Tag Archives: Education

LCFC Journal #24: Self-Worth vs. Market Value (In 5 Parts)

13 Aug

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Part I: Believe in Yourself

One summer’s day, I tuned into the Breakfast Club in 2018 and the crew happened to be interviewing the lovely and super talented Amanda Seales. While I was watching, DJ Envy asked her why she chose not to quit in pursuit of her dreams when things weren’t going her way. And her response to that question certainly struck me as she said: “I’ve always believed in my actual talent. I always knew my worth but you have to know your market value. And so, people don’t understand the difference between that and that’s how you get in the way of advancing.” When I heard this during an afternoon drive, I nodded my head profusely. At the time I felt as if that was something I had been dealing with my entire existence. I always had to fight to be recognized for my talents. I always had to fight to prove that I was worthy enough to be in the same room as people that were just as or more successful than me. I always had to fight for what I believed in and prove that I belonged. However, there were people or institutions that always passed on me. Whether they thought I was good enough or not, I’ve always felt as if anything I’ve ever really wanted in life I’ve never gotten. Little did I know at the time that I was wrong, and I had come to terms that if I didn’t believe in myself than who would ever believe in me?

Part II: Practice Patience

After graduating from college with a degree in English literature, I remember being in a state of shock. There were no job offers. No fellowships. Nothing. I remember thinking to myself, “what the hell is going on, right now? Is this for real?” I just couldn’t understand how someone such as myself who had completed two internships in the publishing industry and finished undergrad with a 3.5 GPA would find himself with no opportunities. The state I was in connects back to the conversation Miss Seales had on the Breakfast Club where she also stated, “Sometimes we get frustrated on the path and to your point people give up because they’re like damn, why shit ain’t turning over yet?” Frustration wasn’t even the word for me. Angry was more like it. By the time summer 14’ came and went, with it also went any guarantees or inkling of a job. I was livid as I started thinking about all the things I possibly did wrong in college. Maybe I didn’t join enough clubs. Maybe I didn’t do enough internships. All I wanted was an opportunity to work in the publishing industry and it seemed as if it was never going to happen.

Part III: Self Perception vs. Expectation

In November of 2014, I started working at Queensborough Community College as a part-time secretary. During that time, I remember thinking that working there was only going to be temporary for me, at least, so I thought. Personally, I didn’t expect to be there any longer than 6-9 months. However, the universe had other intentions as I worked there for two and a half years. In August of 2015, I remember being very miserable due to the amount of applications I had put in with no responses to show for it. Once again, I felt like a failure and what didn’t help was that I never planned to work at my old junior college. Before long, I started to think my just due would soon arrive. There was no way that I was going into 2016 still in the dilemma I was in. Which leads me back to another bit in the interview where Amanda said, “I think a lot of that too is that people think they’re owed the turnover. Like, I put in the work why hasn’t it happened? That’s when you have to really step back and think: what are the ways in which I’m getting in my own way?” In 2015, I expected a major turnover for my own life. I expected it. I craved it. I wanted it. But it didn’t happen. Someway, somehow, I stayed positive. I stayed focused.

Part IV: Stuntin’ On The Gram

Social media is a killer. Seriously. I remember when I was amid my quarter life crisis trying to figure out what direction I was heading in and would constantly be on Instagram. My time spent on the platform wasn’t good as I would often find myself comparing my trajectory with those of my peers. This was and still is (in certain ways) the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with growing up as an adult. I would see people taking photos on swanky vacations or posting about their new careers and how happy they were in their field. Seeing this made me think less of myself and that I must have done something wrong along the way. For me, I know I’m someone that is truly talented and can offer a lot to a company in writing, publishing or media. But I felt as if the world felt the total opposite and chose to ignore me along the way. It wasn’t until I heard Amanda’s perspective on this that I started to make connections with my situation. In her interview with TBC, she also stated, “The reason I say it’s so important to know your market value versus your own personal value is because that’s what drives you crazy. And there’s all these folks out here winning and you’re like, what am I doing wrong?” All I wanted was a shot as I hoped that I’d get one along the way.

Part V: Validation

Last fall, I applied for a PhD in English at several institutions in the north east. This past spring, I heard from all my schools of choice and they said, “no”. At first, I didn’t sweat it much as I was waiting on one school in particular to get back to me which was Brown University but as I waited and finally received my rejection letter I remember going home and crying a bit that night. Brown was an institution that fit my research agenda to a T. In addition, it’s an Ivy League so I knew that the potential for major opportunities would be endless at a school with such renowned prestige. But when they said “no” there I was again feeling like I had come so close only to let an opportunity that was once in a lifetime slip through the cracks. I was crushed. I felt like quitting life altogether. I couldn’t understand why things once again did not go my way. A few days later, I remember driving back home to Connecticut after spending the weekend in New York and I found myself listening to Amanda Seales’s Small Doses podcast (which I absolutely recommend) and she once again mentioned the idea of self-worth vs. market value. In another episode, Miss Seales read her personal statement that got her into Columbia University where she did a Master’s in African-American Studies with a concentration in Hip-Hop. I couldn’t help but smile as she rejuvenated my thirst and quest for higher education. Thanks to her I began to realize that the rejection notices weren’t personal. I just had to try again and hope that the next time around the schools I’d be applying to would see value enough in my credentials to want to take a chance on me. And in that very same BC interview she said this: “A lot of times we get bent out of shape and we quit because we don’t understand the game. We don’t know the difference between knowing your worth but also knowing other values to other projects and you gotta get in certain spaces to increase other peoples perception of your work. This is the game.” Bottom line here: Never give up on what you think is for you because if it is for you, the universe will grant it to you in due time. Thank you, Amanda Seales for inspiring this post. We’re all capable of achieving our dreams and deepest desires, it’s just a matter of having the right eyes fall upon your work in the right place and at the right time. Hence, market value.

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He recently taught 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

 

LCFC Journal #23: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part III

16 Jul

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New School, New Rules

In 2018-19, I became the English Language Arts Teacher at West Middle Community School. As I transferred there fresh off my first-year teaching experience at Simpson-Waverly, I was hoping for similar results. However, I quickly learned that a new environment is one that brings forth a lot of adjustment. Whether that be daily routine, getting used to the people around you and how one goes about executing the job at hand. I remember feeling hopeful prior to the first day of school but also a bit vulnerable at the same time. There was no doubt that I wished I could drive up to the north end of Hartford and continue teaching at the gem of a school I loved but that wasn’t reality. I had to set my focus upon the present. And the present at the time called for my services more than I could have ever imagined.

