I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!
[Forget] the Five Paragraph Essay
September 19, 2018
Eye-catching non-first line: Fuck the five paragraph essay.
Non-summary of main points: In this non-five paragraph essay, I will not prove that the form is some bullshit meant to nail our tongues to the floors of our mouths, meant to tame our tongues' Black wildness, meant to bind us, to hold that which cannot be held, to make us stop struggling, to render us resolved to simple points and formulaic thinking.
Non-thesis statement, which will not be closely followed by supporting evidence: The five paragraph essay is a prison sentence.
Non-paragraph one non-topic sentence: The judge gave my little brother five years, but this sentence is only tangentially related to the topic of this non-five paragraph non-essay so if I were your student, you would probably ask me to erase it. I am not your student. Like you, this judge was a fan of formula. Like you, she pretended to be bound by one, pretended that her robe, like your certificate, did not grant her the freedom to go off-script. She pretended that my brother was not the only person in the room who had lost his freedom. Surrounded by shackles unattached to her wrists, she said, "My hands are bound."
Non-paragraph two non-topic sentence: The fed formula is 75% of time served before eligibility for parole. The people who killed my little brothers' childhood friend did less time than my brother did for mistakes he made while grieving. Ain't that a bitch. Another bitch is the administrator I told about my brother in an effort to explain why I could not finish a paper, could barely stand to hear the word "sentence," let alone write one. You think narrative is an immature way to make an argument. I think argument is an immature way to narrate a truth. In lieu of an argument for my right to stay in school, I told my truth. He asked, "What do you want me to do?" My friend said, "Do not give these people your Black-ass stories." Two quotes should not be in the same paragraph. There should be a new paragraph each time a new person speaks. But if a person speaks and there is no one willing to hear her, did the person ever really make a sound?
Non-paragraph three non-topic sentence: If this non-essay were a federal prison sentence, this would be the paragraph in which my brother gets to come home. I will not support this claim with evidence. I will not give you my Black-ass story. I am only writing toward the conclusion so that I can exceed it; I want you to know how wildness feels, how it is nothing to be afraid of. I want you to hear how stupid "nothing of which to be afraid" sounds. I want you to stop being a bitch. If you cannot tell from the preceding paragraph, my bitch is gender neutral.
Non-conclusion. To not reiterate every point I made just three paragraphs ago, fuck the five paragraph essay. I am tired of you trying to tame the wildness I've inherited from great grandparents I never met because they were given five paragraphs of Jim Crow and every time they bit their own tongues to keep living, they actually shaved a day off their lives.
Excessive non-paragraph, also known as that which will not be deleted, also known as spirit, also known as art, also known as the shit you deny that is undeniable: My great grands died in paragraph five and I came through in paragraph six to say that which they could not say. Sometimes, I wish we could have done bad all by ourselves. Sometimes, I wish we would have kept your old books, added our new knowledge, and continued reaching for the sun beyond your shade. Sometimes, I think the worst thing that ever happened to us was being sentenced to your five paragraph classroom. Sometimes, I wish my students had never met you because sometimes, they tell me I am asking for too much when all I've asked for is their thoughts. Sometimes, I am unclear about who is us and who is you. Sometimes, I tell my students "not all..." Sometimes, my students' angels wear the faces of strangers. Sometimes, my students' demons are wolves in us clothing. I guess I am saying you know who you are.
Even more excess, also known as reason to call security, also known as sass, also known as too much, also known as beyond convention, also known as unbridled flesh, also known as that which will not be graded by you or anyone else: think of it this way. In the time you spent nailing tongues and binding arms and interrupting the rhythm of our double dutch prose, you could have been photocopying Alice Walker or June Jordan or James Baldwin or Audre Lorde or Richard Wright or Toni Cade Bambara or Toni Morrison or Ralph Ellison or Langston Hughes or Ta-Nehisi Coates or Jamilah Lemieux or Jelani Cobb or Natasha Trethewey or Jesmyn Ward or... me. Every time I publish, I tie a love note to a homing pigeon, praying she will land at the feet of one of the students you call slow, call fast, call sassy, call aggressive, call too much, call to the prison of the five paragraph essay with your formula standing in the place where models should be. You have scattered all my pigeons while searching the sky for doves. You so stuck on color-as-species, you can't even see we cousins.
Excessive excess, also known as a parting shot. In a recent survey, 95% of Kentucky teachers reported their commitment to culturally relevant curriculum. Apparently, nobody taught them to support their claims with evidence.