February 25, 2022

My Story, My Voice: Brynne Barnes, English Professor

Black History Month

Brynne Barnes, English Professor

Brynne Barnes has taught in the English Department at Schoolcraft College since 2014 and has written two books for younger readers – Books Do Not Have Wings and Colors Of Me – with a third to be published this summer. She holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from Eastern Michigan University (summa cum laude).

To help celebrate Black History Month, we’re pleased to share “My Story, My Voice,” a series of essays written by Schoolcraft College students, faculty, staff and alumni. Please go to schoolcraft.edu/BHM to read the complete collection.

Brynne Barnes

By Brynne Barnes, English Professor

As a child, I still remember when I first started learning about slavery. I was appalled to learn that slaves were not allowed to read or write, that many children of African descent, even after slavery ended, had little to no access to elementary education – much less anything beyond that. I had always loved school before, but this sparked something in me. It made me want to read and write as often as I could. I sensed there was something special in those books, something powerful about putting pen to paper – a secret, a magic that any oppressor would want to keep hidden. So I made sure that I knew what it was.

When I became an English Professor, I never dreamt that I would stand and teach in the very classrooms that some of my own grandparents, who grew up in the deep South, were never allowed to attend. I never dreamed that I would be an author, let alone win awards. I never even imagined that the very things my ancestors were denied would not only put food on my table, but free me to touch the lives of so many people. These gifts are not mine, but theirs – the ones they were not allowed to share.

What I most want my community to know is that the Black diaspora is not just one thing, one person, or even one experience. In reference to Maya Angelou’s words, I stand as 10,000. This is the notion of what my latest book, Black Girl Rising (Chronicle Books, June 2022), honors – the journey of many through the journey of one. Black history is not something that we study; it is not in a book or one month out of the year. It is something that we live – and create – every single day.

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