Morning Line Up 2.0

My time at West Middle was not one where I simply was a teacher. It was one in which I stepped up and became a leader. For one thing, I had two different kind of students for 7th & 8th grade. 8th grade was one that was very rough around the edges due to them having a rotation of teachers coming and going over the last two years. 7th grade was a cohort that had a bit of structure and stability due to the strong presence and discipline of their 6th grade teachers. For me, I wanted to bring in the same kind of goal-setting or foundation that I learned at my prior school which led to me implementing my own rendition of the morning line up with the math teachers. At first, students didn’t like it but overtime they grew accustomed to the nature of the line up as well as its structure. The line up set boundaries, provided students with daily announcements, addressed hot topics of the school, behavior, discipline and whatever that was needed to let students know that nothing short of exemplary leadership and academic excellence was expected of them.

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West Middle Basketball

One day during dismissal in October, I remember my 6th grade colleague, Toni Johnson approaching me and asked if I liked basketball. In response, I told her, “Yes, I love basketball!” From there, I remember her asking if I would be interested in being the coach of the school basketball team. I told her that I would definitely consider it. She then told me that she’d talk to the athletic director of the team to coordinate a meeting about the position and what would be required to be certified. After meeting with the director, Joseph Bumpers, he told me that the coach of the team in prior years was moving on to something else, therefore, they needed to fill the position. I was truly happy to hear it as I thought it would be a challenge and a way for me to bond with my students. Once I started training camp and assembling the team, I realized that I needed more help due to my inexperience with the position and decided to allow someone who had prior coaching experience to assist me. That person I’m speaking of is a man by the name of Carlos Sierra Sr. His son, Carlos Sierra Jr. was the starting power forward on the team and he willingly wanted to help me coach and see the students to success on the court. I remember there being many days where students were upset with us because of the rigorous nature of Carlos’s training regimen. Overall, I loved it as I thought it provided our boys with discipline and structure that was sorely missing in their academics as well as personal lives. Ultimately, this led to a winning season where we went 5-2 in the regular season and 1-1 in Hartford’s postseason basketball tournament. Throughout the season we received a lot of good feedback and support from school staff and students. They were happy to see the team succeeding and playing together. For me, I was elated to see the boys being successful and the hard work paying off. There was no doubt that Carlos and myself put the best product out on the hardwood that we possibly could and I was very proud of that.

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Poetry Slamming

Every year of school I have a unit of study that focuses on poetry for both 7th and 8th grade. During these units I have a special guest poet visit the school to teach writing to the students for a week alongside myself. Over the last two years, every time I’ve done this, it has brought out the best in students in terms of them expressing themselves and how they truly feel about their personal lives and the world around them. While doing so, I decided to create events for students to showcase their writing. Although I had already done events to this degree before, it was the first time that students themselves were taking ownership of their work and producing content on another level. It was something to be marveled as students read poems about blackness, the story of their own lives and what they hoped for their selves in the future. As a writer and poet myself it was more than I could have ever asked for. I was truly impressed by their abilities and bravery to hit the stage and exude confidence as they performed their work.

The Catfish Crew

One day, I remember dropping off one of my 7th grade classes to lunch and I remember a few of my students stopping me in tracks to show me a script. When I looked at it, I saw that they had written something that was funny, smart and brimming with potential. To say that I was excited while reading the script is an understatement. I instantly imagined the possibilities and what could come out of a script. At Simpson-Waverly, I wrote, produced and directed a play in which my students starred in but at West Middle I went into the year with the intention of forming a creative writing and drama club that would enable students to create their own original work in class and on stage. And so, once basketball season ended, I quickly formed the club. For weeks on end, we wrote, laughed, and marveled at the level of skill and innovation that was displayed in each person’s writing and worked hard to create a play that the school could be proud of and enjoy all the same. Unfortunately, that did not happen as students were unable to learn the script due to high demands of testing and a rigorous school schedule. However, their efforts were not in vain as the work done in both club time and prior to the poetry slams resulted in an anthology of short stories and poems called The Ocean of Emotion by the students themselves. I’ll never forget receiving the package with all the books inside of them. I’m sure that there is no way I will be able to top that achievement as a teacher.

The Horizon

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Looking back, I’m proud of the impact I made at West Middle. I learned a lot about what being a leader is. I learned a lot about stepping up to the plate and servicing the needs of my students. I learned a lot about who I am as a person and how genuine it is in my character to give and provide opportunities for students to be successful. I learned a lot leading a group of young men on the basketball court and guiding them to a winning season as players and as students. I learned a lot about giving a group of young ladies the chance to have their voices heard in poetry slams and read in a book as they’ve become published authors. I am more than grateful for the relationships I’ve formed with my students and it is my hope that they realize that the sky for them is the limit and that life for them has only just started.

 

Thank You’s (West Middle)

I would like to thank everyone and all organizations at West Middle Community School that provided me with opportunities and assisted me in making an impact this past school year. These organizations are: Hartford Public Schools and the Boys & Girls Club of Asylum Hill. Those people are: Lynn Estey, Joseph Bumpers, Stacy-Monique Wylie-Arthur, Candace Greenfield, Carlos Sierra Sr. and Ashley Jackson. You all are appreciated for all that you do to help our students. I thank you all again for such a wonderful experience at this school as I move on to the next part of my journey as an educator in the upcoming school year.

 

Signing Off,

– Mr. Kevin Anglade

ELA Teacher (West Middle) 2018-19

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He recently taught 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #22: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part II

18 Jun

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In 2017-18, I found myself to be extremely fortunate to have been hired as a 7th/8th grade ELA teacher at Simpson-Waverly Community School in Hartford, Connecticut. After completing my training at TFA Institute in Philly where I served my summer 17’ assignment at Simon Gratz High School, I was ready for the next chapter. Or, at least I thought I was. After returning home on Sunday, July 30th. I racked my brain wondering what was next for me in Connecticut as I hadn’t been offered a job or granted many interviews at that point in time. The more I thought about it, the more nervous I became.

