Nine years old and college-bound
Lately, this blog and my voice have been getting some airtime and attention. After years of working and learning, of writing and speaking, I accept those because they feel like acknowledgement of hours spent hunched over a notebook, hands stained in ink, mind churning as I analyze the history of this country, and the relationships and roles my peoples play in building that history each day.
But, in that attention, I need to admit that I haven’t done this on my own. I need to admit that I have stood on the shoulders of giants, and taken the next step. When I was nine years old, my grandmother, then going back to school to complete the college degree that had been interrupted by marriage, World War II, and raising four black women during the Civil Rights Movement, asked me if I was going to college. Being the precocious (or obnoxious) child that I was, I simply answered,
“You’ve met my parents. Like I have a choice!”
My mother and father made clear, not by telling me but by showing me with the stories of their lives and the actions I witnessed, that my education was important.
Since I began kindergarten there has not been a parent-teacher meeting, a Christmas play, a championship soccer game (maybe not championship,but…) that they didn’t change their schedules to support.
1985 never looked so good!
They also showed me, by their vocations, how important education is. My father moved our entire family across the country as he earned his PhD at Georgetown, investigating and teaching the best methods of learning for students whose primary language isn’t English. From the Montessori classroom to the US Department of Education, my mother has kept her hands on the pulse of learning her entire adult life. I say these things, not as braggadocio, but echoing the awe that others speak with when meeting them.
They’ve always been my mom and dad, and I’ve always known that education was important because they showed me that it was. They watched the morning news and talked about it with me, even when I wanted to watch The Justice League, even when I didn’t understand what they were talking about. Now a husband and father, I’m doing these same things for my children because that’s how I learned, and that’s how I’ve become successful.
As I watch Arizona attempting to kidnap the future in this country; as I watch the Teachers in Wisconsin being vilified rather than lauded; as I watch public education being turned into assembly lines for manual labor, I have to stand up and say My Parents Are Teachers. I have to stand up and say that it isn’t the American way to cheat children of their futures, and to keep families ignorant and afraid. I have to stand up and say THANK YOU to my parents, for teaching so many years in the classroom, and teaching me out of the classroom when to stand up. From my work with Latinos in Social Media to my support for the public workers in Wisconsin, the lessons that I’ve learned, that my parents live, resonate each day. This seems like a good moment for me to give thanks.
Thank You, Mom. Thank you, Papi.
From UCLA to the President’s Advisory Board for the National Institute of Literacy, Thank You.
From the University of Redlands to the United States Department of Education, Thank You.
From Olin Street to Almansor Street, Thank You.
Your examples continue to inspire me, and to show me how important learning and education are. And so I’ll continue doing my best to Spread the Word.
As I continue fighting Arizona, fighting Wisconsin, fighting ignorance and oppression across the country and the globe, I have to say thank you for arming me with the tools, the desire, and the knowledge to do so.
My parents are teachers. And they’ve taught me quite a bit.
La Familia Macias in 2011.
Epilogue: This post was catalyzed by Univision’s Es El Mometo initiative, which began because too many Latino students in the United States don’t have the blessing of parents who know how the education system works, or have walked through it themselves. The matriculation rates for Latinos are far below other ethnic groups in this country. One way we can improve this fact is greater parent involvement, and greater awareness on the part of families of the requirements for students to graduate and go to college. As my parents have been involved in my education, we need to educate, inform and get parents and caretakers actively involved.