Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What Inspires You?

     Welcome to my first post of 2016! And as luck would have it… this post will be a continuation of the amazing #D100bloggerPD  crew’s effort to inform and connect with our school district’s extensive PLN. Kristen Richey began our inspirational journey followed by Marilyn McManus, Annie Forest and Colleen Noffsinger. Please click on the links to take a read of their posts which give you background information on #whatinspiresyou and follow along for the month of January. The hashtags are to include twitter followers and keep all of postings organized and our audience in the loop.

     In reflecting on my answer to the question: “What Inspires You?” I immediately thought of my family. In fact, everything I am starts and stops with them. I make very little difference between those born, married into and created out of love family members at this stage of my life.  The length of time and things experienced together have blurred a lot of lines and strengthened foundations that (hopefully) will last beyond my sojourn on this earth.  It is the true inheritance. It is a lineage. Inspiration comes from the Latin word “inspirare” meaning to “breathe upon”:

 And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” [Gen. ii.7]


      Who has the most unique opportunity to breathe new thoughts, feelings and goals upon us than those we hold “most near and dear”? As a person whose feet were set on the path of lifelong literacy by her parents, I can only say “Thank you” because in gifting me with the ability to read and write they created another lineage for me not made from blood or circumstance.  Dr. Alfred Tatum describes this lineage in his book Reading for their Life as “textual lineages” which are poems, short stories, novels, etc. that create meaningful and relevant connections to our academic, cultural, social and emotional lives that enable us to believe we are smart, creative and capable human beings. His idea is that “engaging with texts should connect students to goals larger than themselves.” In nurturing literacy in our students and ourselves, we are creating empathic and knowledgeable citizens. It is a fact that books have taken me to places I would have never dreamed of going and has initiated my real exploration of the world I live in. True literacy is about participation and being able to advocate for full participation in the global society.  Every family has a history that tells us where we've been and the possibilities of where we can go. Dr. Tatum's book encouraged me to explore my textual lineage. 

     Tatum has said our textual lineages are "like family trees" which works for me because it combines the two things that have always inspired me: my family and books. As our family tree grows from the roots and branches off, so do we "ground" ourselves with certain texts and use this foundational engagement to "branch off" into other readings that support our real lives. It can be a personal history lesson. My textual lineage starts with family stories or folk tales told by parents, aunts, uncles and various other relations. They are harrowing tales that I found were later substantiated during my reading of "Before the Mayflower" by Lerone Bennett Jr. for an eighth grade history class.

     The preface reads:
 "This book ... deals with the trials and triumphs of a group of Americans whose roots in the American soil are deeper than those of the Puritans who arrived on the celebrated 'Mayflower' a year after 'a Dutch man of war' deposited twenty Negroes at Jamestown. This is a history of 'the other Americans' and how they came to North America and what happened to them when they got here. The story begins in Africa with the great empires of the Sudan and Nile Valley and ends with the Second Reconstruction which Martin Luther King Jr., and the 'sit-in' generation are fashioning in the North and South."

      Of course, history includes culture and this led to an appreciation of poems, music and the arts that were created out of the African-American experience.   My loves of poetry and song lyrics have been constant since my mother first sang lullabies to me.  Paul Laurence Dunbar has such significance in my life that my wedding anniversary and his birthday are the same! His poems have inspired other writers, poets and artists. Caged Bird by Maya Angelou is a reference to his poem “Sympathy”.

“I know what the caged bird feels, alas! 
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; 
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, 
And the river flows like a stream of glass; 
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes, 
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals-- 
I know what the caged bird feel…”

        New “sturdy bridges” of text were built to connect with old stories and new realities. My father was born and lived a large part of his life in the segregated South and like many African-Americans migrated to Northern cities after World War II.  In her book “ The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, I found  a wonderful treasure of “Great Migration” truths.

“Over the course of six decades, some six million black southerners left the land of their forefathers and fanned out across the country for an uncertain existence in nearly every other corner of America.” 
-- Wilkerson (Part 1 paragraph Page 9)

The quote captures the vastness of the migration from blacks from the South to the North. It underscores how miserable life in the South for blacks had been for so many to leave their homelands in the search of something better.
     I read “Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson this summer and I will add that to my “book tree”. There are quotes from the book that resonate with
           "I believe in one day and someday and this perfect moment called Now.”
         “Somewhere in my brain each laugh, tear and lullaby becomes memory.” 

     In reviewing some of the books that have inspired me over time and just recently, I am finding myself drawn to those that are intertwined with my family's historical journey and present circumstance. We all can identify and find meaning with books that validate our existence. As Dr. Tatum states:   

"Each text we read and write contributes to a chorus of new understandings that allow us to perform in humanity's orchestra."


 Courtney@Literacy4Life1 ( twitter), who is a very insightful and energetic literacy coach will share what inspires her on January 22,2016.  Read on!