Icons: Queen Nzinga Mbande

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Queen Nzinga
Queen Nzinga Mbande

When searching for information on history, how should we interpret the information we find? For example, how can we tell if the icons we are presented with are truly icon worthy or just over idealized historical figures? Recently, for Women’s History Month, one of my friends posted something on Facebook about Queen Nzinga Mbande. It was interesting information presented in an attention grabbing way–a bit scandalous and a bit sensational, but certainly left me wanting learn more. As a female myself, I am always interested in learning more about strong female icons, especially the scandalous ones who accomplish the seemingly impossible, the ones like Queen Nzinga, who (if you believe the first account I read) single-handedly kept the Portuguese from enslaving her kingdom.
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How to Accept Help (if You’re Black)

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Berkeley Student Kashawn Campbell. photo by Bethany Mollenkof. courtesy Los Angeles Times
Berkeley Student Kashawn Campbell. photo by Bethany Mollenkof. courtesy Los Angeles Times

“How do you get students to accept help?” a teacher asked me.

She was one of a diverse group of dedicated, intelligent young educators who help high school students from smaller income neighborhoods attend college. During our recent conversation, it was mentioned that some of their most hard-working and focused students arrive at a university, confront challenges with course work and then—heartbreakingly—refuse to seek or take advantage of help that is available.

They are so determined to do it on their own, her colleague explained, “because they want to help their families.” These educators’ compassionate concerns and the heavy burden their students are carrying stayed with me. When a teacher asked me, “How did you manage to get the help you needed?” I realized that during my entire career as an African American, working-class, queer woman student (Pre-K through PhD) I never did.