Yesterday I had the privilege, no, the honor of performing for the students of Dorsey High School here in Los Angeles but before I talk about my amazing experience I’ve got to address the image associated with this post. This painting is on the exterior of one of the buildings as you enter from the student parking lot. I was not ready for it. I wasn’t aware that D-House (Dorsey High) possessed such a mural.
As I was entering from the parking lot I was passing this structure with the mural painted on its’ face. My feet, literally, would not move another step. I found myself not thinking about what my next move should be or where I should be headed. All I wanted to do was to stand there and stare at this exceptional work of art.
Initially, in this post, I was going to offer a rich, detailed descriptions of the mural’s multilayered, multidimensional narrative, color scheme and history; but after thinking about it I figured I would just put up its’ image for all to see and let you judge for yourselves. It is inspirational! You’ve got to agree!
Anyway, let me move on. The staff and students were all more than accommodating; in fact they made me feel right at home. This was special for me because I find myself traveling all over and presenting in schools everywhere, except my own back yard. This opportunity was special for me also because one of my closest friends attended this school a few decades ago. That friend died two years ago. In some ways it felt like a homecoming for him that I was able to complete.
My host was Dr. Butler, definitely one of the most passionate, culturally aware intellectuals I have ever met. Dr. Butler set the tone for my day by making feel welcomed and affirming my work as a griot.
I did two gatherings. I don’t usually call them assemblies. I was proud of the fact that each gathering had its’ own personality but that fact that we had full participation during the open discussion portions of the gathering warmed my heart.
I can’t speak for the entire school but every single teacher I encountered seemed to realize they were there at this school as a form of service and life’s purpose. For the teachers that I met, it didn’t appear to be “only” a “job.” I can’t tell you how often I’ve run across teachers who are biding their time until retirement or simply earning an income until they can shift careers. The staff and teachers have my respect, for what its’ worth.
I changed my typical performance and chose to do stories and music that relied a lot more on the participation of those gathered. I was not disappointed. For one of the first times that I can remember, the young men, in the second session actually stepped up to the challenge of responding to their place in the tale. As an African-American Man, I had tears of joy, relief and promise welling up in me but, well, you know, I still got issues so I wasn’t about to let nobody see my crying up there.
I think the thing I’m going to remember most about this experience were the smiles. In every direction I looked, with every eye I came into contact with during our gathering, I was offered smiles. Yeah I got ragged on a couple of times but I’m old school and was doing that when it was still called “The Dozens,” so you know the few unfortunate souls who tried to step that way didn’t stand a chance. I love it when that happens, it offers me a chance to offer up a little of myself or, what I like to call “teaching moments.”
I’m gonna close this out here because I can talk about the joy of this experience for days. I don’t want my sisters at Kennedy High School to think I forgot about them. I know you’re the reason why I had the opportunity to sit with the D-House Students.
Dooni, dooni kononi bé nyaga da