Your teacher-smile says welcome to my new class

To my home away from home

But at my house where my parents live

There are pictures of me in every room

Pictures of my grandparents, too

But not just pictures of my people, but of our stories 

Holidays, recipes, and music

Even things and people we’ve lost but don’t want to forget


So your smile says, “Welcome.” 

But am I really welcomed.. this time? 


Then, I see the class library and… wait! 

Are those mirrors of myself I see?

This year, my kinky hair, barrettes, and braids

Made it all the way to your teacher shelves

But not just me but lots of folks who look like me

I see the rainbow of faces and shades of brown

I see my friends on these shelves, too

And I see my stories… our stories 


Looking at these books on these shelves

Has me thinking maybe you’re not like the other teachers

Maybe you’re even smarter than the principal

Because you’re on to me in every good way

Simply because you see me

Hey, you want to know what I’m thinking? 

I’m thinking that when we read these books together

This year I’ll have as much to teach you as you have to teach me

You see because this year, I get to be the teacher, too

Because this year the learning is mine

I hope you come to class prepared

To learn about me through these books on your shelves

About what I bring to the class

What my people have brought all along


Something inside of me drums, beats, and leaps

When I see the books on your shelves

Like you’ve been thinking of me and the space I come from

And something else inside of me has yawned, and stretched, and jumped up, too

Though often ignored by these shelves

It awakens, gratefully at attention… My Curiosity


So maybe, this year, I’ll give you a chance

Because of these beautiful brown books on your shelves

Still I must warn you that my ancestors know where I’m going

Even if I’m too young to know myself just yet

They’ve paved my path and prayed a promise over me

My church, my neighbors, and my community

They’ve nurtured my brilliance and beauty

You see they have big, big plans for me

And even though we’ve just met I think you already know a little about me

Of where I’ve been and where I’m going

That’s because these books on these shelves 

Tell me a little about you, too

And of what you think of me


Teacher, I know we just met 

But can we start learning now? 

You see, I was born ready.

I was just waiting on you.


*This short piece is for the teachers who are courageous, committed, and curious enough to do the work of choosing diverse books that do not center even themselves nor their own personal or cultural backgrounds but those of the students. These same students are willing and ready to learn but only when the teacher is willing and ready to do the same. By insisting and demanding diverse books that center the experiences of their students and their diverse backgrounds, educators demonstrate to families of color that what and how they teach will reflect what has always been of inherent value, relevance, and beauty within the narratives of black and brown people. Within shelves ladened with diverse books, these educators are pledging their commitment to reject the paralyzing excuses of personal, societal, or political blindspots and to  instead fully see that the worth and contribution of these families are not insufficient nor inferior but are indeed historically and presently enough. We agree that the narratives of our students and their families will no longer be ignored and marked by curriculum and instruction as absent. Let us not remain in the business of believing the racist and classist myth of deficit thinking weaponized against our communities of color. Instead, let us address the deficit education within policies designed by school leadership and educators and the unjust and inequitable history of absent narratives.





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