- Orange County School District
February 2021 OCS Equity Warrior
Xavier Adams holds a BA in Religion with a minor in Spanish, and he has earned an MTS and an MAT from Duke University.
Here, in Orange County, he is a first year teacher at Orange High School, not only teaching social studies and history courses, but also the school’s first African American Studies course, which came to be all because of student demand.
Teaching is his calling. He wants to be “involved in the daily rhythm of students’ lives.” And the best way to do that is to be in the classroom.
The new course he teaches encomapsses a broad approach to the subject of African American studies. He said it is a mix of history within the United States, combined with an approach to understanding the world and the way it is today. Together, and throughout the course, students will explore critical racial theory, Black literature, music--especially Negro Spirituals--, poetry, and so much more.
“It is a dance between the past and the present,” he said. “Today’s problems are not new.”
The class consists of 33 high school students in grades 10-12.
“I am in awe of the students and how they advocated for this class for themselves,” said Xavier, who insists on going by his first name. Going by his first name, and proudly wearing a large 10-inch Afro that is his natural hair, he said, encourages a sense of trust and relaxation.
“It goes a long way and gives students a new perspective on what a professional can look like.”
“I want to show them that they share experiences and fears the same as me,” he added. “And I want them to be free to be themselves as students.”
With February being Black History Month, and being recognized as an OCS Equity Warrior, Xavier said that he views the honor in a multitude of ways.
A similar course was taught at Orange High back around in 2011, said Xavier.
He added, “It is a shame that it took until 2021--that there was a 10-year period where this course was not taught … Being hopeful (is a common feeling among the students). When students come to class, they offer hope … because we are willing to be honest about the facts, the world and about history. I see the potential, and I am encouraged.
“We are hopeful because this is not an isolated effort.”
Xavier said he hopes the addition of this course will blossom throughout this school system.
NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green and the #BHM Block Party
Xavier arranged for his classmates and other OCS staff to engage with North Carolina Poet Laureate, Jaki Shelton Green, recently in honor of Black History Month and the unit on the art of poetry, which the class is working in right now.
Just one hour seemed way too short for the inspiring words from Ms. Green. But the impact of that one hour is likely immeasurable for all who attended.
The hour began with four students’ recitation of their own thought-provoking and profound poetic works:
Zarria Morgan - An untitled work
Shyrell Maitra - “We are not a threat”
Lydia Runyambo - “The Nightmare that is My Reality”
Savannah Clay - “Black Is”
Chase Tinnin - Introduction of Jaki Shelton Green
Ms. Green told each student that their poetry is “amazing and powerful.”
“I am honored that you speak the power of your truths,” said Green. “Truth Telling is dangerous, and I thank you for creating a space where danger is beautiful.”
Green explored with the group, topics such as the differences in approaching an essay and a poem, her personal creative process of journaling in diaries, how documentary poetry requires research, how her service as the first African American and only the third female Poet Laureate of North Carolina is a great service; and how when her service is over (two years), she will disappear to write!
Ms. Green shared that she writes “to connect the humanities--not the genre of humanities--but OUR humanity.” And she said she uses her voice because she “requires herself to tell the truth and she requires herself to speak,” because her ancestors’ and other enslaved peoples’ only weapon was also their voice.
A native of Efland, Ms. Green talked about her “Grandmother’s Grandmother,” and shared the significance of their experiences with the group; and how being literate almost cost her “Grandmother’s Grandmother” her life; how she was banished and sold simply because she could read.
As the hour waned away, students were posting questions in the chat so fast, there would be no way to answer them all. One student asked Ms. Green if she plans to share ALL of her poetry.
Ms. Green explained that her diaries are like bank accounts. She said she makes deposits and withdrawals -- three words here and there, a 4 a.m. capture, pieces on the notes app on her phone. “These are all deposits, she said.”
“... But I will not bankrupt my art,” she added with a wink.