Hats off to all students graduating this season! Because whew! This is no easy time to finish up school. The ideal graduation ceremony would be outdoors, filled with the company and applause of loved ones. Most will be held online, some outside within the parameters of social distancing. It won’t be the same, and frankly, nothing has been since March last year. But isn’t that what graduating is all about? Growing into the next new phase, whatever that phase happens to be? Before we get all misty-eyed and sob into our masks, here’s a list of recommended reads for the occasion.
Vivid, honest, and thoughtfully rendered as a Black self-portrait might be, it is competing for real estate in the imaginations, white and otherwise, which are largely monopolized by the phantom projections of ethnocentrism. . . . To be a Black artist of any consequence, you must not only untether yourself from essentialized notions of Blackness but create with such fluency as to move your audience to jettison the same constraints.
We cannot make of our lives a nightmarish Fortnite game with the guns cocked and ready for you as a target and our hands inexplicably empty of self-protection. Sons, I will not allow that to be your life. Your testimony is living with the passionate intensity of one whose presence matters despite the violence of this world towards your beautiful flesh.
Every day seems to bring yet more worrisome, frightening news, putting millions on the edge of despair. At the same time, we’ve come to see that despair itself is ultimately our only enemy, and we’ve become ever-more clear that there’s an effective antidote: meaningful action we take together. But we realize that to take action—and more, to join with others you do not know—requires courage. So in this moment of extreme threat, we may come to see that the opposite of evil is no longer goodness. It is courage. Goodness without action isn’t good enough.
—Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen
It does not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.
—Viktor E. Frankl
with a foreword by Imani Perry and an afterword by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr.
To be locked in the past means, in effect, that one has no past, since one can never assess it, or use it; and if one cannot use the past, one cannot function in the present, and so one can never be free.
If female scientists are weighted with the responsibility of mentoring younger female scientists, they will have even less time to carry on their research. It’s the larger society that needs to change. No American of either gender will want to become a scientist if studying science or math makes a middle schooler so nerdy he or she becomes undatable, or if science and math are taught in such a way as to seem boring or irrelevant. Focusing on facts and tests is not the best way to convey the beauties of a subject or the reasons anyone would want to study it. The lowly status teaching is accorded in our society, combined with the unreasonable demands on most teachers, makes it difficult for anyone to impart high-level skills to our children while instilling in them a love for whatever is being taught. Changing such deeply ingrained cultural patterns might be difficult, but the barriers are not insurmountable.
“If we can recalibrate our lenses to see Blackness as a broader category of identity and experience, perhaps we will be able to see ourselves as part of a larger global community. As a professor of Africana Studies in the United States, I believe that it is becoming increasingly important for all people, not just people of African descent, to recognize the existence of a global Black community. In my experience teaching students about issues related to the African Diaspora, I find that they have a particular level of difficulty assigning the category and thus the identity of Blackness to people throughout the world, even when those people themselves identify as Black . . . . [T]here are Black people all over the world. We are not a minority—we comprise a global community.”
We erroneously build interventions that define young people by a single moment in their lives. This is especially true for teen mothers and fathers. We begin with the pregnancy as the thing that started a cascade of struggles in their lives, ignoring all that came before because it allows us to overlook all the ways we have failed them. But if we begin at the true beginning, the pregnancy is no longer the singular issue. It’s just a symptom of larger, often systemic, issues. Larger issues in a family. Larger issues in a country.
—Nicole Lynn Lewis
No matter how it’s portrayed, and no matter how many high-tech tools enter the picture, the doctor-patient interaction is still primarily a human one. And when humans connect, emotions by necessity weave an underlying network. The most distant, aloof doctor is subject to the same flood of emotions as the most touchy-feely one. Emotions are in the air just as oxygen is. But how we doctors choose—or choose not—to notice and process these emotions varies greatly. And it is the patient at the other end of the relationship who is affected most by this variability.
To say yes to life is not only meaningful under all circumstances—because life itself is—but is also possible under all circumstances.
—Viktor E. Frankl