When Marc and I first met, I didn’t know what to think. We were in the “Green Room,” aka the Counselor’s office at Robeson High School in Chicago, getting ready to visit classrooms as motivational speakers, as part of the Black Star Project.
“I tell them about careers in marketing, and to believe in themselves and follow their passion to succeed in life,” I told Marc.
“I tell them not to have babies while they’re still in high school,” said Marc.
“Um…oh,” I responded. “Can you say that to the students?” I wondered.
The school is located on the South Side of Chicago, and the student body is 100% African American. The first Chicago Public School student killed by gunfire in 2009, just a few weeks after this school visit, was a student at Robeson.
Plus, with more than 10% of African-American girls getting pregnant before finishing high school, and only 7% of incoming freshman at Chicago Public Schools earning a college degree by age 25, whose advice is more ‘real?’
“I’m here to tell you not to be like me,” he tells the students.
I came across Marc’s video the other day and realized how much I liked him. Plus, I now realize he’s a really good intercultural communicator:
- He’s clear about who he is, and uses that as a platform to communicate with others.
- He asks questions to understand what motivates others (as he did to help guide my presentation to the students and bring out key points that would interest them.)
- He’s a good teacher without being judgmental or making the learner feel embarrassed
But why do I really like Marc? Two dimensionally we are very different: Black, male, high school drop-out from the ‘south side’ vs. White, female, Masters degreed from the ‘north side.’ But guess who taught who here.
It was Marc’s confidence and clarity that made me realize that framing our differences two-dimensionally was, well…two-dimensional. His message also has me questioning my own unconscious bias and privilege, ultimately allowing me to grow.
What have you learned about yourself when interacting with others that you didn’t expect?