I recently got a job working for Amicus Children Learning Center. The center is located inside the Winton Hills Recreation Center, which is an all Black community in Cincinnati. All of the kids in the program are Black, in grades 1sth-5th. Pretty much all of them are supposed to be taking medication for ADHD. You know, that so called "disorder" diagnosed to young Black kids who haven't even hit puberty yet.
"Hi, im Kayla." I said.
"Nice to met you. You're really pretty." little Black girl replied.
"Thank you! You're pretty too."
"No, im not pretty."
"Yes you are. Why would you say something like that?"
"Im too dark to be pretty."
Those six words broke my heart into a million pieces. How could a girl who is only 5 years old, feel that her sun kissed skin meant she was ugly? She lives in an all Black community and goes to an all Black school. So who could be making her feel this way? Other Black kids? Her family? Where would they get that idea from? Home? School? The media? The fact that she is ONLY 5 years old, and already feels this way is a major problem. Its one thing when white people judge us and try to put us down because of the color of our skin, but to be disrespected by your own people leaves a bigger scar. Now we have another Black girl thats going to grow up thinking she has to be lighter in order to be pretty. Well, im here to tell you THATS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN ON MY WATCH!
That same day I had a serious conversation with a little Black boy who was in the 5th grade.
"What did you learn in school today?" I asked.
"Uhh, nothing!" He replied.
"What do you mean nothing? You were at school all day and you didn't learn not one thing?"
"No. They don't teach us nothing."
"What about Black History Month?"
"Oh! We did learn that Africans were brought to America and made into workers, not slaves.
Here is a Black boy who goes to the same school as the little Black girl who thought she was too dark to be pretty. They go to a school where there is all Black kids and mostly white teachers. Why would they they be teaching them that Africans were made into workers and not slaves? I do believe the term slave used to describe our ancestors strips them of their humanity, but you have to tell the truth. When schools our teaching our kids slavery, they do it in a way that makes it seem justified. When you do that, you are romanticizing the struggle instead of teaching the pain and heartache that came along with it. Their whole point is to teach slavery in a way where you wont feel any resentment towards white people.
It is now dinner time for the kids at the center. The food the center serves is one step away from being prison food. Todays meal was tacos with “beef”, black beans, milk and a banana. Most of the kids wont drink the milk (I wouldn’t either) so they are always going to the water fountain in the hallway.
“They love drinking that water.” I said
“Never drink that water.” Mrs. Mabel told me
“This neighborhood is one step away from being Flint, Michigan. The only difference is that our water hasn’t turned brown, YET.”
“So why do you guys let the kids drink it?”
“They wont give us bottled water. They say it isn’t apart of the nutritious meal plan. And besides, even if they drink clean water here, they’re still drinking and cooking with tap water at home.”
Me being Kayla, I went to the store and bought enough water to last a few days. And when that runs out, I’ll go buy some more. Mrs. Mabel offered to pay me back, but I said no thank you. I wasn’t forced to do it. I did it because it is now my responsibility to do as much as I can for the kids in this neighborhood since no one else will.
Week one is over