PSA: I’m not about to stop being fly so they have no choice but to learn.
That was the caption on the video that caught my attention when I first discovered Valencia. She posted a clip of herself telling her kids that under no circumstances were they going to fail, regardless of how popular she is/they are on Instagram.
Valencia D. Clay is a teacher a writer and author of Soundless Cries Don’t Lead to Healing: A Critical Thinking Guide to Cultural Consciousness. I spent over an hour diving into her content on her blog, on her Instagram and just feeling nothing but hope for our children.
They say you never know when a teacher’s influence ends and one of the things that makes Valencia unique, is her focus on the mental health of her kids as well as her drive for excellence.
She uses our current political climate, music, and historical facts to encourage real conversations and effectively drive understanding of literary concepts.
Watch her at work:
Let’s keep it Funky– Watch:
About Raising expectations:
In a particularly moving note on Instagram, she shared a very intense moment between two students that almost lead to one throwing a chair. With this picture she shared the following:
Class had just been dismissed when she snapped.
My girl was triggered and once that chair was lifted over her head it took everything in me to pull it out of her hands but I failed… Twice my size,
way stronger than me …
and the boy – in a blind rage,
with just one swift motion and an ugly screech swiped everything off of my desk, not knowing he was giving her enough time to throw the hands and connect…
I pulled her off but it was too late…
I kept asking what happened?
She wouldn’t answer.
Again, WHAT HAPPENED?!
Calmly, a bit too calm, as if she left her memory of the entire experience in the blows she left on the side of his head, she said, “He pushed me and I said – well excuse me would be nice.” Arm in arm, I walked her to student support only to get back to my class and see my babies cleaning up the broken ceramic that was the mug my cold chai was in.
“Don’t worry…. we got you… don’t worry Ms. Clay.” And I could barely teach my next class so we played some community building games and they made me laugh and then I walked to Open Works’ coffee shop and got another chai and saw Devin’s book and flipped to Toure’s poem and remembered why I exist in this space …this beautiful ghetto.
Because I know the feeling of losing control of my feelings and being suspended for it.
Throwing chairs at boys who said the wrong thing to me at the wrong time.
Being here physically but mentally in a blackout space where everything looks white like walls not like light or clouds but white like doctors’ jackets and I remember not remembering what happened and didn’t believe anyone who told me what I did and this behavior went on way into my adulthood.
Until I got the help I needed and I look at my own reflection when I look at these students of mine.
And I know I have to teach more than a curriculum.
I asked last period if they know what to do when their anger is triggered… in unison they said no.
Why aren’t we mandated to teach anger management and mental health awareness? My babies don’t even know what the word trauma means. I asked them and they said, “Like shock trauma?” They see people come from and go in there every day. Why is this so normal?
Now I do not know the answer to that question but I do know this! As long as teachers like Ms. Clay are teaching, encouraging kids to meet the highest expectation of excellence and building their self-esteem while doing it, we are well on our way to creating a new normal.
She visibly fights to cloak her pain when she refers to herself as the black, ugly girl… but when she is showered with love, she can’t take it at all. This is the result of slavery, institutional racism, systematic oppression, media bias, and a dominant narrative that our beauty is in fact, not beauty at all, unless it measures up to neo-exotic or Eurocentric standards. While some aspects of the web of racism are more concealed, colorism is overt. We don’t even need an overseer or a minstrel show to persuade us to believe farcical notions about our complexions anymore; we are highly effective at normalizing it for ourselves. Just look at trending hashtags such as “team light skin” and “team dark skin” which currently have a combined total of almost 700k posts. This pattern of self-hatred is coveted like an heirloom, gifted by those that disenfranchised our #culture. Many of us, who are aware of color casting, rebel against such antics and are unapologetically proud of who we are. We embrace every shade of black and brown from ivory to caramel, to sepia and maple, to mahogany and oak, to ebony and onyx. We find no need to note differences between our complexions, unless it’s a compliment. We walk with our heads held high. For those that I am describing, I salute you and ask that you begin to take a look around: are people still perpetuating colorism in your circle of friends, in your family, on your timeline? Exactly. There’s work to UNDO because these deeply rooted seeds of hate are still flourishing among our culture. We are not free if everybody is not free. Mental bondage is the deadliest of all.
Well done Valencia, well done!