August 26, 2019

Back to School

by The Nod

Two years ago, Eric had to make a big decision: whether to send his daughter, Eve, to Afrocentric school. It seemed like it should've been a cut and dry choice. Eric hosts a podcast about Black culture. He went to an HBCU. But when it came to choosing a school for his daughter, he wasn’t sure if Afrocentric school was the right choice. So he decided to go on a journey to learn more about Afrocentric education. Find out what happened, and stay tuned for an update on how Eve is doing now.

This episode is part of our summer podcast club series. We’ve put together a handy guide on how to organize your own podcast club. For more information, visit thenod.show/podcastclub.

Transcript


[REMIXED THEME IN]


ERIC EDDINGS: From Gimlet Media, this is The Nod, a show about Black culture from Blackness’ biggest fans. I’m Eric Eddings.


BRITTANY LUSE: I’m Brittany Luse.


[THEME OUT] 


ERIC: It’s been so awesome to see how y’all are getting into our Summer Podcast Club…Thanks so much for sharing and telling your friends⏤we know romance episode stirred up some FEELINGS! Brittany, I think I’m finally ready for that romance novel horoscope you sent me.


BRITTANY: Yes, oh my god I really hope that you read it. I’m so excited. 


ERIC: Maybe I’ll report back. Maybe that could be another update.


BRITTANY: So for those of you new to the club, this month we’re revisiting some of our most thought provoking episodes⏤the ones you can’t stop talking to us about… We’ve put together a guide for organizing your own club…To check that out and find out how you could win a Nod t-shirt...visit the nod dot show slash podcast club. That’s the nod dot show slash podcast club. So this is our last installment of the podcast club series, but podcast club is by no means over! Keep it going, keep listening and sharing with friends.


ERIC: So, for this week’s final podcast club, we thought we’d share an episode that’s very personal for me. It’s also one of the episodes I get asked about the most (literally on buses, at the grocery store, in front of a mailbox, you name it). And I think that happens because it presents a lot of deeper questions about how schools educate Black children and just the ways brought up to think about our Blackness.


Two years ago, I was debating whether or not to send my daughter, Eve, to Afrocentric school…Strangely, it was not a cut and dry choice. I had some real, real hesitations. So I decided to document how our family made the decision…I won’t spoil what happened, but it was a JOURNEY! Little stressful for me.


BRITTANY: Mm. 


ERIC: At the end of the show, stay tuned for an update on how Eve is doing and how I feel about our decision today. 


[BASS DROPS]


ERIC: I’m about to make a really big life decision. 


BRITTANY: OK. 


ERIC: And it’s about my kid.


ERIC: Heeey.


CARLA: Hey! Say, hi dad.


EVE: Hi Dad… 


ERIC: So that’s Eve, my daughter and my wife Carla. Who–these are people who I imagine you’re familiar with? 


BRITTANY: We’ve met. We’re familiar.


ERIC: So anyway that was me coming home the other night, on the eve–if you will–of a big decision. 


BRITTANY: Okay...


ERIC: After we put Eve to bed, you know we sat down on the couch, and Carla had her glass of red wine. We got cozy…


ERIC: Get close to me. We’re married. We can do that. OK. So I mean we- we need to put Eve in school. 


CARLA: We do. 


ERIC: Okay so, Eve’s two, and this is going to be her first, like, real school experience…And we’re trying to decide on a preschool. But the thing is…Carla wants to send her to an Afrocentric school. 


BRITTANY: I see. 


ERIC: And, OK, look I know what Afrocentric school is supposed be like, you know, centering the Black experience, talking about Black history in a more substantive way. And don’t get me wrong–I have a LOT of problems with the that way most schools like, center white and european experiences. But–that said–is an Afrocentric school definitely better? Like, in my head, the details of what happens there are fuzzy. Like is it a lot of storytimes about Ancient Egypt mixed in with some Kente cloth? It just seems like a bunch of people trying to teach my daughter what it means to be Black. And I have a lot of feelings about that.


BRITTANY: Mmm. 


ERIC: By biggest one being…I don’t really trust other people to do that. 


ERIC: I’m not gonna lie. It’s hard to be like–I don’t want my child to have a strong you know foundation of Blackness. I want her to grow up steeped in white supremacy and you know all this other stuff. But like…You know, everybody's idea of like integrating Blackness into an educational conversation isn't the same... Like you know what I’m saying…there are people who are quote unquote pro-Black who still look at certain depictions of Blackness as problematic. 


CARLA: There are a lot of really toxic ideas surrounding…respectability politics… you know, the pull your pants up.


ERIC: Yeah. And I feel like the Blackness in our home is very like all inclusive Blackness.


CARLA: It’s pretty broad.


ERIC: It’s very broad. And I just want…I want…I want her to grow up not not demonizing aspects of her Blackness. 


CARLA: Mmhm. 


ERIC: And like–do–you not share that same fear? Like-


CARLA: Yeah, I don’t know. It's hard to, even now, even though she's still so young, it's hard to delineate where my desire for what I didn't have stops and where my desire for what she could have starts. And this is something that I obviously feel very strongly about because I didn't have it.


Um so yeah I went to very white schools K through 12. I don't feel like I graduated with a very strong sense of like, who I was as a Black woman, as a Black person in general... 


There was no Black girl magic. You know I had a lot of the - I don't want to downplay it - but a lot of the typical like self-hate of like oh I'm too dark. You know I had a lot of issues with my hair and like it really fucked with my head for a very very long time and it just didn't feel uplifting or- 


ERIC: -supportive… 


CARLA: -supportive in the way that I really really needed. I kind of had to get kind of to get there on my own. 


ERIC: I do get what she’s saying. It’s part of the reason I went to an HBCU. Doing that really helped me to understand my own Blackness and our history and doing that was just so so important for me.


BRITTANY: Mmhm.


ERIC: But still, like, I had a lot of logistical questions about how exactly all of this works.


ERIC: Mhm. I’m curious as to- why that starts at like two… like and maybe this is my own ignorance about like early childhood development or whatever but I know I want her to be able to count. Like I know I want her to able to…you know, maybe like read her ABCs...Also just don’t know what she’s supposed to be able to do? So like with the culture stuff, I think that would sound even better if she was in like- second grade. You know what I’m saying? 


CARLA: I mean I said all of that hopefully implying that yes ABCs, 123s like… 


ERIC: (laughs) Are also on the table.


CARLA: Yeah…is definitely important. 


ERIC: So… after this conversation with Carla like my head was swimming with questions. Like…Eve is a little kid. She needs repetition and simplicity. And lessons around Black history and culture can get really complicated. You can’t really put Jim Crow history on flashcards. Like you need nuance. You know?


BRITTANY: You can’t really distill that.


ERIC: Yeah, it’s hard. It’s hard. And do I really want to put the responsibility of teaching our daughter about race in someone else’s hands?


BRITTANY: Mm. 


ERIC: So I decided to do the thing that I usually do with big decisions…. 


BRITTANY: What you made a spreadsheet? 


ERIC: Yes actually, I did actually I did make a spreadsheet. But (laughs) after my conversation with Carla, I also went into research mode, I- you know, did some reporting- I called up experts, and people who went to Afrocentric school to just answer some of my questions. So I began my quest for answers by calling Imon.


BRITTANY: Like our best friend Imon?


ERIC: Yeah. She went to Afrocentric school when she was little… 


BRITTANY: (aughs) I’m very curious, VERY curious to hear what she had to say. 


IMON: Hello?


ERIC: How you doing Imon?


IMON: I’m doing ok. I’m doing ok.


ERIC: I wanted to ask her like: what it was like learning about Blackness at the same time as you learn about your ABCs? 


IMON: I remember counting to 100 in Swahili… 


ERIC: Can you still count to 100 in Swahili? 


IMON: No. 


ERIC: Do you know–how high can you count? Can you count to five?


