29 July 2020

True graduations

‘Public School Solidarity’ is a march scheduled for August 30, 2020 from Cynwyd Station Park to Tustin Playground. That's in Philadelphia, USA. A poster announcing the march describes what it is about as follows: ‘Lower Merion students stand with fellow students at Overbrook High School to address racial injustice in public school funding.’

The poster was designed by a 19 year old student at Leeds University on behalf of her 17 year old sister. Their mother writes about her daughters with pride. 

‘[My youngest daughter] and her friends have been tirelessly in the streets since June 1st marching, learning, advocating, agitating. Now they’ve put together their own march uniting wealthy suburban Lower Merion, where they go to school, with under-funded Overbrook in Philly across from City Line two blocks from where we live.’

What caught my attention was the following: ‘These kids aren’t the Class of 2020, and yet I feel that all young people are graduating this year from a before into an after.’

We all graduate from one thing to another. From childhood to youth to adulthood, ignorance to knowledge, darkness to light, OL to AL, school to university, student to professional. Of course we under-graduate at times and then there are situations when we regress. However, ‘graduation’ is usually associated with educational achievement or the completion of a particular course of study.

The graduation associated with young people in Philadelphia referred to above is different. It’s about the basics. They’ve said ‘no’ to what they object to. They’ve said ‘yes’ to a different world which they would prefer to inhabit.

They’ve held up signs, they’ve marched, they’ve been teargassed, they’ve refused to go away. They’ve fought on the streets and embankments, they’ve faced fully armed police officers who were ready to use force and indeed used the force at their disposal flouting all regulations and laws.

Even as they stood up to be counted among the millions standing up against racism and police brutality in the USA they were also vocal on social media. They were emotional at times, but have shown they can be stone cold sober too.

And they’ve not waited for City Hall, School Board, Congress, Senate or the White House to do what they ought to have done decades ago and are still dragging their feet to do or are resolutely obstructing. They, these young people, are going ahead regardless. They are transforming their communities by transforming their own lives. They are adding meaning to solidarity by becoming more meaningful in their engagement. They are moving from a ‘before’ that they are not comfortable with to an ‘after’ that’s at least a place on a road that leads to a somewhere they want to be. They are graduating.

There are times when you have to shout. There are situations when you cannot afford to stop shouting. However, more often than not, whether or not you shout, there are must-do things or at least can-do things that you can’t afford to shelve. You just don’t graduate if you procrastinate. And societies remain the way they were and you are forced to inhabit an unfair, ungainly and violent world in which your vulnerabilities can only get worse. 

They’ve graduated, these young people. The earth beneath their feet must have become tender with approval and the air more fragrant too with the collective breath of resoluteness. Somehow the world too must have secured some serious credit that will take it closer to true graduation.

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']   
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten 
 Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing
Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ already a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Angeles
A dusk song for Rasika Jayakody
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?
Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer