My most blissful state is when I am in the midst of family. I grew up in a large family dynamic and always felt loved and supported by my village. This remembrance of family belonging has kept me centered in a (sometimes idealistic) love of people and zest for community building and engagement. Mediums such as films and TikTok are pathways to learning about how people treat each other in friendships, family dynamics, and in community.
Over the last year, I have taught ninth grade English and World Geography in a predominantly Black and Brown school. The stereotypical aspects of the American Education Institution (poorly funded) existed, but through restorative practices, I established a safe haven for learning and self-expression. I was able to teach and impress upon my students the importance of their personal family history, land-stewardship through projects, and encourage them to research. Seeking the cultural richness of their ancestors and legacy and working to build upon and continue their family legacies was the basis for my curriculum. These lessons proved to be more impactful to their writing and comprehension, than the traditional curriculums.
As a long-term guest teacher, I had the flexibility in teaching style and content to promote what matters and is relevant to me and the student population I serve. This was a tremendous deviation from the focus in the traditional American education structure of demeaning narratives found in Document Based Questions given by school districts. Teaching offered me an opportunity to learn about the current mindset of our youth. Through student interaction, I noted that a lot of their social development is taking place through TikTok, Netflix, and rap music. If they are not talking to you about something they have studied or seen to be true, they are likely talking in TikTok lingo or making 30-second dance clips during passing periods.
Through mediums such as Netflix and TikTok, there is a wide range of global and cultural outreach available to American students. Consequently, when posed with a question like “why are our youth educationally behind?” the answer is systemic failure. American youth have access to global education, but they do not know how to fully process it because of lack of resources and exposure in the school system. This is not a universal American education experience, so when I see poorly funded schools, I know that the failure is targeted and avoidable. Black and Brown children deserve to understand themselves and their world better through global education. The year is 2022. Excuses from our government are tiring, and we should be outraged by the lack of resources and inability to give our children a global education. After all, as told by the rapper Nas, "the world is yours." A thriving education is filled with funding/resources, support of individualized education, and access to global vision and understanding.
Family dynamics are our first learning ground. My family gave me strong roots and strong wings. Our young people should be taught to know their roots/legacies and be encouraged to soar up and beyond.
There was intentional global education in my childhood home, and I took the global baton and continued the course around the globe. As I have traveled around the world, I have been exposed to various mediums. One of my favorite mediums is Nollywood, Nigeria’s film industry. I am in awe of the familial aspects and cultural legacy Nollywood leads. Nollywood has a very efficient turn out rate, and the quality of its productions keeps getting better. A family drama, on their family compound, about the family fool, is compelling storytelling from my family-oriented perspective. I recommend these movies and TV shows: Temidayo Makanjuola’s “Blood Sisters,” Kunle Afolayan’s “A Naija Christmas” and the series “Young, Famous and African” (which features a few Nigerian personalities). If you have ever attended a Nigerian party, you have experienced the intense power and belly laughs of the people. That energy is transferred through the popular storytelling platform of Nollywood and resonates globally.
I see the mediums used by our youth as opportunity gateways to enlighten and promote a global education and perspective. Through education, technology, media, and familial bonding, global education is possible right now. Global education is not a new wave, it is the original way of being. Human connectivity and understanding leads us to be more sensible people and is the basis for a creative society.
As a member of the Roger Ebert Fellowship and Legacy, it cannot go unsaid that Roger was a purveyor of global education for his family and for the world through his reviews, books, and productions. In Steve Jamess documentary “Life Itself,” Roger is seen taking his grandchildren on nature walks around the world and expressing how family impacted his well-being.
Films, like a teacher’s lesson plan, are meant to convey a message or understanding. As an accessor of technology and media, we have a responsibility to connect deeply with each other and the world. Take it.