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Mr. Abdullah's Welcome Back Message to Staff

Welcome Back PHamily Slideshow
2020-21 School Year

Welcome Back Slideshow

PHAMILY - we have been through many events that have impacted our lives and we are still in the middle of it. And THIS is our New Welcome-Back-to-School Reality. 

In feeling the pressure of what is going to be different, we also see a great opportunity for change: Reimagining our education system. But what does that LOOK like and are we in the position to pull it off? These were our summer questions to ponder…

  • Are we truly a PHamily? Are we connected? Are we invested?

  • How do we change our mindsets so we can do the work?

  • What has changed for us pre-COVID-19/ pre-George Floyd to now and why?

  • Is this a White school or is this a school that all students can thrive in? Are we being culturally responsive?

  • Are we teaching students to be College Career and Life ready? And what does that really mean?

  • When do we shift from courageous conversations to action?

  • Do we recognize how we each contribute towards structures of institutional racism? 

  • What is our role in dismantling White Supremacy and systems of oppression?

  • And what really matters


I don’t know about you but all summer long, I have been trying to get myself prepared to lead this work, but I continued to ask myself: WHAT is going to be different?


And then all sorts of images came to my head. Malcom X, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr, Miles Davis, Syid Abdullah, Huey Newton, Barack Obama, John Lewis, Muhammad Ali, Tupac Shakur, James Baldwin, Emit Till, Jamar Clarke, Philando Castile, George Floyd as people that motivated and inspired me.

Then I started thinking about my mom, my wife, my sisters, my daughter and this is where intersectionality comes to play because there is a different experience being a Black woman than being Black Man so images such as Angela Davis, Maya Angelou, Sakinah Abdullah, Josephine Baker, Madame CJ Walker, Nellie Stone Johnson, Ruby Bridges, Shirley Chisholm, Michelle Obama, Sandra Bland, and Breonna Taylor.

So, I went from uncertainty to excited. These people motivate and inspire me. I am extremely excited to come back to this work because this is what I’m about. This is who I am at the core. Working to dismantle white supremacist systems and working with others to create systems that is uplifting and supportive of everyone. Especially, when I think about our team and the people I work with, who are all in. 


The images in this slide show is an expression of what is running through my soul as a Black man. And it reminds me of my journey as to how I got here and why I am here. (Thank you, Jim, for putting the slide show together). 

The film Do the Right Thing by Spike Lee is more than just a film on police brutality or racial identity, it is about the beauty and ugliness that exists, not only in a low-income community, but in ourselves. The film explores how racial inequality drives conflict in a predominantly African American community.

The message in Public Enemy's song: "You got to fight the power, fight the power, fight the powers that be." It is the theme song for the film. And it is the song that was played during the slide show. 

So, why am I bringing all of this up and what does it mean for us at Henry High School?

Well… I just centered my blackness in this space. I expressed to you my culture and how I can connect with it. Black Lives Matter. I just put MY identity, my culture and what I represent out there only for it to be underappreciated, undervalued, underestimated, and marginalized.

Identity brings comfort and security. It helps you make decisions. It sets the tone for everything that comes after.

White Supremist Culture attacks your identity, your soul, your confidence, your health, your appearance, and your judgement. It makes you feel weak, wrong, crazy, illiterate and useless. It suffocates you and locks you up.

Our education system has choked the hell out of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people while it is supposed to be the great equalizer. The disparities are unacceptable! And Minnesota is leading the way.

Imagine what it would look like if we could liberate our students and families. See and embrace their excellence and brilliance. Where students’ voices are at the table and the teaching and learning is student centered. Whether they are Latinx, Hmong, Somali, or GLBTQ. We will see them thrive in the Fine Arts, Athletics, English, Social Studies, Math, and the Sciences. Imagine that! 

“It’s not a capacity issue; these babies have the capacity to take in whatever you put in them, but it’s really about can we get them there feeling safe, feeling loved, feeling encouraged, emotionally and socially ready to learn.  And then once you do that, the sky’s the limit.”― Dr. Bettina Love, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom