Thursday, January 19, 2017

Dr. Juanita Hoskins - Place

Dr. Juanita Hoskins is the Director of Educational Equity for the Roseville Area Schools; she brought in a team of educators who participated in the Humanities Center’s 2016 Educators’ Institute. She works with a group of teachers of color and American Indian teachers who are part of a group called F.O.C.U.S. (Future Oriented Collaborative United Support). Juanita believes in the importance of providing a diverse staff of teachers to our students.

I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee in a small rural section of town called Shepherd. It was a predominately black neighborhood. It had four small full-service grocery stores, four churches, an elementary school, a community center, a motel, and two gas stations.

On my side of Shepherd there were five streets where families lived. On each street, ninety percent of the people were related to each other. It was like each street belonged to seven different families. While the streets were represented by different families, we depended on each other. We knew each other. We cared about each other. If one family was in need, we all pitched in to help.

This place has meaning for me because it is where I was taught to love everybody. This is where I was taught the importance of education. This is where I was taught to fear a loving God, who would forgive me for anything. This is where I was taught to forgive others.

Most of the mothers and fathers in this community worked as domestic help and factory workers, and were mostly poor. As all good parents do, they took care of us without complaining, so I did not fully understand the level of poverty around me until I left home. I describe it as a different kind of poverty, because we owned our own land. In the summer our families grew vegetables and shared them with each other. We had chickens and hogs and goats that provided the meat we needed. There were also apple, plum, and peach trees in the neighborhood. When those things were in season, we did not go hungry. My brother tells a story of not having enough to eat, but I don’t remember that. I was the youngest of nine, so I can imagine that I got a few things that they did not get. I also lived across the street from my uncle and his wife who never had children and I was their favorite niece. I remember eating at their house every once in a while. I can not recall ever wanting for anything. The community had high expectations for us. They taught us what things in life were important, with family being at the top.

What makes this place so special for me was its focus on education. My elementary school principal lived on one side of the neighborhood. The first grade teacher lived on the other side of the community. One of the elders in the community named the streets when the community was being formed. The streets had names like Talladega, Walden, Atlanta, Fisk, and Shaw. What I did not know growing up was that these were the names of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. It was as if by giving the streets these names we were destined to do great things. From that little elementary school, many of us went on to become doctors, teachers, lawyers, principals, businessmen and -women.

Place matters.


  1. "Depended on, knew, cared about ... each other." Even as a kid, you were learning what the Minnesota Humanities Center knows: that what unites us is deeper than what divides us, and that as we become caretakers of one another's stories, we form a more perfect union. That web of streets in your neighborhood was like a dream catcher!

  2. This is beautiful. I can almost feel like I am there. And it proves the point that place matters! I love it!

  3. What a rich circle of love and high expectations you had. Beautiful!