I straight out flunked College English 1101 my first semester in Dr. Rauls class at Florida A&M. I did not have language mechanics down. Yes, I graduated from high school with something like a 2.6 GPA, but it did not matter. When I got to Dr. Rauls class, reality 101 set in. She basically said she was not going to teach Elementary Grammar. She suggested that I and many others in the class go to the writing lab. Many of us were offended. But, I went on.
There I met Mrs. Boykins and Mr. Willams. Let me tell you, they were a blessing. I had struggled with this new level of English on the College level, and it was whipping my butt. But, they (Mrs. Boykins & Mr. Williams) were excellent teachers. They were very patient and knowledgeable. This was Spring 1988. I was 18 years old. Had recently finished up basic training & AIT with the Army. I was a incoming freshman.
They would get up on the board, sit beside you, act out their lessons, whatever it took to get their lesson across. Even though I was reluctant to go, I began to love writing, language mechanics, Literature, and the likes. Actually, once I began to get a grip on this stuff, I loved it. Writing became an outlet for me.
Mrs. Boykins and Mr. Williams suggested we read more, not just for class, but things that interested us. Here was my new love and outlet of things and greatness that was deep within me. I still failed Dr. Rauls class.
After the semester I went home on academic probation with a 1.7 GPA.
During the break between April and June, I received a lot of encouragement from my Father. He said, “Son, you will get them the next round.” He had a lot of faith in me. He asked me did I do my best. I told him I did, because I did. He made me aware of that if you do your best that is all he can ask. I told him I failed, my transcript verified it, but I found a new love—Writing and Reading. So, during that break, I got my old Middle School Grammar book and worksheets from the writing lab and went to work.
Most people during the semester break hang out with home friends and just waste time. But I had just got kicked in the butt with reality. I studied from morning to evening in Algebra.
The Jr. High had just given back my Daddy his Jr. High Football team. He was excited about that.
The only break I took from time to time was to go watch them practice. I was determined. Friends came around to the house, but I told them I had something to do. I did not tell them what. But, I had to study hard, and go back and pass my English and Algebra classes. I also went and got my High School Pre-Algebra book and drilled just like I did for grammar. My goal was to get up off my face after falling on it (flunking GPA 1.7).
Learning was fun for me all over again just like primary school. Now, here I am on academic probation—talking about learning was becoming fun all over again, but it was. Not only did I work on my weak spots, I wanted to memorize the entire English & Algebra book. I would not move to the next problem—until I had mastered the previous problem. I did this in both subjects.
Summer 1988—Mrs. Walker’ s English 1101 class . She was great. She was very patient and very skilled teacher, and full of life. My language skills had risen over the 2 months of self-study. She had an awesome energy. She taught us about parallelism, comma splices, run-ons, double negatives, how to restate our thesis statement, different kinds of thesis statements, etc. She would red marked our papers on errors, and go over them with us at our desk, her desk, on the chalkboard, wherever it was needed. There was no giving up on us. The major difference was—she took the class into her hands, and did a great job. Rarely, did we go to the writing lab with her. She was the writing lab. She would get on the board and drill us. She would tell us to stop by the lab, only if we wanted extra help. She was so precise with her teaching—the writing lab, was almost a non-factor with her students—but I went anyway to get extra help and get extra worksheets to go in my notebook. She also gave us the timed essay. By this time, I was totally in love with writing and could not wait for the next timed essay. Other people dreaded it, I loved it. I have always been a competitor. This is in my genes. But, here I am a competitor in knowledge—not sports, comedy, singing, or acting a fool.
Fall 1988…3rd Semester. Mrs. Morgan’s English 1102 class . Oh, this is my most favorite English teacher at FAMU. She told us she went to school with Oprah Winfrey at I believe TSU (Tennessee State University). She was a fireball. I will forever love this lady. She was a lady that first introduced me to The Last Poets. She would bring in her boombox and let us listen to the Last Poets, Maya Angelou, Sonia Sanchez, etc. The 1st poem she played for us was “Niggaz are Scared of Revolution” by The Last Poets. She was not a conservative teacher. We did a lot of reading in this ladies class. We read aloud, she read aloud. We had to write essays on the short stories or poems we read. I was introduced to James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, and so many Black writers, it blew my mind. I used to often wonder why had I never heard of any of these writers in High school. All we learned about was Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, Shelly, Ernest Hemmingway (White Writers). I used to be bored to death reading these people in grammar, middle and high school. None of their writings reflected me–the Black Man. Reading these Black writers mentioned above was the awesome to me. I loved when she read or recited poetry. She would act out the writings and bring them to life. Never did she fear our reactions because she was a master teacher. Master teachers are leaders. They are courageous. They live to teach, and they love it. Mrs. Morgan was great teacher. I do not know where she is today. Because of this lady, I went to the Public Library and got card. I had one in grammar and high school, but this to me is considered my first one of any real value because with this one I had a purpose—and that was to be somebody. I checked out whatever my mind had a desire to know. At this time mostly poets, essayists, and novelist—all of them black of course. It was time for me to learn something about myself. Up until this time all of my education was to make me fit to be a trained seal—dreaming other people dreams, and being trained to help fashion a world with other people interest ahead of my own people.
My knowledge became my weapon of choice to use to help blow the slave brain mentality out of my own head, and my people’s brain and rebuild a mind of greatness and vision for my people.
1988: (A Memoir)