IMON: No I don’t remember any of it…


IMON: And I felt like I remember reading when I went to public school. At Afrocentric school I don’t remember what I learned. 


ERIC: Mmhm. 


IMON: I feel like kids at that age you know should be focusing on reading, writing and arithmetic…And like, you have not lived enough to be burdened and saddled with these ideas and these notions about your racial identity…


ERIC: Mhm. 


IMON: Reading comes first, and knowing your numbers. You don’t need to know the Swahili version of your numbers, like that’s not gonna help you.


ERIC: So this kinda gave me some pause. Learning Swahili is awesome, you know growing up Jambo means Hello was one of my favorite books…  


BRITTANY: That’s a great book.


ERIC: It’s a good book.


BRITTANY: It’s a great book.


ERIC: And like I don’t think that’s the only thing they were doing but I’m a little nervous that the focus might- might be more focus on learning cultural things than learning like the core, academic things she’s supposed to learn at that age.


BRITTANY: Mmhm I feel that.


ERIC: But I didn’t want to just rely on Imon’s experience, so I needed to expand my sample size. And I’d heard Carla talking about her friend Marien, that she went to Afrocentric school, so I reached out to her, and she had a much more positive connection to it. 


 MARIEN: We did The Wiz as our school play. 


ERIC: Wow.


MARIEN: Yeah, and I was the standby to play Dorothy…and then… 


ERIC: Still counts… 


MARIEN: No, no, no, cuz then with a little mojo and some you know rain dances, little other Dorothy got sick the night before… 


ERIC: Wow. Look at God.


MARIEN: Look at God. Just blessing with the flu, lord yes! So...I was like I am Dorothy…Don’t even, I’m gonna ease on down this road, and you’re going to follow me. 


ERIC: Real talk, I would probably be sitting up there, bawling like a baby. Seeing all these little Black kids singing The Wiz?


MARIEN: Yes! You know it can feel forced if you see a little Black kid playing a part that is for white people…like them feeling the need to have that performance and giving the children something to work for and making it be a Black production…Like I don’t know that I would have gotten that at another school. 


BRITTANY: The Wiz is one of my favorite movies and I always wished that my school could have done it because I was obviously deep in the theater which explains a lot. But um-


ERIC: It does actually.


BRITTANY: But they never could  there weren’t enough Black people. It's crazy when you're a kid you're so starved for some sort of image like that. So like to do a production of The Wiz that is exciting and that is adorable. 


ERIC: Yeah I mean it’s cute but Like a lot of that didn’t really become important for me until high school…You know? And we’re talking about really, really young kids. 


BRITTANY: Yeah.


ERIC: Like for some people like Marien, it really really matters... but for others like Imon…you know it was too early for her to get it…Ok so at this point, my research is all anecdotal. But now, I’m feeling like i just need some facts...


BRITTANY: Mmhm. 


ERIC: So I actually put my questions to someone who I would consider an expert, Dr. Keisha Bentley-Edwards. She's a developmental psychologist and a professor at Duke University. 


KEISHA BENTLEY-EDWARDS: I look at how we develop. I look at it and not only from a racial and cultural perspective and see how race and racism affects your life but also how it affects your life differently at different developmental stages. 


ERIC: Are you the person that all your friends go to for this information? 


KEISHA: (Laughs) Yes, yes, yes, yes. I get a lot of calls and emails and text messages that start with am I crazy or… dot dot dot. Am I supposed to act a fool? (Laughs) 


ERIC: Dr. Bentley-Edwards⏤the good doctor if you will⏤she cut straight to the point like kids start to understand color and race at very specific ages.



KEISHA: Babies recognize that there are color differences. For African-American children at around three years old, that is when you know that it actually has a meaning. Even if you can't process and have a conversation about it, you start to know that there is something different about my skin and it means something...it means something to the broader world. 


ERIC: Honestly, I...just thought I had more time until we had to actually like, deal with that. Like all that stuff Carla said about self-image⏤whether Eve is proud of her skin tone, her hair⏤all that stuff starts really soon. 


