Saturday, December 15, 2012
Several years ago as I discovered an original copy of Tupac Shakur’s ‘A Rose that Grew From Concrete’ in my daughter’s library. I was amazed when I saw the name of the author and awestruck when I began reading. The poetry and illustrations are creative, insightful and so thought-provoking. This book was published post-humously. It is a collection of some of the most sensitive and profound poetry ever written (at least in my opinion), and it was written while Tupac was just a teen, a young man, trying to make sense of the world around him. The book definitely demonstrates that Shakur was a very gifted writer, thinker, and humanist.
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 ‘A 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 on 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 the young people around you and work hard to discover and develop their gifts.
The Rose that Grew from Concrete
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 our classrooms everywhere. Unfortunately, many adults in their environments ever give any though to 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 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 of a book selected from a list of books with multicultural themes. This book has been on my class list since the Spring of 2010. Each semester 1-2 students select it from the list, read it, and write a review. This is an excerpt from one student’s review:
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 .
I encourage each of us as we end this year and begin anew in 2013, to look closer and consider among the children and youth in our environments..how many ‘roses’ there truly are that are simply craving a way to ‘break through’ the concrete and share their ‘beautiful minds’ with the world.
Shakur, T. A. (1999) The Rose that Grew from Concrete. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
ATTENTION: 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!!