By: Tommy McConnell II, Dean at KIPP Scholar Academy
My mother died in 2013.
As the events of this week have progressed, I have been thinking about her — a lot. My mother was born in Arkansas in the height of Jim Crow. She experienced segregation first hand from water fountains to classrooms. However, when she would talk to us (I have a sister) about this era, the pain of it never stood out. What stood out were the connections she would talk about: the communities, families, and peers. The strength that flowed through those connections gave people the strength not only to survive, but to thrive.
This has been a rough week for me and probably you too. I pride myself on being an optimist, but there have been many moments this week where I haven't felt that optimistic. I have had to intentionally lean into my connections (past and present) to talk and think through my feelings, center my mind, and restore my belief that the future always improves upon the past.
We honor the inherent value of our community by staying committed to delivering educational programs that support a whole child approach to learning that not only focuses on rigorous academics, but also character development, enrichment, social-emotional learning, physical and mental health, sense of identity, and the nurturing of one's purpose so that our KIPP Scholar students can discover their gifts they are meant to share with the world.
And I connected with my Mama. I got up early on Wednesday after a night of restlessness, donned the mask I had made from African mudcloth (I got my ancestors protecting me from Corona), and drove to a farmer's market — something that my mother loved to do. I bought her favorite fruit — strawberries. When I got them home, I pulled out her canning pot and some Ball jars and spent the next three hours (while working) turning them into strawberry jam using techniques I learned under her watchful presence. It helped me realize that not only can I maintain my connection to her in times of strife, but it's that connection to our collective past and present that will get us through any difficult time, and prepare us to weather the fight that is still to come.
I put all the jam in the back of my pantry. When we can finally be all together again, I'll bake my mother's biscuits and bring the jam. Fuel for the fight.