Friday, October 22, 2010
With appreciation to Sarah, her students, and Tupac
Yesterday, I visited a school where a student teacher was introducing a reading of Seedfolks by having them deconstruct the language used by Tupac and his poem "The Rose that Grew from Concrete." I've read the poem before, but today its meaning seemed more profound and I believe it was because of the delicate instruction of the teacher. She asked them to define the major words of the poem, which they did, concrete, rose, growth, cracks, dreams, and then they moved to judging the book of Seedfolks by its cover. The story is vignettes of diverse characters who work in a community garden, but also who share their personal stories.
I immediately thought about a cinderblock and a pot of soil and from which one a gardener can see the greatest growth?
From concrete, urban centers, we get buildings, schools, highways, sidewalks and prisons. It is a tool for which foundations are made and which institutions, both good and bad, are formed. From soil, we get food, flowers, trees and all the items that come from them: fragrance, tastes, nutrients, oxygen and shade.
As we educate youth of our cities, how do we best get them to see that they, too, can bloom? How do we provide the best fragrances, tastes, nutrients, oxygen and shade so they can breathe? How do we garden the concrete so that students have hope, desires, and dreams that go beyond the institutions that contain and constrain them? How do we help them to realize they must break through the concrete?
I did an environmental degree and never applied it to my career, but I've used it to think a lot about the urban/rural split. I used to laugh at my environmental self when I thought we were ruining the planet, especially when I bought a home and saw how quickly grass and trees would overtake my concrete sidewalk. Nature always prevails. The natural world wins. Humans can not outlast nature's strength.
I worry, however, that an aesthetic for our natural environment, even if it is a city built by cinderblocks, is not interrogated enough for the ways it limits a child's growth, experiences, and understanding of their humanity. Perhaps this is what urban schooling should be about.
Perhaps, this is why I appreciate the karma of Tupac's poetry, Sarah, and her students. From them, I too learn to breathe fresh air.
The Rose that Grew from Concrete
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
Written by Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)
PS: Tupac was born the year before me. His influence on us all is enormous.