Cultivating Genius: Using Our Cultural Capital to Discover Our Brilliance
By Gurpreet Kaur, York Journalism Student
Dr. Lindamichelle Baron, who is the Director of York College’s Africana Studies Center and chair of the Advisory Board, was the host of this event. The was named after a book by Gholdy Muhammad with the same title. The book contains works founded in history and written to honor the excellence of those previously enslaved and what their literary societies practiced.
Panelist, Dr. Hasna Muhammad, a visual artist, writer, and educator, shares some thoughtful and positive idea on genius. She says, “That talkative child who makes up stories that we can’t believe to be true, is a Genius”. She also includes the one who is not paying attention in a class, who is a high achiever, the quiet one, the one that wears the same clothes to school or even the funky ones, they all are geniuses.
Education, she says, is the key that meets the needs of our geniuses, especially geniuses who are vulnerable or poor. There is a need for genius to make change to society and heal society. To let students, show their genius, Muhammad says educators need to know their students, pay attention to their tendencies and for the educators to let go of their ego as adults and follow the young folks.
Panelist, Al- Tariq Moore Roberson, who is an instructor of twentieth century African American Literature, Gender and Sexuality studies and Composition at East Carolina University, says a genius needs wholeness and community. Developing a cultivated genius means that we are in touch with everything that we are and surrounded by those who respect how we are. Cultivating genius is a balance of knowledge and institutions. It is about encouraging empathy and open communication. Roberson’s favorite genius at the moment is late singer Marvin Gaye.
Can genius mean swag? Well, that’s what Dr. Shawn Rux, an educational advocate, currently serving as the president and CEO of RuxWay Inc., says. Cultivating genius is recognizing your inner swag and knowing who you are, deeply inside.
Genius exists within all of us, but some of us don’t embrace it or feel that it exists within ourselves. A good, cultivated genius is someone who recognizes the genius within themselves and makes others recognize the same. Dr. Rux believes when you share your genius with others, you gain more swag, more knowledge, everything more. Just that you need to share it with others.
Another panelist, Dr. Robert Woodbine, a naturopathic doctor, published author, a past member of Sonia Sanchez’s Writer’s Workshop, who studied, learned and taught Chinese Qigong and Taijiquan in Harlem, current member of the historic Harlem Writers Guild, shares his thoughts on cultivated genius. For him it is surely not a celebrity or commercial, but it is “a collective process of transcending the process of colonialism and racism”. It’s to know how to be in the world but not of it.
When participants of the event were allowed to ask any questions, one of them asked “How can teachers cultivate the geniuses in students if the teachers are not allowed to cultivate the genius in themselves?”
Muhammed answers “It is a risk, and we have to be able to take that risk. Everyone has his or her circumstances and needs to operate safely and need their job and all that stuff, but we have to do it anyway. We have to get out there and be that genius and cultivate that genius in our students. We as educators are activists just by the fact, we are educators. Educator was against the law for so long when we were forcibly brought into this land, so find that way to bring that genius.”
Whereas, Rux says “The school system has limits, any system you work in has limits, and we can’t expect the educational system to ignite our genius, we can’t wait for them to ignite our genius or help us. We’ve got do it on our own, whether it's reading books, hanging around smart people or those who are doing great things”.
The event ends with Donna Felton. She started off with a poem on farmers at the beginning of the event and then ended the event with another poem which she wrote on the views each panelist shared on cultivated genius. She named her poem “This is my Genius” and a few lines of the poem are:
This is my Genius, I’m letting her be,
Trying to impart all that was inside of me
I have high expectations, the standards are high
Cause hard work, dedication not just getting by
The swag in her tick tocks and in her dance
I’m giving her freedom to take a chance…
One thing all these panelists had in common was that to be a genius, one needs to be aware of themselves. They need to know how they are from inside and then embrace the genius that's within them.