Hotep (ḥtp) is an Egyptian word that roughly translates as “to be at peace with”.
Anyone who has followed my writing journeys has probably heard that the elementary school I attended started out as a school planted by a couple sent out from Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, where he educated and equipped newly freed slaves to go out and start schools to educate the young people of the upcoming generation. By the time I arrived there in the late 1970’s, it had been long dissected into two schools (an elementary and a high school, the latter of which is closed) and absorbed into the public school system in 1950.
However, it still bears the name of the benefactor who funded the school back in 1895. It was a crown jewel of the south, being located in the first black incorporated municipality in the United States, and boasted visits from the likes of scientist George Washington Carver, Washington himself, and other accomplished black Americans. It was a place where historical pride in its origins was built into the curriculum we were taught.
Like most institutions of black excellence, it began to flounder as the civil rights movement kicked into high gear. By the time I was in 4th grade and tested with an IQ of 130, it was determined that the only way I would be able to live up to my potential was to be immersed in the gifted program at a neighboring school in a white suburb to the east of the town in which I lived and went to school.
Once a week, a bus came to my school, picked me up, and bused me over to the gifted program. It didn’t turn out as well as my teachers hoped. I got on fine with the other children but quite frankly, after being used to and being known as the brightest bulb in the box, I felt dumb in comparison to the other children in the class I was attending. I suspect if the combination of insecurity and new surroundings had been kept in check, I might have done better. I didn’t fail, but I was remarkably average in that particular class. It was in fact, my first experience with seeing a ‘C’ on my papers.
In retrospect, I am profoundly grateful for the chance to learn early on that being “smart” is relative, regardless of test scores, and when our daughter was presented with the opportunity to be put in the gifted track (she wouldn’t have had to switch schools), we respected her decision to skip it. It worked out in her favor because she finished college -with honors from a “good” school- a full two years before her same age peers. And debt free.
I am digressing again. Educational hucksterism is a post for another day.
I have recently been getting acquainted with the ideas being floated by the movement known as the “Hotep Nation”. That is the catalyst for this post, which will simply have to be offered in pieces so that I can offer my thoughts in a coherent way without rushing and saying something I don’t intend to say.Do me the favor of not putting words in my mouth. This is controversial enough without false accusations and alternative facts.
There are things within movement that I ardently agree with, and others with which I vehemently disagree. One thing occurred to me however, as I considered where I came from, the rich history I was born into, and the school I attended as a child: How is it that a place birthed from the indisputably brilliant mind of the great Booker T. Washington, a place of renown academic and industrial excellence, somehow become a place where it was no longer possible for me to fulfill my potential as a young girl?
Schools in majority black communities have only grown worse since the 1970’s. I am contemplating what this means in an era where these schools are the best funded and most aggressively reformed schools in most places. At least, that is certainly the case here in Florida.
More some time next week.
Post partially inspired by Scott’s thoughts.