Today needs to be your 'One Day'

By VaJezatha Payne-Hines (Houston '92)

Within the depths of barren communities, bankrupt families, and desolate children, comes the heart-rending cry of the vanguard….the committed…the harbingers of a prophetic word that declares, yes, demands social justice for every classroom in America. Inequity, ineptitude, and insidious disproportionality are no longer acceptable on our children’s report cards. No longer will children have to choose between illiteracy or ignorance. Being dumb or being dead. No longer will the options continue to be so meaningless and so few. A 6th grader can see the futility of it all and drop out of school, because victory and success can never derive from illiteracy, or ignorance, or no books, or overcrowded classrooms, or stressed out/burnt-out teachers.

Yes, the clarion call has gone forth to resurrect the days of old, today. Like yesterday, the teacher will command a level of respect that is reminiscent of military precision in the classroom, in the community, and in our paychecks. When "yes ma’ams" and "no, sirs" jumped out of the mouths of the young and the old; when children proudly stated to beaming parents, “I wanna be a teacher when I grow up”. When hunching shoulders, shuffling feet, and mumbling lips bleating meaninglessness with an attitude no less, was not an option.

One Day.

Which, of course, is a step up from someday.

So sweet those two words: "One Day." An idyllic sound bite that speaks of tomorrow to avoid the horrors of right now. We speak of a one day to avoid the repulsive, acrimonious, misrepresentation of today's schools. Where ratchet, beat down, trifling, and just plain old pitiful are apt descriptors of that institution called education. Education facilitated by those designated to lead out of obliviousness, poverty, failure, underclass, no class. Education is the culmination of the vanguard that perpetrates the ancient process of developing one’s intellectual faculties in a way that socializes, civilizes, refines, and forever reminds us that without the presence of a systematic progression of social justice, there is no execution of the acquisition of knowledge, experience and skills. Instead, competence can’t be. Passing tests takes a pass. Graduations gradually disappear into today.

Today needs to be your One Day. Your tomorrow is right now. The future feels like tonight. Today is when the insignificance of regurgitation and memorization is eradicated, yielding to creativity, critical-thinking, correlation, causation. Common-sense. 'Cause here is when social justice begins. When no one can tell you that a child cannot. When sitting here is not “appropriate entertainment,” or “socially acceptable silliness,” or “lip service to a cool cause,” but a springboard that launches you to leave abolitionist footprints.

Not the delicate footprints we gingerly tiptoe around on social media from our wild days. Nor the footprints we try not to leave on the environment. No, no, no. I mean the footprints of you stomping like a frat line down South rolling out 50 deep at 2am. Footprints from stomping out the travesty of senseless killings on streets near the school, in the schoolyard, in the school’s classrooms. Stomping out the ridiculousness that special education students are likely to be males, like crack babies aren’t girl babies, and mommies don’t drink alcohol while pregnant with their daughters. Like the pressures of being objectified and victimized and forced into puberty before her mind can fathom the enormity of boobs in America, won’t negatively impact the academic success of our girls.

Tonight begins your stomping out the similarities between suspensions and expulsion rates of male children in our schools to the incarceration rates in prisons where both rates look just like the populations of entire Latina and African countries.

Get to stomping.

See, the abolitionists were impactful 'cause instead of talking about One Day, they were vehemently opposed to the enslavement of African peoples and did something about it in their day. While eating dinner, whole families were tucked away toward freedom. And I know that’s hard to digest, since the vanilla version of "I Have a Dream" by the great Dr. Martin Luther King gets stuffed down our throats every year.

But Dr. King could be an abolitionist about discrimination because abolitionists denounced that heinous thing called enslavement. Abolitionists eradicated by law. So you ain’t gotta dream or wish or hope for One Day, 'cause today, tonight, start stomping. Start stomping to educate fertile communities instead of barren ones. Start stomping to redirect bankrupt families toward rich social capital and the finances to support them.  And our desolate children? They are transformed and cultivated as the cherished beings that they are because you decided that the report card of America’s classrooms can no longer reek with the stench of social injustice, or the sweet cloying scent of One Day.

Today. Tonight. Right now, your texts, your tweets, your linked-ins, your pins, your Facebook statuses, your YouTube videos, your video chats, your video conferencing, your emails, and dare I say, your faxes? Your telephone calls? Your snail mail? Allows You to be the vanguard. You the committed. You are the harbinger. Continually, indefinitely, for the foreseeable future, until further notice, You demand social justice for every child. Thank you.

VaJezatha performed this story at our first ever Story Slam. You can watch her slam hereIf you're interested in sharing your story with the TFA-LA alumni community here on Alumni Voices, contact Helen Hong, Associate of Alumni Leadership & Engagement.