Special Editions

Season 4 Episode 04: Black Educators Making a Difference: Stories of Inspiration and Impact with Adam Smith.

Igho Ekakitie 0:00
Hi, everybody. Welcome to another episode of that igowithIGHO podcast. It’s so good to have you here. It is still black history month. I tell everybody every month is Black History. I don’t care if it’s November, December, October, or January. It’s all black history. Morocco. We love it that way. Thank you. As always, I have a very special guest. Mr. Adam Smith is Adam. Welcome to the igowithIGHO podcast. How are you doing today?

Adam Smith 0:21
I’m doing well. Thank you so much for welcoming me. It’s an honor to be here.

Igho Ekakitie 0:25
Absolutely. It’s great to have you here. I was thinking, who can I invite for this Black History Month? Like, oh, yeah, I’d have. Absolutely, yes. Let me send a message. So thank you for honoring my invitation is absolute means a lot to me at the team. I was glad to have you here as well. Awesome, awesome. Tell us something exciting about you something you would by audience to know about you.

Adam Smith 0:45
I have a twin brother, I think that’s pretty cool. Identical twins, I guess an extension to that I have a little sister as well. I have a few siblings, but me my brother and my little sister. We all look alike, we kind of are around the same age. So some people call us triplets. We all kind of look alike talk alike, you know, always around each other. So that’s one thing maybe the audience might enjoy. I’m a math geek. I’m a math nerd. I love math. It was a math teacher. I do math problems as a hobby. It’s just it’s just like kind of therapeutic for me. So definitely a math nerd. So those are those are a couple. I don’t know, maybe some idiosyncrasies about me.

Igho Ekakitie 1:23
Okay, well, I’ll tell you this, my audience, I see his name on all mats. And it’s so funny. Almost every meme you put it’s about math, something addition, subtraction, multiplication. Okay. You know, I’m not a science person. I’m art person. I love the maths, but I will try my best. But I love the memes. Trust me.

Adam Smith 1:42
Thank you, I appreciate it. Yeah, I mean, I just try to, you know, on Instagram or on my social media, just try to share things that get people thinking or laughing or both, so that we can do, then my I feel like my mission is accomplished.

Igho Ekakitie 1:54
Absolutely. All right, what does Black History Month mean to you? Why is it important to celebrate and acknowledge the achievements and the contributions of black people?

Adam Smith 2:03
Black folks have contributed so much, not only in America, but in the world, right, you know, we are widely dispersed across all the Americas. We’re, you know, of course, there’s migration patterns, evolution patterns, we’re in the, you know, we’re in Europe, we’re in Asia, we’re all over the world. And, you know, I don’t think that if left to their own devices, you know, white dominant culture will paint a very sparse and negative picture of black people. So we have to push against the grain and ensure that we are creating a space where we are celebrated, where we are, our achievements are noted and uplifted. The layers and complexities of our movements of our migrations of our generations are also part of the history, you know, black, black history doesn’t didn’t begin begin and end with the slave trade in America, it is much more broad, much more complex, much more nuanced, and much more rich than that. So Black History Month is a way to protect a 28 days to really honor the not only the achievements of black people, but just honor the rich history of black folks over the centuries. And over the millennia.

Igho Ekakitie 3:12
I agree, who are some black leaders, activists, educators, I’m gonna say pioneers that have inspired you, and why are these significant to your view?

Adam Smith 3:21
So just to name a few, one of my so I work at so just context I, you know, work in the education space. So I, I kind of sit in the intersection of education, racial justice, equity, that kind of thing. So there are some writers, thinkers and philosophers who have kind of informed my growth and one of them is Gloria Ladson Billings. She’s a professor out of I think, University of Wisconsin Madison, she was one of the pioneers of the intersection of critical race theory and education, particularly in she does a lot of with math education as well. Other thinkers and writers, Lisa Delpit, is another thinker in the education space, black woman. Others are Audrey Lorde are the black queer thinkers and theorist Bell Hooks, Langston Hughes, pretty much those who have informed how I moved through the world as a black queer man, and whose identities have informed their thinking and the words that they share with the world. Kind of like my inspiration is kind of in the space of education and or black queerness. And how their stories and those stories have been uplifted and center.

Igho Ekakitie 4:32
There’s so many great thinkers, writers, educators in history of over time, even activism over time and has shaped who they tend to want to be. One of them I look up to all the time is Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Martin Luther King that we learn to have grown older we know so these people are people I will look up to and it’s important that we have these people in our lifetime, and I hope the future will be kind to them.

Adam Smith 4:55
Yeah, and I’m just extend your you know, my response. To your question, there’s so many, you know, aspirational black people, you know, who are not public figures, but who are in my life, and who have definitely inspired me in so many ways. So just also honoring those individuals who don’t have like a public name, but I still want to uplift them. As part of my inspiration as well.

Igho Ekakitie 5:17
I agree, what steps do you think need to be taking to ensure that the curriculum accurately and fairly represents the experiences and the perspective of black, people? And How can teachers and educators work together to make this happen?

