Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.
Today we are going to dive back into social media because who we are on-line impacts the odds of our success. Whether we like it or not, engaging on social media and cultivating a following is going to massively impact our professional success (or lack thereof).
In sales we had a saying, Fish where the fish are. Well my darlings, the fish are schooling on social media. When we are online we are not only engaging with the readers of today, we are cultivating future readers. This applies as much to the pre-published newbie as it does the internationally best-selling author.
We are wise to remember that we now have entire generations glued to smart phones and LinkedInInstaSnap, and if we don’t learn how to navigate these waters? Bad juju.
This said. Social media is an extraordinarily powerful tool that is too…
Writers must understand what their responsibility is as a voice. As a shofar to the world. Low self-worth, ignorance, and low self-esteem can be smelled from miles away. The stench of give up is not something that is difficult to discern. If you dare to write, then dare also to own it. Your words, your message, and your purpose is something that must not be shared timidly. It’s not about arrogance, for arrogance will surely destroy you. What it is about is writing with authority and making yourself responsible for every word, every syllable, and every piece of heart contextualized. Humility is understanding who guides you every day and who came before you. It is not thinking less of yourself. Every blog post, every email, and every book demand from you a responsibility. You are responsible for being professional, exact, kind, and factual despite how inappropriate others may be. You do not have the permission to curse people or spew opinions that are not rooted in fact. You are a writer and this is your responsibility. When it comes to writing, there is no modesty for the words that you put on the page. If you cannot strip yourself down to the bare minimum and expose your gift for what it is then what are you doing writing? In the words of Maya Angelou, “Life will knock a modest person down faster than a G-string falls off a stripper”. If you cannot take advice on how to better your work, what are you doing writing? If you cannot take it the same as you dish it, then what are you doing writing? What you do will come back. If you can give constructive criticism then be able also to take it. So what people think negatively about you. Their loss. Accepting correction is part of your responsibility as every artist or professional is told what they don’t want to hear at least some of the time. If this is something you can’t handle then again I ask you, what are you doing writing? The same applies to every profession. Dare not put your trust in man for man will always disappoint you. Instead, see every critique, every negative, every mistake, as part of the gift and the growth. You don’t have to agree with me but you will respect me and I will respect you. Not for you alone but because it is my responsibility as a person and as an artist to do so. Authors, you are a fountain of information. If you cannot hurricane Katrina, or tsunami this with the world and be confident and open about it, then what are you doing writing? To be courageous is not just a choice, but it is your responsibility. Every word I stitch into this blog, every piece I spit on stage, and every book I publish comes with trembling fear. But it is a fear that I must use as energy I need to push on. Always forward. Despite those looking for grains of fault in every post I publish, hoping to catch me in a trap as to accuse me of not being the person I’ve always shown myself to be. Despite this, I must write. Even if I do not speak (muteness is addictive. I’ll shut down with the quickness and write you notes as Maya did), I must write. I must do so because it is my responsibility. What’s my point here? Stop complaining. Are you a writer? Then be strong. Own it. You are here and you have something to do.
In 1870, the first Black public High School opened in Washington, D.C. or rather, the first recorded school (Aside from Tuskegee Institute–one of the first schools for African Americans financially sponsored by Blacks and Whites but headed by a Black President, the late Booker T. Washington–I do not believe Dunbar was the first High School just as Rosa Parks was not the first to refuse to give up her seat on a bus (LEARN MORE HERE) there is a lot of things that just aren’t recorded.)
The Preparatory High School for Colored Youth (renamed in 1916 to M Street Public School when its location was changed from M Street), was founded in the basement of Fifteenth Street Presbyterian Church by William Syphak, the first chair of the Board of Trustees of the Colored Public Schools in the District of Columbia. According to Dr. Thomas Sowell in an article (100 Years After Dunbar) in 1899, when it was called “the M Street School,” a test was given in Washington’s four academic public high schools, three white and one Black. The Black High School scored higher than two of the three white High Schools. Of course, this isn’t about color or race but is used as an example to highlight the success of all Black Schooling at that time.
Blacks during Segregation were more unified considering many of us had to stick together in order to build communities and schools. For this reason, many all-Black communities, as well as all Black schools, did well. There was a communal spirit among blacks during segregation that sadly deteriorated once we were capable of going outside of ourselves.
