Kanye's 'jeen-yuhs' Shows Why We Need to Nurture the Dreams of Our Black Students

Mar 1, 2022 12:00:00 AM


As a disclaimer, this piece does not serve as an endorsement of Kanye West’s “Slavery was a Choice” stance or his friendship with Donald Trump—or even his failed presidential campaign. We can say what we want about his antics and political views but his genius has ALWAYS been undeniable!

Even though I’ve fallen out of love with Kanye West in recent years, watching “jeen-yuhs” reminded me of why I became a fan in the first place. It takes me back to my junior year in college when I rushed to the record store to purchase a copy of Kanye’s classic debut album, “The College Dropout.” I can remember being equally drawn to his story of struggle, persistence, and triumph as I was to his music. 

At a time when hip-hop culture centered heavily around hood narratives, Kanye served as the counternarrative to all of that. He started a movement where he made it OK for young Black men to sport a Louis Vuitton book bag and rock a blazer over a pink Ralph Lauren polo with the collar popped. He also made it okay for us to exude confidence in our self-expression that deviated from the hardcore image presented by most rappers at that time.

The irrational confidence that Kanye had in his fashion sense, musicality, and most importantly, himself is what made him a polarizing cultural figure then, and still makes him relevant to this day.

So where does this irrational confidence come from? How was Kanye’s ascension to fame even possible, considering the insurmountable odds stacked against him?

There’s only one answer ... his mother, the late Dr. Donda West.

A former English professor at Chicago State University, it’s no surprise that Dr. West had the greatest influence on Kanye’s development as a rapper. From an early age, she blessed him with positive affirmations and gave him the license to manifest his dreams into reality. The way that Dr. West lovingly and consistently instilled confidence in Kanye was just beautiful to watch. Although I can’t prove it definitively, I know that she treated her students at Chicago State the same way because she was everyone’s "Mom," as mentioned several times throughout the documentary. 

In the end, "jeen-yuhs" not only provided us with an intimate behind-the-scenes into Kanye’s creative process and well-documented work ethic as an artist, but it also provides us with an important lesson on the power of manifestations and positive affirmations.

We must prioritize human connection and the cultivation of joy with our students.

As teachers, we should be loving on our children in the way that Dr. West loved on Kanye. At a time when COVID-19 continues to make its presence felt in so many school communities, forcing teachers to leave the profession at record rates, [pullquote]we must prioritize human connection and the cultivation of joy with our students.[/pullquote] As math educator Crystal Watson states, our Black students have the right to dream and we, as teachers, have an obligation to support those dreams. The juxtaposition of Kanye being a college dropout with his mother being a highly reputable English professor is the perfect example of what it looks like to fully embrace the dreams of our students. 


Additionally, we must embrace and nurture the dreams of our Black students for two reasons:

  • The genius of our Black students is multifaceted.
  • When we cultivate joy in our Black students, we are not only prioritizing connection over control but, most importantly, we are giving them permission to be human.

The central theme in all of this is humanity. It’s not about pigeonholing our Black students to believe the status quo’s definition of success but rather providing them with a safe space to shape their own visions of what success means to them and carve out their own paths to success as they see fit. THAT’S how we cultivate joy in Black students.

If watching "jeen-yuhs" doesn’t reframe your thinking around social-emotional learning and inspire you—the teacher—to cultivate joy and normalize empathy with your students, I don’t know what will.

If watching “jeen-yuhs” doesn’t reframe your thinking around social-emotional learning and inspire you—the teacher—to cultivate joy and normalize empathy with your students, I don’t know what will

If watching "jeen-yuhs" doesn’t reframe your thinking around social-emotional learning and inspire you—the teacher—to cultivate joy and normalize empathy with your students, I don’t know what will.

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah

Kwame Sarfo-Mensah is the founder of Identity Talk Consulting, LLC., an independent educational consulting firm that provides professional development and consulting services globally to educators who desire to enhance their instructional practices and reach their utmost potential in the classroom. He is the author of two books, "Shaping the Teacher Identity: 8 Lessons That Will Help Define the Teacher in You" and his latest, "From Inaction to 'In Action': Creating a New Normal for Urban Educators". Throughout his 14-year career as a middle school math educator, author, and entrepreneur, Kwame has been on a personal mission to uplift and empower educators who are committed to reversing the ills of the public education system in America and around the world. As a staunch ambassador and advocate for teacher empowerment, Kwame has spoken at numerous national education conferences and worked diligently to support the recruitment and retention of teachers of color in the education system. In January 2019, he was one of 35 Massachusetts teachers of color chosen by Commissioner Jeff Riley to be in the inaugural cohort of the InSPIRED (In-Service Professionals Increasing Racial and Ethnic Diversity) Fellowship, an initiative organized by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for veteran teachers of color to recruit students of color at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to teach in targeted districts within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As an InSPIRED Teaching Fellow, Kwame facilitated professional development workshops for aspiring teachers at universities such as Boston College, UMass Boston, and Worcester State University and has served as a guest speaker for non-profit teacher pipeline programs such as Generation Teach and Worcester Public Schools’ Future Teachers Academy. A proud graduate of Temple University, Kwame holds a bachelor's degree in mathematics and a master's degree in education. He was honored as the 2019 National Member of the Year by Black Educators Rock, Inc. for his unwavering commitment to the advancement of the teacher profession.

The Feed


  • What's an IEP and How to Ensure Your Child's Needs Are Met?

    Ed Post Staff

    If you have a child with disabilities, you’re not alone: According to the latest data, over 7 million American schoolchildren — 14% of all students ages 3-21 — are classified as eligible for special...

  • Seeking Justice for Black and Brown Children? Focus on the Social Determinants of Health

    Laura Waters

    The fight for educational equity has never been just about schools. The real North Star for this work is providing opportunities for each child to thrive into adulthood. This means that our advocacy...

  • Why Math Identity Matters

    Lane Wright

    The story you tell yourself about your own math ability tends to become true. This isn’t some Oprah aphorism about attracting what you want from the universe. Well, I guess it kind of is, but...