Are you using Black History month as an opportunity to tokenize and idealize a small cadre of “mythical negroes?” Or are you, in fact, using a truthfully inadequate opportunity to ask critical questions and facilitate conversations with more transformative outcomes?
How do well-meaning white teachers — and some black educators who have internalized racism — reimagine their rhetoric during Black History Month?
Martial Arts: Capoeira Angola
By Njoli Brown *Entrevista em Português
Conheço o Mestre Mestre Baba há muitos anos e fiquei honrado pela disposição de me dar essa entrevista e de compartilhar um pouco de sua jornada na capoeira, nas artes culturais e na vida, juntamente com algumas das idéias ele ganhava. Agradeço a todos por abordar este primeiro dos meus artigos em português e estou ansioso por mais oportunidades para apresentar trabalhos multilíngues.
Njoli: Você pode falar um pouco sobre a primeira vez que você foi exposto à capoeira?
Baba Jan: Primeira vez quando conhecia a capoeira, na realidade ja existia varias capoeiristas na rua no bairro de Massaranduba que eu cresci. Então minha Mae e meu pai conhecia a coordenadora Ana Rosa responsável pelo Grupo de União e Consciência Negra – nesse grupo tinha varias tipo de atividades que envolvia manifestações de matriz africana. Era teatro, capoeira, samba, maculelê, poesia, musica e mas. Eu entrei a participar e tomar aula com esse grupo com 8 a 10 anos de idades, e eu ia juntos com 2 irmão meu. Ai eu comecei a capoeira com Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho, núcleo Mangueira projeto Ginga Moleque com Mestre Moraes. Depois Mestre Moraes manda Mestre Valmir, Mestre Poloca e Mestra Paulinha para dar aulas no projeto.
Njoli: Como a capoeira e a cultura “negra” foram vistas e recebidas em sua família e comunidade?
Baba Jan: A capoeira sempre existia a perseguição e descriminação. Muitos pais não queria seus filhos dentro da capoeira que pensava que capoeira era coisa de marginal ou vandalos. Mas eu começo capoeira e muitos amigos também começava que nosso pais sabia que nos estavam nas boas Maos dentro do Grupo de União e Consciência Negra e de mestres que queria ver nosso bem da parte do GCAP.
Njoli: Você pode falar um pouco sobre suas primeiras experiências de treinamento? Quem foram alguns de seus colegas? Quais foram as coisas que você achou desafiadoras? Quais foram as coisas que te inspiraram a continuar?
Baba Jan: Meus amigos de capoeira que sempre andava juntos da escola, no bairro e na capoeira pra treinar, tocar berimbau e tudo. Ricardinho, Moises, Lourival, Virgilio, Marquinho, Ricardo, Jeane, George, Iverson, Marcelo, e mas. Hoje em dia a única que continuou na capoeira sou eu. Quando comecei no treinamento começou quando mestre falava ‘Ginga’ e ninguém sabia oque era. Nos tinha visto mas capoeira regional na rua então começava tentar movimentar nosso corpo assim. Desafiadora era tentar entrar na roda de capoeira. Nossos pais levava pra roda de GCAP no dia de domingo no Forte do Santo Antonio. Na roda la tinha muitos referencias para nos criança de querer ser que nem Mestre Moraes, ou Valmir, Poloca, Cobra Mansa, Paulinha, Cizinho, Pepeu e dai quando a roda começa tinha que estar pronto no uniforme, no horário certo, e quando tinha momento de entrar na roda com adulto, e vc criança, pequena. Ai era o desafio de jogar com adulto, entra na vida de capoeira, tomar rasteira de qualquer jeito. A inspiração de continuar era e ainda ate hoje são as referencias de pessoas boa, dos mestres levando a tradição da capoeira a seria.
Njoli: Como sua experiência com a capoeira tem dado conta de sua perspectiva social e política?
Baba Jan: Capoeira me ajudou na perspectiva social de viver no meio da sociedade misturar com varias tipos de pessoa, de saber entrar e sair em qualquer lugar, fazer trabalho com crianças, incentivar a fazer capoeira e atividades pra tirar da rua e mal caminho.
Njoli: De que maneira você fez a capoeira por conta própria? Quer dizer, como você inclui sua identidade pessoal na arte?
Baba Jan: Ninguém começa capoeira por conta própria, eu penso que sempre tem o incentivo de alguém. O aprendizado da vida ajuda a pessoa pega coragem pra se expressar com povo, os alunos, em dia dia pra saber oque falar e como orientar os alunos do jeito que eu aprendi com os mestres.
Njoli: Qual o papel da sua família no seu desenvolvimento como capoeirista e como artista?
Baba Jan: A minha familia que me botou na capoeira e ate hoje me apoia.
Njoli: Quais são alguns dos benefícios que você vê ao usar as artes afro-brasileiras como uma ferramenta para a construção de comunidades?
