One Sentence #2: Friday Black

One Sentence #2: Friday Black

It’s been a few months since I read Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah. I picked it up because I was looking for a collection of short stories by a Black author that would be appropriate for middle schoolers. This is NOT that collection. Here’s why:

The court had ruled that because the children were basically loitering and not actually inside the library reading, as one might expect of productive members of society, it was reasonable that Dunn had felt threatened by these five black young people and, thus, he was well within his rights when he protected himself, his library-loaned DVDs, and his children by going into the back of his Ford F-150 and retrieving his Hawtech PRO eighteen-inch 48cc chain saw.

The chainsaw was to cut their heads off. Seriously. This first story (“The Finkelstein 5”) left me feeling sick, not so much because of its violence, but because of how horrifyingly plausible it felt. Brutally intense, powerful, and necessary, the stories in Friday Black speak to the horrific violence that Black Americans face every day.

One Sentence: Ijeoma Oluo

One Sentence: Ijeoma Oluo

I recently read So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeoma Oluo, and the following sentence stood out as one that encapsulates much of Oluo’s message throughout the book:

Even if we were to flip a switch today and end all racism and racial oppression, millions of people of color would still be disadvantaged by racial oppression of yesterday, and that would need to be addressed with policies like affirmative action that seek to replace opportunities previously denied unless we feel like leaving an entire generation in the dust and hope that their children will be able to rise from those ashes.

In the past month or two, I’ve seen quite a few people say “being nice isn’t enough.” It’s not enough to simply eliminate overtly prejudiced statements and actions. We won’t have justice or equity unless we work to right the wrongs of the past, to provide people of color what they have been refused for so long.

this is how I feel

it’s dark or it’s not dark
i can’t really tell
i’m awake or i’m not awake
i’m not really sure

i don’t know what happened to time
it probably still exists but it has lost all meaning
when do i work when do i eat when do i sleep

the sun is around some days
but i’m inside always inside never outside
i could go outside but where do i find the energy to get off this couch or out of this chair
i know i used to do these things
but how
it all seems like a distant memory

i’m healthy or at least as healthy as i can be
i know people are struggling with illness and hunger and so many things right now
i have it good
but i don’t feel alive

is this life now

for how long for how long do i pretend do i have to pretend that i’m okay
that i feel okay
that i can live like this
that things can be kind of sort of normal

and it’s not normal
it’s crisis emergency disaster unprecedented
and and and
and it’s not normal

but how many days nights weeks months before this becomes normal
or at least feels normal
or like something i can do or survive or make it through or oh gosh

it’s not dark or light or morning or night
it’s gray just always gray inside and outside and all around me


please let me go back to the way it was before

Growing Up Mathematically

It started with a warmup that looked innocent enough.

Two sides of a right triangle have lengths of 4 meters and 11 meters. Determine the length of the third side.

After a few minutes, I brought everyone back together. I wrote my answer on the SMART Board and said “Okay, I got \sqrt{105} meters for the hypotenuse.”

A moment passed, and then they started talking.

“Wait – I got \sqrt{137}!”

“Yeah, me too!”

“What’s going on? 16+121 is 137.”

“Is he joking?!”

And then came the moment.

K: “Oh wait – you need to subtract!”

S: “What? Why?”

K: “Because that’s what Carlson did.”

S: “That’s not a good reason!”

And that’s when I stopped everything. I made a HUGE deal out of what had just happened.

“Did everyone hear that?” I repeated what S had just said, and then I addressed S personally in front of the entire class.

“S, you just grew up! You just went from mathematical childhood to mathematical young adulthood.”

There were probably a few murmurs, kids wondering what in the world I was going on about this time.

“You see, everybody, S decided that it’s not enough to do something JUST BECAUSE the teacher says to. S wants more! She wants a reason! THAT is what mathematics is all about.”

From there, we went into a discussion of how the prompt wasn’t specific enough to decide whose answer was correct, but it almost didn’t matter at that point. I’d already taught a better lesson than I possibly could have imagined.

Thank you, K and S, for helping us all to grow up mathematically.