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Friday, May 24, 2024

Dear Hannah: Mission Statement Part 7 - #HappyBlackHistoryMonth

Dear Hannah,
I'm a #StandupStoryteller.

I'm the brother from another planet.

Strange people think I am strange.

I think that what I experience is strange.

And still I rise.


On a good day, I have a keen focus on life, liberty, and my pursuit of happiness.

That focus intensifies during #BlackHistoryMonth.
Let me show you something ...



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"Mission Statement (Part 7 - Finance)"
By Derrick Brown

DBKB8NC2021010 040. Mission Statement (Episode 7 - #HappyBlackHistoryMonth) Shooting Script (3-2-2024).txt

Hey folks.

My name is Derrick Brown.

I'm a #StandupStoryteller.

I'm the brother from another planet.

Strange people think I am strange.

I think that what I experience is strange.

And still I rise.


On a good day, I have a keen focus on life, liberty, and my pursuit of happiness.

That focus intensifies during #BlackHistoryMonth.

On a good day, I am intentional about my interactions and conversations.

That focus intensifies during #BlackHistoryMonth.

See - life for me is no crystal stair.

But I climb the steps every day.

And learn to avoid what is in my way.

I am learning to plant ... then allow seeds to grow.

I am learning to move on when the seeds say "no".

I am learning to navigate life's status quo.

I am learning to stay ... and learning to "go".

Let me show you something ...

[SHOW 0005. Ashe, Arthur (Little Leaders, by Vashti Harrison).png]

Two young men (who are friends) visit me at the start of every school day.

They dap me up and hug me.

They are my oxygen ...

They help me "breathe" ...

In an environment that oppresses and suffocates me.

One of them is a tennis player.

So I decided to share this picture and bio of Arthur Ashe with them.

I told them that Arthur Ashe was special ... not because of his athletic gifts ... but because of his humanitarian grace.

I told them that Arthur Ashe became even more graceful when he contracted AIDS ... which eventually took his life.

I asked them to read the bio, then come back to discuss what they read.

They continue to visit each day, but probably have not read the bio.

And still I rise.

Let's move on.

[SHOW 0010. On Deck - Rule of 72 Scenario 11 2024-03-02_9-22-19.jpg]

I decided to work in my favorite "real-world" math lesson during this #BlackHistoryMonth.

The "Rule of 72" is a handy dandy way to estimate the future value of invested money.

Here's how it works.

You divide the number 72 by the rate of return ... and this tells you how many years it takes an investment to double in value.

For example, investing $1000 that earns 18% interest will double (to $2000) in 4 years ... because 72/18 is 4.

This handy dandy works well when you are skilled at mental math.

Therein lies the challenge.

My students are not good at mental math.

My students sometimes (OK - often) have acute work-related allergies.

I just said that both the thought and practice of working hard makes them sneeze and wheeze.

That is not a good look on most days.

That is a horrible look during #BlackHistoryMonth ... a time to celebrate the struggle, resilience, triumph, inspiration, courage, and empowerment of a systemically disenfranchised people.

Calm down, "Derrick X".

Let me refocus.

I first presented the "Rule of 72" as a story ... where a classmate started a movie company ... that students invested $10000 in at the age of 20 ... that then earned 18% interest until the student reached the age of 60 ... to let them "see" the power of compound interest over a 40-year period.

They were having trouble "seeing" what I was "saying".

That is fair ... the struggle is real.

I told the story later to our 10-year-old daughter Hannah.

She could see most of it, but there was a point where the earned amounts where too large to calculate easily in her head.

The remedy to that "seeing" challenge became the picture we are now viewing.

This picture would help you "see" the money grow step-by-step ... then when a young person's impatience with "long" processes kicks in, they can write an exponential expression that would produce the answer, then voila!

It did not quite work like that.

I built a tool that generated a different problem set for every student.

Lots of students looked at the example you see, ignored that the numbers were different, then copied.

That happens a lot ... students are accustomed to "mimicking" ... and are allergic to "thinking".

And still I rise.

[SHOW 0015. Compound Interest Formula 2024-03-02_10-04-31.jpg]

After students worked through their unique problem sets using the "Rule of 72", I then introduced them to the "real" compound interest formula.

[SHOW 0020. Compound Interest Calculator 2024-03-02_10-04-31.jpg]

Then I showed them how to use a financial calculator to help them manage the large numbers.

