the recent victory of President-Elect Obama, many have speculated
a change of attitude in young black men, vis-à-vis the thirst
for educational prowess. Whilst this prediction does seem, by
all measures, accurately reflective of the lingering emotion within
Black circles, some have suggested the need for a handbook of
sorts, as necessary in guiding Black students, male and female,
toward a more promising future. Of such is Zekita Tucker, a St.
Louis author and publisher, whose advocacy for Black students
builds on the legacies established by W.E.B. Du Bois, Carter G.
Woodson, Janice Hale, etc. Zekita Tucker, of fame “Don't
Call Me Nigga,”
has a new book out titled, “Reggie
Reggie Wakes Up is a blueprint for teachers and students alike – with an
emphasis on public schools. In a moment when numerous questions
abound, concerning the fulfillment of a Black presidency, Ms.
Tucker has provided some suitable and reliable answers, in dealing
with Black students. Meant for ages 8 and up, Reggie Wakes
Up takes a hard look into the public school system, and its
effects on the psyche of Black students. Though written in simplified
terms, and intended for a young readership, Zekita Tucker takes
into strong consideration the impact teachers have on their students.
With subtle advice for tutors confused about their role(s) in
the education relationship, Ms. Tucker has written and published
a great resource for combating the sleeping giant of black academic
inferiority in the public and private school systems.
the book’s main character, is presented as a representation of
young black masculinity in society. With a clear overdose on commercial
Hip-Hop and other forms of mindless entertainment, Reggie’s view
of life is infinitely limited to the Black characters he sees
repeatedly on TV, and hears on the radio. With a nickname of “Dolla,”
Reggie’s outlook is blurred by the pursuit of temporary pleasure,
and endless gains. As he strolls late into class, Reggie feels
at home in a classroom filled by nonchalant and directionless
students. Prompted by Ms. Roberts (his 6th grade teacher) to take
off his hat, Reggie refuses as he furthermore declines the offer
to pay close attention to her subsequent demands.
public schools across the country, marred by unenthusiastic, frustrated,
ill-equipped and financially-challenged instructors, most similar
scenarios unveil an all-too-familiar ending: The protagonist
gets suspended, the rest of the class revolts, teacher takes leave
of absence, less-enthused substitute teacher is hired, and the
vicious cycle repeats itself – until each student has been suspended,
or placed in detention, at least once. In this case, however,
Ms. Roberts lays out a manuscript for future, and present, inner-city
rogue,” as it’s colloquially known, she employs some creativity
in engaging her increasingly lifeless classroom. “How many of
you would like to be important in your community and make lots
of money?” she asks. At this point, every hand goes up. Leading
through a series of succeeding questions, she stumbles while inquiring
how many of her students “want to study hard, focus and go to
college or university.” Puzzled by the intense decline in enthusiasm,
as expressed by her students, in pursuing some form of advanced
education, Ms. Roberts curiously inquires what each student foresees
as a successful future, devoid of any substantive engagement with
education. In a highly predictable move, the words “model,” “go
‘pro’ (baller),” and “rapper,” swing high from the lips of her
who have struggled for many years with the hoop/mic-dreams
of younger Black males/females understand the dire need for, as
Dr. King might put it, a revolution of values in the younger generation.
The psychological warfare waged by big-media companies against
the mental-fiber of Black children is bearing poisoned fruits,
as more, and more, Black kids see no future worthy of aspiration,
beyond the entertainment realm. For a disturbing number of Black
younger adults, a deliberate avoidance of critical interaction
with intellectual stimulation is a viable route toward financial
of this trend, Ms. Roberts, a diligent, skilled and empathetic
tutor, enlightens her students on the powerlessness of most Black
entertainers: “...I’m sure that those things probably look really
good and make life seem much easier than it really is,” she says,
“but why not start a business or choose a career that will give
you the money that you want and some form of power?” With a look
of bewilderment overwhelming her students, leading one to ask
if “money doesn’t,” ultimately, “give them [Black entertainers]
power,” Ms. Roberts explains that the ones who “seek them out
to do those jobs for entertainment” are the characters with “real
power.” This foreign language, of empowerment beyond entertainment,
is carried on as Ms. Roberts informs her students that “the people
who control TV, politics, and big companies… decide on how things…
work.” Ms. Roberts advises that to “break” this “cycle… of bad
habits,” it’s “important” to begin the process of mastering education
as a weapon for liberation.
the fictional Ms. Roberts understands, which many inner-city tutors
sadly struggle with, is the degree to which the educational system,
as it stands today, works in harmony with enemies of Black advancement.
Inner-city Educo has lost its inspiration “to draw out”
passions for greatness in younger Black students. Ms. Roberts
is aware of the necessity for a re-education, within the education
paradigm, to take place – if a future of possibilities is to be
unraveled in the next generation. As the Hip-Hop artist Nas, remarked
earlier this year, in a song titled N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave
and The Master), from his controversial album Untitled,
“They say we N - I - Double G - E – R/ We - are - much more/ Still
we choose to ignore/ The obvious/ Man, this history don't acknowledge
us/ We was scholars long before colleges.”/ It goes without
saying that the Eurocentric educational model is a misfit for
most Black students.
the attention span of her students at an unprecedented high, Ms.
Roberts snags the opportunity to inspire her students toward becoming
marathon runners in the seemingly endless race for educational
excellence in the Black Community. Ms. Roberts confirms the potential
for distinction in her once-nonchalant pupils: “Even though most
African Americans have had many challenges and disadvantages in
the past,” she says, “we have a chance now to catch up.” Raising
the stakes, Ms. Roberts announces her students as “the key” to
the Promised Land of equality.
conventionality seems to be the least of her worries at this point.
As she sees it, the depth of concern for her students could not
be, and should not be sugar-coated to fit into the presumed mold
of an acceptable educator. To Ms. Roberts, conventionality
– otherwise known as eurocentricity – in inner-city schools was/is
the cause of the
jaw-dropping statistics of Black students, and an end to the
vicious cycle is optimum. Ms.
Robert’s leadership is a blueprint for success for any aspiring
educator, who holds dear the value of her/his students.
a symbolic gesture to highlight the sacred relationship between
a teacher’s words and a student’s consciousness, Reggie, who had
remained visibly silent through the whole ordeal, asks how much
of Ms. Robert’s comments affect “our community.” Before Ms. Roberts
can chime in, a classmate mentions that “because we are all a
small part of our communities… we can change things from bad to
good.” With the intense level of emotion and excitement tethering
on the brink of explosion, Reggie wakes up from his mental slumber
and removes his hat of insouciance.
a time when most administrators are scrambling to develop creative
models that incorporate the victory of the President-Elect into
school curriculum, Ms. Zekita Tucker has written a blueprint for
what such a model must look like. Reggie Wakes Up is a
must-read for students, teachers, parents, activists and other
Tolu Olorunda, is an 18-year-old local activist/writer and a Nigerian
immigrant. Click here
to reach Mr. Olorunda.