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Board of Ancestors | Reflections on W.E.B DuBois and the “Spiritual Strivings” of Black Folk

Anyone of substance in my life, that is anyone I care to share my deepest philosophies with know my deep admiration for the thoughts and woks of WEB DuBois. Du Bois’s Soul of Black Folks is an attempt to coalesce multiple disciplines into a series of essays. Soul of Black Folks is part historical text, part sociological analysis, part psychology journal, and part autobiography. It’s that approach, the pedagogical intent that I’ve found an ancestral father. I myself am part historian, part social scientist, part story-teller turned data maven. DuBois, born three years after the Civil War, America’s first Data visualizer, and a visionary of Black future, articulates his reality as a freed black man. He sees African American life in the U.S to be one of two sets of experiences, one in which “freed” blacks live in ignorance to find pleasure in. The only alternative, in Du Bois’s opinion is for Blacks to seek out a liberal arts education that enriches the mind and allows them to see “the veil” and escape it.

Spiritual Striving and Coexistence

As I understand it, the spiritual strivings of the black American is to be seen as equals with white Americans. It’s the idea not that Blacks must “white wash themselves” or live under the foot of whites to be seen as non-threating, but that in being authentic in their blackness they are able to pursue the liberty that all white Americans are allowed to pursue. Du Bois understands that even if every black American were to see the veil (the veil representing everything from segregation, systematic oppression, and state sponsored murder) for what it is that wouldn’t change anything but that in order to change the country Black Americans and White Americans must be allowed to coexist in all domains, particularly in the domain of educating youth.

Du Bois’s educational strivings are founded in the principles of desegregation, non-violence, and emphasize a liberal arts education. My critiques of Du Bois, is the contradiction I see between advocating for universal education but believing in the a “talented tenth”, a class of Negro who would lead and “save” the race. The concept of hierarchy among people who are seemingly equal is rooted in the same philosophy that justified his ancestors enslavement.

To be fair, similar to today, Black people are given few opportunities to “get it right” and thus we continue to see this model of promoting those with the “highest chance of succeeding” rather than questioning the mechanism of success, questioning the nature of how we define success in educating youth.

Last Thought

Later in life Du Bois adjusted his thinking, articulating a more democratic structure where all are capable of contributing to the betterment of black lives and society. I myself have benefited from his adjustments and stand on the shoulders of his efforts in striving for education equity and black liberation.

My spiritual strivings, man, they’re seen in my works in EdTech, leading the adopting of culturally responsive leadership in an Agile framework; the framework most common in shaping the implementation of technology meant to promote equity. My spiritual strivings live in my facilitation work. I’m blessed to have worked in justice works and missions work since I was 14. So holding space for the spirit snd mind, for adults and youth, that’s my jam. I believe that learning is love, and love is learning. So in a sense I hold space for people, in tech, education, and life to be brave and trust that in their struggle their are evidence of knowledge and not deficits. Liberation work in the 21st century is the same as liberation work post Civil War, at the turn of the 20th century. It’s highest spiritual strivings come from a shared covenant, between learner and knowledge, and the actions I (facilitators) take in lifting the veil between purposeful works and joy.

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