BRITTANY: Mmm. 


ERIC: And Dr. Bentley-Edwards told me it’s like even more important than I thought. 


KEISHA: A high racial identity is related to higher academic achievement. So that means that the higher your racial identity is, so the more proud you feel of being a Black person or how you see yourself as a Black person...Those folks tend to also do well in school. But it can’t just be proud to be Black and put a Kente cloth on…There has to be strong academics and learning and social development as well.


BRITTANY: That makes sense to me. If you're feeling self-conscious, you're going to be focusing on that and you’re not really gonna be focusing on school.


ERIC: Yeah, I mean it makes sense to me too. And like if you run with that logic, it seems like Afrocentric school would definitely make kids less self-conscious… 


BRITTANY: Mmhm.


ERIC: Like that they would come out being really proud of their Blackness. So in theory…Afrocentric schools for the win, you know? Case closed. 


BRITTANY: Case closed! Wait is the episode over?


ERIC: It is not. But the thing is… I know from experience that there’s more than one way to be “proud to be Black.” Like growing up, I learned a lot of stuff I thought was a part of what it meant to be Black…that I later realized was just kinda bullshit. 


BRITTANY: (laughs) Yeah. 


ERIC: I mean like I grew up thinking it was my job as the Black man to lead my household and my people out of the darkness you know? 


BRITTANY: Oh I know.


ERIC: So this actually came up…I was talking to someone else I know who went to Afrocentric school… our friend Jordan.


BRITTANY: I love Jordan.


ERIC: How did they teach you about your role as a man in relationship to women?


JORDAN: Chivalry was extremely important there. So the man was the protector and made sure that we looked out for the women in the school. I'm a gay male. I mean there was times where I was maybe corrected for my like feminine traits. Like I didn't start dancing until I was at high school. But if I had wanted to dance. I'm not really sure it would have been embraced because it was kind of just like all the women dance and then all the men drum.


BRITTANY: That’s cra- So Jordan is an amazing dancer and I know he's been passionate about for a long time and that's crazy to think that at such a young age that if he had wanted to pursue something that he actually turned out to have a really big talent for and really big love for... he wouldn't be able to pursue it. 


ERIC: Exactly...like this is what I DIDN’T WANT out of an Afrocentric school. Like if Eve wants to drum, she’s going to drum…


BRITTANY: She will. 


ERIC: So that was bad. But I also realized from talking to Jordan that like one bad experience doesn’t just negate the entire idea of an Afrocentric education. Like Jordan⏤ for the most part⏤really loved his school…especially compared to the charter school he went to later. 


JORDAN: One of the things that I didn't experience at Afrocentric school was the issue of skin tone. I’m extremely fair-skinned. Like people wonder if my dad is White. I never had any comment made to me, it was never really an issue, it was just like you know⏤you⏤they really embedded in you that Black people need just support one another and to not be distracted by you know creating issues with one another.

 

BRITTANY: That is really cool. 


ERIC: Right? You know like I want I want Eve grow up you know and like, see another Black person and be like, "I want to help that person. You know I want to support that person."


BRITTANY: Yeah. 


ERIC: Like I’m just there for them. Like THAT, that to me feels awesome. 


BRITTANY: So…are you like sold on Afrocentric schools NOW? 


ERIC: Well of course not…(laughs) And part of it is because...Um....

in the time that I was doing all this, Carla also had just wanted me to actually just go straight to going to visiting an Afrocentric school. 


BRITTANY: (laughter)


ERIC: She didn't quite have all this in mind. 


BRITTANY: She didn’t have all this in mind.


ERIC: But now I feel like I know enough to like walk into an Afrocentric school and like honestly judge them fairly. 


BRITTANY: You know, Carla loves you so unlike me she's not going to roll her eyes she's probably just going to smile and go with you someplace. But I just want to let you know that you did way too much. (laughter)


ERIC: I like to think that I put in extra effort, you know? But I don't think that's a…in school there wouldn't be a bad thing. 


