The class was separated on most days with half of the desks and chairs on one half and the other on the other half with an aisle in the middle. I remember always walking in that classroom with an air of excitement with a hint of fear. Excitement because I would be around my peers who understood me despite me being the short, smart kid who had a slight arrogance and a teacher who became a mother in weeks time because of her ability to make you understand life without the traditions of what the world thought a teacher should be. Fear because although accepted by them, I wasn’t absolutely sure if I had accepted myself, and because mothers have the ability to discipline. And, she knew effective ways of being a disciplinarian. But, I always walked in with a bravado because nobody could know that part of me–maybe that is what many would coin the Napoleonic complex.
There was a couch in the corner and the cultural decor would overwhelm one’s African spirit and you couldn’t but succumb to the continued knowledge of self that resonated in that room.
From practicing for Oddysey of the Mind asking and answering question after question to preparing for step performances where the girls learned how to use both their bodies and become one body, her legs at the bottom, the other’s torso at the top–a signature move of black sororities at the time to having deep conversations about why life–is.
That classroom on the other side of the second floor facing the neighborhoods from which we grew and the cemetery we often said Jonny Watermaker “got kids” in will forever be a happy memory. It is a happy memory not only for me, but for all the Pros who made an awesome Team where the knights learned what it meant to be royal.
Because it was ProTeam that shaped so many of our lives and one of the reasons why we are the people we are today. Ms. Sharon Caldwell created not just a team of pros, but individuals who are making pros in their own adult lives. We’ve moved on to be leaders in education, military, civic service, artistry, medicine, law, and the list continues as we, who have been taught to utilize all of our talents, transition from career to career to place to place.
Everyday I think about three things from my experiences as a child/student under the tutelage of our school mother at the oh so beautiful Alcorn Middle School, where the Knights reign:
1. When me and my cohorts were eighth graders and were preparing for our promotion ceremony she created a folder and a gift for each of us. On the front of my folder it said “SCHOLAR.” I looked at it somewhat confused. Not because I didn’t think I was smart, but because so many other of my classmates achieved more than I did. Weeks before I got this folder my classmate and good friend, Jessica, was speaking to someone behind me and said, “I’m going to cut my hair.” Now, me being the arrogant SOB that I was in middle school I turned and said, “my momma said God said that a woman’s hair is her worth.” I won’t tell you what Jessica said to me, but I will tell you that the story got back to Ms. Caldwell. After I glanced at the folder and saw the attribute she had given me and she saw my confused expression she said, “you are the most curious and inquisitive little man I know, but you should be concerned with learning more about yourself than delving into the affairs of others.” She peered at Jessica, raised that eye brow, peered back at me and I was forever humbled. And, did I learn knowledge of self throughout my high school and collegiate careers.
I still have a bit of an air of arrogance, but by all means, it is an arrogance that is laced with the beauty of humbleness. And, I did become a scholar, I would like to think that I, too, encourage my students to become scholars as well. Every year, for the past three years, students have received an attribute from Mr. Prince.
2. I remember one day I was late to class and I walked in and one of my classmates Joe, who was and still is the closest to her, was laying on the couch. She had a meter stick in her hand with her hands on her hip with her neck leaned forward toward him and she yelled, “JOE! WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?! AND, I’M NOT GOING TO ASK YOU AGAIN.” Joe leaned forward a little, pillow and all, and said “I don’t know, man. I just feel bad.” She responded, “well, if you can’t describe the pain then you don’t have any pain. Sit…in…your…seat.” And, from that day forward anytime anybody asked me how I felt when I was sick I had an explanation.
3. Right before practice after school Ms. Caldwell and Ms. Mazzie, who became our other school mom, were outside and they were peering down into the parking lot. And, as I passed by I remember Ms. Caldwell saying something about not having some girls tear up her…stuff (?-hehe). When she came back in the class she began explaining the process of “pledging” for a fraternity or sorority as her sister was crossing over soon at her college. She had explained that she and her sister traded cars because the pledge masters were trying to use her sister’s car by force. And, how, her sister didn’t have the finances as a college student to keep up additional maintenance should the pledge masters do something to break or wreck the car. I learned that day that if I pledged to not drive my own car.
Before I started writing this I was a little teary thinking about how I could reflect on the life of our angel, and as I end I am smiling. Not just because of these three memories, but because of the hundreds of memories she allowed us to make with her. I regretted not being able to attend her last event with our group, but I have to say I can see her just as if she is still here with that beautiful fro, often raised eye brow, and the smile that shined bright like the sun after it rains.
To my classmates and others who may read this I offer this as a means of comfort as we go through the process of grieving our loss and I hope that you have memories of your own that will allow you to find, not closure, but peace knowing that the Creator gives us life, allows us to be the inspiration in the lives of others in the body, and then admits us into the spiritual realm to serve as ancestors who can continue to guide us through the spiritual realm like visions and dreams.
Love all y’all! Be blessed!
J. Prince, Princepality 92