Audley ''Kano'' Smith: My DPS Experience Made Me The Man I Am Today

April 17, 2014

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My name is Audley “Kano” Smith and I am a proud product of the Detroit Public Schools System!

I entered Longfellow Elementary School at the age of five in 1953; however, because my birthday is in March, I wasn’t able to start school until the January semester.  In those days, the academic year was divided into class A, for the Fall semester and B, for the Winter semester.[/column] [clear]

My elementary school experiences at Longfellow were filled with new challenges – academic, social and athletic.  And, of course, being the younger, mischievous brother of my studious and very smart sister, Shirley, I had a lot to prove. I was a fast leaner and was constantly being encouraged by teachers committed to imparting knowledge and inspiring us to do our best…to become our best.

Most notable was Ms Trigear, who had just returned from living and teaching in Australia.  Ms. Trigear was an imposing woman and use to instill the fear of God and her wrath in us if we ever, EVER, thought about misbehaving in her class. Her enduring legacy, which I still reflect to this day, was her insistence on PERFECT penmanship.

The other teacher that made a remarkable impression upon me was my Math teacher, Mr. Snow.  And yes…he was as white as the driven snow with a shocking head full of white hair; and he, too, did not stand for any misbehaving in his class.  I remember an assignment he gave us and his instructions as to how to figure out the math problems, which I didn’t fully comprehend.  However, I used my own logic to figure out the answers and even though all of my answers were correct, Mr. Snow refused to accept my answers because I did not follow his instructions as to how to figure out the answers.  No amount of protestations or showing him how I got to the answers mattered to him. Mad and disappointed in his response, I pledged to myself then to never, ever, allow someone else to discount or disregard my God-given intelligence.

After completing elementary school, I attended Durfee Junior High School, where I was a fairly good, but not outstanding, student.

The decision that changed my life, however, occurred when I completed the first half of the Eight Grade in June 1962 and decided I would go to summer school so I could be in the Ninth Grade come the Fall semester.  It was my first time attending Summer School and I had wonderful teachers that made learning…even during the hot summer days when all of my friends were sleeping late, watching TV and playing kick or basketball…a truly wondrous experience!

And although my elementary school experience was average and my overall middle school GPA was B-/C+, I did exceptionally well on the standardize IQ test and was placed in the Honors Study Hall at Central High School (along with my sister…whoda thunk it?!),  when I entered the Ninth Grade.

The Study Hall, called the Kennedy-King, was lead by the outstanding teacher/counselor Mrs. Carter.  For the next four years we were under the watchful and caring eyes of a group of teachers dedicated to teaching and challenging us in every aspect of intellectual pursuits and social activism.  From writing detailed term papers (Thanks Mrs Trigear for your emphasis on penmanship!), to going to the public library and learning the Dewey Decimal System for researching those papers, to reading Beowulf (hated it), Shakspear and James Baldwin to encouraging us to organize and march around the Central High School campus demanding open housing in Michigan, to spending an ENTIRE semester on the US Constitution and Federalist Papers, my high school experience was one of great intellectual stimulation, which encouraged and rewarded curiosity.

Indeed, I am the man I am today because of my experiences in the Detroit Public School system.

When Mrs. Margaret Dudley used to tell us to “projecT!” when rehearsing for school plays, that was also her way of saying to also “enunciate!”  Thanks to Mrs. Dudley I have heard more than I like to recall the compliment (sic), “oh, YOU are so articulate.”  As I got older I understood that “compliment” to infer that as a young Black male speaking well was not expected.  But I also learned from my great teachers and experience at Central High School the importance of tolerance and value of understanding.  These and many other valuable character and intellectual building lessons were learned while I was a proud student of the Detroit Public High School.  At Central, our school mantra was “Carpe Diem”…seize the opportunity!  And that’s exactly what I’ve done and reflect: when solid preparation and Spiritual grounding meets opportunity, success can be yours.

Note: Audley “Kano” Smith is also a graduate of Wayne State University having earned a BA in Political Science and University of Detroit where he earned an MA in International Politics and Economics.  Smith has also served as the Honorary Consul General of Namibia to the State of Michigan and will co-lecture a Africa Democracy Project course at Wayne State University in the Fall of 2014.

 

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