Graduation Featured Address 2004
By Ras Tyehimba
August 14, 2004
Delivered at the Nubian School's Graduation Ceremony
Morvant, Trinidad and Tobago
We are gathered here today to celebrate a transition, the end of a period where the children of the Nubian school have built a foundation of basic understandings in preparation for their primary school experience. In the traditions of ancient African societies, each transition signifies that certain values and principles have been taught to the children. The theme of this graduation is love, togetherness, and devotion. It takes a community to realize these principles.
Children are born pure and free from the corruption that plagues their adult counterparts. Even before a child is born into this world, they are affected by the actions and thoughts of both their parents. A child represents the union of a man and a woman, not only sexually, but also genetically and psychologically. If around the time of conception, and during the pregnancy, the relationship between the two parents is characterized by lies, mistrust, and abuse, this will have a negative impact upon the unborn child. The unbalanced state of existence of parents will influence their children. Therefore, proper pre-natal care must take into consideration psychological factors as well as proper food and physical care.
The importance of the Nubian School should never be underestimated.
The experience of African children at the hands of the mainstream education system is very discouraging. Our children have been conditioned to be disconnected from their selves, resulting in a deep self hatred, where persons are ignorant of their history and ashamed of their Blackness. The education system is failing to educate, and it is important for us to understand why. It was never created for us. It does not contain our unique historical lessons. It does not contain the best of the wisdom of our ancestors. It does not allow us to explore our creative talents and realize our full potential. It is because of this, that many people value others based on things other than quality of character. For instance, some persons may be preferred and others discriminated against on the basis of factors such as skin color, weight, gender, and class.
The Nubian School, under the capable leadership of the very hardworking and dedicated principal Susan Edwards, has incorporated the best of the ancestral wisdom in an effort to holistically develop these tender young minds. The year 2004 marks a year of expansion for the Nubian School. In this year, the school has moved from its original location to this community center to accommodate the increased number of students.
It is time for us to believe in our young people. As parents, as teachers, and as members of the wider community it is important for us to believe in our children. Let me explain the importance of this. In an experiment, a group of children were randomly divided into two classes. The teacher of the first class was told the children in her class were intelligent, fast learners. The second teacher was told the students in her class were not so bright. After being taught the same topics for a period of time, both classes were tested and the first class performed much better than the second class. This shows that the expectations we have of children influences how they learn and respond to things they are taught.The teachers' attitude towards children and how they teach is also affected by how they perceive children. If they are conditioned to feel a certain type of child cannot learn, then they generally do not make the same effort with that child. The few teachers who try to do better, stigmatize the child by marking him/her for special education. All of this can negatively impact children, teachers, and the wider society.
The best way to teach young students proper values is for parents and teachers to lead by example. How can we expect to teach students how to make good choices if we lack integrity ourselves? An old African proverb tells us that it takes a whole community to raise a child. How far or how near are we from that ideal? Our immediate surroundings as well as the American TV programs we love so much, provide few positive role models for our children to follow. The pre-occupation with the pursuit of material possessions and the glamorizing of the bad boy image is leading us nowhere.
There are a lot of serious issues that are facing our society. In addition to facing the injustices and inequalities in the wider system, we have to deal with the drugs, physical poverty and violence that are plagueing our communities. The political parties as well as various religious bodies have failed through their own ignorance to provide means to empower young people holistically. The solution to the problems that face society will not come through political parties, the bible, or any religion, as they create more problems than solutions. Given all the factors that are in the way of our children realizing their full potential, the work of the Nubian School is a vital part of reversing the years of neglect, brainwashing and abuse. It should be realized, only truth about our essential nature can truly empower us in all aspects of life.
For instance, the PNM Minister Ken Valley, made some very ignorant statements just before emancipation day, that he is not an African, but rather a Trinidad. Now Valley is much darker than me, and is brainwashed enough to be ashamed of his Africaness. This is an example of the type of behavior and person that should not be followed. Perhaps if he was here at this function, some past or present students of the Nubian School could explain to him the difference between race and nationality. There are enough sleeping people already. Valley is an excellent reminder to us, that those who are said to be very educated because they have academic qualification, really are not truly educated as they are ignorant about certain basic truths. Furthermore, it is those that are so-called educated who have proven to be the most corrupt and ignorant. From this, we can see that the whole social order is up side down. The ones who society views as high up, are really to the bottom in terms of truthfulness, and those who society looks down upon and scorns are closer to the truth, as they have an existence closer to reality. It is the experience of the people, having to exist and survive on a day-to-day basis, that can provide them with amazingly deep insights and creativity.
Images are especially important to young children who are in the process of forming their own ideas of their environment. African children have had to experience the traumatic experience of being constantly bombarded by white images that promote feelings of self hate and insecurities. The numerous white/light skin Barbie dolls as well as high percentage of White persons on television reinforces the poor attitudes of, and towards Black people. Very, very, very few positive images and/or information about African people is shown in the media. We must move from letting the television babysit our children, especially those under the age of seven. Studies have highlighted how watching a lot of TV at a young age, especially the garbage fed to us by American Cable TV, is damaging to young brains, as it short-circuits their ability to absorb information. The importance of reading to developing young minds cannot be underemphasized. Books are available for borrowing through the Nubian school, and more will be done to facilitate this. There is also a brand new library in Port of Spain that is in danger of becoming a 'liming mall'. It is important that we make use of these resources that are available. Instead of letting the television damage our future leaders, encourage them to read and engage in constructive fun. Too often, parents try to live their life through their children, and thus burden them with false expectations and standards. Activities are imposed upon them, sometimes without consideration of what they like. They need to be given room to explore their own likes, within certain boundaries. By this, they can discover their unique gifts and talents, and tap their unlimited creativity.
As parents it is always good to be clear on why we send our children to school, and by extension what does it really mean to be educated. True education is not about academic qualifications, or about gaining a lot of money and material possessions. True education encourages us to be the best we can be and gives students a solid foundation by which they can make valuable contributions to society. People can only be the best that they can be, when they have understood themselves. An important part of self understanding is understanding history. It does not matter so much what level a person is at, but rather how willing that person is to learn and adapt. Parents, teachers and persons in the wider community can set the best examples, by constantly trying to improve themselves.
To the Students: Take the lessons that you have learned in the Nubian School into your primary school. Make sure that you do your best in everything that you engage. Learn your school lessons to the best of your ability as well as play to the best of your ability. Do not let the talk of foolish adults stop your dreams of flying. Believe in yourself, and have respect for those around you.
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