BRITTANY: It wouldn’t be a bad thing. And this is your child. So I'll let it pass. 


ERIC: Thank you. 


BRITTANY: But Jesus Christ. 


ERIC: After the break, I put away the spreadsheets…and get schooled. 


BREAK

 

ERIC: Welcome Back! So, I told Carla that I was finally ready to go visit an Afrocentric school. And after a little bit of searching, we actually found one close to us. So one morning before work, we hopped on a bus and headed over there…I was making a lot of little random jokes. 


ERIC: It still seems like we're about to walk into this mythical land, you know, of like...like I feel like the building is gonna be like a pyramid...


[bus stop dings]


CARLA: Do you see a pyramid?


ERIC: No, it’s not a pyramid…it’s like a brick building. 


CARLA: It’s nice. 


ERIC: When we first walked up, I actually felt the wave of somewhat of relief because they had a sign posted that said that they were closed for Malcolm X's birthday. And I was like, whoa, okay, maybe they see history like I see history. 


ERIC: Gotta recognize the important holidays. Alright, I’ll press the button. 


ERIC: So we press a button and they like buzz us in. And so we walked in…And to the left there was this amazing picture of the Obamas, like it looks like, regal. 


CARLA: A beautiful family portrait of the Obamas… 


ERIC: Right at the front door!


ERIC: Then we walk into the actual daycare, which is just like massive room. At that point you hear this chorus of kids in the background. 


DIRECTOR: Say hi guys! They have a two year old too.


ERIC: It's a very comforting sound to just hear like kids at play. And Black history was everywhere. 


ERIC: I see you've got the Black History month sign. Is it Black history month every month?


DIRECTOR: All year! We celebrate Black history all year. We have innovators who were born all throughout the year. We want to learn about those people all throughout the year too because is important for our children to know about their culture and the people who created things that you didn’t even think about like a shoe or a refrigerator or the traffic light is just something that we're always going to talk about with them, so we want to make sure it’s infused in the lessons too.


ERIC: There was a spot where a bunch of kids had colored pictures of Shirley Chisholm, and that I mean you know, that’s really dope. You know, there were drawings of Martin Luther King...and Malcolm X’s glasses


CARLA: And there’s a little picture of Malcolm X attached to each one. And they say Happy Birthday Malcolm X.


DIRECTOR: So friday is Malcolm X’s birthday, so we definitely wanted to celebrate him. And we are always doing art, so we figured why not his glasses… which are one of the most iconic things about Malcolm X (laughs).  


ERIC: I want some green frames! 


ERIC: So, there was a very nice woman, head of admissions. She came up to us and it felt like talking to your auntie and that was really nice. 


DIRECTOR: So this is our babies, our twos. This group they learn mostly through song and play, because at two years old that's really what they can take in and that's the best way to try to work with them and try to reach them. 


ERIC: I'd heard people describe pieces of this. You know, "Oh, we learned Swahili," And actually being in the environment and seeing how those things happened in a real setting made me understand that like, Oh, you can teach the history and the culture AND the learning at the same time.


DIRECTOR: You can see them learning about their culture and being able to repeat things about their culture in a natural fashion, it’s just natural. We want them to be confident in their culture and their background…So they go do whatever they want to do in the future…no matter where you are…and what you’re gonna do…


ERIC: And when we heard about all the activities she could do…


DIRECTOR: We do…I always miss one. Yoga, chess, Swahili, African dance class, we have an optional African drumming class, when you’re older you can do violin… 


ERIC: Everything was available to everyone…You know like…the boys were gardening…and Eve could drum AND dance…So I’m looking around this classroom…And this is a classroom that I couldn’t have even DREAMED of as a kid…You know, and I start to realize that like... maybe I can trust these people. Like maybe this is the right thing for Eve. 


