Think China 2014: From the Deep East to the Far East.

On July 5th, 2014 a group of 14 African American men departed the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC) , en route to a 14 day stay in China.
These young men went from Deep East Oakland to the Far East with one goal:

To change the world… and the world’s perspective of them.

Think China 2014
                      The Forbidden City

The young men, five undergraduate students and nine high school students, were accompanied by three chaperones (I was one of them). This method of mentorship was designed by Ms. Regina Jackson, CEO of EOYDC (and a chaperone on the trip as well), as a part of her organization’s Brotherhood Across America- youth led college mentoring model.

The college students, all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) majors, were selected in order to provide linked learning opportunities, which would give exposure to career possibilities to the younger men. In addition, the brotherhood mentoring circles were aimed at building strong individual character, as well as the collective group identity– which is EOYDC’s tagline: “building character to build communities”.

Fittingly, the community’s character was a driving force in getting the young men to China.

Sponsored by local businesses, churches and organizations, the group– known as the Think China 2014 delegation, arrived in China with a world of support under their wings.

The voyage was a part of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, which was signed by President Barack Obama earlier this year, as a part of the White House’s focus on education. At its heart, the trip was a great opportunity for a cross-cultural exchange, as well as a chance for the young men to develop core values for the White House Education Initiative.

Because of the weight of their responsibilities, the gentlemen were lead through a rigorous schedule of classes and site visits; interspersed with character/ team building activities and fine dinning in China.

Think China 2014
Think China 2014: in the classroom

The young men saw Buddhist Temples in Hangzhou and department stores in Shanghai. They visited the Great Wall of China and the Xixi Wetland nature reserve. They went to automotive plants, made dumplings, learned Mandarin, studied the Chin Dynasty, talked modern politics, and even found time to eat KFC AND Peeking Duck (not at the same time)
… And of course, they drank lots of tea and ate plenty of rice.

 

All of the young men journaled throughout the course of the trip, as was a requirement. Everyday, a different young man who be held responsible for submitting a journal for publication through EOYDC’s website.

While the young men enjoyed the trip and blogged about it, I stood back and took it all in– through my camera lens… Here are just a few of the many moments I captured while we were in China.

Enjoy.

 


 

OG Told Me: a Write-up in my old High School’s Magazine

Athenian, my old high school, published an article on me and my OG Told Me project!!

New Guard Meets Old Guard, Pendarvis Harshaw ’05

An elderly man leans on a rail at a track meet, left hand on his hip, gazing at the sky. His expression says he has experience and he knows what’s up. He is Tommie Smith who gave a black-leathered glove fisted salute from the winner’s circle at the 1968 Olympics. “If you keep living, you have to keep changing with times, ” he says.

page-21-b-screen-shot-2013-08-13-at-3-40-17-pm

Another Man, in graying dreadlocks, smiles as he looks down at a photograph from the 60s. He points to a young, lanky kid in the photo and says, that’s me.” He is Ronald Freeman and was once a member of the Black Panther Party. “Just look around,” he says. “Figure out how to impact the situation and make it better.”

Two men sit on a sidewalk and crack jokes over a game of chess. Their bare, muscled arms are poised over the game pieces as they concentrate on their next move. They are “David Ruffin” and “Philly Fred”, fixtures on the street in Washington, DC’s Uptown. David says, “Follow your heart. Stay close to your mother.”

all of these remarkable photos and words of wisdom are featured on a photo-journalistic website called OG Told Me ( ogtoldme.com ), created by Pendarvis Harshaw ’05. “It’s an ode to the elder men in the community who gave me tidbits of wisdom as I moved through society as a child,” he says. “They taught me what to do and what not to do. Sometimes It’d be a neighborhood big shot standing in front of his car. Sometimes it’d be a homeless person at a bus stop.”

The OG project is a replica of what Pendarvis did growing up, now told with a camera and a blog site instead of a pen and notebook. ( OG is a term for elders and means original gangster, but now has multiple meanings: old guy, old guard, original griot (storyteller). He travels around Oakland, asking elders the question: given your life experience, if you had the chance to talk to (young*) people, what would you say? “In a world where so many die young, you have to be doing something right in order to live that long,” he explains.

