Living the Dream of Educating, Empowering, and Elevating Brown Boys to Greatness!
By Craig Martin, M.Ed
I had to pinch myself when I realized that I was front and center stage with my dream of molding brown boy potential before an audience of the world. Granted, this may not seem so special when you acknowledge the great work being publicized about Urban Prep Academy in Chicago, The Eagle’s Academies for Young Men in New York, and Nativity Prep of Boston. All three educational juggernauts are positioning African and Latino American males to excel, flourish, and transcend stereotypes and statistics of the American Prison Pipeline. My dream cast happens to immortalize in a small public school urban classroom in Boston.
Inside Room 204, 26 charismatic 3rd graders pour into our all-boys classroom only to drop their bags and dash into the class library where they can pour through Ripley’s Believe It or Not for the twentieth time. It appears they can never get enough of the man who had a 200 pound tumor, the man who can balance 20 soccer balls on his tongue, or the woman with the giant golf ball eyes. Others find themselves debating whether or not an octopus would beat a squid in a battle royale from the Magic Tree House Sea Monsters’ read for homework. And a number of others lie on the rug enjoying the new graphic novel additions of The Lunch Lady, Bone, Secret Science Alliance, and Geronimo Stilton, captivating them to a reading stupor. “Mr. Martin…I NEEEEEEEEED that new Diary of a Wimpy Kid!” cries Adam as he pulls out his collection of books one through six and begins to re-read his favorite section to a peer.
My Architects of Change are in for a roller coaster of an experience, because for most of them, I will be their first male teacher, first African American male adult who is not a coach or administrator, and first African American male teacher who happens to lead an all-boys class to success. On the first day of school, as we rehearse how to walk quietly in a line and are cultivating ideas on what the number of the day could be, Steven quietly stops near me as says, “Mr. Martin, I like you…you embrace happiness like me. This is going to be my best year ever!” And he just walked past me through the hallways beaming with thoughts and emotions. My role in their lives is illuminating in possibilities as their surrogate father, coach, referee, counselor, cheerleader, mentor, and more. I represent a mirror reflection of who they could be and my main mission as their teacher is to pull out their best light and help shine it so that the world can see them as someone invaluable to the framework of our communities.
“Mr. Martin, is everyone we are going to read about going to also be an ‘Architect of Change’?” queries Rafael, after we completed reading a fable on a little brown boy who sought knowledge from an elder who sent him on a mission to help out many members of his community in hopes of receiving the wisdom he so desperately wanted. From our discussions on 14 year old African American scholar, Tony Hansberry, who patented his own surgery technique, Damon Weaver, 8 year old African American news reporter, who interviewed President Obama, and even King Tut who became leader of Egypt as a teenager, I find ways to illustrate how each person can make a tremendous difference in some way. It is imperative that they witness and experience successes that counter the narrative that they will become victim to violence, illiteracy, and/or poverty. “Rafael, that’s a good question. Time will tell. But I think you may already know the answer. Let’s see what happens” I retort.
This journey is grand with promise. My boys are the smartest in the city and they will work extremely hard to prove it. However, it will take reprogramming them to believe in who they are and who they can be. It will take facing years of people telling them they were stupid or slow or trouble makers. It will require pouring into them love, support, and advocating resources to stand in the gap when challenges arise. I look forward to what tomorrow will bring as I recount the daily recitation of our creed:
We are Architects of Change!
We believe in ourselves, our school and family, and in our potential!
We are not statistics. We are the Standard!
We will achieve, defy the odds, and fly high like eagles!
We are brothers, bonded, built strong, and ready to make a difference in our community!
We are ARCHITECTS OF CHANGE!
We are Architects of Change!
…and the world is ours!