The Heart of Baldwin: Aiden You are Welcomed Here!
I toured 13 schools in Los Angeles, when Aiden was ready for kinder in 2018. I was completely ignorant, but willing to learn about what would be best for my black son. I toured private schools (because I could get financial aid), charter schools, magnet schools and public schools. I was shocked at how few viable options there were for him in what I thought was this progressive town I live in. Someone recommended Baldwin to me (I wish I remembered so I can thank them). When I toured it, I was immediately surprised and happy and knew this was a perfect fit. On my second tour I brought 4.5 year old Aiden with me. Ms Ali asked him if he liked it and he said "No. I LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!" But, he didn't go to Baldwin right away. Prior to September of his Kinder year, he was accepted into a white private school with financial aid on the west side.. I was conflicted so I went to Ms. Ali, she gave me great advice. She said for him to go to kinder at the private school, get his skills up but DON'T fall in love with that school. Come back to Baldwin for the first grade. It was very, very easy to not fall in love with that white private school. It was a cold hard lesson for me and Aiden about the world and it was right during the death of George Floyd and Covid. Aiden did learn what he needed to learn to successfully belong in a gifted magnet program. However, he also learned in a very harsh way about racism, slavery, the murder of Martin Luther King, all for the first time and all from a white kindergarten teacher who had no compassion or empathy for a young black child never introduced to any of these concepts at home, who happens to have a white mother. It was horrible. Awful. Painful. I didn't get a chance to warn him. They didn't teach him with any sort of compassion at all. And, they did not believe him when his ankle was sprained, and joked about his tooth falling out when his mouth was violently hit by another kid's head at close range. They treated him differently than white kids. They didn't believe me or him when he said one of the kids in the class was constantly bullying him. I escalated my concerns to the elementary school director, the main director of the school and the school therapist. They all just normalized it and did nothing. I took Aiden out two weeks early at the end of the year. They didn't even ask me why we left. I went back to Ms. Ali and Aiden started first grade at Baldwin . He is now in the middle of 2nd grade with the amazing Ms. Porter Morris. Aiden is at home here at Baldwin.
He swims in the love and community of people who look like him. He drinks up the culture, the language, the dance and the music, the concepts, the friends, the families, the teachers. and the administrators. He loves it all. Every new kid he welcomes and makes them his best friend. He walks with confidence. He knows who he is. He knows how to stand up for himself physically and verbally for the first time in his life. In all those other schools he always had many friends, but he was never able to truly be himself. He was who they wanted him to be. Now he knows who he is and he grows everyday. And so do I, because of what he and you all have taught me and continue to teach me. He is happy. He is thriving. THANK YOU. What you all have given him is something no other campus could give him in Los Angeles. You have given him access to who he is and a knowledge of where he belongs and a confidence that will never leave him.
Best, Cathy and Aiden.