Adam Smith 5:30
So good question, I could answer this question in many different ways. But I’ll kind of start with just talk to your kids, like if you if you teach, well, if you teach black children, talk to them, learn about them, and not just learn not just their birthdays, or their favorite music artists, or fashion trends, but like really, really get to know them get to know their families, get to know how they socialize, get to know, you know, if they’re having a bad day, don’t go straight to discipline or correction, like, understand why they might be having a bad day or acting in a way that isn’t consistent with the character that you know them to be. So just really get to know your your students very deeply. And that will help to ensure that you’re bringing their identities into the curriculum in a very natural and organic way. Because oftentimes, it can be very contrived, because you know, it can be black history, it’s like, okay, let’s have a festival, let’s have like, Let’s wear a dashiki, then let’s listen to Martin Luther King speeches, not to say there’s nothing wrong with that. But that doesn’t get to the heart of the core of our students identities. So if you really want to bring student black students into the curriculum, especially if you teach black students get to know them, and bring them in authentically, if you don’t teach black students and maybe you teach at a school that’s not black, not by, you know, black serving, you know, maybe other races, it’s the one to central black histories that want to center the black experience in your curriculum, read different writers and thinkers learn their perspectives. There are writers out there who have written about how to bring math curriculum to black children. And there’s like, there are papers and journals out there, how to bring the ELA curriculum, math to black children, et cetera. So like, read, educate yourself, really learn how to do it in a in an authentic way, but also a an uplifting way, and not in a way that is contrived or not in a way that is superficial.

Igho Ekakitie 7:15
Yeah. So let’s just be talk about critical race theory. EPB removed from curriculum in Florida and all that. What does it mean? And what do you think about it?

Adam Smith 7:27
I’ve studied critical race theory pretty extensively, the way that critical race theory has been communicated, the way it’s been shared in media is really inaccurate. Like, oftentimes, when we hear cocoa race theory and the common like Zeitgeist in the past year or so, they’re talking about black history. And they’re talking about the realities of what’s been going on with, with relations with racial relations in the country over the past few decades. That’s not necessarily a critical race theory cooker. Race Theory is about how to how we use race, as a tool to examine different social, political and economic phenomena using race as a lens through which we view how the world moves. That’s what Koch race theory is in. I mean, that’s deeper, more nuanced than that. But in a nutshell, it’s using, again, using race as an intellectual tool, or as a way to approach critical awareness or as a way to approach a critique of any kind of structural institutional phenomena. That’s what, that’s what the critical race theory is. And that’s not that’s not how it’s been communicated. So I’ll just put that out there. So back to your question about, you know, my think my thoughts about the the bands on the language in different states and the bans on curriculum, you know, it’s nothing more than there’s, there’s nothing more than a tool to erase or whitewash or revise history, especially in favor of a white dominant culture. That’s all that’s all it is. That’s all this move is doing is to maintain the status quo, maintain maintain white dominant culture and shield students and others from the realities of racial harm in America.

Igho Ekakitie 9:06
Yeah, I I totally agree. You know, because it’s been politicized is weaponized is cost, great divide. And the people even leaving the movement don’t have an idea of what the word critical race theory is. But we heard that people like yourself on the platform, we have to keep talking about it and keep putting what the true Word of true meaning is out there for people to understand. So thank you for doing that.

Adam Smith 9:31
Absolutely. Absolutely.

Igho Ekakitie 9:33
Science nerd, Yes. Maths nerd, right. Yes. So how do you use technology today, and resources to support students learning and the engagement in the study of black history?

Adam Smith 9:44
Yeah, into kind of in the platforms that they are already on, like Tik Tok or Instagram, Twitter, etc. So using those platforms to bring history to them as a way to bring knowledge to them. And maybe as a adult or as you know, somebody who might be generations older. So you are able culture is learning about their histories. As I actually had this conversation with a colleague, we owe about chat chat GPT technology scare scary. And just like any new technology, our gut reaction is to combat it or try to suppress it. Like it’s happened with TVs, you know, decades ago. But with internet, this has happened with social media, like any kind of new iteration of technology is going to be the unknown. And I can see the same thing happening with Chat GPT.

So our students have trouble writing, writing, writing is a skill that has to be developed. You can’t you can’t just wake up and say, I’m a writer. So we can use Chat, GPT. If students have ideas like, Okay, well just push our DS and chat GPT and see what comes up. Oh, you have a whole essay, okay, cool. Read that essay and kind of see how that how the essay was constructed to help you to help fuel your own writing capabilities. So it can be those students writing muscle, it can also be a way for students to kind of see how their ideas couldn’t be written out. If they haven’t, selves. So it could, it could be an actual really good teaching tool, if we if teachers are able to be creative with it, and use it as a way to enhance but not and not hinder students educational journeys. So to answer your question from students, brains versus chat, GPT, that just requires knowing your kids honestly, and it requires knowing your students if you know students writing or talking styles, and you see an essay that they submit is inconsistent with that, then have a conversation Hey, is this you? This is the new This is Chat GPT.

