Saturday, December 15, 2012

A TRIBUTE TO TUPAC SHAKUR-THE GENIUS WITHIN

Several years ago, I discovered an original copy of Tupac Shakur’s book ‘The Rose that Grew From Concrete’ in one of my daughters' personal library. I was amazed when I saw the name of the author and awestruck  when I began reading the poetry and seeing the  illustrations. This book was published post-humously. The book is very unique in that it has pictures of the author's hand written version of the poem, some with drawings, juxtaposed with the typed version. It is a collection of some of the most sensitive and thought-provoking poems ever written (at least in my opinion), especially given that Shakur was just a teen when he wrote this collection. A young black teen growing up in urban America, trying to make sense of the world around him.

Recently, I’ve seen a revival of  his work and a number of tributes in different forms  and in particular, heard mention in different venues of the title poem ‘The Rose that Grew From Concrete’. On nationwide television you can hear a narrator sharing this poem as part of a marketing campaign.  Interesting...

Let me make one thing clear. I do not condone violence of any kind. Nor do I condone the popular media’s tendency to perpetuate negativity in their portrayal of the lives and experiences of African American males. This young man had a tumultuous life, no doubt. This tribute is an effort to focus attention to the ‘genius within’ - the young person who was overshadowed during his life. It’s an effort to help more parents, educators and other advocates to look more closely at young people everywhere and work harder to discover and develop their gifts.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete
Autobiographical

Did u hear about a rose that grew from a crack
in the concrete
Proving nature’s laws wrong it learned 2 walk
without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
it learned to breathe fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
When no one even cared!
-Tupac Shakur, 1999

Like Tupac, so many very gifted, very thoughtful, very sensitive young people are seated in classrooms everywhere with little thought by the adults around them of how bright they really are.  As a matter of fact, the popular media perpetuated the myth around Tupac life’s that he was a ‘gangsta rapper’ and little else. Until now. People who have ‘discovered’ this book are now beginning to take a closer look at the life and mind of Tupac Shakur- the genius within. The problem is that he is no longer with us.  

However, I believe that Tupac wrote his poetry so that his legacy could live on and this very inspirational title poem is the one that provokes us to understand that even through the dark, tough, seemingly insurmountable odds against them…a rose with beautiful petals, heavenly fragrance, and great dreams can grow.  Even without ‘feet’…Tupac suggests that the rose can also walk..carrying its aura with it wherever it goes. As you read through this uniquely insightful book, you will also discover the heart of a young man who envisioned a better world, but who understood more than anyone his age should..that there were numerous inequities facing his people.

We make far too many assumptions about young people based on historical biases, popular media, stereotyping, and all of the negativity surrounding so many of our communities and in our assumptions we become caught up. Caught up and every now and then—someone or something ‘amazes’ us with their insight, their ideas, their imaginations. Like Tupac, I believe there are more ‘roses’ with the capability of growing but need a fertile soil in the form of a helping hand, an advocate, someone who looks more closely, listens and does something to help these young people live out their dreams.

In my undergrad diversity education class, one of the assignments is for my students to write a book review from a list of books with multicultural themes. This book has been on my class list since the Spring of 2010. Each semester at least 1-2 students select it and write a review. This is an excerpt of a review written by one student (a preservice teacher):

TuPac was not only a gangsta rapper he was also a sensitive soul.  In the collection of poems …he references the idea that he is making it through a life that has all odds against him.  In his first poem The Rose That Grew From Concrete, he is comparing himself to the rose.  Typically it would be impossible for a rose to grow where there is no good soil to help it along the way, but that rose grew even still.  It (meaning the book) gave me insight into another side of the youth that I will face in my classroom.  All students are to be nurtured and encouraged to express themselves.  ..Children go through some of the same struggles today that TuPac had to deal with when he was young.  It is crucial for us as teacher not to stereotype our children based on the color of their skin, how they dress, or their economic status.  Children like TuPac are probably passed over or ignored all the time because they come with a little baggage, and the sad part about it is that they could be just as brilliant... 


As we end this year and begin anew in 2013, I encourage each of you to look closer wherever children may be found and consider that among the group there may well be an insightful genius with great potential, who like the rose,  is seeking a way to 'break through' the concrete to share their beautiful mind with the world.

References-

Shakur, T. A. (1999) The Rose that Grew from Concrete. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. 

ATTENTION: WRITERS ARE NEEDED. IF YOU HAVE A STORY, IDEA OR A SUCCESSFUL PROGRAM THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE HERE THAT IS RELEVANT TO INCREASING EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE IN OUR NATION’S SCHOOLS, PLEASE CONTACT ME! 

PLEASE TAKE THE OPPORTUNITY ALSO TO SHARE THIS BLOG WITH OTHERS AND DO YOUR PART TO ADVOCATE FOR IMPROVED SERVICES FOR ALL GIFTED STUDENTS!!

TOGETHER WE CAN DO THIS!!


HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL!!


7 comments:

  1. I'm posting this comment on behalf of my friend and colleague, Dr. Margarita M. Bianco:

    Hi Joy,
    I mention the work of my colleague and friend, Jeff Duncan-Andrade - and his work at San Francisco State and also Oakland school district. Jeff is a brilliant writer, scholar and advocate for students - and uses much of Tupac's music & poetry in his work. I think you'll like this piece. Also, he uses the "growing roses in concrete" in his new project - check it out http://rosesinconcrete.org

    He is a true "warrior" and advocate for students of color - especially those who live in poverty. His work is worth a read :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Margarita-- Jeff's program 'Roses In Concrete' is just the kind of model that should be replicated nationwide!!

      Yours in the struggle,
      Joy

      Delete
  2. Joy,
    Thanks for posting this link to Jeff's project. For anyone interested in reading some of his work, here is the citation to the piece I mentioned.
    Duncan-Andrade, J. M. R. (2009). Note to educators: Hope required when growing roses in concrete. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2), 181-194.

    Also his book, The Art of Critical Pedagogy: Possibilities for Moving from Theory to Practice in Urban Schools, is excellent and inspired much of my Pathways2Teaching work.
    http://www.amazon.com/Art-Critical-Pedagogy-Possibilities-Practice/dp/0820474150

    ReplyDelete
  3. Many thanks,Margarita!

    I've also posted this info on Facebook! Excellent resources!!

    All the best,
    Joy

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Joy,
    I finally realized that I can use my Google ID to comment on your blog!
    Excellent article about Tupac. I used to wonder about him just as I do Nas and so many others. Perspective. Perspective. Perspective.
    I was talking about the very same things at a "block" club association meeting. And, later at an arts organization. And, Friday at a poetry event. We must sift their gifts before they drift!
    Peace,
    Karen E. Dabney
    P.S. Will be sending guide soon!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Excellent content about Tupac. I used to wonder about him just as I do Nas and so many others I think you'll like this item. Also, he uses the "growing flowers in concrete" in his new venture

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