And so, a week later, I was off to Connecticut for August training with TFA in which I was focused on lesson planning and freaking out about my lack of a guaranteed job. Once training concluded the week of the 15th and school was about to begin, I received a call from the Dean of Students at Simpson-Waverly telling me that they were interested and requesting that I come in for an interview.

Upon arrival, I found myself seated with the Dean of Students and principal. Although I was nervous and felt unprepared due to it being last minute, I felt a bit at ease with them since they were both black admins and as a young man of color it meant a lot to me to see people that looked like me as head representatives of the faculty and administration. After the interview, (which I thought went well) I remember following up with the principal, thanking him for the opportunity and wishing him well in the hopes that I wanted to be there during the first day of school.

Less than a week later, he reached out to me by e-mail and said that he wanted me on his team for the 2017-18 school year which was scheduled to start in a week’s time at that point. During that moment in time, I was excited for what was to come and promised to put my best foot forward. However, what was certainly going to be a problem heading into the first day of school was that I had no materials, classroom items, resources, etc. Although a major concern, it turned out alright for me as I was lucky to be placed with three teachers apart of my middle school team that really helped me get my classroom in order and always reached out for assistance and answered my questions as I was getting acclimated to the school culture, climate of education and everything you could name or think of in between.

Now, as for teaching goes. Let’s just say that not only was I overwhelmed but I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing. I hadn’t made lesson or unit plans as I was not sure what I would be focusing on with my students and it certainly showed. The students seeing this, definitely took advantage of me as they knew I was still trying to figure it all out. And so, I remember one day teaching in either my third or fourth week in which I lost complete control of the classroom. No one was paying attention, students were doing whatever they wanted and one student came up to me and told me that if I didn’t think I could do the job any longer that I should quit. The student said, “Mr. this is how it always is around here and if this is too much for you it’s okay to quit because it’s only going to get worse.” I didn’t doubt her and part of me wanted to heed her advice and get the hell out of there because I felt as if I didn’t deserve the stress and since I had just wrapped up my Master’s degree and desired to return to academia that a job of this nature was definitely not worth it. But somehow, I stuck with it and I hung in there, trying and failing, learning and doing, until I eventually got the hang of it with practice and coaching that I received from my school, TFA coach, colleagues and professional development opportunities from the school district.

The true turning point for me came on the 25th of October that year. I had missed the day prior because my car window had been busted and I had to take the day off to repair it. However, when I returned to school, the kids started saying, “Mr. Anglade, you’re FAMOUS!! We found your books and poetry on google!” As I heard this I was taken aback as I couldn’t deny it but also flattered at the same time. From that point on my students no longer looked at me the same and I felt a shift in terms of their admiration for me. The fact that I had a layer beneath the surface that exhibited me as more than a teacher really made me appear cool or something of the sort. Often more times than not, students in America paint a picture that their everyday school teachers only do one thing. It’s kind of similar to the stance you take as a child growing up. You forget that your very own parents had lives before you and that at one point they were kids just like you that did exactly what you do or maybe even worse. And so, I think it was cool to be accepting of this fact and for my students to see this side of me.

Furthermore, the students’ expectations or understanding of me shifted again but this time it happened on the basketball court as the school coach asked me and a few college youth interns to practice with the team through a scrimmage to help prepare them for the upcoming season. I obliged and found it to be thrilling as the students were taken aback that their ELA teacher could not only play basketball put perform well and keep up with them out on the court. Although, I didn’t think about it much, afterwards I reflected and thought how important it was to have my students see that side of me. It really meant a lot to them and as a result their respect and appreciation for me grew even more.

During my time serving the students of Simpson-Waverly, I thought it was important to not only teach them what was expected from the curriculum and state standards but I also thought that I made them think critically about the theme of every book we covered by having them explore films, music videos, hip hop and interviews to expand their understanding of the topics we covered which enabled them to wrestle and unpack those ideas in a humanistic way. These were everyday thoughts or concerns that also affected their livelihoods and the people within their community.

At the end of the school year, my creative side started bubbling. Since I knew the school was closing, I became inspired and thought it would be incredible to put on an open mic/sketch show that combined the components of Russell Simon’s Def Poetry Jam with Damon Wayan’s In Living Color. At first, the idea seemed great and the kids loved the script that I drafted but I wasn’t sure if it would actually happen as the kids weren’t focused most of the time or taking it too seriously. However, the idea was executed and the students rocked the production for our entire middle school to great success. I was so proud of them that I couldn’t contain my excitement or how I felt about the production and I’m sure they appreciated the opportunity and got something great out of it too. To this day, I look at that production as my greatest artistic achievement and feel so humbled and lucky to have worked with such amazing students.

On graduation day, I was clapping and cheering for my students as I was so proud of them and overwhelmed with joy. But as I clapped I couldn’t help but think that I would never see most of them again and that they were moving on to high school one step closer to being adults in this big scary world. Though, I was at peace that I had done my job and was happy to see them all advance to what lied ahead. It also hit me that the school year flew by and that the ten months I was fortunate enough to spend with them was simply a moment in time that I’m glad I not only experienced but cherished, both good and bad.

Moving forward, I will never forget my time served as an ELA teacher at Simpson-Waverly Community School. For it to have been my first year as an instructor and outside of my normal comfort zone of being an artist, I realized how important the work was and that leading bright youthful minds brimming with untapped potential is the job of a noble being. Therefore, I say that to say thank you to all my students who made my first year of teaching a success. You all can say that I taught you a lot or something along the way but in retrospect, I learned a little something about sacrifice and patience and for that I will always appreciate being a student to you all as well.

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Until next time.

– Mr. Kevin Anglade

ELA Teacher (Simpson-Waverly) 2017-18

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #21: Young, Black, Teaching in America Part I

21 May

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Last month, I was given an opportunity to spend the weekend in Memphis, Tennessee for the annual Teach For America Black Corps Members Summit. And while there, I had the most amazing time sitting with fellow black educators from all over the country. The theme of the conference was Healing, Building, Creating and Growing as we took part in programming at the University of Memphis centered around these notions and what they could potentially look like both in theory and practice.

