Led by English teacher Sirrita Darby, Detroit Prepatory High School students tackle their grief.
Amidst her regular curriculum, Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School English teacher Sirrita Darby started scheduling what she calls "healing sessions" with her students. These led to Forbidden Tears – a collection of their essays, poems and narratives that aims to address trauma. In a community that is reluctant to even acknowledge grief, never mind actually taking it on, Darby says, "I wanted my classroom to be a space of healing." She says, "The people who are in the education system are so far removed from the communities in which they teach that they don't really see the issue."
To that point, in 2012, black teachers constituted just 6.5 percent of K-12 educators, notes a U.S. Education Department study that the Washington Post cited last year. To tackle trauma oft-unique to black children – like racism, community violence or an unhealthy home – Darby contends that "a certain level of empathy" is required. With it, teachers are inclined to approach students more gently and consider that disruptions that may seem irritatingly unnecessary, like not bringing a pencil to class, may be a symptom of a greater sickness.
Forbidden Tears launched in April, and proceeds from sales will help fund a class trip next year to Costa Rica. If more than 500 copies sell, an additional portion will be donated to a nonprofit combating trauma in the black community. Darby recalls a particular session that left everyone in tears. She calls it extraordinary. "We teach our black kids (that) you're not allowed to cry. When I see my kids crying, that's healing." Her hope is that this process has taught her students "how to own their trauma and not let it own them."
Buy Forbidden Tears for $13 on Amazon.