Pendarvis is currently a gradate student at UC Berkeley studying documentary filmmaking, and is also a free-lance journalist. “I’m drawn to journalism and the art of storytelling because poetry is the basis for all good writing,” he remarks. ” I

choose to focus on the overlap of education and violence/ justice because that’s where I think I can make an immediate impact.”

When asked what Athenian experience has influenced his life the most, he says,” Mannnnnn … that trip to Death Valley! I think about that so often! Greatest lesson ever learned has to be the lesson of the Hero’s Journey. Experience it through hiking across the hottest place in the Western Hemisphere, only to return home– a complete Hero’s journey.”

And his words of wisdom to others? “Pack light,” he says. “That’s all I tell myself.”

 

 

The Mind’s Eye: “Flowers For Algernon”.

Inspired by Plato’s philosophy, a rap artist from Philly, and the miseducation of Pendarvis.

“Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eye are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”- Plato’s Republic.

Plato’s philosophy on what bewilders the mind’s eye is the driving thought behind the classic novel, “Flowers for Algernon”, written by Daniel Keys. With an original date of publication in 1958, who could have foreseen that a little more than 50 years later, this same book would exemplify the bewilderment in my mind’s eye.

I first encountered the novel in 8th grade as an assigned book report. After grading my report, my 8th grade English teacher, Ms. Jones, gave me a good grade and an even better opportunity: a pamphlet for an organization called “A Better Chance“. The organization’s mission was to identify young students who are excelling in their inner-city schools, and give them an opportunity to seek a well-rounded education at schools with greater resources, such as private or preparatory schools. I took that opportunity; never could I have imagined how the book, the assignment, and the pamphlet would forever alter my educational path.

“Flowers For Algernon” book cover.

The story of “Flowers for Algernon” is the diary-style log of a character named Charlie, and his experiences as he goes through a roller-coaster ride of enlightenment and bewilderment. Charlie, a mentally challenged middle aged janitor is chosen to be the subject of an experimental operation. He is coupled with a mouse, Algernon, who has also recently gone through the same surgery. Both experiments are momentary successes, but Algernon’s mental capacity soon begins to dwindle. Upon noticing the change in the mouse, Charlie assumes that his newly acquired IQ will soon wane as well. In effort to counteract the mental decay, Charlie finds and fixes the error in the doctor’s formula; he calls it the “Algernon-Gordon Effect”. The alteration is too late for the mouse, who’s erratic behavior and diminishing metal heath eventually leads to death. After witnessing this, Charlie takes no action to stop his decline back to the slow side, and ultimately he fully regresses to the state of mental retardation he once was. The final entry to the journal which captures Charlie’s short experience with genius-hood, asks that the reader put fresh flowers on Algernon’s grave.

The story also intertwines a love story, but it was the story of the process of enlightenment and bewilderment in the mind’s eye that spoke to me….

A college schoolmate from Philly, a lyricist by the name of ” Dru Chris ” ( @DruChris) , made a song called “Flowers For Algernon”, Dru_Chris_The_Arsonist.m64153.html  (Track number 8)

I had completely forgotten about the story of Charlie and the mouse since going through what I would call my “enlightenment” period.

After taking classes on Greek, African, and Western philosophy, I now understand….

The opening and closing of the mind’s eye is symbolic for the cycle of life. You see it flowers. You see it in the moon. You see it sexual organs. You see it in human beings… Infants and elderly people share many of the same characteristics!

“…which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye.”- Plato.

The opening & closing of the mind’s eye. Another form of the cycle of life- represented through all of the aforementioned naturally occurring instances…  As well as through a slow middle aged janitor and deceased lab rat… Inspired by Plato … And brought back to my mind by a rapper from Philly.

It’s crazy how the mind works….

…. Just a train of thought….

Why is it so much easier to help other people than myself ?

Why is it so much easier to help other people than myself ?

You know that spot on your back where your arms don’t reach? That one spot that always itches but you can never scratch-until you get one of those plastic back scratchers … But of course- that doesn’t suffice: that’s plastic dawg!

Yea, that spot on your back where your arms don’t reach, that’s a constant reminder that human beings are social creatures. We need someone to scratch our backs… I mean, we could use trees like California Brown bears do; at least the tree is living… I bet a that’s more sufficient than an inanimate object … I digress.

