Educational Justice within the African Diaspora
Students bring their cultural stories into the classroom and together we explore how heroes and heroines from all over the globe utilized strategies buoyed by their character traits to face injustice and prevail. It soon becomes clear as our common human heritage emerges- how we are all connected across the globe. It emerges as an excellent tool to create historical awareness and emphasize to students the role they must play as agents of change in this chaotic world.
The cultural storylines that have played a pivotal role in framing my identity are privileged in this text as I assert my interpretation of the struggles and adversities that challenged my ancestors and the creativity with which they tackled adversity. Storytelling is a route to survival. The rich legacy of Nanny, African freedom fighter, should be brought to the awareness of children and educators worldwide as an example of the possibilities that life has to offer when one perseveres and fights against injustice. Nanny’s story brings to the academic community alternative ways of crafting pedagogy and bringing student voices, their background and cultural heritage into the curriculum. Not only will this add to the discourse on social justice and equity, it will also bring critical considerations to preparing educators to achieve educational justice through innovative experiences such as fieldwork in post- colonial nations and underserved school communities, engaging students as knowledge producers and critics in the classroom.
To fail to teach the meaning of stories like Nanny’s to students of color is to deny them access to their cultural heritage, to deprive them of a significant portion of the legacy that binds them together-making them part of a cultural identity rather than alienated individuals scattered in classrooms across the USA and the globe. As the Honorable Portia Simpson of Jamaica has stated, “What can we not achieve when we have heroes like these?”
I believe that we can use stories to offer hope when cases rooted in racial prejudice and discrimination like that of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice arise. I am interested in the inclusion of Nanny of the Maroons in the textbooks and literature of the Caribbean and North America where a large percentage of children of African descent reside. Scholars working in the fields of storytelling and rites of passage theory have articulated the significant ways in which cultural narratives have worked to support and uplift children who have experienced alienation and dislocation.
STORYTELLING IS A PEDAGOGY OF HOPE
These stories resonate and remind educators like me that metaphor is a powerful tool in social justice education. There is compelling resonance in such stories for they represent thousands of years of cultural history rooted in the timelessness of the Indigenous tradition. While these stories acknowledge the devastating effects of colonialism, they also highlight the creative thrust of Indigenous culture; a culture that provides the foundation which has facilitated the survival of a people over hundreds of years of struggle. The presence of diverse children in the classroom including students of Jamaican, Puerto Rican, Haitian, African American, and Native American heritage in addition to Anglo-American heritage enriches the space and bonds us as we explore the multiple interweaving links between people connected by virtue of experience with colonialism.
Storytelling draws on a broad range of human activity that addresses issues of survival, creativity and perseverance. It is particularly important to Indigenous people because of its orality and the central role it has played in the survival of their heritage despite imperialism and the continued onslaught of neo-colonialism.