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Dear Decaturish – My daughter deserves better

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Dear Decaturish – My daughter deserves better

Zara Jenkins. Image provided to Decaturish

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Dear Decaturish,

Want to hear something interesting? My daughter is not an athlete. She doesn’t want to be Beyoncè when she grows up. She’s a writer.

My daughter published her first book in 6th grade. Published. The only middle school teacher who truly supported and encouraged her writing was a Black man. My daughter published her second title, a novella (69 pages and roughly 11,000 words) at age 13. During the 2020 pandemic. Her work is in the Library of Congress. She isn’t an aspiring author. She is already an author. With an actual portfolio.

We told two ELA instructors about her passion for writing. And how she wrote the first short novella at age 10. The dynamic changed and I noticed a lack of engagement from certain teachers. It was very much different than the enthusiasm from that Black teacher. I stopped telling her teachers altogether. My daughter is introverted, so she already says nothing of her books to her teachers. Sad, no? Keeping this little fact to ourselves made the journey a bit smoother. Perhaps that Black teacher didn’t have to have books of his own to celebrate a Black child author?

There was one lone teacher from Decatur High School (DHS) who we engaged because of the lack of support at the middle school. She helped advise on structure and style in this second title. I will be glad to credit this DHS teacher when there’s a proper forum…like a school board meeting where they don’t lock down comments and when they do sound checks to ensure that all public commenters can be heard.

We’re so busy talking about kids who record racist videos. We’re so busy asking them not to punish Black kids more than white kids. We’re so busy in the Black community clawing our way through and out of conflicts that we rarely get a moment to pause and really celebrate. Or focus on how absolutely brilliant our youth are.

I don’t believe in participation medals and clapping for mediocrity. What’s bananas is our kids are so dope, you actually don’t have to resort to that. And as the primary modeler, champion, advocate, teacher, disciplinarian, and coach in my household, I guarantee you that my child is dope, too.

Please produce for me a list of children who have published books in the city of Decatur. The ones who might hold space at the Decatur Book Festival. The ones these people will surely take credit for when it’s convenient. Let’s celebrate them right now. I’ve been here since Spring 2017, and just about every board meeting, every email, every CSD admin meeting, every phone call…was about “resolving” something. If my daughter is the only one on the local child author list, start by nurturing this kind of talent now. And grow the list of authors for next year. I’m glad to donate a copy for each of the book borrowing stations. But we need to level up because our kids, my Black daughter deserves better.

I am in a Black sorority, and still enjoy the support of my sorors from Georgia Tech, all of whom are phenomenal women and fantastic at what they do. Industries & affiliations from pharmaceuticals to management consulting to philanthropy. One of my Black chapter sorors and fellow alumna from Georgia Tech was here in 2016. Her kids attended FAVE. I wondered why my brilliant soror and her Black family would leave here and go to Cobb County, where another one of my Black female classmates is a commissioner.

Every time we all catch up over a virtual happy hour, I tell my sorors about the current affairs in Decatur.

They would never live here.

If from 2017 to 2020, you’ve only heard of me but not my daughter, that means there was a failure to shift the conversation from Black advocacy to Black excellence.

You have a Black author in Decatur, friends and neighbors. If you are eager to support Black restaurants and Black businesses, let’s definitely start with these kids: https://amazon.com/author/zarajenkins

– Dr. Tiffany Tesfamichael, Decatur parent

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