teacher & student*Contrary to popular belief, surviving the adversity of the Black community requires the ability to think.

When I look back upon my life I can only imagine the contributions that some of my friends could have made to this society had they not succumb to the adversity of having to survive the Black experience.

The only reason that I survived was through a combination of luck, and the fact that I lacked the personal courage that many of my friends were blessed with. So I was willing to put up with many of the things that they were either willing to either lay their lives on the line to fight, or they found so unbearable that they essentially committed suicide through the use of drugs and other means.

in fact, when I was in elementary school I was about to be placed in “Special Training” t was because my teacher at the time, Ms. Lady Lee, convinced the principal, Mr. DeTonto, to give her a semester to work with me, and during that semester, she taught me the key to concept.

Ms. Lee was a statuesque, dignified lady. She was also a concert-quality s play a game. For the rest of the year I want you to pretend to be the smartest t make sense to me, but I was willing to do anything to avoid the humiliation of being segregated from the rest of the “normal” students and put in the “Dummy Brigade” – which, by the way, is a practice they should do away with. esteem.

So from that point on, instead of simply being my teacher, Ms. Lee became my fellow conspirator. We “conspired” to pull off one of the biggest hoaxes ever perpetrated against Holmes Ave. Elementary School, and she had a plan that was brilliant in its simplicity. All I had to do was stay a chapter ahead of the rest of the class so I’d be the only one who had the answer to the questions that she’d put to us. I was amazed at how devious this lady was. I was also amazed that she would help me pull off such an elaborate hoax on all my unsuspecting classmates. But what made me feel especially close to her was that we shared a secret that nobody else knew about. That made me feel special.

Before long I began to notice that people started treating me differently t even speak casually walked up to me during lunch one day and said, “Hi, Eric. Can I sit here?” That started a friendship that lasted through high school.  In fact, when we became teenagers she even wanted to take it to the next level, but by that time I’d met the young girl who was later to become my wife and the mother of my children.

t only Freddie who was treating me differently, by the end of the semester I noticed that I was being treated differently by everyone, my peers and grownups alike. Even as a nine year-old kid, I noticed that people seemed to treat me with more respect. Yet, I was the very same person that everyone used t changed a bit. The only difference in me was the new respect that I had for myself, and the fact that I would always come home and read a chapter ahead of the rest of the class to maintain the fraud that I was perpetrating.

After a while I began to cherish this newfound respect that I was getting from others. In fact, I had become so used to it that I knew that I could never go back to the way things had been before, so I used to be constantly afraid that I was going to be found out. But gradually I began to see the light – I had absolutely nothing to worry about, because the fact is, everybody is perpetrating a hoax.

Thank you, Ms. Lee.

eric wattree

Eric Wattree

Eric L. Wattree
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