By: Victoria D. Green, Wos Los
While once conducting business with an accomplished business man, he asked me, “Now where is it you work again?” I proudly replied, “I am a teacher at Albany High School” and he replies with a grim and stern look upon his face, “those kids over there are pretty rough aren’t they.” With even more pride, righteous indignation and obligation, I smile, looked him directly in the eye to prove that fear is not in the heart of me and I am fully convicted of the response I was about to give him.
I say, “No! It’s only that our students are some of the poorest children in the city and they often get treated that way. I love my students and for the seven years that I have taught there, I have never had any REAL trouble or problems out of any of them.”
He closed his mouth but only after he dropped his jaw…because he was in awe…..as I think back now I recollect that at that moment I exemplified a quote from one of my favorite movies: I “shut him up…hard!”
You see in one of the most intense and exciting scenes of the movie, “Remember the Titans”, racist head football coach maliciously instructs his player to intentionally and flagrantly hurt the body and pride of the black player, he says “Shut him up…HARD.”
Well, as an internal advocate for the INDIANS of Albany High School, I must encourage my students with my words, thoughts and actions to disprove the naysayers and critics… We must “SHUT THEM UP HARD!” Though that directive is movie jargon and in a vernacular that they can understand, I more tactfully articulate to my students by always telling them that we must prove lies by merely living the truth and showing the onlookers, naysayers and critics that we are not what they believe and portray us to be.
We learn from and agree with the often quoted comedian and actor of the 19th century, W.C. Fields, who once said, “It is not what they call you but what you answer to that matters!” We must show them that because they don’t understand us and don’t care to make any effort to, they have us sized up all wrong. Through much of Albany Georgia, the “good life city”, local community and specifically the local news media downgrade, deject and discredit the students of Albany High on a regular basis, we will not answer to misplaced labels and accusations.
My students are not thugs, whores, gang bangers, drug dealers, hoochies, hoodlums, bastards, sluts, miscreants, ingrates, nothings, nobodies or trouble makers. They are young people with malleable minds and fragile personalities who cling to hope even at the hands of of many who miseducate and disillusion them with lies. WE ARE INDIANS!!! And it is not coincidental that our mascot is the Indian. The Indians that we study in history books were miss named by a people who misunderstood and exploited them when they so-called “found” something that clearly belonged to someone else already. These Indians were an established, intelligent and independent people until an immoral and ruthless people invaded their space and forced them to fight for the lives and way of life from that time until the present.
Those Indians have a similar story to the AHS Indians, seeing as how the “white flight” of the 1990’s stripped Albany High School of many resources, property value and pride as well as moral and community support, transforming it from the honorable namesake and school of choice of Albany to an abandoned social eyesore in the middle of a destitute neighborhood. Those true Indians that remained and do remain have been loyal, faithful and hopeful for their home and what it stands for: the true essence of an Indian. Such circumstance has forced us to fight for what’s ours and thus we have been conditioned by life with a fighting spirit until the day that we die.
So though we fight against the odds and the unbelievers, sadly we fight amongst ourselves at times and many wonder why. For those who don’t understand why so many angry, hurt and confused young men and women are often found fighting in the cafeteria, classrooms, corridors and courtyard of Albany High…well, it’s because WE ARE INDIANS and that’s all we know. Every day I see Indians and Squaws in desks in front of me, walking up the staircase beside me or passing me in the halls that fight through hell and high water just to make it to first period or at least second period on time! These Indians and Squaws on our roll books fight past poverty, violence, shame, pain, hopelessness, scarce support, nonexistent love and multitudes more just to make it through the doors at 801 Residence Avenue daily.
A wise woman once said, “You don’t know people until you get to know people.” With that, I admonish you, that before you cast them down and out of society, label, prejudge, stereotype, criticize, ridicule and stigmatize them, GET TO KNOW THESE INDIANS!!! You might just find that in a city that seems to hate us wherein the news media downgrades us, we are given the worst, yet expected to give our best and we do just that. They constantly berate and mock us yet expect us to keep our heads up and walk with dignity, and we agree, because once again we know “It’s not what they call us but what we answer to that counts.” WE ARE INDIANS! Some Creek, some Cherokee, some Choctaw, some Chehaw but WE ARE ALL INDIANS, nonetheless, and we must fight daily for our lives, we fight to succeed and some fight to merely stay alive.
The rapper T.I. says it well and speaks for probably a majority of my students when he says, “Before you go judging us, loving us won’t hurt. ‘Cuz if you are under twenty-five, staying alive is hard work.” My students’ lives demand so much of them, yet they have so little to give and for many of them it’s by no fault of their own. I once heard an economist say that hungry people don’t vote. In essence he was confirming Abraham Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs theory which says that unless a person’s basic physical and emotional needs are met, you can forget any higher order thinking and beneficial socialization taking place with them.
To make it even more plain: for the average person, math, science and social studies will always play second fiddle or take second priority to securing a hot meal and bath, a quiet place to think and non-threatening environment for one to rest. I must quote the rapper T.I. yet again, as he goes even further to say, “Our options are few;It’s hell in high school, when you helping with the rent, lights and the gas bill too.” I understand his words and know very well that my students must make hard choices and face difficult challenges daily. I am also aware that they do not always make the best decisions, but I am assured that “they only do what they know.” They cannot and will not do better unless they know better and they cannot and will not know better unless WE show better. I wholeheartedly concur with my Spelman Sister, the education extraordinaire, pioneer and activist, Mrs. Geraldine Hudley, who says, she believes that all children are born beautiful, brilliant and blessed. For this reason, no matter what appears on the outside, I am forced to remember what lies deep in the inside of all of my students with the potential to be touched.
Though I am a proud graduate of Westover High School, I am an even prouder servant at Albany High School. I AM AN INDIAN and wish to let all the INDIANS know that I love you. I will go to bat FOR you and I will go to war WITH you! I too have overcome outlandish odds, obstacles and obstructions and know that you can as well. I also know that with the right support system, you can get THROUGH ANYTHING and TO ANYWHERE! There is one more thing I do know, before I sign off: INDIANS, if the world around you knew you like I do, they too would know that instead of criticizing you, they should be commending you. They owe you a round of applause and outright standing ovation for the strength it takes to be who you are….INDIANS!!!!
MY LIFE IS FOR YOU!!!
Victoria Green is a local writer and more of her work can be found at www.womanofsubstanceladyofstyle.org