From the start, the conference was very uplifting and special as the presenters and panelists talked about the importance of the work we do daily as black educators. If anything, the moderators and creators of this summit wanted us educators to take something back from the space that would enable us to continue to impact and empower our children. Although I loved the banding that took place, I couldn’t help but feel hopeless and discouraged. Teaching thus far had been a blessing and a great opportunity for me to reconnect with children that came from the same kind of communities that I did growing up but that’s often where the similarities ended.

I didn’t want to be the pessimist of the entire group, but I thought it was important to acknowledge the lack of interest in education (for my students at least) and how we could go about changing that. During a moment of reflection with the corps member group I was assigned to my comments opened up an entire discussion that stemmed from lack of support, resources and many other cons that come with serving our impoverished communities as educators. I kept it real and honest. I wanted people to know that although I had a pretty good relationship with a lot of my students, I was often tired, disheartened and miserable about their disinterest in learning.

Teaching can be fun but when you’re in an over-sized classroom where a majority of students would rather spend the entire time on their cell phones as you try to push content, not only is it frustrating, but it is exhausting! The truth is, most of my students don’t come to school to learn. They come to school to hang out and see their friends. They come to school to make sure that their snapchat is lit. They come to school to gossip and record the latest fight on social media. They come to school to eat and get a meal or two out of it because they are hungry (totally understandable).

But what breaks my heart about this is that most of my students are not performing up to standard. A majority of them are not on grade level, have issues reading, writing, and lack the tools needed to be successful in high school and beyond. Part of me feels like: what could I have done to better prepare them? Where did I go wrong as a teacher? Was I not strict enough? Was I lousy in how I presented information? Are my classes boring? Am I an inadequate educator? Did I make a mistake going into this profession?

All questions that many of the educators at the conference also shared. The doubt was real but with it came validation that should occur when you find yourself invested in a child’s education more than he or she does. If there’s anything I took from my time at the conference last month is that as an educator, you do the best you can to educate your students. However, you must continue to do the work. You must continue to fight for equity in all sectors of education. You must continue to fight for your students. You must continue to tell your students (especially black and latino) that they are important and that their hopes and dreams matter. You must continue to be there in every way imaginable. Lastly, you must continue to show up for them. Whether in the classroom or outside of it. Although I’m unsure what the future holds for me in teaching, I’m certain that I’m committed to this work of equity. The work of education. One way or another I will continue to go at bat for my students of color. They need me. They need you. They need us. Therefore, as easy as it is to throw blame in any direction let’s all do our best to hold ourselves accountable. Put them first at all costs.

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KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #19: A Rose in Ghana – The Summary

21 Jan

IMG_5585Last summer, I had the pleasure of spending 3 weeks in Takoradi, Ghana as a teaching fellow for a program called Limited Resources Teacher Training or LRTT for short. During this program, myself and 19 other teachers from various parts of the U.S. led professional development conferences for in-country teachers. The objective was to provide an equitable exchange of ideas through effective teaching practices and strategies that would allow teachers to provide their students with various opportunities to exhibit growth and progress. The other part of this exchange was for fellows to also grow and develop skills in leadership while bringing confidence and a reinvigorated sense of passion back into the classroom for the following school year. Well, let’s just say I got a little bit of everything in between and more out of the experience.

 

I’ll never forget my first night in Ghana as I flew into the city of Accra and met my team leaders that would guide me and the other fellows throughout our three-week journey. The name of the hotel we stayed at was the Pink Hostel. And after being given my room key and winding down for bed, I heard a rooster crow for the first time in my life at 3AM. Wow, you’ve come a long way from New York City was all I could tell myself. After waking up the following morning and meeting the rest of my cohort, we spent an additional night in Accra before clamoring our luggage and selves into a bus and driving four hours south to Takoradi, the city and district where we would be working in various schools.

 

From that point onward, I fell in love. I immediately felt right at home and took in the sights. Dirt roads, cattle, chickens, roosters, goats, wild dogs, and children waving at us and expressing elation in seeing foreigners in their town. I’ll never forget telling myself to soak in all of the experience and live within the moment. Once we arrived at our next accommodation spot in Takoradi, I remember whipping out a camera that a close friend let me borrow and started snapping away at everything I saw. Never in my life had I experienced true authentic culture of that magnitude and it truly did something to my heart, mind, body, and soul.

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After getting settled, I promised that I would go out and find some roads or trails for me to run on (a summer routine I developed over the past few years in which I run three miles per week). Once I familiarized myself with the trails surrounding the guest house, (which were often dirt paths and hills) I savored every moment taking in the sights and appreciating nature at its finest. On my nightly runs there was a song by Kanye West and Kid Cudi called “Kids See Ghosts” that I played religiously. And sometimes by coincidence and sometimes by choice the track would blare through my headphones on one of my trails as I took in the scenery of the village from a high altitude. Personally, I felt as if the song was the soundtrack to life in Ghana and the continent of Africa as a whole. Especially, during a refrain in which the featured guest artist, Mos Def says, “Civilization, without society/Power and wealth with nobility/Stability, without stasis/Places and spaces”. The first few times I ran and heard the song, it felt good just listening to the tribal rhythm of the song. But it wasn’t until my third or fourth listening to it on one of my daily runs in which I realized that the song was a vivid reflection of everything that I had been internalizing on that hill and throughout the trip in general. I think the idea of civilization existing without society is a beautiful thing. Or in my perspective, a community that exists in which there isn’t pressure to be politically correct or forced to adhere to the expectations of a society. Seeing Ghanaians in their natural environment allowed me to see people that co-existed peacefully no matter the religion they followed (Christianity or Islam) or sizes of their body. I saw civilians that were just that. Civil in how they sold, marketed and distributed their own goods. Picked their own crops. Built their own houses. Cut their own weeds. All without direct control, pestering or surveillance of the government. It was certainly refreshing to see and made me realize how simple living can be. If only this could ring true in certain parts of the western hemisphere.

