How excited am I to be inheriting the work of A Black Education Network from the incomparable Debra Watkins? Indescribably so! I lovingly refer to her as Mom-Debra because she means so much to me as a wise, connected Jegna and ABEN’s Founder. Don’t worry. Debra remains extremely engaged as our Founder Emerita and Director of Strategic Partnerships.
Sawubona is a Zulu greeting that roughly means: We see you, we value you, and we exist for you. I learned about it from our friends at the Community Healing Network last year. It’s about accepting people as they are with their virtues, nuances, and flaws. It’s about being genuinely present with people, deeply listening to their lived experiences, and positioning yourself for service. Sanibonani is its plural form and greets MANY rather than one. We welcome an answer to the question: How do I have to be in order for you to be free?
Parents: I feel you. I am the mommy of five children. Breathe. I get concerned eyebrows and deep gasps every time I share that! Though I am also an educator and well-connected to school district leadership, I struggle big time homeschooling my babies while working from home and sheltering in place. Like you perhaps, I cannot imagine what sending my babies back to a school building might look this coming school year.
Educators: I get you. You are being tasked with confusing and overwhelming expectations for academic progress and assessment this Spring with no certain guideposts for Summer and Fall--all while trying to take care of your students’ and your own social-emotional and basic needs. And some of you are homeschooling your own babies (and hopefully faring better than me) and while preparing 3 meals per day. As a certified teacher from 1999 to 2007, I can admit I would be failing to be as heroic as I know you are being right now.
We will thrive. The African proverb, “When the house burns down, the new one we build will be more beautiful,” means more now than ever as we experience this COVID-19 global pandemic. My hope is that our May Newsletter spotlights some of the ways ABEN is bringing both hope and resources in all the ways we can.
Thank YOU for all we know you’re doing, too. Now you may respond to my greeting, Yebo sawubona meaning: Yes, we see you, too.
Be well and safe,
By Shelley Henderson, Executive Director of A Black Education Network, mommy, and social impact leader equipping countless adults to address racial inequity and advance social justice throughout her professional journey