So, my itching- or, uh- burning question: Why is it so much easier to help other people than it is to help myself ?

I was awarded a shiny-new parking ticket after taking these young men to get educational resources.
I was awarded a shiny-new parking ticket after taking these young men, amongst other students, to a Saturday afternoon full of workshops full of educational resources.

The first thing I did when I came to the realization of this conundrum: post it as my facebook status … and sent a tweet out carrying the same sentiment.

“It is called being selfless. And it is a good thing, for when we lend a hand to another, we are in essence helping to improve ourselves.” Benny “Uncle Punch” Andrews said in reply to my post.

“For two reasons. The selfless part like Bennie said and also it is harder to see the issues in oneself”- Andrew Meyer.

How true…

It’s been killing me all week: I can hold it down for the community, for my friends, for my family … but when it comes to self-It never comes down to self…

It’s not a total mutilation of self in order to save the world… na, I’m not that nice. It’s not a: save the world, so I can say I saved the world kind of thing either… Na, I’m not that egotistical. This persona is a product of being aware: I see the bigger picture. I see the young person who is affected by the parents who are unemployed … that… Or it’s the elder junkie who is a product of a broken school system, hit a schnide in the game, turned to whatever drugs were readily available in the community… and then whallah! You have my surroundings.

And as bad I want to get out of here, that’s just scratching my own back… I want my surroundings to change. So, when I walk out the door in the morning I scratch the backs of fiends , “baby mommas” , marginalized youth, ect, ect… And they say it all comes back… They never said it would come back to haunt me.

It’s messing with my mind.

“you fall in the same line as a psychologist with this one. Unable to solve their own problems.”- @Truth_Inception.

He’s right. I can give people the shirt off my back, but have trouble asking for it in return.

“Yes. I dedicated a week to myself and it was the hardest things ever. Very necessary though.”- @OhhMissRiss

She’s right… that’s what I need.

It’s crunch time. I’m 24 ½. It’s time to lock in and focus on something great. But all I seem to care about is socializing, the internet, and socializing via the internet!

Dang!

I saw this tweet the other day, it simply said that “accomplishments are better than compliments”… and I’m more than sure it’s some song lyrics that were tweeted out of context and quotations- nonetheless, the statement resonated…

I have a number of big time accomplishments within my grasp (graduating, publishing a book, living to be 25…)

And all of it seems so simple: Just do it, NIKE style. But every time I go to move forward… those same friends that are better than back scratchers- are holding me back. They aren’t exactly back stabbers, but nonetheless, being sociable and helping others and wanting to show the world that I’m solid ( That I have a strong backbone)… all of that is holding me back.

So I had to investigate- I had to find someone who has been in my position before. Someone that was destined for greatness, but was suffering from minor setbacks …

So I googled quotes from Michael Jordan:

To be successful you have to be selfish, or else you never achieve. And once you get to your highest level, then you have to be unselfish.”- Michael Jordan

… I’ll take the words of the man who wore number 23 on his back …

Peace.

Accountable, Accounting Bull.

Accounting

 

The basic accounting equation:

Assets = Credits + Stock Holder’s Equity.

 

My basic accounting equation:

A passing grade in Accounting = enough credits + Me holding a degree for my education.

 

A passing grade in accounting is the only thing between me and my bachelors degree from Howard University.

 

Long story short:

  1. I studied Telecommunications Management… which requires students to minor in business… thus: I didn’t sign up for this.
  2. I failed accounting. Multiple times.
  3. I didn’t graduate, instead I returned to Oakland 1 class short of a degree.
  4. I’m currently taking the class online… Thus: I will get my degree.

 

Accounting
Accounting

 

Short Story Long:

 

I could charge my accounting shortcomings to the fact that the class requires students to purchase a 180-dollar book and a separate 40-dollar online access code in order to do their homework. Or I could charge it to the fact that I got jumped and robbed for 30 dollars, my phone, my favorite leather coat, and a backpack which held an accounting book that I had borrowed. (And that happened while I was coming from accounting tutoring!) … The real reason I’ve failed accounting multiple times: I have no interest in accounting.

But, the story is deeper than that…

It was Mr. Smith’s 8th grade Algebra class- that was the first place I had ever had a negative experience in the world of mathematics.

Due to my compulsive socializing, I failed Mr. Smith’s class. In turn- Mr. Smith felt so inclined to tell me that I wouldn’t make it. In life.

 

My next step in life: A college prep high school, where it became glaringly obvious that I wasn’t prepped for high school.

 

My reading and arithmetic were sub par; my writing was awesome, but my handwriting was awful. All of these attributes hold true to this day.

 

This day- Early December- sitting here with an accounting book on my hip- copiously taking notes with my illegible handwriting… one class away from graduating, and thus proving Mr. Smith wrong…  how’d I get here?

 

Welp…

 

During my junior year in college, I signed up for the class. By homecoming, and I withdrew on account of the workload being greater than I could bare at that time, especially homecoming weekend. The spring semester proved to be a bit slower than the fall, so I took the class once again: same result. I withdrew right after spring break, citing my workload to still be too heavy. I took the class one last time at Howard University- fall of 2010… and that’s when it got real bad. I couldn’t afford the book, so I fell behind in the class. I finally found a book to borrow, and after coming from a late night tutoring session… I got robbed. For my back-pack. Which held inside the accounting textbook, which I had borrowed from a classmate.

 

That took the cake … but the icing :

 

 

Last year. It was coming down to the end of the semester- I could still have passed, all I had to do was ace the final two tests. I was in the information laboratory- studying as if the answers to life could be found between the pages of this accounting book. (This one was loaned to me for free by the accounting department from their stock pile surplus of books…. I digress. )

My studies slowed. I hit a wall. And then I began to socialize… I ended up chopping it up with a young man who once resided in a dormitory where I was the Resident Assistant; one of my lil brothers. After establishing that we were both in this accounting class, I opened up:

 

… I told the young man I was studying accounting and struggling. He told me that he understood accounting and could assist me… and then he told me that both of his parents are CPA’s for fortune 500 companies. …

damn.

 

My mother worked as a janitor to put me through school.

I left Howard University after fall of 2010… headed back to my hometown… with my head down.

Fall 2010 was the worst semester ever: I lost a longtime girlfriend, I lost my chance at graduating on time, I even lost some real estate on my hairline.

 

I couldn’t take another loss.

 

I came back to Oakland and worked odd jobs: moving boxes, freelance journalism, anything to keep me active and off my moms couch.

I ended up teaching, and succeeding at it. Funny enough, I ended up teaching at a high school where Mr. Smith works- you should have seen the look on his face when I pulled him aside. I had to remind him of something he told me, something that I would never forget: that I wouldn’t make it. In life.

At this point- I’ve painted myself into this role as an educator/media maker , and a career path is slowly opening… I’m considering grad school: Masters in Media arts? Ph.D in education?

Either way, I need to get my undergraduate degree first….

 

When it boils down to it- I’m no future CPA, hell- I still count the dots on the dominoes before I play my hand. I’m better at letters than numbers. After all, there are only 26 letters- numbers are infinite. And out of the numerous words in my vocabulary, the one word that stands out: accountability.

The ability to be accountable to something… in this case… the something is accounting.

 

Peace.

Invisible Men.

This radio broadcast originally aired on November 10th, 2011 on KQED

http://www.kqed.org/assets/flash/kqedplayer.swf

Invisible Men

Youth Radio’s Pendarvis Harshaw tries to keep black high school students from dropping out.

Pendarvis Harshaw
Pendarvis Harshaw

By Pendarvis Harshaw

The phrase “I don’t give an F-Bomb” resonates throughout high school hallways every day, especially in Oakland public schools. Which begs the question: how do you get students to actually give a flying F-bomb?

The numbers show that young black men drop out of school at higher rates, and are more likely to be incarcerated than other groups. Earlier this year I worked as an educator in the Oakland schools, in a pilot program designed to prevent young black men from dropping out. My students, all freshmen in high school, were in my class because of discipline issues, low attendance, or academic shortcomings. We called our class the Young Lion’s Lair.