Lastly, having the opportunity to visit a few schools to work, collaborate, observe, question and engage teachers was an experience I’ll never forget. From the structure of a daily school day, to the recesses in which students were free to run without a care in the world truly made me evaluate the education system in America and what we could do to be as structured, focused, on-task and engaged with school. I’m not saying that Ghana has a perfect education system, far from it. What I’m saying is that it’s a shame that a country considered to be third-world holds such an immense value and appreciation for education. From the headmasters/mistresses, teachers, all the way down to the students themselves. It leads me to wonder the many flaws in U.S. Education as well as how we as a people interact with students as parents and faculty. Do I have an answer to this dilemma? Of course not, as it is without a doubt a systemic issue that we as a country have to bring to light and discuss openly. Nonetheless, if Ghana with its limited resources can get this done then I’m sure that in America we can begin taking the right steps to get this done as well.

 

Appreciation. That is the word I feel most connected to when I think about my time spent in Ghana working with teachers, students, and observing civilization there in general. I’ll never forget that I saw two boys on my last conference day holding hands walking on school grounds as the day ended. I’ll never forget that I saw a classroom of students be in awe as they gathered in a computer lab that had only two computers and revel in its appearance and functions. Lastly, I’ll never forget how kind the people of Ghana treated me. From the teachers, the cities I visited (Takoradi, Accra, Cape Coast) and the fact that I got a chance to return to the site in which my ancestors were captured more than four centuries ago. I remember running into a group of young men down in the Cape Coast and one of them at a party on a Friday evening told me, “Welcome back brother Kevin. America is where you live and were forced as your people were displaced but this is your home. Welcome home.” And with that being said, I couldn’t have agreed with a much better statement and personal lesson. I was home. A moment in time that I’ll never forget.

 

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KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of mercy for murder(s) in brooklyn, a detective fiction novel. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He currently teaches 7th & 8th grade English Language Arts in Hartford, Connecticut and is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

 

 

LCFC Journal #15 “Summer School at Gratz” (North Philly)

22 Aug

 

Resized_20170713_191321This past summer I spent my time working as a high school ELA teacher in Philly at Simon Gratz High School. My brief tenure there was possible because I had been selected a few months back as a newly minted 2017 Teach For America Corps Member. And to say that my time there was amazing would most certainly be an understatement.

The very first day I was scheduled to meet my students was on Wednesday, July 5th. That day was a very nerve wracking one as I, and my co-teacher, Matt Lowe, anxiously found ourselves getting amped as we awaited their arrival. And so, as the bell rung we stood outside our classroom door at 8:30AM when the students started to slowly but surely make their way onto the third floor.

The special moment  we had envisioned in welcoming new students into our classroom was short lived as students spoke out in turn, questioned our purpose and asked us whether we truly enjoyed teaching and wanted to be there with them.

Moreover, some of the kids even mentioned how rough their school was and that sometimes the behavioral climate was out of control. Although I wasn’t surprised by what was being told to us, my co-teacher Matt Lowe found it to be shocking as he’s never come across or worked with students of color within an inner city school.

Because of this and the fact that I myself had grown up and attended all failing public schools throughout my childhood I thought it was truly important and best that I helped Matt adjust and become acclimated with what he’d experience throughout our month of sharing the classroom together. Our main task during the summer program was working with the kids to help them navigate the texts we would go on to cover over the next four weeks.

Some of the pieces we covered were speeches from former Senator and 2016 Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton about violence and oppression that occurred amongst women of all colors and creeds in 1995 as well as a speech by Elie Wiesel, the famous holocaust survivor who wrote the memoir Night which famously detailed his experience in the Nazi Germany concentration camp in the 1940’s. And although the pieces were dense, the students found the thematic elements we covered to be of great importance which led to many discussions and important conversations about sexism, violence, and discrimination against women.

For Matt and I, we noticed that the students had no problem interacting with the text, annotating them or contextualizing them through what they had experienced within their own lives, instead, we noticed that the real problem lied in the literacy skills of our children as many of them were writing on a fourth or fifth grade reading level.

This in itself was tough because I often had to ask myself: “How do I go about grading and assessing the performance of these children when their true skills doesn’t lie in their ability to write but in their ability to think and share vocally and critically about whatever we were discussing in class at the time?” However, I found this question to be a complicated one since the school itself was judging student progress on their ability to write and perform on paper at a decent level in which they would consider to be worthy of passing.

Yet, there were still more pressing urgent matters that often troubled me more than the students ability to attend, participate, and learn in class. For a lot of my kids many of them were dealing with personal issues and traumas that many teachers including myself would not be able to fully digest or understand.

I remember one of my students named Shemar Caraway had decided to answer a question from a day’s Do-Now about conflict and intervention as he said: “I’ve never intervened on any issue before in my life but I remember I had a friend who died over a situation he was in by gunshot. He was murdered and sometimes I think about how it could have been me.” I found this response from Shemar to be bone-chilling as I personally have never dealt with losing friends in such a gruesome way nor have I ever witnessed someone being hurt, maimed or murdered in cold blood.

Furthermore, many of my students had doodled and written on folders that we distributed to them for the summer. And a lot of the folders I came across had the words and hashtags #RIPBLACK #RIPSTUNNA and #FREETAY. In all honesty, these markings scared me because it made me wonder about the kind of environment my students were living in and how their setting affected the way they thought, spoke, and lived among each other. The actuality of their circumstance really left a mark on me and made me think a lot about their futures and how much care they should take going forward to ensure a full chance at life. Chances that were robbed and taken away from some of their most dearest friends.

As summer school ended I remember having a moment of reflection on the last day with my Teach For America summer advisor named Julianne and the other teachers in our teaching group that taught ELA at Gratz. And as I was given a chance to reflect and say what I was thankful for I remember having to step out because I broke down in tears. The reason for this was the fear I felt for my students as I questioned their safety. Overall, I had grown to love them and their imperfections and after hearing what a lot of them had gone through I found it to be of great importance that they not only continued to get their education but found more than one applicable way in being safe within their community.

One moment that has stuck with me even to this day as I reflect back on my time spent in the classroom is when Shemar showed up early to class one day prior to the start of class. By that point we had a week of summer school left on our schedule. And so, since Shemar was there early, I figured I’d pick his brain and ask him what his plans were for the remainder of summer before the start of the regular school year. Shemar responded by saying that he would lay low and stay cool since it had been a hot summer. In that moment of getting our class set up Matt teased him and said: “You’re going to be writing us letters saying how much you miss us?” To which Shemar replied: “Man, I don’t even write letters to people in jail.” The response itself was very illuminating in regards to the circumstantial conditions that our students dealt with and never ceased to move me in regards to how these kids were growing up in the midst of all the chaos and turmoil.

