A Brief But Spectacular take on protecting ‘Black genius’

Will Jackson founded Village of Wisdom, a nonprofit seeking to empower Black students and families in Durham, North Carolina. It advocates for more nurturing learning environments in their community. He says the knowledge Black students bring into classrooms is often unrecognized and even punished in some schools. He offers his Brief But Spectacular take on protecting what he calls "Black genius."

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Will Jackson founded Village of Wisdom. It is a nonprofit that seeks to empower Black students and families in Durham, North Carolina, advocating for more nurturing learning environments in their community.

    He says the knowledge Black students and their families bring into classrooms is often unrecognized and even punished in some schools.

    Tonight, Jackson offers his Brief But Spectacular take on protecting what he calls Black genius.

    Will Jackson, Founder, Village of Wisdom: Learning is the action of connecting prior knowledge to new information.

    But what people seem to be missing is that prior knowledge is so much shaped by who we are and the culture that we have grown up in. And so then you ask all of these students to come into school environments where you don't respect their culture, where you ostracize their culture, where you tell them that their hair is unacceptable, where you tell them that their clothes is unacceptable, where you tell them how they speak is unacceptable.

    To me, it was very clear that, cognitively, we were creating an inequity for Black children. And so the more I thought about like, man, we're asking Black children to figure out how to navigate discrimination and learn at the same time, that's the racial inequity that I'm talking about.

    So the question becomes, what can we do, what should we do, and what do Black parents and their children deserve in our classrooms in terms of providing environments where they can actually learn, where they can do this thing that public education is designed to do, which is advance their intellectual curiosity?

    The Black genius framework is steeped in the ideas of racial identity development and also what a lot of folks refer to as being culturally responsive, things that stand out that oftentimes Black children aren't given access to because of the dehumanization that we see, that brings all of those things to the front.

    And it forces parents, students, and teachers to have conversations about that Child's individual beliefs and ideas around those things. How can we support Black parents to really do more of delivering positive racial messages to their children, that you're Black and beautiful, that you're Black and smart, that you are a Black genius?

    Because we know that will fill that child's cup up, because we know, when we send them into school, people are going to steadily be taking stuff out of that cup, steadily, with a straw, trying to suck up the Black pride out of that child.

    And so if you know you're sending a child into that environment, and you know we're asking Black parents to do that really complicated thing, then the question is, is, when do they actually get a space to be loved on?

    Black parents care for and actually strategize for that very difficult conversation that a large swathe of this country just doesn't have to worry about.

    My name is William Jackson, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on protecting Black genius.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Such a great message. Thank you.

    And you can watch all our Brief But Spectacular episodes at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.

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