Cheryl A. Canino
Letter to My Future Students on the Precipice of Creating an Alternate Universe1
I ask you to consider the stories you have been told about the African American or Other (character). Do you ever think about why the character is depicted in this manner? Do you think the author contemplates his or her storytelling? Is the storyteller able to present a story objectively? Have you ever felt the impact of a point of view? When the impact was negative, was it due to the story told or an erroneously depiction of what you have identified as characteristics of you? In the development of this curriculum, my aim is not to create a series of history or science lessons for you. Instead, I just want to share with you, as others have shared with me--the power of words. My sharing is in the spirit of Sankofa, for there is great wisdom to be gained by looking back as one goes forward. It is my belief that by knowing one’s past, one can forge a stronger future. I wish to alert you to the danger of the single story.2
I recognize that you are just starting out on your independent literary journey and there are many things that you have yet to explore and perhaps may not have even speculated about. On that note, I’d like to think that this journey is an excursion where you will think and question the foundations of those things you may consider “givens.” I want you to learn, appreciate and recognize what makes you you and be on the lookout for those depictions that devalue you.
As a teacher, I watch and interact with you. I know that you can be destroyed by internalizing detrimental messages. I appreciate your potential power as you take possession of a derogatory concept3 and transform it into a “friendly salutation” but I wonder about the wisdom of the decision. I’d like to discuss how you freed yourself from the power of a derogatory reference, if you acknowledge that there are limitations to who can salute you in this manner and who cannot. Would you make the same choices if you knew the stories that I have come to know?
So, let us read, write and explore together. Let us travel back and forth in time examining old and new stories and the ways they are told. Your teacher and fellow learner