Going forward, I know that I have to move on and get ready for what is expected of me over the next two years in Connecticut but for some reason I feel as if my heart will be in Philly for a very long time. The students I was fortunate enough to work with this summer helped me grow in more ways than I could have ever imagined. They helped me realize that I have a purpose in doing work as an educator and that I myself will continue to grow the more I open myself to being aware of not only the similarities but the differences I will surely experience between my students and myself over the next two years.

At this point in time, I’m not sure what to expect at whichever school I will soon be teaching at but one thing I’m certain of is that the students I taught for four weeks at Simon Gratz High School forever have a special place within my heart. The one thing I will continue to ponder throughout the many years going forward is that this group I led for a month somehow remembers me, Mr. Anglade as their 10th grade ELA Section 1 summer teacher. If they recognize the impact I strove for with them, they won’t realize it now but possibly one day when they are full-fledged adults. In closing, I would like to say that those kids are special. And not only will they truly be missed, but I will never forget them for as long as I live.

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection “Life Comes From Concrete”: a poetry memoir (2016).

 

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #13: Grateful for Queensborough, Thankful for Gratitude…

20 Jun

 

unnamed (1)I remember what it was like coming back to Queensborough Community College for the first time in what felt like ages. In actuality, it had only been two years and change since I had set foot on campus but going back to work there felt much different. To be quite honest, I never expected to make a return and the fact that I did made me feel as if I had gone through a revolving door. My first day back was on Thursday, November 6th, 2014 and I was scheduled to begin work at 9AM for the Speech Communication & Theatre Arts Department as its college assistant.

I wanted to make a first impression (or thought my job required that I looked professional) as I remember wearing a gray dress shirt and tie with black pants and shoes. Little did I know that over time dressing up was useless as my manager, Veronica Manoo had me doing a lot of heavy lifting and cleaning. I was very taken aback by the amount of work that was cut out for me in regards to office maintenance but Veronica was very helpful in getting me acclimated to her system and how she ran the department.

Two months into my gig I was quite content with the job as it was pretty straight forward. It also didn’t hurt at the time that the pay was fair for a recent struggling grad as I was working damn near full-time punching in thirty hour weekly and making almost a thousand dollars every other week. Although the job wasn’t in my field of English I was comfortable enough at the time to stay a while longer while I continued to search for other positions.

However, a speed bump would occur a few months down the road as my weekly hours were reduced to half the amount I had been working from the moment I first started. For me, this was a shock because I naturally thought my pay would hover around the figure I was already making, but later on, I learned that the only reason I was afforded the luxury of working additional hours was because the college assistant before me quit in August of that year which allowed me to use up the hours that he hadn’t used as a result of his departure.

It was in that very moment that I realized the matter where I told myself I needed to get the hell out of there. As a recent college grad, the sudden reduction shocked me beyond capacity and made me take a step back to reevaluate why I had even gone to college.

What made things worse for me personally was that half of my earnings was given to my mother. From the time that I had started working at QCC my mother requested that I contributed four hundred dollars a month to the household as a way for her to buy groceries and aid in monthly expenses. Although I didn’t mind the matter when my check was looking great, later on I found it to be a nuisance as I barely got by.

During the fall and early portion of 2015 I grew to be extremely frustrated with the predicament I was in. At that point I had started a master’s program and had moved up from being a pitiful college grad to being a broke graduate student. And as I had done before I was struggling to stretch every dollar I made.

Months went by as the summer of 2016 arrived. By then I found myself keeping all my money made from the measly earnings of my paychecks to myself. At this point, a full two months went by without me giving my mother any money. And to be honest, I didn’t really care to even address the situation because it literally killed me inside. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and disgusted with what I had become and my pride would not allow me to bring the situation to light. I was able to get away with it for a while until one day my mother sent me a text and asked about the sudden halt in the money she had been receiving.

Later on, I remember us briefly getting into it as she told me that I needed to move on and find a real job with real pay that provided full-time work hours. Although I agreed with her and understood where she was coming from I refused to let her break me down. As a young adult I was doing everything within my power to be one that I was supposed to be doing at the time and her complaints about my job did not phase me in slightest. At the time I literally had one more year of school left on my plate and would not allow her or anyone meddle with what I had planned.

Following this matter, I continued working at my job while going to school. However, I knew that my final year of graduate school had to have something attached to it at the end. It was really important to me that I either found a job in which I could utilize my English undergraduate degree or one in which I could pursue education either through a fellowship or on a higher education level.

Sometime that fall, I found myself landing a position as a corps member for a teaching fellowship program that would have me relocate to New Haven, Connecticut. Once it became official I was certainly relieved to say the least. It felt great to know that I would finally begin to embark upon my career and would get started on defining and creating a future for myself.

However, what I found to be tough in regards to the matter is the fact that everything wasn’t all bad for me working at the school. What I mean by that is I grew and built relationships with some of my colleagues that will certainly last a lifetime. A lot of the professors I worked with helped me grow and mature into a professional future educator by simply having conversations with me. I was fortunate enough to watch them operate as I learned the meaning of responsibility, hard work, and etiquette when it boils down to dealing with students of all magnitudes.

On my last day of work at QCC I found the ending of what was certainly a learning experience to be bittersweet. Of course, I wanted to go and move on more than anything but a part of me felt as if I was leaving something behind. I was leaving a group of people that not only helped raise me on my first real job but cared about me in such a way that impacted my framework and identity as a young man. I’m not too certain why it happened but I can still remember crying my eyes out while talking to Daniel McKleinfeld, the College Lab Technician of my department and thanking him for just existing and being an extraordinary man that taught me so much about life, history, the world, and many things at large. It is because of beautiful souls like him that my spirit enlarged and was very in tune with everything I got to experience while working there.

And so, if someone walked up to me and asked whether I enjoyed working as a college assistant for little pay and work experience right out of college I would not find it within me to tell a lie and would have to say, “no”. But if they asked has the experience itself changed you in any form or fashion then I would have to say “yes”. It changed me because I literally had to learn that sometimes life doesn’t always go as expected. Life doesn’t always hand you what you want right away or sometimes at all. Life and the experiences you get are a test. A test that determines your resilient nature as you make progress into a future that is bright but challenging. A future in which you will find yourself being grateful for everything both big and small that comes your way. It’s this reason alone that makes me thank the institution as I express my deepest gratitude. Not only am I certain that I will prosper but I have also proven to myself that I will win wherever I go. And for that I say: thank you Queensborough Community College, thank you. Because of you, I will go on to do great things. Because of you, I am grateful.

