Day 28: Two Poems // Teaching in Inner City Chicago // 2002 {31 Days of #WOKE}

teach (2/19/02)

I am afraid of the water.

Cold, murky,

yet others play

freely.

Whether I jumped

or was pushed,

I don’t know.

But I do know

that if

I don’t drown,

I may learn to swim.

 

limbless (2/12/02)

Like the babies born without arms,

without legs;

can I teach them,

pretending they are whole?

Not Civil Rights,

the Kush Empire

or the three branches of government,

but “Please.”

“Thank you.”

“Excuse me.”

“Don’t hit when she hits you.”

“Sit quietly when you are cursed

–when he talks about your mamma.”

As he throws a tantrum over

not getting called on to read about

brown v. board.

“Shut up.”

“I hate you.”

“You look like a black monkey.”

Imagining they are whole

even as I watch them

dismember themselves.

***

For further reading: What ‘White Folks that Teach in the Hood’ Get Wrong about Education

Day 13: Words (A Poem) {31 Days of #WOKE}

My students
found interest
in the difference
between “oppressed” and “repressed.”

Like the time I explained
the word “minority”
to Jaquisha,
who has lived
as a black girl
in a black world
her whole life.

“Pressed down,”
I said.
“Oppressed
means ‘pressed down.’”

Me
not grasping
the meaning.

Them
not knowing they already
understand the meaning
without knowing
the word.

–Leslie Verner (written 2002 while teaching middle school in North Lawndale, Chicago)

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

Day 7: Without a Voice {31 Days of #WOKE}

Frustrated by my freedom
and their feigned rights.
Their lynched,
stores burned,
legs weary with marching to an anthem of peace
while rumors of war abound.
Where is Thurgood
and Martin now that
the rhythm of feet fades
to a phantom whisper?
The star rising in the north still illuminates
a page cut from a coloring book,
each line pressed hard with color,
each space filled with the same.
Never a minority,
minorities live in a colorless world
with a colorful culture.
Streets plowed on the northside
never see that sister south
remains buried,
buried.
Like a graveyard without a voice.

 

–Leslie Verner, February 12, 2002 (written while teaching in North Lawndale, Chicago)

New to the Series? Start HERE (though you can jump in at any point!).

A 31 Day Series Exploring Whiteness and Racial Perspectives

During the month of March, 2017, I will be sharing a series called 31 Days of #Woke. I’ll be doing some personal excavating of views of race I’ve developed through being in schools that were under court order to be integrated, teaching in an all black school as well as in diverse classrooms in Chicago and my experiences of whiteness living in Uganda and China. I’ll also have some people of color share their views and experiences of race in the United States (I still have some open spots, so contact me if you are a person of color who wants to share). So check back and join in the conversation. You are welcome in this space.

 

Image: Senor Codo

 

Monthly Mentionables {December}: Books, podcasts, recipes & articles

My family spent Christmas here in Grand Lake, CO with my parents, brothers and their families. It was breathtaking and good for my soul.

Hygge, “woke,” enneagram, writing, submissions, edits, rough drafts, pregnancy, depression, minivan, lament, Jesus, racism, election, baby, church-hopping, twitter and podcast are all words I would use to distill down the essence of 2016 for me. I have written at length about some of these, will write about some others in 2017 and may keep some of these things to myself as I continue to learn and process.

Which words characterized your year?

I’ve been planning posts for the year and will have a series soon called 12 Days of Books where I’ll be sharing all my favorite books. I’d love for you to join me and if you have a blog, you are welcome to share links to your book posts in the comments section! 

Here are some of the books, podcasts, recipes, articles and writing I have been into this month:



Books

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser
The first time I read this was for a writing class in college, so I was due for a refresher. It was just as helpful as I remembered and is a book I will return to in the future.


Blue Horses: Poems, by Mary Oliver
I’m still experimenting with poetry and I read this one in one sitting. A friend of mine advised that poetry be read and enjoyed like a glass of wine, but I don’t always have that luxury these days! I want to pick up some more books by Mary Oliver. I liked this one, but I still feel like an amateur when it comes to poetry, so I’ll refrain from giving too much of my opinion since I don’t feel qualified yet.

Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us, by Christine Gross-Loh, Ph.D
I’m adding this to my list of favorite parenting books. As someone who has lived overseas and studied culture in grad school, I love books that explore non-western ways of doing things. This book has provided fodder for interesting conversations about preconceived notions about parenting. 

Several Short Sentences about Writing, by Verlyn Klinkenborg
The first thing you will notice about this book is the structure. Every sentence begins with a new line.  This as well as On Writing Well, both emphasize the need for short, clean sentences. I loved this book and it is on my list of favorite books about writing.



Podcasts
(Check out my favorite podcasts of 2016 here!)

Faith Conversations: Anita Lustrea

Mark Scandrette 
(His wife shared this post on SheLoves last month!)

Esther Emery

Carolyn Custis James

Makoto Fujimura

Lisa Sharon Harper

On Justice and Reconciliation

Faithfully Podcast

Will Christians Ever Get Race Relations Right?

White Christians, the Confederate flag and the Civil War

Black Lives Matter, the Black Church and the Prosperity Gospel

Hopewriters

I binge-watched every single episode of their second season in a week;-) The episode with Ann Voskamp was very powerful, but I would recommend all of these episodes to anyone who is interested in writing or blogging.

Sorta Awesome

The awesome freedom of the DON’T do list

The best in books & reading for 2016 

T.V.

Aside from forcing myself to watch the Gilmore Girl’s reunion on Netflix (I have to), I would highly recommend the much more life-changing, important documentary called 13th, which is also on Netflix right now. It falls right in line with all that I’ve been studying this year and features Bryan Stevenson and Michelle Alexander among others who take a deeper look into the prison system in the U.S. 

Recipes


For a new Christmas morning tradition, I used this cinnamon roll recipe shared by a woman from the Velvet Ashes community. I made them ahead the night before, froze them before the second rise and left them out of the oven 30 minutes before cooking.  They turned out perfectly!


We had two familes over and made Chinese hot pot for New Years Eve. Although I probably had hot pot about 30 times in my five years in China, I used this site as a guide for what to buy in the states. I bought this hot pot from Amazon and found the spice packs at our local Asian market. Though it was a bit tricky trying to feed kids who aren’t the best at waiting, it was such a fun, communal meal and I’ll definitely do it again!

Thought-provoking Articles from the Web:

Favorite Fiction of 2016, by Leigh Kramer on her blog (I’m using this list with my book club to pick out some fiction books this year.)

It’s Not Just a Danish Word that Made Dictionary’s shortlist; It’s a Lifestyle, by NPR (an article on hygge!)

Life After ‘The New Jim Crow,’ by Brentin Mock of Citylab (an interview with Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness)

Where Love Abides, by Leah Abraham at SheLoves Magazine (a reflective practice for the new year)

4 Ways White People Can Process Their Emotions Without Bringing the White Tears, by Jennifer Loubriel of Everyday Feminism

10 Reflections on Ten Years of Reentry, by Ruthie at Rockyreentry.com

30 of the Most Important Articles by People of Color in 2016, by Zeba Blay for Huffington Post

55 of the Best Diverse Picture and Board Books of 2016, by Mrs. G at hereweread.com


In Case You Missed it:

6 Things to Do When You Live on White Island 

When You’ve Lost Your Wings {a poem}

Breastfeeding and the Liturgy of the Hours {for SheLoves}

***

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Linking up with Leigh Kramer

 

When you’ve lost your wings {a poem}


Severed by scissors,

angled and severe.

Holy hearts, diamonds, circles emerge

as corners are snipped,

possibilities removed.

Paper flutters to the floor;

wings litter the ground like waste.

We gingerly unfold,

creases and bumps smoothed,

loose edges freed.

A snowflake stretched wide. 

This is nursery artistry. 

Taped to the icy window pane;

winter light 

beams through empty spaces. 

***

Next Post: Book Discussion Questions for Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson