This archbishop has become the first African American cardinal in Catholic history (CNN)
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (Urban Faith)— David E. Talbert, Director of Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey, has written and directed a delightful musical with more black and brown faces than you typically see in a movie of its type.
The Quest to Unearth One of America’s Oldest Black Churches (Wired)
Time is limited, especially during a global crisis. But I’ve found calls still make a difference.
Several years ago, I sat in a parent-teacher conference and observed a teacher speak to a student from a place of compassion and concern. Once the teacher finished, the parent turned to the child and reiterated the same sentiments. I thought to myself, that is the power of a stable parent-teacher relationship. It was a joy to see and feel no need to intervene.
I’ve also been thinking about the beginning of last school year, when my wife and I took our children to school on their first day. The opportunity to meet their teachers face to face brought a sense of relief that my children were in good hands. As an educator, every year I see parents’ eyes fill with tears of joy on that day.
Those interactions are tougher in this remote or hybrid learning setup so many of us are working through. Without the face-to-face interactions at dropoff or pickup, or traditional parent-teacher conferences, some parents are feeling disconnected from their children’s teachers. Teachers are struggling to build relationships, too.
I’m an administrator at an elementary school in Camden, New Jersey, where schools are still all-online or operating with a hybrid model. I’ve seen firsthand that there are no shortcuts or easy ways out of the communication challenges that make a year like this one so hard. Even veteran teachers are anxious.
But developing strong ties between schools and families has never been more important — and the basics are still the same. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned.
First, and most importantly, get out ahead of the problems. A common mishap is waiting until a student has an incident to initiate contact with parents. Waiting until an incident to initiate parent contact is the quickest way to deteriorate parent-teacher relationships before they begin.
I remember vividly a phone call from parents that demanded their child have a new classroom teacher. While I listened to the concerns, I heard the parents vocalize the teacher only reaches out when there is a problem. Communication involves an update on progress, both positive and negative.
Focus on first impressions. I once took over a class in the middle of September, and I still remember this feeling of being watched by the parents and students on my first day. Regardless of the stares and glares, I proceeded with my normal procedure as I introduced myself and had the class line up to make our way to our homeroom.
Weeks later, during back to school night, I was approached by the same parents. They told me they were nervous because their child never had a male teacher, but after observing me on my first day, they were confident their children would be fine. First impressions are vital.
This year, virtual learning creates a distance that limits in-person interaction. But a video can help capture your personality, experience, teaching philosophy, and passion for teaching. A quick introduction video is an adequate substitute to allow parents and students to meet the teacher and gain a strong understanding of the teacher and classroom setting. Quick, two-minute videos are a great tool to stay connected with parents. Regardless of where you are in the school year, it is always a good time to send a video with updates and exciting news from your classroom.
Don’t forget to follow up. In a virtual setting, parents lose the ability to visit the school to ask questions and speak to the teacher. Providing close interactions where parents have the opportunity to interact with educators is important, and so are follow-up conversations that reiterate what was previously discussed.
On many occasions, I have had follow-up conversations where the information that was conveyed was lost, or received differently than intended. I learned never to leave room for misinterpretation and always have a follow-up conversation. One easy way to do it: Prior to the meeting, draft an email that captures the main points. After the meeting, revise and send.
Talk one on one. Hosting virtual meetings with parents allows parents to get answers to questions or raise concerns. Conducting meetings in groups can prove beneficial and efficient. But group settings can be intimidating for some parents, especially if they have personal questions about their child. A phone call following the virtual class meeting can offer that sense of personal attention that every student deserves and every parent desires.
Last year, my wife called me feeling so excited about the school year because our son’s teacher reached out to her. The teacher informed my wife that she wanted to try a new method to help my son feel more comfortable in the classroom. The teacher’s observation of my son’s reservation, coupled with her call, meant so much to us.
Many teachers have enough students in their classes to make this difficult. I try to remember: calls do not have to be extensive. The purpose is to provide caregivers the opportunity to ask a question specific to their child, and gain information that could help me better understand and serve the students’ educational needs. Save the in-depth discussions for when your time allows.
Building relationships with parents can be challenging, and the challenge is only magnified with virtual learning. This is tough on students and parents but also on educators. An extra level of personal touch is more necessary than ever.
George Farmer is an administrator serving the southern region of New Jersey and author of the blog FarmerandtheBell. With over a decade in education, his experience ranges from kindergarten to high school.
Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.
“…herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the [Twenty-First] Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, gentle reader; for the problem of the [Twenty-First] Century isthe problem of the color line.”
Thanksgiving has arrived and that can only mean one thing. African Americans across the nation are about to enjoy some delectable soul food. A colleague from seminary asked me a seemingly simple question one day: What is the soul? To really understand my struggle with this query you have to appreciate my background. While attending a majority white seminary, it’s safe to say that I had a bit more melanin than some others. My flesh tone was a hue that resembled many from our historical past who were considered African Americans or Negroes.
He asked a question that evoked thoughts of pride as I pondered my godly heritage. Soul (at least from my perspective) was inextricably interwoven in my DNA. Soul music from the Harlem Renaissance resounded within as I began to recount the great jazz artists of the time (ranging from Cab Calloway to Duke Ellington). I thought of the great James Brown, who is deemed the “Godfather of Soul.” If anybody knew soul, it was my people. And soul in the African American community wasn’t just limited to melodic harmony and sound. Soul had a significant role in food preparation. Soul food, as we know it in this country, originated in the African American community. This delectable culinary genre included a wide range of items including, but not limited to, collard greens, ham hocks, pig’s feet, pork neck bone, fat back, and chitterlings a.k.a. pig intestines. (If that last sentence didn’t make you hungry, please check your pulse.)
During an oppressive era beginning in the late 17th century, slaves were afforded the “opportunity” to have the leftover pig parts from their masters’ tables. This normally included the parts the slave masters felt were unfit for human consumption. The slaves took them, carefully cleaned them, salted them up to make them flavorful, and served them to their families. As a result, soul food became a staple in the African American slave community.
So an inquiry about my soul transposed the generally perceived idea of soul in society (and the Christian community generally). It involved retained customs and traditions that accompanied thousands on an infamous Trans-Atlantic journey hundreds of years ago. When my colleague asked that question about my soul, many images, tastes, and sounds came to mind.
“One ever feels his twoness, — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” —W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk
Despite those elicited proud images of soul defined in my own experience, I can appreciate DuBois’ “twoness.” I live it out every day. There is a soul dualism that perpetuates itself. I am both an American and a Negro. For many, this is a comfortable idea. However, in reality this duality presents two warring ideals that have a profound impact on the way I live my life. Even in a seminary, where a majority of the books read were by white, middle-aged men, this duality impacted my experience. I’m quite sure this twoness had some role in issues presented in the “Jena Six” and Trayvon Martin stories. Both painted portraits of cities that still have some “color line” issues. When a group of black boys respond violently to a “noose” incident in a schoolyard, how could one not surmise that color line issues are still prevalent in society? When distrust of a local Central Florida Police Department mobilizes thousands of African American, how could we question the existence of the color line?
As I sat on the seminary campus and reflected, I realized that it was this twoness that led me there. I figured out that it wasn’t enough to say that I casually associate with people outside of my own ethnic group. Instead, I wanted to be able to experience community, fellowship, and dialogue with people who did not share my ethnic background. As I walked from class one week, I stopped to have a conversation with one of my classmates. We spoke about diversity and its real meaning for our seminary (and the Church generally). We both explained frustrations with tossing around diversity labels without authenticity. During our conversation, I had to apologize for assuming that he understood what I was talking about when I mentioned the acronym HBCU (Historically Black College and University) or when I spoke freely about tendencies in black church leadership.
Ultimately our conversation reassured me that there are others who wrestle with duality of the soul (whether a white Christian trying to genuinely understand other cultures or a minority Christian doing the same). I have learned that some people want to be able to function in that “twoness” to better understand others outside of their culture. Isn’t the body of Christ called to this kind of unity and understanding? Will we stand by idly as the color line widens? If the Church isn’t called to unite how can we expect it from a fallen world?
