“Seven generations, they say, it takes to heal, to rise above the sadness move forward…” –Rhonda Head, “500 Years”
Thanksgiving was never attached to Plymouth Rock in my house, the women who raised me knew too much truth to celebrate what was the beginning of the end for so many. We cooked, we were thankful. Yesterday, I cooked, I am thankful. I am also in solidarity with those who mourn this month.
This week, I will leave you to find your own truth; about Thanksgiving, about our nation’s origin story. Try to find one new truth or one new voice to amplify. See you next week.
Here is my most recent article from Edutopia featuring Indigenous narratives and stories, many from Indigenous people. These stories are helpful for teachers and learners seeking historical accuracy.
Below are links to explore and stories to be heard about the over 60 million people who were here long before Europeans came; and this week’s Small Bites features the names of indigenous voices to learn from on social media, plus a groovy Spotify playlist to help you decolonize your drive-time.
NOTE: Special Thanks to Rhonda Head, the award winning Cree mezzo soprano on this week’s #SmallBites. You can find out more about her on rhondahead.com, @Rhonda_Head on Twitter, or RhondaVHead on Instagram. Her music, including her latest Christmas single, can be purchased on iTunes.
20-30m –Spend some time exploring the NPS indigenous stories and reflecting over the old cowboy and “Indian” movies. Do it with your families, with your students.
15-20m – Put yourself in timeout, the world will not stop turning. Use that time to do whatever recharges you.
10-15m – Look at your lesson plans and reflect on how your students can show mastery in fewer steps. Don’t teach less, don’t question less, but reduce testing stress. In populations that are struggling educationally and because of COVID more than others, a little ‘air’ is helpful.
5-10m – Look up the most recent CDC and WHO guidelines and share them with your students and families. Do everything you can to mitigate COVID spread over the holidays.
This year I had really all but decided that I was NOT buying a turkey. I barely like turkey. And for my small family, that’s a WHOOOOOOLE lotta leftovers that I don’t like. But the pull was so strong that I not only bought one, I created a whole Small Bites about it.
Thing is, I grew up in a house where none of us really liked turkey. I remember this same conversation with my grandmom who made THE best fried chicken. It would have been a much better choice, but, we always went with turkey. Here I am, generations later, a whole grown up, and I have a turkey alarm set on my phone so I don’t forget to defrost starting Sunday.
That’s the pull of traditions. I can say that the confederate flag is a symbol of hate because it is flown by Americans who who fought for human trafficking, kept citizens from voting and education and is today carried by people who lynch (domestic terrorists). However, in my life as a Texan, I have met some mostly benevolent people who did not see that flag as egregious, it was simply a symbol of Southern pride. It was the flag that had been in grandpa’s truck, the same grandpa that taught them to fish and hunt. It was the flag touted in history books as a symbol of heroism, a flag revered without consideration of the definition of treason.
If I am honest, I was 16 before I realized that my Southern pride and patriotic education left little room for honest discourse about what we were really proud of.
This Thanksgiving, let’s look honestly at what we have been taught to internalize as fact and ask ourselves, ‘who else was there’, ‘what might have been their experiences?’
Do we consider that the Sioux and Cheyenne were protecting their land and that it was the settlers who were the interlopers since the land was already settled?
Do we consider that although Thomas Jefferson had a longstanding dalliance of some kind, that Sally Hemings was his property, a girl of 14 who he impregnated, whether or not it was her choice?
Do we consider that there are traditions that may or may not be steeped in false narratives or shaded versions of truths that, like a mountain range, may have many views and vantage points?
I know that traditions connect us to our past and our world at large, like me buying that turkey I don’t really want to eat. But I also know that setting aside traditions that have out-served their usefulness makes room for growth. As we prepare for our holiday traditions this year, let’s reflect on them and broaden our viewpoint to include the stories of others who share our journey, but not our path.
20-30m – This ain’t our first time at the rodeo. Read this History.com article about contentious elections of yesteryear.
15-20m – Spend 10 minutes writing down everything you are feeling about the pandemic, online learning, the election, life in 2020 in general. Now spend 10 minutes writing down all the things you have to be grateful for. If your first list is longer, dig a little deeper. Still having trouble? Start with the sentence stem, “even though…”
10-15m – Go stand outside. Really, don’t even watch until the end. Look up at the night sky. Whether it’s velvety blackness or a cascade of stars, realize, you can see it. (Circle back to your list above.
5-10m – Don’t watch the news for the whole weekend. I dare ya!
Do you ever watch zombie movies? Or pandemic ones? Especially the ones that start out in some grassy suburban yard with an idyllic family in the sunshine just before bedlam breaks out? Once the destruction hits, it’s the recurring flashback moment and most probably the moment everyone wonders about; could I have done something differently that would have changed the outcome?