Baba Jan: O que eu vejo e que as artes afro-brasileiras não existem sem comunidade. E essas comunidades são importante para fortalecer qualquer pessoa, participante nessas artes de ter um apoio de amizade e ate un tipo de familia maior para poder apoiar e depender na vida. Eu penso numa sociedade como aqui nos Estados Unidos, pessoas tem visao muitas individualistas e precisam mas desses tipos de comunidade e apoio na vida de cada um.
Njoli: Quais são alguns dos desafios que você enfrentou na construção da comunidade?
Baba Jan: Desafio na construção de uma comunidade e voce começar com um trabalho e aparecer pra compartilhar sua sabedoria, e ninguém aparece o dar valor daquilo que vc sabe nem o tempo que você estar la. De chegar todos os dias no seu espaço e nao tem ninguém pra querer aprender. Ai voce volta pra sua casa triste. Mas ai que precisa a forca de continuidade que aos poucos aparece alunos. Com 20 alunos ou 1 aluno o professor precisa esta presente e resistente pra nao desistir da comunidade.
Njoli: Quais são algumas das aspirações que você tem para o seu projeto atual?
Baba Jan: As minhas aspirações e manter o grupo firme e forte, de samba e de capoeira. Tentar conseguir que o povo veja meu objetivo e trabalho, e que as pessoas reconheço o esforço que dou pra estar presente cada dia pra ver os alunos progredir. Quero ver o Espaço Cultural Samba Trovao crescer cada vez mas, com projetos com crianças ate os adultos. Quero também que os meus mestres reconhece o meu trabalho de manter a tradição com dignidade fora do Brazil.
Njoli: Quais são algumas maneiras pelas quais você chamaria sua comunidade para ajudar e apoiar?
Baba Jan: E a comunidade sempre comunicando e participando. E eu convidando e sendo presente de sempre abri o espaço pra qualquer um chegar e sentir respeitado.
Livaldi “BabaJan” da Cruz was born and raised in Massarunduba, in the Lower City of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He has been training Capoeira Angola for over 30 years and has been a practicing and performing musician for more than 20 years.
In 2003 Baba was invited to come from Brazil to Washington DC to be the director of a residency program at Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA) public charter school. There, using Capoeira and Afro-Brazilian music, he developed a unique program of physical education and music studies for high school and middle school students. At this time Baba also became one of the teachers at FICA DC and founded the samba reggae group Samba Trovao. In 2013 Baba started his own chapter of FICA in Maryland. In 2015 Baba Jan received the title of Contra Mestre in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil at the 20th conference of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation (ICAF or FICA) and soon after began his own project Capoeira Angola No Mato.
Martial Arts: Health & Fitness
For those of you who like to nerd out on their fitness practice, if you’re the type with specific exercise questions that never seem to get a full and comprehensive answer, if you’re a complete novice to resistance training, this really is the YouTube channel for you.
I mean, come on, he’s not just demonstrating movements, he’s literally taking a marker to his body, indicating muscle groups and attachments and speaking science in a way that translates to results. All the while indicating effects in relation to proper body mechanics.
One of the things I like best about Jeff Cavaliere’s program is that he doesn’t seem to promote abstract aspirational ideals of immediate fat loss and muscle gain. But he does talk about an objective of increased athletic ability. That’s something, as a martial artist, I can get behind. Check him out.
“We have been taught that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, lead to racist policies,” Kendi said. “If the fundamental problem is ignorance and hate, then your solutions are going to be focused on education, and love and persuasion. But of course [Stamped from the Beginning] shows that the actual foundation of racism is not ignorance and hate, but self-interest, particularly economic and political and cultural.” Self-interest drives racist policies that benefit that self-interest. When the policies are challenged because they produce inequalities, racist ideas spring up to justify those policies. Hate flows freely from there.”
Capoeira Angola with families is more than an opportunity to cartwheel and kick. It’s a practice that integrates physical, emotional and historical learning. It takes all of those things we learn (or don’t learn) in schools and puts them in the context of real lives and real people. And, yes, there are cartwheels too…
From the blog Rise Up for Students (a blog about education and equity in the Pacific Northwest) by Matt Halvorsen
A point that stuck with me since first coming across this article…
“alongside that (the) pledge (of U.S. allegiance), if it’s something that remains important to you — let’s also pledge our solemn respect and remembrance of the past and present by acknowledging that we are living, working and schooling on stolen land.”
Check out his work and his engaging insights…
The practice of land acknowledgment dates back centuries (at least) among indigenous communities, and is more common in the mainstream in Australia, New Zealand and Canada than in the U.S., but it is a growing movement here as well. The idea is that before an event — whether it’s a school day, a sports game, a meeting or even a family meal — you take a moment to name, thank and consider the people whose displacement allows you to be where you are. Whose historical trauma makes it possible for you to thrive as you do in the place you live?