So as I lay into some Soul Food this holiday season, I remain grateful. I am grateful for the African American story. I am appreciative that my life is being grafted into a story of struggle and triumph. But the soul “twoness” is ever present. Reminding me that our story as a people is tied into God’s greater story of redemption. And for that I am thankful. Now pass me those collard greens.
An interracial group of women and men founded the group that would soon become known as the NAACP in 1909. A coalition of white journalists, lawyers and progressive reformers led the effort. It would take another 11 years until, in 1920, James Weldon Johnson became the first Black person to formally serve as its top official.
A violent attack by white people on the Black community in Abraham Lincoln’s longtime hometown inspired the NAACP’s founding. In August 1908, two African American men in Springfield, Illinois were accused without clear evidence of murder and assault and taken into custody.
Two of the NAACP’s most prominent African American founders were W.E.B. Du Bois, a sociologist, historian, activist and author, and the journalist and activist Ida B. Wells, who had been publicly challenging lynching since the early 1890s.
They were joined by a number of white people, including New York Post publisher Oswald Garrison Villard and social worker Florence Kelley in issuing “the call” for racial justice on the centenary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth: Feb. 12, 1909.
The group organized a precursor to the NAACP known as the National Negro Committee in 1909, which built on earlier efforts known as the Niagara Movement. This loose affiliation of Black and white people called on “all believers in democracy to join in a national conference for the discussion of present evils, the voicing of protests, and the renewal of the struggle for civil and political liberty.” Du Bois chaired a May 1910 conference that led to the NAACP’s official formation.
As the historian Patricia Sullivan writes the NAACP emerged as a “militant” group focused on ensuring equal protection of under the law for Black Americans.
The NAACP’s founders, in their words, envisioned a moral struggle for the “brain and soul of America.” They saw lynching as the preeminent threat not only to Black life in America but to democracy itself, and they began to organize chapters across the nation to wage legal challenges to violence and segregation.
The group also focused its early efforts on challenging portrayals of Black men as violent brutes, starting its own publication in 1910, The Crisis. Du Bois was tapped to edit the publication, and Wells was excluded from this early work despite her expertise and prominence as a writer – an exclusion she later blamed on Du Bois.
James Weldon Johnson joined the organization as a field secretary in 1916 and quickly expanded the NAACP’s work into the U.S. South. Johnson was already an accomplished figure, having served as U.S. consul to Venezuela and Nicaragua under the Taft and Roosevelt administrations.
Johnson also wrote a novel called “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man” – a powerful literary work about a Black man born with skin light enough to pass for white. And he wrote, with his brother J. Rosamond Johnson, the song “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which to this day serves as the unofficial Black national anthem.
As field secretary, Johnson oversaw circulation of The Crisis throughout the South. The NAACP’s membership grew from 8,765 in 1916 to 90,000 in 1920 as the number of its local chapters exploded from 70 to 395. Johnson also organized more than 10,000 marchers in the NAACP’s Silent Protest Parade of 1917 – the first major street protest staged against lynching in the U.S. James Weldon Johnson became the first Black American to head the NAACP in 1920. Library of Congress
These clear successes led the board to name Johnson to be the first person – and the first Black American – to serve as the NAACP’s executive secretary in November 1920, cementing Black control over the organization. He united the hundreds of newly organized local branches in national legal challenges to white violence and anti-Black discrimination, and made the NAACP the most influential organization in the fight for Black equality before World War II.
Johnson united local chapters in advocating for the introduction of an anti-lynching bill in Congress in 1921. Despite efforts in 2020 to finally accomplish this goal, the U.S. still lacks a law on the books outlawing racist lynching.
Johnson did, however, preside over the NAACP when the group notched its first of many major Supreme Court wins. In 1927, the court ruled in Nixon v. Herndon that a Texas law barring Black people from participating in Democratic Party primaries violated the constitution.
Johnson’s tenure at the NAACP’s helm ended in 1930, but his ability to unite local chapters in national litigation laid much of the groundwork for numerous Supreme Court wins in the years ahead, including the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision which marked the beginning of the end for legalized segregation in the United States.
Among Johnson’s contributions to the NAACP was hiring Walter White, an African American leader who succeeded Johnson as executive secretary. White presided over the organization between 1930 and 1955, a period that included many successful legal actions.