A piece of poetry performed at the Geographical Association Annual Conference 2023 TeachMeet titled ‘#NothingAboutUsWithoutUs (The Power of Geography Voice)’.
The full TeachMeet recording with a range of teaching ideas and thoughts for the Geography teacher can be found on YouTube here. With thanks to the Geographical Association (https://www.geography.org.uk) and the media team at Sheffield Hallam University.
The lyrics are below, and some parts are linked so you can explore the context. Words and phrases that are marked with an asterisk (*) refer to parts that I constructed on the back of sessions and talks at the conference that I attended, or ideas from the #geographyteacher community on Twitter. Clicking on those will take you to some information relating to those sessions or tweets!
CW: A slur is used in the performance regarding my transgender identity. I chose to include this word for empowered impact.
#NothingAboutUsWithoutUs: The Power of Geography Voice
Tune that dial precisely at the frequency you want it
Everything else is noise…
The Earth isn’t round, its not a sphere, you have your corner of it
It must be a cube!
And there, the voices echo (echo) in your chamber of fear
Fear? Fear!? I ain’t scared of anything snowflake, I just ain’t woke!
(I blame the teachers)
Perhaps some folk are just ‘prisoners of geography’?
Doomed to have their eyes shut, to forever be asleep
In a dark valley where no sun can penetrate
Forever bound by the phobia that is the fad of the time
The talk of the landlocked town with a broken cultural infrastructure
The hot, dense air muffles all but the loudest group-think chorus
Helped onto pedestals screaming “We’re being cancelled!”
You’re being erased… by THEM!
The finger points… to the person of colour, to the migrant, to the infirm, to the tranny
(Who is actually a cis person, but you can always tell, right!?)
And you can always tell whose ‘African’ right?
“Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book” writes Wainaina
“In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country” he continues
“Hot, dusty with rolling grasslands and huge animals, and tall, thin people who are starving”
This is Africa’s voice?
One monochrome projection, not 54 colonial constructs and definitely not
1.2 billion souls, hopes and dreams across six major climate zones
1.2 billion stories attest that only one is dangerous
Adichie admits and appreciates her middle class privilege on one hand, palm open
And dismisses the trans voice of colour by waving the other
Single stories are stale, the regurgitation of knowledge passed down from power and privilege
Colourless, lifeless, static
But stories of old, time immemorial derived from the land
Collaborative stories of parable, morals, of legend persist
Help us grow
If we listen
The voices can be old, wise
Tales of colonialism and disruption told by the stewards of pre-colonial Cameroon*
To guides of nurturing the land for mutual productivity from the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains
Indigenous voice is one of self-determination*
“Always was, always will be” Aboriginal land
Tens of thousands of years a land of stability until the empire brought Euro-centric entropy for the ‘good of humanity’
This imbalance needs a new set of scales to measure
Not the ones calibrated by white-saviour complex, adjusted using the standard of Western sustainability
“No”, ‘they’ say…
This environmentalism of the ‘wild’ which dismisses our home
Check your privilege
What is our privilege as geography educators?
We can enable
Classrooms containing a youth that his heard, not cattle (a herd)*
Valued and treasured in a safe environment we can create*
They are a key part of this world going forward
To be linked back and reconnected to the community and synergy of time gone by
The stories of old and their stories anew can be enable, told in an authentic way*
As geographers, we see value in all experiences
Today’s world puts so much behind those young eyes
Their experiences, platforming them, makes for a truly powerful curriculum*
Because we are at a crossroads*
Young people and their futures, their existence, has only seen shades of red in the climate stripes of their lives
The voice of the marginalised is drowning in a rising sea of deepening red
Geographers, we can lighten the shade, use our privilege and responsibility of ensuring others are heard*
Writing that is authentic*
And yes, woke
Ask ourselves, whose voice are we sharing?
Would they be happy with your version of the voice you gave them?*
Or are they overruled, overspoken, or fear being ignored completely?*
I/you/we can tell our story and be heard*
Our principles can be projected proudly, equipping our charges with mini-whiteboards*
But ensure their pallets are cleansed of bias
Because not everyone has the lived experience of hiding in hedgerows*
Check your blind spots
Discover their stories
Move over Cheryl Cole, here comes Rami!
Listen beyond the white noise, invite the elephant in the room to the stage who will tell a tale beyond England’s green and pleasant lands*
Beyond the trees of Epping Forest
That elephant, a different kind of Beast from the East!
Geographical intelligence is not artificial, so lets not treat our children as bots*
Their voice should be human generated, sustainable, resilient
Think about how you think*
Appreciate how they think
Assess yourself with the aim of collaborative metacognition
And think about oracy*
Speak like a geographer
Listen like a geographer*
Embrace like a geographer
Enable like a geographer
Empower like a geographer
Because you see, we, us… we are them
As a global community of many beautiful unique voices we shall not be silent
We will tell our story and thus there is nothing about us without us
– Kit Marie Rackley, 14 April 2023
Thank you! All my education work via the Geogramblings’ “Life Geographic” blog is done all in my spare time, at my own cost but is free for you to access and enjoy. If you can spare a few pounds, I’d be delighted if you could show your thanks by ‘buying me a coffee‘.