On this last day of February, I bring you one more story to commemorate Black History Month. This one is from a current student, 17-year-old King Deaudry Carr. With his permission, I’ve shared Carr’s words here:
African American in Chinatown
I grew up in Chinatown with my mom, my little brother and my sister. I went to the school right across the street from me.
I was the only black kid in that school besides my little brother.
Middle school was bumpy. I had a teacher who didn’t seem to want to help me. She would send me to the back. I did my work, but all my mom heard from the teacher was that I wasn’t doing well. Another teacher told my mom that I would never make it past high school and that I would be a juvenile delinquent.
In eighth grade, I didn’t get to play baseball because I broke my thumb. After that, it felt like my friends didn’t like me.
It got even harder when I started high school. That’s the same time I met my dad, because up until then, he was in jail. Just a few months later, he died in a car accident. Later, I decided to work because my mom was in debt, so I didn’t play football.
‘We call each other Kings’
Now, in my senior year, my life is changing. That’s because I have a Peer Resources class, an African American Male Achievement program and even a teacher of color.
Now, I’m with people who understand what I go through because they’ve been through it, too. These teachers are not trying to just teach. They’re trying to get a connection with us.
This class helps me with my communication. It actually helps me think about things like about the ravages of war in Aleppo, Syria. And I think about where will we be ten years from now, and how kids in my classes will help new African-American students in school.
My African American Male Achievement class is entirely African-American males. We break down the stereotypes we face. We lift each other up. We call each other Kings instead of the n-word.
You can feel the power in the class, with all African-Americans instead of just one or two. We can all relax. We learn a lot — actually engaging in academic debates — because we all trust each other.
Even though people say school has changed, I know many students of color often don’t feel like they fit in. So in this class — where we all are Kings and we all know our identity — we know each one of us in that class has each other’s back.
More relevant classes
I’m thrilled to add that Peer Resources is offered at 14 schools in the San Francisco Unified School District, and we are deepening our supports to our African American Male Achievement classes. Ethnic Studies classes are also offered throughout our high schools.
All these classes help our students stay engaged, find their voice and power, think critically about identities and build powerful connections across differences. Equipped with this learning, our students will be better able to navigate, contribute to and lead in our increasingly diverse and complex society.
Myong Leigh is interim superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.