Each student moved on to this step when they were ready.

I had already shown several students successfully, but then encountered a difficult student who believes that they are the "smartest person in the room".

I showed them the formula and calculator, and then walked away.

I had taken two steps ... then this student turned to their neighbor and proclaimed that he did not know *what* I had just said.

It's #BlackHistoryMonth, y'all.

This is a tactic of the oppressor.

If you did not know what I was talking about, but then tell your neighbor instead of me ... those are "fighting words".

So I engaged, and reminded this student (as I have done ad nauseum with both students and adults) that proclaiming that you do not understand what I am talking about ... as if I do not know what I am talking about ... is something that I will "check" you on.

Here's the truth, though.

"Checking" every passive-aggressive act of disrespect that I endure is like trying to kill all the mosquitoes in the jungle.

In the jungle, man, the elephants will get you when you are too focused on mosquitoes.

And still I rise.

Let's move on.

Let's keep climbing that stairway and navigating the obstacles.

[SHOW 0022. 001. Rule of 72 Exploration (Ky'Mani Mornan) 2024-02-27 13.03.24 .jpg]

One of my hardest working students completed their unique problem set, as well as the ones that used the "formal" compound interest formula and financial calculator.

They then tried to use the "Rule of 72" to solve the same problems that they had used the calculator for.

They got very different answers, and wanted to know "why".

It's #BlackHistoryMonth, y'all.

I have never been happier to teach something in my life.

[SHOW 0024. 002. Rule of 72 Exploration (Ky'Mani Mornan) Desmos Calculator 2024-02-27_14-32-34.jpg]

I showed the student how the "Rule of 72" provides a great estimate for small interest rates ... but that for a larger rate (for example, 18%) ... using the "Rule of 76" worked a little better.

I built a Desmos calculator for students to help students explore "why".

This student used it.


[SHOW 0025. Geom Unit 7 Draft #11, #12 2024-03-02_9-33-21.jpg]

I had the opportunity to attend a talk being given by a classmate who now runs a large local company ... or to attend my weekly meeting of all geometry teachers.

I chose to skip the geometry meeting.

To be a good soldier, I reviewed the draft test that we would discuss, and offered feedback on the proposed problems to our geometry group leader (who produced the test draft).

Offering "feedback" to teachers is always a slippery slope.

Teachers do not like being "taught".

I am a teacher, so I can admit this.

I am sensitive to this, too, but also know that there is safety in a multitude of counsel.

Our geometry group leader has expressed a similar belief ... in words.

So I trusted our relationship (which I have been intentional about building this year), and brought this picture to her attention.

To find the volume of a 3-D figure, you compute the area of its 2-D base, and then multiply it by the figure's height.

Beware, the 2-D base has a height ... then the 3-D figure has a different height.

This problem's description mentions a height "h" ... while the problem's diagram mentions a height "H".

To 9 out of 10 people, "h" is "H".

I am that 10th person.

Most math teachers are that 10th person.

[SHOW 0030. Geom Unit 7 Draft #11, #12 Feedback 2024-03-02_9-33-21.jpg]

So I offer this written feedback ... change "h" to "H".

I was then informed after the meeting occurred that my feedback was presented in a "Mr. Brown had a concern, but I don't know *what* he is talking about" manner.

A manner not unlike the student I mentioned earlier.

Our geometry leader has disparaged me in a similar manner during the last meeting I missed ... and offered written feedback.

Our geometry leader has disparaged me in a similar manner in my face ... during one of our "intentional" conversations designed to build a working rapport.

This is not a trend ... it is a pervasive behavior I experience with children and adults.

When *you* don't know what I am talking about ... then *I* don't know what I am talking about.

I have to be circumspect about that disrespect.

Sometimes you let that fool go.

Sometimes you let that fool know.

Let's move on.

[SHOW 0035. Derrick Brown introduces Roderick McLean (2-29-2024) 1709335372208.jpg]

I skipped the geometry meeting so I could witness several of my students participate in a presentation given by one of my Georgia Tech classmates.

He has done well for himself, and has made us proud.

He leads an organization with 5,000+ employees.

I met Rod at our school entrance, and then escorted him to the room where he would give his presentation.