I mean everybody tells you that you can't do everything right. And you hear that, but you immediately disregard it. Because, like, I look at her and I see her as an opportunity to like...to create a happy person. And you want to do everything possible to make sure that this person is happy and grows up and is just excited about their prospects for the world and their future. And it's tough, because at that same time you know all the ways it can go wrong. 


There's everything from the smallest mistakes where she has a bad day, to she might not be prepared for the difficulty that is inherent in being who she is. And you see all of those possibilities in almost every decision. 


Them participating in teaching her how to be Black was scary. And now, it's now comforting because there is a level of trust there now. Like I understand what they're trying to do. And now that I’ve decided that this is something I want for Eve…like I can let go of some of my own experiences. This is a thing I’ll have to get used to doing over and over again. 


I'm excited for her to walk in there and see all the stuff on the wall and her figuring out what she wants to go play with or manipulate first. You know, to see that moment of hesitation, cuz she always has kind of…has this moment of like, hmm, do I trust this? She is her dad's child but then she's like, okay THAT, I'm going for that. 


[MUSIC]


Eve's been in Afrocentric School for two years now. Come back after the break to hear how she’s doing today…Plus, Carla and I talk about whether we made the right choice.


BREAK


[ringing] 

ERIC: Hello?

CARLA: Hi.

ERIC: Hey, Carla.

CARLA: Yeah, Eric, how are you doing?

ERIC: (laughing) How's it going?

CARLA: It's going well, it's going well.

ERIC: Eve has officially been in Afrocentric school for two years. Um, Wow!

CARLA: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

ERIC: Um, wow. So, I know that I was the one resistant to this decision.

CARLA: (laughs) Yes.

ERIC: Uh, but I'm curious, like two years, two years in, how do you feel about it?

CARLA: I feel really good about it. I- I definitely think we made the right decision. Eve is thriving. Um, she is more talkative, and curious, and independent than ever.

ERIC: Yeah no I agree, I witnessed it as almost like a blossoming. Like...There's so much, there's so much that they teach them there, there ... like that's just like affirming. You know, like I r- I don't know if you remember, there was like a period where she would come home and she'd be like, "I'm awesome." And ...

CARLA: (laughs)

ERIC: And at first I was just like, well...

CARLA: Yep.

ERIC: ...yeah, sure. You- you're great. And, and like it was clear, like this was like a mantra, like, you know, "I'm awesome." Or she'd be like, "I-

CARLA: "I'm clever."

ERIC: Yeah, and...

CARLA: (laughs)

ERIC: And at first I’m like is this something you practiced at school today? And she’s like nah, I learned it at school, I’m fine. It wasn’t a thing for her. But she really retained that. 

CARLA: Mmhm.

ERIC: So I will say, at her school there are like activities that they plan that I do feel like you wouldn't- we wouldn't have got if she was at a daycare, uh, that was predominantly white.

CARLA: Right.

ERIC: The school is Black as hell, and (laughing) so I'm curious like if you can, if, if, like if we could try to remember just some of those moments. It's been two years, but there are, ther- I feel like there are, there are many.

CARLA: The first thing that come to mind is the Karamo feast. 

ERIC: Mm.

CARLA: ...that happens after every major performance. Um, and it's really just a time when they encourage all families to bring a dish to share, and usually it happens in a room that's just a little bit too tight for everybody...

ERIC: (laughs)

CARLA: ...but it's okay, because it encourages that family feeling. Um, and it definitely feels like a giant family reunion.

ERIC: Yeah. Also, I think about, at the end of most programs, uh, that we do, like everyone, uh, everyone, in unison, shouts, "Harambe." And, you know, which-

CARLA: Seven times.

ERIC: Yeah, seven times.

CARLA: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

ERIC: Why, why is seven?

CARLA: They explain it and I forget immediately.

ERIC: (laughing) Hopefully, Eve knows. But, yeah, so ..

CARLA: Yeah, sh- she definitely knows.

ERIC: Yeah. Uh, which means like working together, pulling together, helping each other, you know, caring, sharing...

CARLA: Right.

