The Storyteller Series features intimate spotlights of our Storytellers, without whom, Project Ava could not do what we do. Read more stories here.
Write an aphorism (a short truism) that alludes to who you are and/or what you believe.
Teaching is healing and education is liberation
Why are you here with us as a storyteller?
There’s nothing more healing to me than telling a story rooted in truth and authenticity. It’s the surest way to generate empathy in others while building a sense of collective power and responsibility. I’m hoping to connect to audiences on Project Ava and I love the focus on amplifying marginalized voices.
Where do you consider home?
Home is the beautiful country and continent I was born in, Togo, Africa. Home is wherever my five brothers, my persistent father, and my resilient mother live. As a result of our immigration narrative, home will always be between borders. Diasporic Africans, like myself, are forever attempting to fuse disconnected, distant selves. The immigrant narrative isn’t easy. To risk it all is a gift which can only be repaid by living with the same level of courage. That breeds a certain tenacity I must be grateful for. The perpetual chip on our shoulders. The tension of a complex narrative. I am the insider-outsider. The African-American and the American-African. Home is remaining at peace at the center of these dualities.
Who inspires you?
Malcolm X had an unending commitment to bear witness to his truth and an undying love for his people. His steadfast belief in community and collective action grounds me today as I attempt to radicalize education. Most inspiring is the journey of critical self-reflection he took to transform from Little to X. Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living” and X brilliantly responded, “but the examined life is painful.” X inspires my courage to critically look at who I was, who I am, and who I’m daring to be.
What impact do you want to have on the world?
Brother Cornel West says “To niggerize a people is to make them afraid and ashamed, scared and intimidated so that they are deferential to the powers that be.” Can we develop generations of conscious and empowered students who can use an educated voice to advocate for themselves, their families, their peoples, and the Earth which sustains their lives? I feel awake when I picture the potential future of a niggerized people liberating themselves.
When did you find your passion/s?
I went to middle and high school in Aurora, CO but it wasn’t until I got to college at University of Colorado Boulder’s predominantly white campus that I understood the words inequity, social construct, hegemony. I was able to reflect and comprehend the violence my peers and I were subjugated to in the public education system. This led me to join the classroom and ultimately co-found an organization, The HadaNõu Collective, with Nathan Pai Schmitt. HadaNõu is a Korean-Ewe phrase that means “to humbly offer a solution.” We create centers within schools and, separately, full-time public schools that are authentically co-created with students where they learn through solving real community problems. Each center has its tool of choice: (HackSchool) maker technology, (Street Knowledge) student voice and social activism, or (Mundo) the environment and natural resources. Our high school (Opening Fall 2019) takes this idea to the next level, with a center-based high school model.
How would you like to improve yourself?
The most dangerous force on this earth is unhealed pain/trauma. Malcolm X brilliantly asked a simple question: “who taught you to hate yourself?” My answer to this question is engaging an infinite journey of undoing the pain/trauma of colonization that led to self-hatred. To improve myself is to continually solidify an unending love of my ‘self’ and to continually build a deep respect for my ancestors.
If you’re interested in reading more works by Wisdom, you can find them at the following links:
- Contradictions in the United States of Amnesia: Why a Black Man Can Love Donald Drumpf
- Can an Angry Black Guy Have White Friends?
- The Greatest Irony of Internalized Male Dominance
- Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?
- How Eighth-Graders Finish the Sentence ‘Being a Man to Me Means’
- The Picture in Our Heads