, ,

I’d like to take a moment to pay homage to black educators… mainly the support staff.

I’d like to take a moment to pay homage to Ms. Major and Mrs. Coleman. Ms. Major was the lunch lady; during my School 9 era. Back then Paulie, Mario, and I thought we were RUN DMC. After watching Deshawn and Dexter perform their own rhymes at the school talent show, I decided to take things to another level. I decided to stop pretending to be RUN DMC, I decided to be a real B-Boy… I decided to practice break dancing. I decided to write my own rhymes. I decided to try my hand at graffiti – my bubble letters were so fresh, I decided to tag them on my desk.

Ms. Marciano took me to the office immediately. While waiting in the office, Ms. Major entered, immediately noticing the angry teacher holding my arm she asked “What’d he do?!” My teacher turned into a comedian real quick, stating “tell her how much you love art Stephen…” with a sarcastic smile “tell her how much you admire the subways, tell her how you’re gonna clean my classroom.” I could tell by her tone and the tension coming from Ms. Major’s grimace that it was best to remain silent.

Ms. Major said “Let me have ’em for a minute!” She took me into the nurse’s office and calmly stated “You know better and I know you know better, now I have to spank your behind to remind you to do better!” As I processed what I just heard, I mumbled “You can’t whoop me, you’re just the lunch lady… plus I’ve been suspended for putting my hands on people on school property.” She grabbed my arm before I could even see where the belt came from and proceeded to do as she said she would.

As I tried to dance away from the belt or her grip on my arm, Mrs. Coleman walked in. Mrs. Coleman was the school’s nurse. She uttered “What have we here?” in the nicest, sweetest voice. I thought I’d been rescued until her hand hit my backside as “I don’t need no belt” echoed. Mrs. Coleman said “If looks could kill, we’ll have to lock you up. Don’t look so mean, I know you probably think what we did was mean but listen – we got a ruler growing up. Save some of those tears for Myrna.”

At that moment I was no longer concerned with crying. I heard Ms. Major tell someone he’s okay, we know his grandmother. At the same time, I heard Mrs. Coleman stating “May I speak to Myrna, please.” I thought to myself “Yall mind’s well kill me now cause if my grandmother has to come here, after I hear how she had to take time off of work and take two busses to come get me cause I couldn’t act right, she would certainly attempt to kill me to save my soul.” I mustered up the nerve to say you could’ve called my aunt to come get me. Ms. Major looked at me and said “You better know, I am more than a lunch lady… Nothing would please these people more than to see you fail and fall by the wayside… And your ignorant tail just gon’ make it easy for them… Not on my watch! You will act accordingly! You will remember this day!” Mrs. Coleman asked “How many black faces do you see?” I replied “A lot.” She said “On the faculty?!” I replied “Just you two.” She replied “Alright then, you have sense after all… them teachers, them books, that principal they don’t love you like we do! They’re not gonna teach you what we will! Today’s lesson is character! And I pray before God that you’ll never forget the day them crazy black ladies had to spank you in school!”

Ms. Major told me she was going for the day and to tell my grandmother that she said hello. Mrs. Coleman told me that I’d be with her until my grandmother arrived then she asked “Do you know what character means?” I was thinking the stick figures I drew on my desk with the bubble letters but I replied “No.” She asked “Would you have written on your desk if your grandmother was standing over your shoulder?” I replied “No.” She asked “If you knew Ms. Major and I knew your grandmother and that we had permission to whoop you for misbehaving, would you misbehave?” I replied “No.” She stated character is like going through life knowing someone is standing over your shoulder watching to make sure you make the best decisions… and that someone is YOU. When you learn to behave as if someone is watching over you in the absence of their presence, you begin to build character. Your grandmother, Ms. Major, and I will not always be there to stand over your shoulder but your conscience is always with you, you must learn to watch over your thoughts and act as if someone is always watching. When you think back on what happened today, don’t think about the discipline, don’t think about the two black ladies that you didn’t know knew your grandmother… When you think back on what happened today, think about that lunch lady that taught you something these teachers will never teach you… think about the black ladies that have seen far worse just to see you have an opportunity to do far better. Starting today and everyday going forth, I want you to think about character… character.”

@StevieStreets #blackhistorymonth #homage | Black Educators volume i