The “The” in The Jose Vilson … and You

Jose VilsonJose, Writing5 Comments

Thank you, and you, and you.

I know I don’t say it enough, but all the RTs, shares, and praise keeps me going at times when I’ve wanted to stop writing. This blogging, written from one’s gut instead of one’s throat, takes a certain amount of people power to fuel the writers’ engines. This writer in particular. If only one person reads this, and they felt it necessary to tell their circles about it, then I’ve made a dent.

A discussion about my blog’s name between Michael Doyle and John T. Spencer prompted my thanks. I didn’t have the words to reply to any of them on first read. Now that I do have the words, I’ll start off by saying that the “The” in “The Jose Vilson” came from an early need to claim my place in the vast blogosphere. I went from having a well-defined space in a network that didn’t grow with me to this independent space where I didn’t know how I’d generate any interest in what I had to say. Harmony, Amber, and a few others encouraged me to get my own space because they thought I could. I think the general consensus was that, if I wanted to become a writer that mattered, I’d have my own space to do the writing in.

I had much less faith in my own abilities.

For one, I had a sea of frenemies who sought to comment on my blogs for self-righteous purposes, and at the time, I let too many of them influence the way I discussed my word. Critiques like “My blog gets read by college professors and really intelligent people” and “You’ll never get published at the rate you’re going; you’ll just get tons of comments and that’ll be the extent of your work” got under my skin in ways that it shouldn’t have. In my youth, I didn’t build enough resistance to the snide comments, the people who called me cocky when all I ever did was keep my mouth shut during my most triumphant moments, or the indirect shots at my character. I insulated my retorts, quipping under my breath “AsifIdidn’tactuallyworkhardforeverythingI’vedonelikewtfseriously?”

I lacked for confidence then, and didn’t understand that I had a duty to share my talents, wherever (or whomever) they came from. If I had something to say, and a way of saying it that few others did, then I better share what I have, because otherwise it’s a disservice to the spirit that gave it to me.

Thus, I leaped headfirst into finding my own niche. I first did some research about blogs that might inspire me for this new platform, of which there were few. Then, I did a quick Google Search on my name and noticed that, according to the search engine, I was the only Jose Vilson. Brazil had a Jose Vilson, but Vilson wasn’t that person’s last name. I started saying “The Only Jose Vilson” aloud a few times, but it sounded nuts. Then I contracted it to “The Jose Vilson.” I think I told Harmony and she said, “That’s gangsta!” or something reminiscent of that.

I don’t enjoy the same amount of comments I did back then, but my writing makes bigger ripples now. I might write a post about the New York Times not having enough teachers in their panels and they give teachers premium seats at their conferences. I might bring hip-hop to an audience usually anemic in diversity and they’ll put it on the front page of their mags. I still get props from entertainment blogs and education blogs alike. With the “the,” I gained influence amongst a crowd that, frankly, has to privilege to need no such introduction. With the “the,” I get to be honest as possible where others might shy away from such topics. In a way, I subconsciously had to lay claim to a space with a bold statement about who I was … and how I preferred my efforts to be taken seriously.

In the immortal words of Rakim, “I ain’t no joke.”

As such, I continue to stay grateful for the comments and love I receive. The only way to let people know I appreciate it is to keep sharing, keep talking, keep doing. If I’ve inspired someone to push on, fight on, write on, live on, then we’ve made each other that much better.

Mr. Vilson, who wishes you all a GOOD Friday

Comments 5

  1. Just started reading your blog this week. I really love you style and what you have to say. I am a fifty – something year old white woman who just wants to make a difference in my classroom. I think you will give me a perspective that I don’t posess now. I’m so happy to have found your voice..I’ve already been so encouraged!

  2. Jose, you write with a courage and a passion that I wish I had, something you do indeed share with Michael and John. Being from outside the US but in a first world country with its own unresolved societal issues means that I learn an awful lot from reading your blog – and not just about education, but life itself. Keep doing what you’re doing – and I’ll continue to read and learn.

  3. I want to say ahead of time that I hope that my comments on Doyle’s blog weren’t meant to come across as negative. Michael and I have both been reading your blog for awhile. I rarely comment, but only out of respect for your work.

    As far as the “the” concept: I found the opposite need when I first began blogging. I had been propelled into power (way too much) and it was all opportunity and no influence. I was a new teacher and I’d written a few journal articles. I was given a megaphone when I didn’t completely know what I believed. Unlike you, I didn’t work for it.

    I was surrounded by “here’s what you need to do to be a badass teacher.” I had been given a “the” when I hadn’t earned it and it didn’t fit. So, my original blog was called “musings from a not-so-master teacher.” I needed it to humble me more than anyone else.

    I’ve moved past that phase. I can boldly call my blog “Education Rethink” and I can own the name that I’ve finally made for myself. But it had to be on my terms and it had to happen only when I was able to find my own voice.

  4. Post

    John Norton, thank you very kindly! Coming from you, that means lots.

    Teresa, I’m glad you find something of value from my blog. I’m young, but got an old soul. It works.

    Graham, thank you for commenting. Glad I can always connect with someone who might not be in the same country as me …. which means I’m making sense of ideas irrespective of boundaries.

    John, by no means did I take it as an insult. If anything, I found it gratifying that both of you read my work. Also, it made me reflect hard on the “the” as you can tell. By no means did I find it a diss. Also, I’m glad you highlighted the piece about opportunity and influence. I felt like I had none of those when I started. Thanks for expounding on your experience, man.

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