To maintain focus, we did pushups. We did wall sits. We did sets of 20 jumping jacks. And everyone had to stop at the same time, or else we’d do it again.

At the start of class, we’d toss around a tennis ball and review the prior day’s lesson. And at the end of class we’d toss around that same ball and review what we learned that day.

We discussed a holistic approach to manhood. It was protocol for each young man to stand whenever he spoke. And when they spoke out of turn, it was mandatory that they say “I apologize.” I asked them not to say “I’m sorry,” because they weren’t sorry young men.

Attendance shot up. Discipline issues decreased. Their grades didn’t change during the semester I worked with them, but I could tell they were learning. Everyday there’d be a moment when one of my students would have a tiny breakthrough and I’d exclaim “hot damn.” It was equivalent to getting a star in kindergarten, and it was a constant reminder that we were progressing.

One day I asked my students to read aloud from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man.” They were reluctant to read in front of their peers, but eventually one student began… “I am an invisible man.”

Student after student read with increasing excitement. They were into it, and pleaded with me to bring in additional chapters. It was as if Ellison was narrating their lives. “I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind.”

With a Perspective, I’m Pendarvis Harshaw.

Change the Game

Game Changers Project.

gamechanger
game changer

Have you heard about the 2025 campaign for Black men and Boys ?

The Grio. com ran a big story on the site at the start of this year, check it out: http://www.thegrio.com/specials/game-changers/about-game-changers.php

The game changer’s project is a media inititative to change the image of young Black men and Boys in the media by simply uploading the untold; by taking stories of men and young men alike doing uplifting things in their communities, and giving them proper acknowledgment.  The theory is simple: become the change you want to see in the world… or in the media.

For more information about the initiative, check the website:

http://www.forwardevermedia.com/gcp.html

A key part aspect to being able to tell the stories of Black men and boys in the urban underbelly of America is having storytellers on site, and the Gamechangers project specializes in that. With representatives in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Oakland.

… I’m the Oakland rep…. Here is my bio, along with the rest of the game changers: http://www.2025bmb.org/thegame/

Here are a couple of stories that I’ve published thus far in efforts to change the game:

Oscar Grant’s Uncle, and the Oscar Grant Foundation: http://www.thegrio.com/specials/game-changers/in-oakland-oscar-grants-uncle-continues-the-fight.php

An article on an education program in Oakland, The Nation’s First African Male Achievement Initiative:

http://www.thegrio.com/specials/game-changers/nations-only-school-district-to-take-on-educating-black-males.php

And soon to come…

http://www.gamechangersproject.org/

Stay updated on how the game is changing via twitter: @Gamechangers007

peace.

An Oakland Local on OaklandLocal…Dot.Com

 

 

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Fresh on your virtual newsstand !

Oakland Local.
Oakland Local.

The good people at Oakland Local messed around and gave me a page:

http://oaklandlocal.com/people/og-penn

 

Here are a couple of articles that i’ve produced through thisOakland Local:

An article on a digital arts and culinary center in the heart of East Oakland…

http://oaklandlocal.com/article/east-oaklands-new-digital-arts-and-culinary-academy-dishes-out-recipe-success-community-voic

 

An article on America’s Got Talent and Oakland’s own “The PopLyfe” and their run to the (near) top…. dang.

http://oaklandlocal.com/article/oaklands-poplyfe-makes-finals-americas-got-talent-watch-them-tonight

Older articles….

An article on Augusta Collins, Bay Area Hall of Fame Guitarist…(Re-published by SF Gate)

http://blog.sfgate.com/inoakland/2011/01/24/music-mondays-oaklands-augusta-lee-collins-has-what-it-takes-to-play-the-blues/

 

An article on the classic debate of W.E.B. Du Bois vs. Booker T. Washington, and how that argument applies to today’s job market…

http://oaklandlocal.com/article/who-asked-us-young-blacks-vocational-training-or-liberal-arts-community-voices

 

Be sure to check Oaklandlocal.com

More articles to come!

Peace.

 

“Black Youth Rises From the Ashes”

August 5, 2011 The Oakland Post ran this article:

(http://content.postnewsgroup.com/?p=14170 )

By Pendarvis Harshaw

Joel. Not me.  
Joel. Not me.

