When you recognize that you command the attention of 305 young Black and Brown men your mind races as to which, topics, histories, and stories, you want to share with them. I have often found myself thinking:
I have to make sure our boys are exposed to the great thinkers/ philosophers/ writers? Ralph Emerson, Nelson Mandela, Gabriel Garcia Marquez?!
Our young men definitely need to be exposed to great scientist and researchers; Albert Einstein, Charles Drew, Sigmud Freud, George Washington Carver!
I can’t forget good music; Beethoven, George Walker, Henriette Renie, Richard Smallwood, Prince, Michael Jackson!
I have always wanted to create an activity the entire school- students, parents, faculty, staff, and our neighboring community- could all participate in. With the help of my Deans, I decided on a school wide community read. This community read would involve the entire community reading, engaging, and discussing the same book at the same time. Whole-school reads give the entire school community a common literary experience and its benefits are plentiful:
– Students see the adults in their lives as readers- reading for pleasure
– Enhance literacy skills
– Build community
Now we needed a book. As luck would have it, I received a phone call from the Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. Their One Million Abolitionist Initiative aims to get the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave into the hands of one million young people. Their goal is to inspire and empower young people to do more and be more than they ever dreamed possible. This seemed like a perfect marriage. Douglass’s first-person account of his life as a slave, his assertion of the liberatory effects of education, and his ability to call out the contradictory nature of American/Christian ideals in relation to slavery would be inspiration and aspirational. It didn’t hurt that he was also one of my favorite historical figures. With their donation of 480 copies of the Narrative we had the first ever Verbum Dei whole- school read!
Our initiative, called One Book, One Community involves allotting time, resources, and opportunities for the community to get excited and engage with the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass text. We are currently 1-week in and I cannot tell you how proud I am of my faculty/staff, parents and students for truly immersing themselves in the text. The One Book, One Community series will culminate with a celebration on February 28, 2018. We will also be joined by the 3X great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the 2X great grandson of Booker T. Washington, Mr. Kenneth Morris at that time as well. Verbum Dei is celebrating literacy and I couldn’t be more proud to call this place home!