“Learn to see me as a brother, instead of two distant strangers.” A couple of points can be taken away from this charge to society from the late hip hop artist, Tupac Shakur. First, a paradigm shift in how we view each other in society is necessary and could improve the overall wellbeing of everyone. Furthermore, education is a direct reflection of our society, and seeing students as “distant strangers” contributes to a preconceived deficit narrative of Black children that stems from being the racial object, shaping the ideas and ideals of some teachers inside our school classrooms. Consequentially, impacts their effectiveness to work with children of color.
Welcome to the diary of an angry Black man. My name is Courtney RaShad Allen. Being educated as a Black male in the United States, I constantly feel the pressure to prove my worth in a society that ignores the legitimacy of my very existence. A first generation doctoral student and native of Dallas, Texas, I’m currently wrapping up my third year in an Educational Leadership Ph.D. program with a focus on leadership, culture, and curriculum. Currently, I serve as the instructor a 3 credit undergraduate course that provides college students the opportunity to mentor high school students in Cincinnati to develop skills necessary for success, including career and college readiness. In his book, Holler if you hear me: Searching for Tupac Shakur., Michael Eric Dyson stated that Tupac Shakur spoke with brilliance and insight as someone who bears witness to the pain of those who would never have his platform and I now find myself in a doctoral program, bearing witness to the pain of many who would never have such a platform. Building bridges to this platform so that we may all learn from each other, it is from this vantage point that I approach my own work in research and practice. Outside of my studies, I’m a sports enthusiast that enjoys coaching, engaging in sociopolitical activism, and creating hip hop music.
What has been the nature of my educational experience? In 2003, Nelson Mandela shared that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. My parents, both being college graduates, understood just how important academics were and made it possible for me to be provided an education that would help me achieve my ultimate goal in becoming a powerful force of that world changing arsenal. Prior to starting the doctoral program, I served as a higher education practitioner in student affairs. Before going into the field of higher education, I attended two Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), one a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and the other a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) for my Masters and Bachelor degrees, respectively. Furthermore, it was in that HBCU setting that I met Full Color Magazine founder and “stranger” turned “brother,” Jerry Jerome. I found being educated in an affirming and empowering predominately Black academic setting rewarding. Beyond endowments, beyond facilities, there
lies the social-psychological benefits of being in an environment where you are the racial subject and not the racial object. So, what is now the nature of my educational experience? I am an EDUCATOR. I am an ARTIVIST. I am a COACH. As an educator, I continue to ask how do we determine what kind of curriculum work is imperative in order to convince upcoming generations of students that education, which often held captive by schooling, is their human right – when they are witnessing via the Black Lives Matter movement, history, social media, etc. the refusal of that right to so many who do not fit Eurocentric ideas and ideals. My research focuses on the curriculum of hip hop culture, educational leadership, and social justice. As an artivist (artist + activist), it is my moral obligation to build on the work of my ancestors and fight against injustices by any means and mediums necessary. For me, music provides a medium to engage in local and national conversations regarding issues of diversity and inclusion, the sustainability of HBCUs, career and college readiness to foster youth civic engagement, and Hip Hop education’s use of bars to break down barriers and boundaries. While hip hop has provided me plenty of Black male teachers (both good and bad), the presence of Black male coaches in the sports I played growing up offered life lessons outside of the classroom. Furthermore, the coaches transformed teammates into family, from “distant strangers” to “brothers” – shaping my leadership philosophy as an educator, artivist, and coach, and ultimately contributing to who I am today. Now attending a predominately white institution (PWI) for my terminal degree, I am motivated more than ever to push the culture forward by coaching the youth – particularly, Black youth.
My ultimate goal was to complete my doctorate so that I can teach and contribute, in practice and in knowledge, a commitment to modeling social justice within higher education. Over the past decade, my journey towards this goal has been defined by miseducation, misrepresentations, and misunderstandings regarding the visceral, psychological, and emotional effects that come to bear on the sociopolitical lives of the Black bodies in a Western, United States context. Many of the issues we struggle with in society (e.g., race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexual orientation) present themselves as access and equity issues in our institutions of higher education, as well as our K-12 schools. Over the past three years, the experience with K-12 students in Cincinnati has served as the highlight of my time in the program. Despite research confirming [we matter], growing up, I never had one Black male teacher in K-12 schools. Furthermore, I concur with Frederick Douglass' assertion that "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." My ultimate goal has now shifted from higher education towards K-12, in an effort to alleviate much of the repairing that takes place in higher education and contribute to the building of stronger children for a better future. Driven by a desire to change the world, I aim to educate, energize, and empower others to reconstruct ideas of justice, freedom, hope, peace, and love.