As Protests Continue, Daniels ’21, ’22M Publishes on the Black Male Experience

June 4, 2020 Caitlin Burns

Desmond Daniels

“But, I am afraid! Daily, I am afraid! 
I always wonder…  
‘Will TODAY be the LAST day of my Earthly experience?’
‘Will TODAY be the LAST day I will feel the warmth and love of all the communities I am a part of?’  
‘Will TODAY be the LAST day I say ‘I love you mom’ when I walk out the door?’”

Desmond Daniels ’21, ’22M, a student in the School of Education, wrote these lines in his recent poem The Black Male Experience. As tensions rise across the country with protests continuing daily with police clashes, Daniels has penned his feelings—and fears—into supporting this social justice movement.

A staff member and extended day teacher for Abington Friends School (AFS), Daniels uses his position to educate children on race, equality, and justice, as demonstrated in his recent essay, “A Letter to White Families From A Black Male Teacher: The First Time I Encountered Discussing Race With A White Kid.”

“I hope that individuals know that this is a revolution on existentialism,” said Daniels. “As for many individuals, the death of George Floyd hit me in a different way. I could no longer be immune to the deaths of black people in this country. I had to respond. I can no longer be silent and feel the need to represent and share my feelings and thoughts.”

Daniels is driven to see the next generation understand the privileges that some are born with and the hardships that others face. As a black man, he’s motivated to be an educator so children can learn from him to develop into learners who “value justice, diversity and inclusion,” while increasing accessibility to learning and achieving for all students. By leading by example, he hopes to create a generation of “empathists and changemakers.”

“I am motivated to become an educator because I want to be a role model for children who do and who also do not look like me,” said Daniels. “[I want] to instill a love of learning and realization of continual growth in students.”

Last semester, Daniels was in the “Literature for Children” course taught by Associate Professor of Education Dr. Peggy Hickman, which examines educational and theoretical issues of children’s literature, including exploring the need for more diverse representation of cultures. Daniels said that as an educator, it reinforced his ideas about the need for authors of diverse backgrounds to share their unique ideas, experiences, and thoughts.

“[Diversity in children’s literature] exposes ignorance, creates empathy, and changes perspectives,” said Daniels. “It has an extreme impact for all students, [so they] can identify, listen, and learn more about others' experiences.” 

He encourages parents to have conversations early with their children because, “I believe your children want to talk about it but just don't know how.” Through his interactions with one little boy at AFS, Daniels demonstrates how these conversations can happen and how it can be addressed. He also connects readers with resources to help families facilitate the conversation, including the SoJourners article “For Our White Friends Desiring To Be Allies” and an Anti-Racism Resources guide.

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