ERIC: ...all those things. I mean, there was the...they had- When Black Panther came out, there was a...they had a...

CARLA: Oh my goodness. 

ERIC: ...program and there was a Black Panther fashion. And m- more ...

CARLA: Yeah.

ERIC: ...more specifically, the thing I took away from that is that there was so many more Kill Mongers than Black Panthers.

CARLA: (laughs)

ERIC: Uh, KillMonger had a point. Don't at me.

CARLA: Yeah. (laughs)

ERIC: Uh...let's see. What else?

CARLA: I'm, I'm actually like, I'm scrolling through th- the pictures from the beginning of the year, and I'm just seeing so much red, black, and green.

ERIC: Yeah. (laughs)

CARLA: (laughs) And then, thinking about, oh, Kwanzaa this past year, they learned every, um... what did it- what is it called?... every value for Kwanzaa. That's not the right word, but ...

ERIC: The principles, the principles of the...

CARLA: ... you know what I'm talking about. The principles, yeah. And they sang that song that I will never get out of my head...

ERIC: Yeah.

CARLA: ...now that I'm thinking about it.

ERIC: Kwanzaa, Kwanzaa...

CARLA: Kwanzaa celebration.

ERIC: ...celebration. (laughing) She loved that song, too.

CARLA: They did it for day and night. Yeah, because they had to sing that whole song at their, at their program.

ERIC: Yeah.

CARLA: (laughs) Um, so just thinking about your reservations when we were looking at the school, um, what are some things that you...I don't know, just things that, I guess, surprised you in the experience of the past two years?

ERIC: Wow. Um, well, if I'm being honest, the thing that for me was, was really great, that I wasn't an- anticipating was like how much community we were going to receive, uh, from the process as well. Like she's at this school, and sure they are teaching her this style of education, but we got so much more (laughs) with it. You know? Like there's, uh ...

CARLA: So much stuff.

ERIC: ... Black history programs, there's wine nights, there’s like dance class for adults. You know, like... and...

CARLA: (laughs)

ERIC: ... like, for them, that community is rooted in what they're trying to teach. You know ...

CARLA: Yeah.

ERIC: ...there's an afro-centric ideal of creating community where we might have lost it. Like if they're trying to instill this confident- this confidence in our kids, uh, building community is like another way of doing that.

CARLA: Right.

ERIC: Like I really appreciated that community when our family was going through some struggles last year. We went from being married to co-parents and at the time that- that happened, I think I feel like they closed ranks around us, even just the teachers. It was wild unexpected but so nice.

CARLA: Totally, yeah. You know they make a big deal of it but they were like ok this happens so let us know what you need and we’re here. And I feel like in the aftermath they were also really attentive in terms of like, this is how she was feeling today, let us know what’s going on at home and just kind of staying with us every step of the way…And it was a really nice benefit to being in a place that’s already so familial. It just goes to show how like…how much we can take them at their word when they say they want this to be a community feeling. 

ERIC: Yeah. Have there been any, like, challenges that you didn't anticipate about this process?

CARLA: Um, so there was one day, I think it was around Black history month. I'm not sure. Honestly, every month there is Black history month.

ERIC: (laughs)

CARLA: But, um, it was one of the days when her teachers gave me a whole bunch of work that she had done over the past few weeks, and one of them was a picture of, um, Ruby Bridges.

ERIC: Mm.

CARLA: And the prompt on the paper that, you know, obviously the teacher's read to them was, "What was your favorite part of the Ruby Bridges story?" And Eve had written something like, "When the white people were mean." And then when I was looking at...

ERIC: (laughs)

CARLA: ...I was looking at the other, the other kids' work, just to see how it compared and a lot of kids had said something similar like, and I- I remember having a moment of like, "Ooh." Like, “Why would they allow the kids to kinda dwell on that part when that's not the point of the story?" But, you know, then I was like, that's not the point. The point isn't, you know, the white people were mean or, or whatever the kid happened to pick up, but the point is that they're getting to learn this history.

ERIC: Yeah.