Even in real life, whenever tragedy strikes, we always go back over events, wondering if we had taken another road, chosen another course of action at some magic moment in time, if we would have ended up in the same situation.
I believe, for our country, we are at that ‘fantasy point in time’, that magical moment in which everything can change in an instant. Where do we go from here, as a nation, as ONE nation? How do we go from all black and all white to palatable shades of gray?
We can talk less and listen more.
We can refuse to go down the demonization road.
We can assure ourselves that we have more that binds us than divides us.
Or, we can continue with our Facebook tirades, our finger pointing, our self-righteous conversations with like-minded saints who know what’s best, if only the other side weren’t so cretinous.
This is the moment in which we choose to move forward, to make the best of what we have, no matter how odious we feel that choice might be. Yes, this country is deeply divided. Yes, I have my feelings about it. But I will not waste energy on any of it. I have a son to raise, roses and relationships to tend, a future generation to educate and a corner of the world to brighten. I have a book to write and groups to speak for. I have a new niece to bewundern. In short, I have a life to live beyond politics and anger about politics.
This is that magic moment in time in which we decide to dedicate our energies to the things that we can change and accept the things we can’t. If there is evidence of fraud it will be found. If there is none to find, facebook posts and heated conversations will not magically produce any.
Civil unrest can turn to civil war and no election outcome is worth that, not at this point in time. Winning really isn’t everything and I am afraid, if we don’t make some hard choices, life as we know it might be over.
Choose to agree to disagree.
Choose to walk away from arguments.
Choose to educate your children and not your neighbors and coworkers.
Choose peace over contention, even with those you consider evil.
My question is, as you express your moral outrage at the turn this country is taking, just what are you holding on to and what’s the worst thing that could happen if you let it go?
This is that magic moment in time, the one that we can hold on to, or wistfully look back on while unrest escalates into something permanently destructive. Dramatic? Maybe. Possible, definitely. And although we may not all agree on how this country should be run, we’d all agree that we do hope there is a country to be run; so instead of standing back and standing by, let’s all just stand down.
And just in case you wonder why I’m talking about the election in a blog about equity strategies, to be sure, 50% of us are likely to be teaching students who come from households in which parents do not espouse our politics. If you really want change, make sure you are modeling peace and acceptance, even if it seems that their parents aren’t. Your students are watching you, let them see the best in you, even throughout this difficult time.
When the election is called, your reality will not drastically change. But how you handle your reality can drastically change everything around you. If you react with levity and calm, those around you just might do the same. –Hedreich Nichols
Y’all know I viewed life from the church bench from right behind the piano where my mama, grandmama and great-grandmom before me all played for the choir. Although I know faith is not everybody’s thing, it has taught me some valuable lessons that are universally useful.
The line from an old hymn–be not dismayed whate’er betide is perfect for this moment. Will who is in the White House really change what happens to you and your family tomorrow morning? Will you cease to eat, drink, sleep, breathe, love because your candidate does or does not move in/out on January 20th?
Yes, you wanted to make America great again and erase the havoc that 8 years of the Obama presidency and ensuing accusations of radical ‘cancel culture’ attitudes have wreaked.
Yes you wanted to show the world that America is an inclusive place that does not control people’s bodies, judge who they love or how they look; a place that acknowledges, and seeks to right, historical wrongs.
Maybe you get what you want. Maybe you don’t. One way or another, a favorite saying of parents and teachers of littles is, “you git what you git and you don’t throw a fit”. We have a democracy. When it speaks, we adhere to the proclamation and get in line to forgive, or at least move past, the evils of the other side to become one nation indivisible again. There are wrongs, there are attacks, there are selfish moves that I do not understand, however, I know that the “other side” thinks the same about my side.
I cannot change everyone’s opinion and I have ceased to waste energy trying. I suggest you do the same. Don’t throw good money after bad, as the folks saying goes. Don’t spend your time on social media, or at the table arguing with friends, co-workers and relatives. Unless you are very lucky, this won’t be the first time you have to forgive and extend grace without your pain being acknowledged. So extend and model grace and levity for the good of everyone.
When the election is called, your reality will not drastically change. But how you handle your reality can drastically change everything around you. If you react with levity and calm, those around you just might do the same.
Be not dismayed, whate’er betide, God will take care of you. Whether you believe all the words Sis. Mamie Lee Lott used to sing on Sundays, the first part remains true. Be not dismayed. Don’t worry. Remember the lessons of your youth on the quotidianness of opinions and the wisdom of saying nothing more often than saying something. And if you need to voice your opinion about the evils and ills of the world, write your congressional representative, call your school board member or better yet, run for office yourself.
Be not dismayed. Yes, I know there is a lot at stake. I have some big feelings too. But, I know that when the election is called, all I can do is keep being the best person I know how to be. I hope you’ll join me.