 

 

Me. Not Joel.
Me. Not Joel.

(After that minor photo snafu… here is my article)

One pilot class-first time experiment and one fresh Howard graduate take on a shaky school system in the midst of a Black male genocide happening in Oakland, Ca. This past school year the Oakland Unified School District introduced the Nation’s first African American Male Achievement Initiative, which is spearheaded by Chris Chatmon. Three of Oakland’s six public high schools were selected to be a part of this pilot program. The outline to this African American Male Achievement Initiative consisted of seven primary goals: Increasing attendance rates, increasing graduation rates, intensifying middle school holding power, a 4th grade literacy rate goal, to cut incarceration rates in half, to cut suspension rates in half and to decrease the achievement gap. I had 15 weeks to change 15 years of deterioration of the spirit. Before the academia could begin we had to first address the issues that would have inhibited their learning process such as discipline issues, confidence issues, and emotional issues. I brought in a copy of the Oakland Post to the first class I taught. I showed the front-page article that I wrote about Bill Russell meeting President Obama. Accompanying the article was a picture of two of the most well respected Black men on Earth, a powerful image to show a group of disgruntled Black Youth. That same day I asked them: who are you and where do you want to go? These were the questions we as a class searched to answer from there on out. Sure we touched on college, academics, and how to use school as a tool to get out of your current predicament. But nothing got them going like open-ended critical thinking questions. I once asked them, “If you could step out of the door and go anywhere, where would it be and why?” The answers where to heaven, to a videogame, to Canada, to go shopping, to a girl’s house, to Africa to see where my people are from, to sleep, and a young man merely wrote “to a safe place”. The majority of them simply wanted a safe place; and that’s what the “Lion’s lair” classroom was. I am now a proud big brother to 21 young men. Just because classes ended doesn’t mean that the lessons in the classroom stopped. The class is a part of an ongoing process of developing a generation of young men in Oakland, young men with knowledge of self, composure of emotion, and the ability to critically think for themselves. At the end of the day, this was simply about taking young men who are constantly surrounded by death and giving them skills and the inspiration to thrive.

 

(*Backstory: Joel is my homie from Howard. He was in downtown Oakland the day I went to get the story published. When the people at the Oakland Post found out the Joel was a Howard Grad looking to get into education- they figured they’d do a story on him at a later date, and took a photo of him for good measure…. and they accidentally put his photo with my story. nice. Glad they fixed it tho. Thanks Oakland Post!)

How Do You Teach: to Give a Fuck?

How do you teach:
to give a Fuck? 

It’s not your normal class. I’m not your normal teacher. And I don’t teach in the normal method… ‘Cause they don’t learn in the normal method.

The Lion’s Lair class is a new initiative taken on by Oakland Unified School District in effort to do something about the failure rates of Black men in high school. 20 Young African American men have been selected to the Lions Lair at each of the following schools: Oakland Tech, Oakland High, and Skyline.

I teach the class at Oakland Tech; a midday class which meets in a room where pictures of Michael Jordan and Einstein adorn the walls.

The class is categorized as a Life Skills class which fulfills the gentleman’s elective requirement; true to it’s name, the class teaches life skills… in the lion’s lair.

At any given time you might walk in and find the young men in push-up position, while reciting their spelling words. Or you might find them on the edge of their desks discussing the relationship between Los Angeles’ 1990’s Crips and Bloods to Oakland’s current Gang Injunction program.
In 1992, the year the Crips and Bloods called a truce, the young men in my class were not yet born. But they know about the Bloods and Crips. They watch the urban crime biography series, American Gangster. They’ve never taken a note- but they know Stanley “Tookie” Williams and Monster Kody Scott …

… They learned those stories without taking note- but they can’t learn in school given notebooks and pencils?
…cause when it comes to that gangster shit: they give a fuck.

The class’ curriculum simply breaks down into four areas: self, community, world, and action. The fist four weeks, we focused on the simple things: who are you? Where are you from? where are you going (in life)?… and how are WE going to get there?

We developed calls and responses, laws for the class, and of course… a handshake.
We wrote poems that showed how we identify with certain animals and then performed them.

