The Danger of a Single Story

I want you to watch this video. It’s almost 20 minutes long, and I realize that it might be nearly impossible to carve out that much time in your day. But I want you to try. I want you to turn off the television, put the kids to bed, clear off your desk and really process the words of Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian writer who both challenged and inspired me with her words.

She made me think about my husband and the caller who has made it his mission over the past several months to leave nasty, hateful messages on his voicemail at work. Every week he calls. Sometimes twice a week, leaving no name or phone number where he can be reached. This man has a single story of Issac J. Bailey, the columnist. He does not know the Ike that I know. The gentleman. The father. My best friend.

She made me think of the woman who shared with me her ideas about the young scholars in Freedom Readers. She used words like “undisciplined”, “nonreaders”, “survival mode”. She does not know the 2-year-old that sat on my lap and listened to a fairy tale more intently than my own children ever did at that age. She completely overlooked the smiles, the hugs, the pictures they make for me and gifts they give me almost every time I show up.

She made me think of Augusta Mann, the genius behind our student affirmation, “I Stand Tall”. She’s devoted her life to ameliorating what she calls ” a problem that need not be” by traveling the country to share teaching strategies that Touch the Spirit. She made me think of the line from “I Stand Tall” that reads, My family, my community, my country—The world is waiting for my leadership.”

She made me think of the group of grandmothers and grandfathers at the North Santee Community Center who allowed me to spend time with them this week as they shared their stories. We talked about how they had to beat  rice stalks with a mortar and pestle in order to have that same rice for dinner. We talked about the incredible technology our ancestors brought to this country, without which local plantations would not have been successful. We talked about Africa, and it felt strange to say the name. It bounced off the walls and echoed through the room in a way that was almost eerie.

She made me think of the current state of education in this country and its apartheid-like tracking of students into separate classes, one set designed for future maids and janitors and another designed for future executives and professionals.

This week at Freedom Readers we consider the world. We attempt to help our young scholars think beyond the borders of Conway, SC and consider their place in the larger scheme of things. Our message to them, my message to you, is that each of us is born for a reason. You continue to breathe in and out for a purpose, one that was determined before the day you were born. None of us knows how much longer we’ll have the opportunity to walk this earth. So use this moment to embrace your destiny. You may not have this chance again.

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4 responses to “The Danger of a Single Story

  1. I heartily agree that Chimimanda Adichie’s message is inspiring and challenging. She inspires us to think that we can continue to improve our understanding and appreciation for each other, and she challenges each of us to question our patterns of thinking about ourselves and others. Freedom Readers answers the challenge by helping children have ever wider perspectives about who they are and what they can become. And by helping them tell their own stories in ways that widen the perspectives of others. Good on you!

  2. So powerful! I just might have my undergraduate service learning students watch this video. I hope it helps them go into their sites with an open mind to many stories. Thanks for posting it!

  3. Sejalkumar Patel

    😀 turns out we did ended up watching this video for the undergraduate service learning. 😛 When is the short version of this video coming out?

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