Last week I was inspired by this woman! Along with thousands of people around the world, I took note of her thanks to Brandon Stanton’s Humans of New York blog. If you have never heard of this blog, check it out now! Brandon Stanton is living proof that we all have a purpose and he has found his purpose which is to allow people to be seen, heard, listened to and believed in! It all started with him randomly stopping a young man, Vidal, last week and asking if he could take his picture. What makes Brandon Stanton special is that he asks some quite meaningful questions to the subjects of his pictures and this day was no exception. Vidal told the HONY world that his principal, Ms Nadia Lopez valued him, she has told him he matters. Not only him but all the scholars at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville New York.
I want to be like Principal Nadia Lopez! I want to be a woman who influences others, who believes in others, who guides others. This is where I want my life energy directed, to positively influence those around me. I believe I am Ms Lopez, we all are, no matter how small our contribution to our world, we all matter!
I know another Ms Lopez, another influential being who believed everyone mattered and he was called Gerry German. He was an educator too and he was a man who influenced the thousands of children who had the good fortune to cross his path. He taught in Jamaica, England, North Wales and Nigeria. He was one of the founder members of STOPP (Society of Teachers Opposed to Physical Punishment) in the late 60s. He was Chief Education Officer at the Commission for Racial Equality back in the 80s. He was involved with the Working Group Against Racism in Children’s Resources in the 90s after his retirement as an activist. His proudest moment was founding the Communities Empowerment Network, CEN, in 1999 an advocacy and campaigning service, working for equality and justice in education particularly with African Caribbean parents whose children had been permanently excluded from mainstream education. He was a daring and innovative man, a concientious objector, he was also my father.
I am blessed to have been his daughter, I had the good fortune to be born to him and my mother Patricia, two hugely influential people, two incredible beings who have loved and guided me at every step of the way. I attended one of the schools where Gerry was the head, or principal as you say in America. I saw the love the school kids had for him, never more strongly demonstrated than when he was sacked from the Mold Alun as being too “much” for the establishment! I was stopped by school bullies and told to pull up my socks and make my dad proud of me because they were proud to consider themselves his children. I picked up the phone many a time whilst living with mum and dad or visiting them and many an ex student would ring to share their good news – graduating from school or university or just wanting to share what a huge influence Gerry had had on their lives.
Gerry passed away in May 2012 at the ripe old age of 84. He passed in the night after having spent the day before at the office in Brixton where he met with a young man, recently excluded from school. That day, my father had brought the first smile to this young man since he had taken on his case. My father believed in him and that day proved to the young man that he mattered. He went to bed that night satisfied with another good day, expecting to get up the next day to go back to work. He left a legacy, he left behind an organisation that is relentless in providing justice and equality for all in education in Britain. He left a team committed to this ideal, working together and now guided by my brother Deuan and joined by advocates, volunteers, trustees and many, many children needing their services. He left his mark.
Ms Lopez is the same. She believes in her kids. She knows that everyone of them matters and she has high expectations of them. She leads her team like my father led his team by being the example. She is a woman with her heart in education, she is the teacher, the real meaning of the teacher. I salute Ms Lopez and I say “Je suis Principal Nadia Lopez” – je suis in the sense of improving the lives of all, not trashing the lives of any!
Mott Hall Bridges Academy has now had over 700,000 dollars raised in less than a week and these funds will be used to form the Vidal Scholarship Fund, named after this young man who one day was stopped in the streets of his neighbourhood and asked by a stranger if he could have his photograph taken. Brandon Stanton, Nadia Lopez, Gerry German – these are people who are proof that when we find our purpose in life, we are where we are meant to be.
We all matter, let’s never forget that!
CEN (Please consider donating) http://www.cenlive.org/
Humans of New York http://www.humansofnewyork.com/
Mott Hall Bridges Academy http://www.mhbabrooklyn.com/
To donate to Mott Hall Bridges Academy http://bit.ly/1JmIB8u