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I use rare and grand gestures
From the air of the Ancestors
To prepare and plan “testers”
I mean STUDENTS
It’s their world to reside in and conquer
I’m on the side like a locker
Where they store what they need
I’m teaching them how to read
To use their 5 Senses, I always plead
But by the 5th Class of the day….is when I need
To remind myself to breathe, and lead
Because I am Black History

My words will sink into your soul like an ink blotter
I write Black Thought’s like Tariq Trotter
My proud Roots exhibit prowess daily
I’m researching and it’s me working, like Alex Haley
Trying to find the origin, the in-between and the outcome
Shouting “By Any Means…” like Brother Malcolm
But this is no mini-series
It’s just many theories
Of pedagogy and praxis
It’s no apology because the facts is….
I am Black History

I’m scorned, adorned, and often forewarned
That the way I perform, is because I am a unicorn
A Black Man in a teacher’s uniform. Far from the norm.
A rarity in a sea of disparity, trying to seek clarity
But at times, my work is viewed as charity
If I’m praised, it’s because my talents are, you know “natural”
What about the actual factual?
That I work much longer than the contractual
School Day agreement
Some foolish people are stuck in their ways like cement

When I’m criticized, it’s because I’m slow to understand, and I’m labeled as Basic
Yes, I can always improve, but let’s face it
Many people view me in a school building, as a surreal feature
A gimmick, a trophy, a mascot with the appeal of a creature
Who is truly not a “real teacher”
Although my name is atop the class roster
Some stop and pass me by like an impostor
Although I’ve been a “real teacher” for more than 2 decades
People try and see right through me like new X-Rays
Am I Broken? Am I a Token?
Have I Misspoken?
Although I look at myself, as a sensible man
They still overlook me, so I am an Invisible Man
I am Black History

But I don’t have to use a loud voice to act woke
Because like DuBois, I exude the ‘Souls of Black Folk’
When I cast a WEB of knowledge to share and connect
“I’m so hip, that even my errors are correct”
Now I’m ‘Ego Tripping’ that previous line was strictly beyond me
That was defined by Sister Nikki Giovanni
My ego goes from competent to calamity
From student success to student tragedy
From academic excellence to unusual agony
From property tax and housing spikes
To school closings and school strikes
To the removal of Black teachers, as well as educational and esteemed vocational programs
I feel like an accomplished performer, in an empty arena… with no fans

But I am Black History
More than a paragraph at the bottom. I’m both overt and covert
Like solving a true Math problem. I show work
And the purpose is to stand with you
‘Still I Rise’ like Maya Angelou
So the effort, energy and intensity will never vary
I am Black History, and that’s beyond February
Activism and artistry are a part of me
They flow through my artery
I teach Black History like Carter G.
Woodson… Lyrically, I’m a good one
I am Black History

Erik Young is a teacher at King College Prep and a 22-year veteran of Chicago Public Schools.