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection Life Comes From Concrete: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

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LCFC Journal #12: “To Be Young & Black in Grad School”

23 May

20170517_183328To this day, I still remember my first taste of graduate school. It was August 27th, 2015, summer was rapidly on its way out and I happened to be running behind schedule for my first class of the fall semester.

After leaving work and catching my buses headed towards Queens College, I contemplated on how the first session of my English M.A. program would go. Grad school was something that I had convinced myself I was ready for, especially after having been out of school for 20 months upon finishing my undergraduate degree. However, as the bus neared the school with each stop I couldn’t find it in me to suppress a tiny voice from asking if I was sure that a Master’s degree was something I could complete.

Upon arrival, I remember walking into the designated building in which my class was being held and making my way to the seventh floor.

The classroom itself was a long conference room and to the least of my surprise was filled with students settling into their seats. The professor, (a tall brunette woman) seemed welcoming and handed out the syllabus with worksheets.

As the materials went around one by one, we volunteered and read these sheets as they consisted of stories that we would cover throughout the semester. However, upon reading them, I felt a pang of anxiety as my chest tightened. Suddenly an unwavering sense of doubt drenched my thoughts as I felt as if I had instantly drowned in water. In that instant I honestly said to myself that I wouldn’t be able to complete the work and that grad school wasn’t made for someone like me.

Further along, the more I took the initiative to complete the assignments and do them well, I found out that I wasn’t that bad of a student. I made A’s and A-’s on a majority of my assignments and was very relieved upon receiving these grades as these first few marks certainly boosted my confidence.

However, I still felt conflicted somewhat as I dealt with the large elephant in the room. The elephant being that I was one of few black men or people of color within my courses. I know this sounds absurd especially since undergraduate programs are generally swarmed with white people but for some reason I felt like an outlier in my classes while listening to discussions on literary criticism, English Renaissance in the 17th century and anything Marx and Engels related. To be clear, I of course didn’t connect with my classmates but in regards to my education I also didn’t connect to what I was learning either.

My vision heading into grad school was premature at best. I honestly thought that I would concentrate on African-American literature and would in the process write a Master’s thesis in which I’d hone the skills that I had only begun to sharpen in my undergrad program while simultaneously showing that I had the ability to write, publish, articulate, and discuss on the graduate level. Nonetheless, over the past twenty-two months I’ve managed to do work in sectors unrelated to what I specialize in as I recently submitted my thesis on Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point” and now stand days away from graduating from the program.

Looking back, however, I still feel conflicted about the whole thing. For one, I consider myself to be a person who loves to experience what he is a part of. But somehow, I never felt as if my time within my graduate program was an experience. To me, it felt more like a task within my journey.

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Surely, one can ask if I took advantage of everything the school or the program itself had to offer and I would say that I did the best I could. I mean, I attended some readings sponsored by the department’s MFA program. From Zadie Smith, Cornelius Eady, Jackie Woodson and Kia Corthron, I extracted knowledge from their readings as well as their sit-down discussions with moderators, but a part of me still felt as if something was missing, as if I was a little guppy that had lost his way swimming in a sea of strong bass fish.

Moreover, I felt as if the entire time I existed within a bubble often finding myself awkwardly alone and staying to myself as others connected. Nothing felt inclusive, as I consciously harbored upon my blackness and whether my peers thought if I belonged or not.

On the days I had class I always felt as if I had something to prove. It was important to me that my classmates saw me as a competent black man who deserved to be within their presence. And so, I took it upon myself to engage and ask questions every single session. Although I felt as if they knew I was smart or capable enough to hold my own, I was never satisfied and always found myself trying to fit in.

During my time in grad school there were no study sessions, no support groups, no trips to local bars for drinks, nothing in which I knew I could be present in. And to be completely honest, this frustrated me. I was frustrated because I didn’t know how to fit into the whole graduate school paradigm and I was frustrated because of the lack of people who looked like me within the program.

Overtime I grew accustomed to being alone and started treating it like an actual job. Get in, get out, read, research, write, repeat. These are the things I told myself. It almost became some sort of an ethics code. Something to live by and not think about as much.  And although I felt out of place, I cannot say that I didn’t grow to enjoy the work. Again, some of it felt pointless to me, but along the way I picked up essential knowledge from professors I admired as well as writing methodologies that will serve a great purpose moving forward as I plan to further my studies over the next few years within a doctoral program.

At the beginning of this spring semester, I found myself releasing tiny sighs of relief as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally, I was elated that I would not only be writing my thesis but would only have one class the entire semester. Being in several classes with people who I wasn’t sure wanted me there put me in a state of depression often. But the mere fact of having one class while focusing on my thesis project with my adviser made me happy because for the first time I worried less about what people thought of me and of my place within the program.

As the months passed, I remember receiving e-mails from my program director inviting all students within the M.A. program undergoing their thesis to participate in writing workshops to strengthen our drafts. Looking at the date of the first workshop, I told myself I wouldn’t be able to go because I was still in the early stages of the paper and up until that point hadn’t even drafted two pages which was the minimum requirement to participate in the workshop. But deep down I knew that I was only making excuses as thesis proposals were deemed acceptable for those wanting to participate.

Personally, I didn’t want to be in the space that made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t want to be judged, I didn’t want to be critiqued and more specifically, I didn’t want people to look at my writing, cringe, and think I was stupid because I was black. And so, I didn’t go. I skipped the workshop and pretended as if I hadn’t seen the e-mail. However, a month later another e-mail came around asking for us to participate in the second workshop. When I looked at it, I initially dismissed it yet again but something told me to give it a shot this time around, especially since I had completed my first draft just before spring break.