Black, Brown, Colored: Martial Arts / Opinion
By Clarence Jackson
There have always been threats to Black life. There have always been threats to human life. In America those threats became one of the most dominating factors of life. With all of the White Supremacist actions we should remember the KKK never left, the hate groups and the hate, the politicians that support them, their institutional support systems are all part of American tradition. I invite you to consider that you are being irresponsible if you are an African American and are not devoting a considerable amount of time to the study of self defense by the many trained professionals that offer it.
I have spoken with numerous police officers about their difficult jobs and been told time and again that you should arm yourself. If you call them they try, but it takes time to get to you. Officers and military have been offering training for years. Good, solid working people trying to raise families and thrive in this world need to not only be able to protect themselves and ensure the lives of their children, they need to be networked to ensure the safety of communities. Decent hardworking people should not be victimized by anyone. Including people inside of their communities, but we certainly can’t continue to be surprised by the underbelly of American society. Love each other, grow food, participate in society and live well, but safeguard your life in the American way. And always remember self defense is always paired with legal study, knowing the laws, I would even argue knowing lawyers, officers and possibly politicians to ensure that you are not only properly following the laws, but connected enough to it to create the best options for safely navigating any aftermath in the horror of having to defend yourself.
Black, Brown, Colored: Education
By Njoli Brown
In Wisconsin a school asked its student body to list “3 good reasons for slavery” (along with three bad ones).
Another school, in South Carolina, decided to take its students on a field trip for Black History Month. Activities included: picking cotton and singing slave spirituals…. Yes, you read that correctly.
It was only this February 2019 when a school in northern Virginia thought it would be a good idea to teach about the Underground railroad by playing a “runaway slave game.”
There’s no way around it. There are some people who are too damaged to keep from letting their racism shine through. That being said, you don’t have to ride that train.
Before even starting though, as the adults in the room, this work needs to begin with teachers and parents—deepening our own understanding of the history, paying attention to the broader context, considering the children’s developmental age, and clarifying goals in doing this type of education.
On the site Teaching Tolerance are provided a list of “key concepts” which it seems would be important to consider and reconcile with before jumping into the deep end of a conversation about the racial, social and economic foundations of slavery with your young people.
- Slavery, which was practiced by Europeans prior to their arrival in the Americas, was important to all of the colonial powers and existed in all of the European North American colonies.
- Slavery and the slave trade were central to the development and growth of the economy across British North America and, later, the United States.
- Protections for slavery were embedded in the founding documents; enslavers dominated the federal government, Supreme Court and Senate from 1787 through 1860.
- “Slavery was an institution of power,” designed to create profit for the enslavers and break the will of the enslaved and was a relentless quest for profit abetted by racism.
- Enslaved people resisted the efforts of their enslavers to reduce them to commodities in both revolutionary and everyday ways.
- The experience of slavery varied depending on time, location, crop, labor performed, size of slaveholding and gender.
- Slavery was the central cause of the Civil War.
- Slavery shaped the fundamental beliefs of Americans about race and whiteness, and white supremacy was both a product and legacy of slavery.
- Enslaved and free people of African descent had a profound impact on American culture, producing leaders and literary, artistic and folk traditions that continue to influence the nation.
- By knowing how to read and interpret the sources that tell the story of American slavery, we gain insight into some of what enslaving and enslaved Americans aspired to, created, thought and desired.
I wanted to provide a few start up resources for those of you who are genuinely interested in teaching about historical and modern day slavery in a way that is held in empathy and authentically speaks to the trauma of the institution. There are tremendous amounts of materials out there and hopefully some of these act as an inroad and inspiration.
A list of 60 books recommended for the classroom and as background reading for parents and teachers on the history of slavery and resistance in the United States. This lists provides materials relevant for all ages, from child through YA to adult. These aren’t just books to drop in a room but to act as a catalyst for art projects, writing projects, debate and discussion. I’d also refer you to this article from the Chicago Tribune “Slavery In Children’s Books: What Works?”
2. The Passage — Researched & Written by Fern Lewis / Directed by Dale Gooding
An animation which explores the slave trade and the journey of the Trans-Atlantic voyage. Wonderfully written and narrated. This is not “G” rated. There are some deeply emotional themes here. It is a film you should pre-screen in order to determine the appropriateness for your class’ age range and prepare for the depth of conversation needed to to process it.
“What we don’t know about American slavery hurts us all.” From Teaching Tolerance and host Hasan Jeffries, Teaching Hard History brings us the lessons we should have learned in school through the voices of leading scholars and educators. It’s good advice for teachers, good information for everybody.
4. The ABCs of Black History
The history of African people did not begin with nor did it end with slavery. It’s just important to educate on the continuance of this journey, acknowledging the identity of a people as more than just their epochal social status.
Do you have more resources to suggest? Drop them in the comments.
“It is of crucial importance for every American to understand the role that slavery played in the formation of this country, and that lesson must begin with the teaching of the history of slavery in our schools. It is impossible to understand the state of race relations in American society today without understanding the roots of racial inequality – and its long-term effects – which trace back to the ‘peculiar institution.”
– Henry Louis Gates Jr., Harvard University Professor, author America Behind the Color Line –