And so knowing how they produce content is going to be important. And being able to discern what’s being charged up and what’s not. If it is Chat GPT, we can be used as a tool for good so students don’t feel like they have to use it as a way to skirt or cheat, but use it but if we if we use it for good or promote it as a tool, then it can be kind of reconfigured how students bring it to their educational experiences.

If there is anything tha teachers should know Chat GPT doesn’t cite for you there is no in text citations, so that you have to go and do the work still finding where that word quotation is from. And yeah, it’s a lot of work. It’s just a tool that has helped you do your work like a calculator.

Igho Ekakitie 12:28
Like that ticket to ensure that the legacy of black leaders educators, is passed down to future generations.

Adam Smith 12:36
Yeah, I think to realize a future of like true liberation, through empowerment. To be like other people in our own respect, acknowledge and center around community to be black, that we have black, queer people, black trans people, black disabled people. Black poor, be excellent quote, unquote, like black excellence was actually a phrase I don’t like because it there’s a subtext there that there is black non Excellence, which is not true, right? All blackness is great, all blackness should be celebrated and, and uplifted and centered. So I think we have to, like release ourselves from the paradigm that there’s only one way to be black, or there’s only one way to aspire to be black and excellent. Because a certain way, talk a certain way, dress a certain way make a certain amount of income, be be at a certain social status. Be basically be like be light skinned if we if we continue these paradigms, that we will not appreciate all the fabric of blackness that exist in our diaspora across the world. So so until we can acknowledge, celebrate and appreciate all the all the shades and nuances and presentations and cultures and experiences of blackness, we will never have a fully realized the brighter future.

Igho Ekakitie 14:09
I agree well, what story or experience that has shaped your understanding of Black History and your lived experience as a person of color. And how this experience you flushed your decision and your role today in society.

Adam Smith 14:22
Yeah, most formative and pivotal pivotal experiences of my life has was attending an HBCU go to college in Jackson Mississippi. You because I blackness that was negative in many ways growing up but going but very thankful for my HBCU experience because I had to it forced me to unlearn a lot of problematic thoughts and behaviors that I that I harbored. In my totally, totally up. I told you the around how how I celebrate and how and how I saw black people Which of course, in turn, I learned more and more history, culture. And I took classes and I think I’m thankful to have had professors who taught like history in a way that was empowering and that was deep and complex and nuanced. And not just regurgitating the MLK quotes that we all always see or not just regard to take in the history of the slave trade as as the bedrock of black American history, right, but just learning, again, learning way above and beyond the, the paradigms of black history. You know, that I grew up with so that HBCU experience in so many ways helped me to see the world see the world in a different way.

Igho Ekakitie 15:48
Well, thank you for sharing that. Before I let you go. Do you have any shoutouts for anyone at all? Or any people friends around you? And what words of advice would you give to any black kid out there wondering what next to do? And what steps to take in life? What advice would you have for them?

Adam Smith 16:04
Yeah, good. Yeah, good question. So as far as shout outs, go, just I mean, shout out to my people, I St. Louis, folks, my St. Louis friends who helped me make my make my St. Louis experience. So positive and so impactful. And so transport transformative. Shout out to my HBCU colleagues, my my classmates, my professors shout out to my family my shout out to just some media people that I follow and admire you may not know I admire you, but you know, your posts, your your stories, your your words have also have definitely informed and shaped my worldview as well. So yeah, I appreciate I appreciate the black people in my life. I appreciate the way that they protected and uplifted. Right and me have embraced me. Yeah, I just can’t say this is a price as priceless to be surrounded by so many awesome black folks in my life. So definitely. Very thankful of that. To your second question about like, what advice would you give a young black, young black individual who’s trying to navigate live? You know, I would say

that sounds so contrived, but honestly, be yourself. Like, celebrate who you are, celebrate how you show up in the world. And learn, learn learn the, the magic you possess, like like, actually sit with yourself, and sit with yourself and be and be really thoughtful and be really intentional about, well, you know, how do I show up in the world? What is what is my magic? Like? What is my value? Because we all have a unique value, purpose magic, and it’s very easy to feel stripped, stripped of that because of different different isms, right? You know, colorism, racism, sexism, homophobia, like all these isms will really kind of erode those, those unique presentations and those unique facets of your identity that you that are yours. So do your best to like push against those push past those and really celebrate who you are, and all the different facets of you. Because it’ll only get better from here.

And I just want I want I want our young black people to feel secure in themselves, and to feel secure in the way they show up in the world and feel secure in their talents, feel secure in their skills, their uniqueness, their idiosyncrasies, makes you you

Igho Ekakitie 18:42
Oh, absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Mr Adam, for coming on the show. I myself, I know my audience have learnt and will learned the goodness of the truth from your words. So thank you again for coming on the show. It means a lot to me. I’m truly truly grateful. Thank you. Thank you so much.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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