We’ve done three workshops thus far:

1. Brother Jesus El came in after I showed a video of him to the class. He addressed the video, which was about his trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and then returning to West Oakland to share his experiences; this exemplified the Hero’s journey. He then told the youth about his much larger hero’s journey- his coming of age experience, and how he grew up in the same streets they run through… and now he’s traveling the world doing what he loves.

2. Brother John Brumfield stopped by and did a presentation on the origins of Africans and what we have accomplished over the ages. The photos and facts were mind blowing, it showed through the young men’s engagement.  He ended on a story about Tupac Shakur; a firsthand account of Tupac that left the young men in awe.

3. Brother Saleem Shakir came through and did a presentation on the “Nigger experienced”, in which he asked the class are there any Niggas/ Niggers in here? About 4 out of the then 17 students raised their hands… some did so unsure of the premise of the question. He then proceeded to show the young men video clips of Kunta Kente getting whipped in the movie Roots, pictures of enslaved individuals who had been brutally whipped, and audio of the Last Poets “Die Nigger, Die”. At the end of the class, they weren’t completely convinced about not using the word “nigga” anymore, but they were all upset about how the “niggers” in the video clips were treated.

They gave a fuck about being treated like “Niggers” … but they didn’t give a fuck about being called “nigga” ?

… they almost gave a fuck …

Tuesday I submitted my first grades, the grading criteria was simple: attendance/ behavior, participation, and a pop-quiz.

The final assignment was to be a poem, a simple written statement about who they are. I even gave them a prompt, suggesting that they compare themselves to an animal.

Oh! you should of seen them: “I’m a bear”… “I’m a Lion!” …”I’m this”… “I’m that”…  and then when I asked them to write it, their response: “I’m not a writer”. Not all of them, some of the self proclaimed rappers flourished, some of the quiet brother let out lion-like roar with an eloquent portrayal of who they are at this stage in their lives. And some didn’t do the assignment whatsoever.

I was disgusted.
The easiest assignment in the world. I gave them multiple opportunities. I shook their hand and made a pact… they disrespected that.
I was disgusted.

…in what other classes do you get the chance to to turn in/ perform a poem/ rap as a homework assignment?…

If you can SAY who/ what you are- how could you not merely sit down and write exactly what you said? you are literature. use it!

…They just didn’t give a fuck…

A slew of questions came to my mind

I had been covertly trying to figure this out, but I have to throw this question on the the table : why… why don’t you give a fuck? what comes over you when you don’t give a fuck?…
what is the thought behind not giving a fuck?…
why destroy yourself when you don’t give a fuck?
what do you give a fuck about?
your mother gives a fuck about you- do you give a fuck about her? do you give a fuck about yourself?
do you see the consequences of not giving a fuck?
do you see the relationship between not giving a fuck about yourself- not giving a fuck about school – not giving a fuck about your community- all culminate to you repeating the cycle of Black people being in a fucked up position?

…On Tuesday night I brought my question to a group of elders…

I had scheduled Coffee with Baba Arnold Perkins in order to take a photo for my “OG Told Me” Photo Essay project. I then had a meeting scheduled with Cheo Tyehimba, about a fellowship I had received. The fellowship requires me to produce 4 stories over the next 4 months on Black men who are “game changers” in my society.

they both left me with two applicable quotes…

“…And then you look at their environment and you understand; their behavior and attitude is directly applicable.”- Baba Perkins

“…go from not caring, to not knowing.”- Cheo T.

I brought the list of questions and quotes to the minimum day shortened class on Wednesday. I teach by throwing a tennis ball around as a method of class control. The tennis ball works well with the boyish energy in the classroom, after all- in a classroom with no girls and no snacks, throwing a ball around is my only option to maintain a functional environment.

I asked them straight up:  “what does it take, to make you all give a fuck?”

the answers varied along with the personalities in the classroom. Some outwardly didn’t give a fuck and some don’t give a fuck quietly… we concluded that both can be detrimental to society and self.

At then end of the day, I’m still searching… I know I can’t teach them anything, I have to evoke knowledge from within them. And when this works, its the greatest feeling in the world. But when it doesn’t- I feel as if I am trying to climb a brick wall with no arms.

So my question remains…

how do I teach : to give a fuck?