In the late 90’s at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School, I encountered the no-nonsense and comical nature that was Micia Mosely (the Executive Director of the Black Teacher Project now). She was the first Black teacher in my life that was honest with her students about the society that we lived in and the conditions that were created to sustain an oppressive system. I will never forget this one day in class. We were learning about the Industrial Revolution, and Ms. Mosely was leading a read-aloud in our class textbook. As I silently read along, Ms. Mosely came across a line under an image of Black slaves toiling the earth with a White overseer standing next to them. Below the image, it read, “And the slaves were happy.” Ms. Mosely immediately paused, looked at the class with a concerned look, and quipped back, “Now I need y’all to know that these slaves were not happy, and I am shocked that they would print something like this in a high school textbook.” She deeply sighed, and raised our awareness in one breath as we snickered and gasped in disdain at this clear error. We, low-income and middle-class students of color, and native San Franciscans from the south side of the city – were very clear that this was unjust. Ms. Mosely led an impromptu class discussion on the real history of slavery and the rest is herstory.
This memory was forever ingrained in my psyche. I appreciated Micia’s ability to be candid with us, and I wish I could have been as candid with her about what I was dealing with in my family life. I closed myself off from adult support and, instead, self-medicated while cutting class with best friends. Micia tried to reach out to me, but I was so overwhelmed by everything I was feeling that I shut down. Either way, I still felt and was impacted by her presence even if at a distance.
In 2014, I was a community organizer turned classroom educator who had had a horrifying first year of teaching where I suffered an identity crisis and job loss. But then at Everett Middle School, I was able to recover with parts of my identity slowly coming back to me. In this process of humility and insecurity, it was at Everett’s mid-year retreat that the universe would put a model that would be able to guide me on my new path and continued purpose in life. I had already been thinking about where to find people in my community who were an example of what I was trying to do as a queer, Black, socially-conscious teacher. As I stepped out of the elevator and walked into the Hanson Bridgett office, I saw this tall figure with silver, heart-shaped earrings, a burgundy sweater, and black pants. As they turned around, my mind grew, and my heart filled, as I approached Micia Mosely, saying, gleefully, “Ms. Mosely!” She looked at me, and stopped in her tracks. Jaw dropped. Arms open. We embraced and before a tear dropped from my bright eyes, she said, “Stop before you have me start crying.” We laughed and she asked if we could catch up.
Ever since then, we have done more than catch up. Micia has played a pivotal role in my development as a Black teacher because she returned to my life during a time when I was in the beginning stages of identifying my purpose in my new role as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, and a politicized San Francisco native who struggled with the effects of gentrification on my once beloved city. Micia was able to help me clarify my political project and translate that into tangible steps that I could take to implement it in a way that felt authentic to the skin I am in. Micia and I’s return was a return to kinship. It is hard to find queer, Black teachers who are living their life, unafraid and unapologetic. Micia has demonstrated the importance of critical pedagogy that is rooted in Black queerness, and I will forever be thankful that she was #myBlackteacher.
~Belinda Bellinger, San Francisco Unified School District