before I knew it, I sat up in my chair and said “Day after day since I moved here, I have been called a Nigger by this girl. Not once has anything be done. I know grown-ups have overheard! I continued with a firm voice; well as firm as a 9/10-year-old could be. With this new found power, I continued speaking and told the Principal “you call my Aunt and be sure to tell her that I hit her because yet again, I was called a Nigger and she wiped her arm off like I was contagious or something.”
The bully had never mentioned to the Principal why I hit her. She made it seem like I was some out of control kid. I would later learn that that is what some white people think of Black people. Let’s just say, the Principal never called my Aunt. I wasn’t suspended. I went back to class and the bully remained with the Principal and in school.
That was years ago, and one of many racial experiences I’ve endured. As I completed Day #20 of my devotional, I began to journal. In doing so, I was able to acknowledge that I'd been holding on to these hurts. With all the inequalities and injustices-occurring; matters of my plight continue to resurface. That said, they will not stifle me.
This now 46 years old Black woman, will be a part of the solution. Whether someone thinks I'm bougie, or they don't like my Black; I will walk with pride, my head high and with much tenacity in honor of those that paved the way. Metaphorically, I am taking the Torch from them & will shine the light on ‘All ThingZ’ to truly aid in Liberating Black People.
Journal Writing Prompt
What matters of your 'Black Plight' do you need to manage in order to maintain diligence and work towards CHANGE for Black Americans? Further, how do you and will you remain vigilant and not allow the Hateful 'spoken words' of others to derail you?