And so, the following day I mustered up the courage to attend and found myself sitting with my former professor and M.A. program director as well as the assistant chair deputy of the department. But unlike what I had pictured in my head there were only two students present: two young women. Instantly, my mood improved as I released nerves that had been built up on my way to the workshop. And by the time it was over, I left feeling much better than I had anticipated. The critiques weren’t as bad as I had thought they would be and it honestly felt great working in such a small group in which I wouldn’t be judged for the color of my skin. It left a great impression on me as I decided then and there on the spot that I would be present at the last workshop which was scheduled to take place in the first week of May.

Two weeks exactly after this final designated workshop, I was scheduled to meet with both my adviser and second reader for my graduate thesis oral exam. I remember being very nervous and thinking that the worst of the program had yet to come. In my head, I imagined them both questioning my every decision and writing technique I had incorporated within my essay. However, it turned out that all they had wanted to do was have a conversation about the work. From the moment, I entered the room, I felt comfortable and at ease. In addition, the fact that they had both complemented me on the writing itself made me feel (for the very first time) that I had belonged within the program. After receiving my grade of A on the exam and looking at the smiles stretched out across both of their faces, I really took the time out to recognize the sincerity of their compliments and their approval of my work.

The faculty had been rooting for me all along and were happy that I had accomplished something significant that I could take out into the real world as an academic scholar. Within that very moment it put everything into perspective for me. It wasn’t the school or the program itself that I had issues with but the fact of me being a young black man in an English graduate program surrounded by people who were possibly unfamiliar with my presence as a person of color. It made me second guess myself and question every move or thought I posed along the way.

Now as I prepare to walk down the commencement aisle over the next few days I’m going to think about my experience and how much it allowed me to grow as a student and person in academia.

People are born into a world in which we control only what it is that we can control. We can’t get too high and we can’t get too low on an array of things. But what we do control is our productivity and our choices. Had I believed my inner voice that very first session and thought my presence wasn’t merited or worth being a part of the institution I honestly would have quit that same day. But to the best of my abilities, I worked hard, persevered, and did my absolute best so that I could see the day in which I would be able to graduate while being one step closer towards my dream of being a college professor. Sometimes when you’re uncertain of yourself and haven’t a clue of where to turn, all you could ever ask for is your best effort. Again, you can’t change the way others think of or about you, but what you do have is the utmost power to control what you (as a sole individual) can control. And to be completely honest, that’s all that really matters in the end.

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Photo Courtesy of Kevin Anglade

 

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. He was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. Anglade holds an A.S. in Theatre, (Queensborough Community College) a B.A. in English (Brooklyn College) and an M.A. in English (Queens College). He is the author of the poetry collection Life Comes From Concrete: a poetry memoir (2016).

Find him online at:

www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek

LCFC Journal #7: “Life in The D.O.C.”

20 Dec
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Photo Credit: Haks.net

Last month, during the week of Thanksgiving, Monday, November 21st to be exact, I had the most gracious opportunity in visiting a correctional facility in Harlem/Washington Heights, New York called Edgecombe.

A colleague of mine that works in my college department named Dr. Franca Ferrari is a weekly volunteer there and asked if I wanted to join and participate. Well, to be completely honest, I technically asked to be a part of the program after hearing her mention it in passing at work.

I was more than elated, however, that she received my request with open arms and allowed me to make the trip with her.

Upon arrival, I must admit that I was kind of nervous about who my audience would be and how I’d be received. However, all of those feelings vanished when I walked into a room full of inmates that were rapping and performing their own original material.

Listening, I felt the substance as one of the guys named Hossain was spitting some potent words in rhyme couplets about his life experiences. The moment he finished, all I heard around the room were yelps of approval and happiness for the words that had just poured out of the brother’s mouth.

After introducing myself and going around the room to shake each and every one of their hands, I briefly released my own passion for rhyming and words as I performed two pieces.

The men seemed to have received it well as they all nodded their heads in approval. Immediately after, I wasted no time and began informing them about writing gigs, fellowship opportunities, internships, and blog sites to read, connect, and get their writing out there.

And so, although the men had different tastes when it came to writing as some were musicians and wanted to work in the music business, I realized that they found the information extremely useful and jotted down every tip.

After a brief snack break, the men, myself, Dr. Ferrari, and the corrections supervisor whose name was Sister Shabazz, all shared our poetry, and verses with each other to great support and thunderous applause.

And as we wrapped up, I thanked the men for participating, listening, sharing, and making my time there as a guest pleasant.

I then give them my e-mail and websites in case they ever needed to contact me in regards to the discussion we had.

Before leaving, Dr. Ferrari briefed them about a para-legal lawyer that would be visiting them the following Monday with advice on how to work within the profession.

I then made my rounds, shaking all of their hands for a final time before wishing them happy holidays.

Upon reaching home two hours later, I somehow wasn’t able to fall asleep. I think I was too high off of adrenaline and the night that I had had with those men. As I tried to shut my eyes and sleep, I just couldn’t stop thinking about them.

I couldn’t help but think that I could have easily been them. From the moment I walked into the facility, I immediately felt like a prisoner as the security officer at the front desk made me lock up all of my belongings and told me that I wasn’t allowed to use or carry my laptop into the facility.

Now I know this doesn’t even compare to what the men have gone through upon entering the program I’m sure, but still, even the most basic liberties such as having your phone and laptop in your possessions is something you realize shouldn’t be taken for granted.

The world that we live in is huge, however, there are more than nine million citizens within the United States alone, incarcerated.

Luckily for the men at Edgecombe, the correctional facility is more of a rehab center for ex-felons that have violated parole. Their term period at the facility lasts no longer than 45 days which means that they will be home soon.

All I can hope for is that these men not only take their next chance seriously upon being eligible for release, but I’m also hoping that citizens within their communities help lift and rise them up so that they all can get jobs and re-insert themselves into the thick of society. I mean, they are human beings after all right? We all make mistakes don’t we? If the answer to my questions are yes, then we need to stop judging them for their pasts and give them another chance.

I mean, just think about it. It’s all they will probably ever need.

Sincerely,

Kevin Anglade

KEVIN ANGLADE is the author of Frankly Twisted: the lost files, a collection of detective fiction. Kevin was featured on NBC’s The Debrief with David Ushery in 2014 where he provided insight and purpose about small-press publishing. He is also the author of Life Comes From Concrete, a poetry memoir.

Find him online at:

http://www.kevinanglade.com

Twitter/IG: @velevek