Orginal Publication Date
Ethnic Studies Review
“Come in. Sit down. Close your eyes. Be silent and listen.” Melody engulfed the room. Our bodies unwittingly swayed softly to rhythms that conjured Ancestral memories. The bald, brown-skinned, goateed, dashiki-wearing man in front of the room exuded both warmth and strength. As a fourteen year-old ninth grader, the constancy of my giggle was interrupted by the sanctity of the space. Squeaks of the crotchety wooden desks that formed a large circle joined the music that hummed from the old record player at the front of the room. Minutes felt like days. Sound transported us through time and space and as the song came to an end, Mr. Navies instructed us, in a voice that prolonged the Spirit of what we had just experienced, “Now, write down your thoughts.” Silently, we scribbled down the ideas, poems, and stories that danced out of our Souls. We were greeted this way every single morning in African American History, Black Gold English, Black Male-Female Relationships, and the dozens of classes that comprised the Black Studies Department curriculum at Berkeley High School. At the close of each week, we would share our writings with the class, inspired by “classical Black musicians” from Charlie Parker, to Thelonius Monk, to Billie Holliday. Dassine, LaRae, Trinice, and Tomorrow would share poems. Ameer, always sat directly to my left and would break up the passionate tear-eliciting prose shared by others, with stories and jokes so hilarious that Mr. Navies would sometimes have to turn his back and hurriedly race across the room to shield his laughter from the class.