My very first tenure-track job was connected to teacher education: I worked with undergraduates who were trying to secure a teaching certificate to work specifically in urban schools. In the early part of the program, before students were turned off by the curriculum and faculty (the faculty simply thought themselves too difficult and interesting for the students), the classes were full and enrolled mostly first-generation students of color who wanted to go back and teach in their urban communities. I loved the students, especially the early entries, and especially one young woman, who I will call Maya.
Maya was/is an amazing singer who chooses to use her talent for sacred music. As a high school student, she attended a predominantly black performing arts high school and that is where she did her student teaching. As a singer/composer/pianist and history major, her goal was to incorporate the arts into history education so that her black students did not experience their talent solely in their art classes but also, intellectually, across the curriculum. She was teaching American history and her cooperating teacher allowed her to implement the Civil Rights curriculum. I visited when students did their first presentations.
The presentations were a kind of acting/ singing/ music-playing extravaganza with every group member making speeches also. Each group was responsible for researching and presenting some central issue that galvanized black communities in this moment and had to use their talent to represent the depth of that galvanization. One young man, bless his heart, took the podium. It was obvious he had not prepared anything, but that did not stop him from talking. Before he finished his first sentence, one young woman started singing these words:
Oh Lord, I’m strivin’,
tryin’ to make it through this barren land,
but as I go from day to day,
I can hear my Savior say,
“trust me child, come on and hold my hand.”
I’m comin’ up on the rough side of the mountain…