I had not seen this brother since 1993, but he greeted me warmly, and called me "Derrick".

We caught up on old times as we walked to his talk.

I was asked to introduce him, which was not a problem.

I told the audience that Rod was one of the kindest, most humble people I had ever met.

I told them that it blessed me to see how far he had come in life by keeping his feet on the ground, and reaching for the stars.

[SHOW 0040. 2024-02-29 13.41.13 Lockheed Martin Marietta GM Roderick McLean.jpg]

He then did his thing.

He spoke in a sincere, straightforward tone ... that helped me see that he is the same dude that used to attend study sessions at my apartment ... which were designed to filter folks who only liked to show up and copy answers ... Rod was one of the guys who would engage the productive struggle.


[SHOW 0045. Roderick McLean visits Marietta High School (2-29-2024) 1709335375464.jpg]

Then the organizers were nice enough to let me be in the group photos.

As I escorted him and his entourage out of the building, we got lost.

As we rerouted, we had to walk through our school's Black History Month photo op ... which you were included in only if you had bought the Black History Month sweatshirt.

That kind of exclusion during a time of inclusion was a real "brother from another planet" moment ... and one that aptly describes our school's identity instability.

We are on a forever journey to the promised land ... because we think that we have already arrived.

I had another moment when it dawned on me ... that as we climbed the crystal stairs amongst these "photo ops" (I meant to say that) that none of these folks knew Rod from a can of paint ... and that most of them did not know the "real" me ... even after spending years working together.

Let's move on.

[SHOW 0050. 120. 262. Black Software Cover - Charlton D. McIlwain-001_2040x2640.jpg]

This experience motivated me to be courageous enough to share my journey with a few more students and adults.

My reasons for not doing so are comical because they are true ... can you imagine students from our school going home to tell their parents that I was featured in a book with a Black fist on it?

They would organize to ban the book from the library ... then when they learn that it is not in the library, they would try to ban it from Amazon ... then when that fails, they will buy copies of the book and leave bad reviews.

The funny thing about that is how likely that is to happen.

Still, just as I shared the experience of watching Rod visit our school, I then shared my own experience of being part of the book "Black Software".

Here's the story ...

Shortly after we met in 2015, I did an extensive series of interviews with a New York University professor (Dr. Charlton McIlwain) for his book project.

I also provided several primary-source documents for the book (essays, letters, business plans, photos, etc.).

Dr. McIlwain wanted to chronicle the efforts of African-American Internet pioneers who used it to build culture, community, and commerce, and (activist-driven) movements.

The project then evolved to also chronicle parallel efforts that used the Internet to further oppress, subvert, and marginalize people.

The project resulted in a book titled "Black Software".

It was published by Oxford University Press on 11-1-2019.

I am humbled to have contributed to the movement and the book.

I am also humbled to be "seen".

I only share the book's Cover, Acknowledgements, Intro, Table Of Contents, and Chapter 1.

The story becomes a bit too ambitious in parts ... so I keep those parts hidden ... which is easier than it sounds.

See ... as long as it is in a book, it is well-hidden.

[SHOW 0055. [DB] 1982 Lieutenant Governor's Award  (12-18-2018).jpeg]

The "showstopper" part of my story comes when I ask students to turn to page 12 of the book ... they see a picture of the 12-year-old me, and then it clicks for them.

I had a couple of students gasp and scream when they realized it was me.

Then I showed them that the same photo is hidden in plain sight in our classroom (it sits on the side of my desk).

That was worth the risk.


[SHOW 0060. R<SNIP> 2024-03-02_9-16-32.jpg]

I am still climbing those crystal stairs, y'all

This is Rosalyn, our school's Black History Month speaker.

I worked with Rosalyn several years ago, when she coordinated mentoring events for the nonprofit organization she founded ... after graduating from KSU, and serving as its student government president.

I served as a mentor for one of her events in 2018.

I have an elephant's memory, so I remembered her.

I remembered her drive, sincerity, and passion for fashion ... but also remembered her talking to me like I worked for her.

If you are listening carefully, I am an equal-opportunity doormat for lots of people ... way more than I would like to be.

This builds my grace, but eternally tests my patience.

And still I rise.

Life is not a zero-sum game, y'all ... there's a little villain in every hero ... present company included.

Still, I was proud again to see her rise ... and proud to remember her in a good way.