Before Brown vs. Board of Education, Dunbar acquired only the best teachers, many of them with Ph.Ds. and graduated 80% of its students. Among its students: the architect of school desegregation, Charles Hamilton Houston, Elizabeth Catlett, the artist, Billy Taylor, the jazz musician, the first Black general in the Army, the first Black graduate of the Naval Academy, and the first Black presidential Cabinet member, according to Journalist Alison Stewart, author of First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School as told to NPR host Cornish on All Things Considered.
In addition, many more, including the first Black woman to receive a Ph.D. from an American institution, the first Black federal judge, and a doctor who became internationally renowned for his pioneering work in developing the use of blood plasma.
The Downfall of Dunbar
Unfortunately, like many Black experiences after integration, Dunbar declined. According to Sowell, senior at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University:
“For Washington, the end of racial segregation led to a political compromise, in which all schools became neighborhood schools. Dunbar, which had been accepting outstanding Black students from anywhere in the city, could now accept only students from the rough ghetto neighborhood in which it was located. Virtually overnight, Dunbar became a typical ghetto school. As unmotivated, unruly and disruptive students flooded in, Dunbar teachers began moving out and many retired. More than 80 years of academic excellence simply vanished into thin air.”
I agree with Sowell only to an extent. I do not think that “unruly and disruptive ghetto students” are responsible for the downfall of Dunbar, but rather the decline in Blacks students being taught by Black teachers concerning Black lives and Black history.
I remember a video interview Maya Angelou gave where she testified that her school was “grand” and many others of the era who described their schooling as a positive experience. Though not given the same quality of learning materials, I believe Blacks got a better education before integration. Not merely because of segregation itself, but rather because it forced us to unify in a way that does not exist today.
In short, we were educating our own. Without teachers and faculty who actually understand them, their struggles and experiences, students can find it harder to adjust. In Angelou’s words, “blacks used what the West Africans in Senegal called ‘Sweet Language'” which is still used today. For example:
“Hey, there” is used as opposed to, “Hi, how are you?”
The Hey is drawn out and spoken with a certain tone of familiarity as sweet language is dependent entirely on tone. The way that Angelou spoke herself was in a sort of sweet language where every word, even if she didn’t mean it to, sounded like poetry.
“Hey, how you?”
This is not grammatically correct or what may be referred to as “proper” and it’s not meant to be. It is the lengthening of the word, the dragging it out and using a loving tone of voice, a caring voice: “Hey.” It is something that Blacks have been doing their entire lives without effort and is something that is mostly understood by other Blacks and while deemed sweet language, I call it a language of love.
This is just one example of the kind of History Israelite, so-called Black, children do not learn in today’s schools.
As the Black teachers moved on, so did Black students interest in learning, or so it seems. Over time, at least three more schools would be named after Dunbar: Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland, Fort Worth, Texas, and Chicago, IL.
While segregation allowed for inferior educational experiences in some respect (such as torn and used books as opposed to new ones) who is to say that the education itself was inferior? I am more interested in what was being taught behind closed doors. The historical, archaeological, and biblical history of Blacks that I am sure to have never made it in the history books. What really made these students prosper as opposed to the students today?
Dunbar now graduates only 55% of its students according to the 2016 values based on student performance on state exit exams and internationally available exams on college-level coursework, and AP®/IB exams are unranked in the National Rankings. But what do we expect? How do we expect the people who oppress us to also teach us the truth about who we are? If you weren’t being treated right, how do you think that you were taught right?
One thing is for certain, to assume that integration made education for Blacks better is up for debate.
*I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author*
Beautiful Boy and Beautiful Girl are two very short picture books for children. Simple, fun, and rhythmic, these books are great as goodnight stories or quick reads for your little ones. Incorporating everything a child enjoys, colors, pictures, and rhyme, it is sure to encourage “itty bitty’s” to look at their world in a positive light.
Many of you know me from my writing and this blog but before I dedicated my time to writing full-time, I worked with children. In fact, to an extent, I still do.
I taught creative writing as part of Louisiana’s In-Home School program for about four years and then I helped to run a research and fellowship center in Shreveport for about five more years teaching and working with children. Having experienced being around kids and working with them, I enjoyed taking the time to stop reading novels for a moment for something simple and found these books a breath of fresh air. I noticed that I smiled through my reading of them both. As someone passionately in love with children, I hope to see more from J.L. Hunt in the future.
The Author, Jenita, has always had a heart for children and writing. She has worked several years caring for children as a Professional Nanny and has been honing her writing craft over the years.