Living an Afrocentric life means that I put the humanity of our people in front of everything else I do and part of that humanity means acknowledging, honoring, reading, and finding ways to integrate African ways of knowing and being into teaching.
As a Montessori guide, grace and courtesy conversations happen every day. Children are constantly navigating and managing friendships, social cues, culture while still trying to figure out who they are, their likes and dislikes, and what they want to do on a given day.
In Montessori, grace and courtesy lessons are focused on teaching through modeling and lessons about what it means to be polite, be in a community with others, and how to communicate feelings and emotions.
I use the language “grace and courtesy” because it is a familiar term but I am centering the ideals of ma’at, the ancient Egyptian goddess of truth, justice, harmony, balance when I am teaching.
Ma’at has 42 ideals and I use the modern re-writing of ma’at 42 ideals to teach and model to children how to love self and community. It is these ideals that help me teach children to dig inward to learn how to care for and understand themselves while expanding outward to see how to operate in a community.
It is necessary for me to know that I come from a people that operated holistically mind, body, spirit, and environment. I come from a people who understood harmony and order in all things. These are important truths to me because if I rely on someone else to tell my history, I will only see my people either coming from hardship or being trailblazers. There is so much missing from that narrative. We were always whole. We were always capable and enough before the adjective resilient became synonymous with blackness.
To my black educators, mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and caretakers, it is important that we do not get caught up in what is deemed “correct” or “proper” or “mainstream” and say that certain parts of our history are irrelevant, shameful, or demonic. I caution you because white supremacy will take the parts of our blackness that have been discarded, forgotten, erased, and stolen–repackage them and sell them back to us as a necessity for better health, a necessity to live an eco-friendly life, or my all-time favorite—a necessity to educate your child.
As a people, we were always whole. We understood harmony not just from a cognitive sense but from a spiritual sense. If we are not actively doing our Sankofa work we will forget our wholeness, we forget our beauty, we will forget our wisdom. The danger of forgetting is that our stories will be told as folktales when they were the source of truth from the beginning that built religions, cultures, governments, and societies.
This is not about romanticizing black history; it is about teaching a complete history because children are constantly building their own narratives based on what’s around them. Their environment includes the home, but it also includes all the messaging and conversations that happen outside of the home—at the grocery store, the park, school, in the neighborhood, etc.
The question that stays on top of mind for me when doing this work is “what is the child seeing, hearing, and learning about the diversity within blackness?”