[SHOW 0065. Project We Care SOS Event 2018 (Rosalyn Hedgepeth) (3-1-2024)(1).png]

I reached out to her on LinkedIn by sending this photo.

In the photo, I am standing next to her best friend, Joshua.

I think if I remember that, then it is clear that I remember you.

She responded and said that she remembered me, which I appreciate.

She probably does not remember the sleight.

I will remember it, but can move on.

She works for Microsoft now, so who knows?

I may get the chance to serve her again.

And still I rise.

[SHOW 0067. Dear Hannah - A One-Man Show Invitation TEMPLATE #1 (Poet In Park).jpg]

After sharing the book "Black Software", I figured that I might as well share some plans for my upcoming one-man show.

I used an AI image generator to design the show's tickets, then used filters and textures to hide the images blemishes ... we are talking about blemishes like 6 gnarled fingers on each hand, and lots of zombie / alien faces.

I showed this picture, and the one that follows to 20 people ... then asked them which one they preferred.

Let me show the next one ...

[SHOW 0069. Dear Hannah - A One-Man Show Invitation TEMPLATE #2 (Poet In Park Watermark).jpg]

10 people liked the "darker" one.

10 people liked this "lighter" one.

One student told me how to correct the darker photo ... as if I did not know how.

And still I rise.

Few students asked about the concert itself ... but I will take that as a good sign ... a sign that they do not find the idea of me doing a concert as an unrealistic one.

Let's move on.

[SHOW 0070. From Tonya Brown Price 2024-03-02_9-25-48.jpg]

I am getting ready to close.

My #BlackHistoryMonth contributions are a well-kept secret in my immediate family.

Suffice it to say that we have all been hurt by life ... and are at varying stages of hope, healing, and change.

This has resulted in a lot of self-isolation that keeps us (intentionally?) ignorant of each other's well-being and accomplishments.

I share from time to time, but often feel like I am imposing or "showing off" when I do ... and the sharing is often met with the silence of no response.

From my family.

And still I rise.

I shared my podcast playlist with my sister recently.

She responded to say that she dug my lyrics ... and that I could possibly sell them to a "real" rapper (like Chance The Rapper or Kendrick Lamar).

She meant this as a compliment.

She offered it, though, in a way that several others have ... that I should be writing for someone else ... and not performing per se.

I know artists (Luther Vandross and Carly Simon) who had to endure that sleight, too, so I get it.

Music is about an image for many.

It is about more than that for me.

So, I am glad to learn that my sister likes my music.

I even shared the book "Black Software" with her recently.

We will see how she receives that.

[SHOW 0075. From Wallie Washington Capture+_2023-11-23-09-38-03.png]

I share most of my music with my cousin, because he shares his music with me.

He has become my biggest living supporter (since my mentor "Cheese" passed away in 2018).

This hashtag (#inspirational) from his reply says a lot.

I am not making music to be worshipped and adored ... rather, I make it to help you feel, deal, and move ... so we can hope, heal, and change.


Grace and peace, and #HappyBlackHistoryMonth.


About Derrick Brown (Standup Storyteller)



I am Keisha's husband, and Hannah's father.

I am a “standup storyteller.”

I fuse rap, spoken word (poetry), oration (traditional public speaking), singing, and teaching into messages of hope, healing, and change that I write, direct, and produce to help people who help people.

Everything must change - and stay changED.

Tradition begins and ends with change.

Change begins with me and the renewing of my mind ... then continues through efforts to effect small-group discipleship (equipping others to equip others) with audiences that respect and embrace mentoring, mediation, and problem solving as tools of change.

I am the product of my mentoring relationships, peacemaking (and peacekeeping), and problem-solving ability.

My education began when I finished school.

After school, I enrolled in a lifelong curriculum that includes classes in ministry, entrepreneurship, stewardship, literacy, numeracy, language, self-identity, self-expression, and analysis / synthesis.

My projects execute a ministry that has evolved from wisdom earned through lessons learned.

I want to share this wisdom to build teams of "triple threat" fellows - mentors, mediators, and problem solvers.

We will collaborate in simple, powerful ways that allow us to help people who help people.

I now know that power is work done efficiently (with wise and skillful use of resources, interests, communication, and expertise).

Copyright © 2024 Derrick  Brown. All Rights Reserved.



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