Friday, March 28, 2008

"The Classroom Is the Most Amazing Place in New York City"

Bronx High School of Performance and Stagecraft students discuss Obama's March 18 speech on race and reconciliation in the U.S.

The class wrote their own "Yes We Can" speeches.

Says one freshman, Anna:

People say that South Bronx kids will never amount to anything--but I say, Yes we can.

People think that those in our community can't live without the abusive boyfriends or husbands--yes we can.

People say that the color of our skin can prevent us from getting far in life. Are you trying to tell me that I can't get far in life? Well, sorry to disappoint you because, I can.

Teens think that they have gone so deep into gangs that they can't get out, but we need to help them say--Yes We Can.

Yes we can change our community.

Yes we can improve our society.

Yes we can.

Another student, Nelson:

Yes I can fight my fears.

Yes I can be a leader for those who need to be led.

Yes I can release my pain in a positive way.

Yes I can be more dependable.

Yes I can be more responsible.

Yes I can make all this happen even though I have all this on my shoulders, I can move forward in this world no matter what happens.

Yes I can.

Here's an interesting blog post on Queerty linking Obama's speech to Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed--that the struggle to break free from oppression is a collective one.


Dave said...

Good to know that the liberal priesthood (teachers) is still doing its job and indoctrinating kids.

Dave said...

The class should have written poems about throwing grandma under the bus, or the inherent hypocrisy in talking about ending racism and donating 10s of thousands of dollars to a church in Chicago that is racist, anti-American incubator.

LH said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LH said...

Hi Dave,

I'd have to say I disagree. I hope the teacher was open to his students opinions and helped them to pose questions and interrogate our nation's political situation before deciding to support a political candidate. This I do not know. However, I do think politics can and should be explored in the classroom, education itself is inherently political. The quest to maintain neutrality in teaching only furthers dominant power structures.

I found the students speeches to be inspiring. Not because they were about Obama- because they weren't. The speeches were about the students and their communities. I would hope that any educator would find meaning in the words of these students--because they are positive ones.

When evaluating words that may be taken out of context from an African American church community, I would first take a look at your presence in our society as a dominant white male. Neither you nor I will ever know what it is like to live in a country that enslaved our own people and continues to systematically oppress them.

In many ways, I am not proud of my country, and I am glad I live in a place where I can say that and attempt to do something about it.

George said...

Hi Dave,
I have to ask, did you actually watch that video? I just really don't understand how anyone, whether they support Clinton, Obama, or McCain, could not see the good in what is happening here.

To your first point, these children are not being indoctrinated. This great teacher obviously saw his students excited and inspired by something and seized on the great opportunity to actually teach them about life (from the civil rights movement, to our political system, to even geography). This is what teaching should be all about.

Can't you understand how important the Obama candidacy is to these kids? Do you really expect them to be excited and inspired by John McCain? Lets see, whom would they relate to?

A man grew up poor and who was raised by a single mother and grandparents, born in a time when his parents mixed-race marriage was illegal in 12 states, who worked hard and put himself through college and law school, became a community organizer and now might become the president of the United States.


A man who voted against commemorating the life of Martin Luther King Jr. when he was as old as Obama is now. A man who left his disabled first wife, the woman who raised his children while he was off at war, for a young, gorgeous heiress whose money and connections helped him launch his political career.

I’d advise them to follow the Obama plan; I don’t think marrying up is much of an option for them.

Look at these kid’s speeches. They are about drugs, gangs, violence, and death. They come from a place we could not even imagine. Yet this Obama guy gives them hope and inspires them to rise above it. They see themselves in him. No matter who you are for, this is a good thing.

To your second “throw grandma under the bus” comment. I think you are taking that part of his speech completely out of context. His comments about his grandmother and Reverend Wright were about unconditional love. Remember, Obama grew up without a father, and Wright became a surrogate father/grandfather to him. This man married him to his wife. Baptized his daughters. He’s the man who made Obama a Christian to begin with. He loves this man. Maybe not as much as his grandmother. Maybe more, we can’t know that.

But his point is, he doesn’t throw the people he loves away, even when he strongly disagrees with them. This is a great message that has been distorted by the right wing media.

Third, in response to your attack on Obama’s church. I think your generalization of his church as racist and Anti-American is completely out of line. I could very easily generalize about your church based on the actions of a few priests and bishops, ignoring any of the good the Catholic Church has ever done.

This is a place of hope in a depressed community. They were doing AIDS outreach long before other churches. They have ministries to homeless and youth. And yes, the black church is a place where many vent their frustrations. To you it may sound racist and Anti-American, but I have reviewed Wright’s controversial comments and I see that they come from a place of anger and frustration that only a black person who grew up in the 50’s could know. To take the statements of one pastor and condemn and entire church and community that is important to so many is just vicious and mean-spirited to me.

You should take a look at your own candidate, who actively sought out the endorsement of a Reverend that has called your own religion “a great whore” and a “false cult system”. This is not someone who McCain loves, or considers a part of his family; so rejecting him should be no real problem, right? This is a man who McCain sees as a political opportunity and nothing more. Why are Wright’s statements (which Obama has said he disagreed with) unacceptable, yet Hagee’s fine?

Coming from a devout Christian such as yourself, I find your overall lack of empathy and compassion in all these statements ironic, but sadly, not at all surprising.