Valencia D. Clay, 32, Teacher
We don’t really give credit to the teachers of the world.
Marva Collins is my favorite; she was an educator in Chicago. She started her own school on the second floor of her house. She and her husband, basically, made it into one big classroom built from scratch.
They wanted her to be the Secretary of Education in the White House and she said no, she just wants to teach. And she took in the kids from the neighborhood in Chicago. She really went the extra mile. When I saw her movie, it was the first time that I felt like I saw myself. I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I do all of that.” And I didn’t even know who she was.
I hate when people say, “We have to build resilient children.” Our children should not have to be resilient. They should just be able to strive and live and grow and have a good time. And, yes, they’re going to cry and go through things that shake them and impact them, but they shouldn’t be forced to have to adapt to trauma that they did not ask for.
Everything about Black women and Black girls is different and special. That’s why we see the entire world copying everything we do, from the way we dress to the way we wear our hair to the way we trail blaze in almost every facet. From fashion to how outspoken we are. We give people permission to be who they are, unapologetically. And the thing is, we are often apologizing about who we are. We get beat up in so many different ways. By media, by our own men, by our own women, it could be our “own people,” but at the end of the day, we’re still doing what we’re doing.
I’m thinking about women in the community. I’m speaking about women in general, women in every community who give us our life lessons. Who even if they are not necessarily people that are in our immediate family, we see them and we’re learning from them. Those are the stories that are untold and a lot of us wouldn’t be where we are if it wasn’t for those kinds of women. Like in my neighborhood, the girl who delivers mail or even the lady around the corner who makes everybody coffee.
The women helping to raise other people’s children. I think about the grandmothers. There are so many grandmothers who raise people’s children or their grandchildren and you don’t hear about them.
I think about all the students or all the little girls who, in a nice way, told me about myself and ask me a question that made me reflect on what I’m doing as their role model. They continue to keep me on my toes so that I can be my best self for them. I think about women in college who have children at the same time. Like how hard is it to be a mom and work full time. There are so many people in history that we just don’t know about who paved the way for all of the women that I just mentioned.
It is Marva Collins’ ability to withstand the physical and mental burden that comes with teaching in an environment in which the kids are lacking hope or lacking direction. Her ability to really carry that weight with grace ...she was so fly. To be able to say, “No, I’m not going to the White House; this is where I need to be.” It’s a reminder that everyone is doing the work. We’ll keep doing it because we really are making a difference and I know I’m not alone.
Valencia’s Revolutionary Picks:
“Marva Collins is my favorite; she was an educator in Chicago. She started her own school on the second floor of her house. She and her husband, basically, made it into one big classroom built from scratch.
They wanted her to be the Secretary of Education in the White House and she said no, she just wants to teach. And she took in the kids from the neighborhood in Chicago. She really went the extra mile.”