Walking into vocal class on my first day of school, it was so refreshing to see a Black woman in front of me--in front of us--leading us. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I’m fortunate to have a special connection with Miss Dalamba as we’ve literally talked for hours after school about pretty much everything going on in my life. I have shared with her my experiences of being the one of a handful of Black kids in my former schools. Feeling alone. Feeling like I didn't fit in. She listened. She offered advice. I felt I had an ally. I’m incredibly thankful that she goes the extra mile.
The lessons she teaches us go far beyond the classroom. Miss Dalamba has spoken about empathy, the power of kindness and gives us the amazing history behind the diverse repertoire she teaches us. She is an example of the power of teaching--how much of an impact those who lead students have. The very fact that she is a Black woman means I can see myself in her-and that is everything.
Due to large class sizes, my school moves students around to even classes out . Of course I was one of those lucky students who had to change their entire schedule. But as As Told By Kenya would say, “we move”. I’m glad I did because I ended up being in the best English class to ever exist. This might come to you as a surprise but English was one of my least favourite subjects (after French and civics lol).
I guess it’s kind of ironic that I’m a blog writer. However, my opinion on the subject changed after being in Mr. Barnswell’s class. He was engaging. He made assignments interesting. He was a Black man!!! This was new. It was cool to have a teacher with whom I could share my pop culture interests. I’ve never been able to express myself in class as much as I did this past year.
I have always been a voracious reader but I set a big goal for myself in January: One book every month. Mr. Barnswell noticed I was reading Dear Martin by Nic Stone. He shared with me that he had read it too and enjoyed it. Knowing my passion for reading, he recommended another title by a Black author -- Zalika Reid-Benta’s Frying Plantain. The greatest thing about the books I’m reading lately is that I can see myself in the characters. I relate to them. My biggest hope is that when I walk into English class in September, Mr. Barnswell is there.