For the next 349 days, I will be writing entries under the title, ‘I AM TROY DAVIS.’ Moved to pick up the pen not merely by Troy Anthony Davis‘ death/execution, but more so by his life/evolution, I hope that there are those out there who can relate. If so, we must connect. We are already connected. Axé.
I grew up with two parents. Both led me down a path towards academics and education. My mother and father raised me very deliberately, from birth, to strive for ‘academic excellence.’ My father, second born to a Kentucky coal-mining family, was the first in his family to attain a college diploma. My mother, daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, had a father and grandfather who had both attained Law degrees. Although both saw the importance of education, their family history and life experience led them to slightly different perspectives regarding its importance to the individual seeking it out.
My father went for his education because he didn’t want to be poor. Like many Blacks of his generation, he sought the diploma as a ticket to a more comfortable and secure life. After graduating from college, he served in the United States Army, completing a tour in Vietnam. He finished his LSAT exam while in the jungle, and became the first Black attorney hired at a major law firm in Pittsburgh. Education was his key to individual survival and success.
My mother, was the second generation of an immigrant Puerto Rican family. At home, Spanish was a second language; and education was a highly stressed expectation for all in her family. Following in the footsteps of the family patriarch, my great-grandfather judge Felipe N. Torres, the majority of the Torres descendants became lawyers, doctors, and professionals. She graduated from college with a degree in child psychology, and worked with toddlers at the nursery level. Education was a means to help others for her.
Being a child of these two individuals, and the product of an urban environment, has led me towards the path of teacher. Although education was emphasized in my house, my overstanding of its purpose was not uncovered until I entered college myself. Before college, I was a good student, and never had much of a problem following the outdated, conservative, industrialized, concept of education presented to me at the predominantly white, private schools that my parents chose to enroll me in.
I was following a rationalized path, and my young mind became very familiar with the expectations that came rolling along with this mode of thought. My education was routinized. And, I was going fairly smoothly along with the flow, not asking a lot of questions, but on a much deeper level, feeling empty.
Frustrations bubbled to the surface, when I went home, hung out with friends in my neighborhood, and saw that their homework, if they had any at all, was totally different from mine. While my peers were filling out ditto sheets from books they could not take home, I was writing research papers, and learning to think (somewhat) critically. Over time, our lives went in totally different directions because keeping up with the workload at school became like a full-time job.
My education was about producing, not exploring. If I did explore, production had to be a result. Thus, I began to lose myself. I became a competitor with my classmates, rather than a contributor/collaborator. My goals were shaped by the status of achievement, not from an internal source.
I achieved, but what did it all mean? In the end, it meant rewards that I did not desire. It meant submitting my internal desires/dreams for some future career that would define me, and declare my value.
What does education mean to you? And, how does this meaning play itself out in the institutions you send your children to? Do you feel they are being empowered to change something, or just to exist within a system as a worker/producer? What are you teaching them to become? Do you want them to have a job, freedom, clean air? What is really important to you right now? And, how has your education allowed you to achieve what is most important to you?
Just some questions. I know that it took me several years to realize how much my education directly shaped my interaction with the world I wish to create. Most of us don’t realize just how colonized our minds are.
Organizers, activists, teachers, and all of us, burn out so quickly because even in our approach to changing/reforming/destroying the system, lies the colonial mindset. We haven’t stopped to witness this because we are in such a hurry to ‘resist.’ So, we run our behinds down to a demonstration to Occupy Austin, Wall Street, wherever, but we haven’t taken enough time to engage in the spiritual/internal work to un-occupy our spirits, or our minds.
I am not knocking anyone involved in these efforts. Actually, I encourage those that are inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement to get out there and do whatever their heart tells them to do. But, I am also praying that we open our hearts at the same time. Acknowledge that our spirit is equally as important as our mind. We must be fed on all three levels: mind, body, and spirit.
Otherwise, we are incomplete; and we simply recreate whatever we are so adamantly claiming to abhor/fight against. Recognize the deepest levels of your colonized self. Some things are easy to see. Others are hidden in our daily interactions. Our daily interactions, no matter how large, or seemingly insignificant, determine our future.
Just some thoughts for today.
My name is Jonathan ‘Jbro Mpeanaji’ Mahone, and I am one-half of (RAS) Riders Against the Storm. I AM TROY DAVIS.