CARLA: And whatever it is that they latch onto, the teachers are affirming that. They're saying, "Okay, this is what you remember from the story. This is an important thing to learn." What I mainly got from that is the teachers will never put them down and say, "No. Don't think that way. Think this way." 

ERIC: Basically, their goal is to just support whatever she's taking away from it.

CARLA: Yeah.

ERIC: Um, but it- it's also keeping in mind that like, how she might be thinking about even things that are, like painful, um...

CARLA: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

ERIC: ...is age-appropriate. (laughs) You know, it's like sh-

CARLA: Yeah.

ERIC: ...she's approaching it now.

CARLA: There's not a lot of room for nuance at three years old.

ERIC: Yeah. (laughing)

CARLA: Yeah.

ERIC: What do you most hope she's able to retain from her experiences at Afro-centric school?

CARLA: Mmhm. I really want her to hold onto her pride. Just watching the kids, whenever they have a program and they're on stage and they're like screaming out their affirmations, like she's just beaming.

ERIC: (laughs) Yeah.

CARLA: And she's so loud and so exuberant, and I really, I want her to hold onto that, and I don't want her to lose any of that fire that she has.

ERIC: Yeah.

CARLA: Um, and then also just her, her, not even willingness. It's a lot stronger than that, but her propensity to advocate for herself...

ERIC: Yes.

CARLA: ...and say exactly what she wants when she wants it. Like, you know, obviously, we have to temper it in terms of like how to be a functioning member of society...

ERIC: Right.

CARLA: ...but I don't want her to lose that, that drive to just speak up for herself.

ERIC: No, I agree.

CARLA: What about you? What are you thinking in terms of kindergarten, like what she should hold on to?

ERIC: I want her to still feel confident speaking up to adults. Like you said, she advocates for herself. I want her to walk into kindergarten and, and be like at all the other little kids and just be like, "I'm awesome." You know?

CARLA: Right, exactly.

ERIC: So, I think, I think it's good job to us. You know?

CARLA: Yeah. Absolu- I give both of us a high five.

ERIC: Uh, yeah. And, you know...

CARLA: Yeah.

ERIC: And I didn't get in the way, which was, which was great, 'cause ...

CARLA: (laughs)

ERIC: ...you know, in hindsight, that would've sucked.

CARLA: It wh- I would say it's- it was like a healthy, you know, a healthy hesitation.

ERIC: Yeah.

CARLA: It worked out.

ERIC: Well, yeah. It's been, it's been a really cool two years. I'm excited for the, for the, for the last one. I think it's going to be awesome.

CARLA: Best one yet.

ERIC: Yes.

CARLA: Yep.

ERIC: And, uh, and man, we, we, uh, we'll see. We're gearing up for a journey on- of the great beyond of what comes after. (laughs)

CARLA: Oh my goodness. Yep, get ready for a lot more tours.


ERIC: Yeah.


[THE NOD OUTRO MUSIC] 


ERIC: When we were trying to make a decision I really struggled to find resources. But talking about my concerns to friends and family helped so much. 


So, parents: are you considering Afro-centric education for your child? What else have you tried to make sure your kids are grounded in their culture?


BRITTANY: We want to hear how you feel about Afrocentric schools⏤talk to us on twitter: we are at the nod show. And don’t forget to check out our podcast club guide⏤we’ve got some questions there to help get your conversation going. You can find that at the nod dot show slash podcast club. That’s the nod dot show slash podcast club.


ERIC: The Nod is produced by me, Eric Eddings, with Brittany Luse and Kate Parkinson-Morgan. Our senior producer is Sarah Abdurrahman. 


This episode was also produced by James T. Green. 


It was edited by Jorge Just, Annie-Rose Strasser and Sara Sarasohn. With editing help from Vann Newkirk the Second, Blythe Terrell and Jonathan Goldstein. Engineering from Cedric Wilson. Our theme music is by Calid B. Additional music in the show by Bobby Lord and Takstar.  


[THE NOD OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]