Give tamariki a space where they can have status
By Pera Barrett
In a recent Paperback Guerrillas podcast kōrero, I talked with world champion DJ Spell.
As well as being the best in the world at DJing, Spell does a lot of other things (Māori tutor, beat-maker, videographer and more), and I wondered if his success in the world of DJing had played a part in his confidence to try those other lanes of art and life.
It was an interesting thought process to reflect on the impact of my own early “successes”. You’ll see below why I’ve put that in inverted commas.
I was a reasonably good reader and speller in primary school. In the age of autocorrect and emojis-that-say-it-all, that doesn’t mean much. But looking back, it’s not hard to see a link between my successes in reading and spelling and my willingness to have a go at problems in other classes.
I knew I was good at spelling. My teachers told me and they built a reputation for me to live up to. I wonder now how much of my confidence since then came from those teachers, that early success, and them telling me about it.
Did knowing I can succeed in class give me the confidence to climb sweaty-handed on-stage and rap? Did being a “successful” rapper give me the confidence to try writing my first story?
(Note: rap success measured by the globally recognised scale of how many people other than your mum and your mates reckon you’re any good.)
Did my confidence to apply for a job in a bank as a young Māori man from Ōtaki come from knowing I could stand in front of strangers and risk being booed off-stage?
Did those “statuses” gift me the confidence to try and build Shoebox Christmas, then expand it for the nearly 6000 tamariki receiving koha this year?
You get what I’m saying.
Some of our tamariki experience wins and “status” in the classroom or stage, some on the field or basketball court, some at home. Others don’t have that anywhere. Some don’t experience the little wins others take for granted, and the status or confidence they can bring. They see other kids do well, but nobody has ever taken the time to help them find a space where they can have status, too.
It’s important to find wins for yourself and those you love. Set goals and celebrate when they’re hit. They don’t have to be big. But those wins can give you the confidence to try for the next one.
There are adults out there who have not only never had any stepping stones of confidence, but have had the opposite reputation built for them to live up to.
What happens when your teachers, role models and society, tell you all the way through life that you can’t win, that success isn’t for you?
What happens when we assume everyone has the “opportunity” to give it a go and succeed, without understanding that success is a completely foriegn concept to them?
What if the job we’re interviewing them for or that fumbled conversation with someone outside their circle is their first attempt?
What stepping stone or win can you help them with? Do you have any of your status to share?
• Pera is a rap singer, story writer, and founder of Shoebox Christmas. He grew up in Ōtaki and received the Local Hero award at the New Zealander of the Year awards in 2019.