West Roxbury, Mass.— In post-Reconstruction America, which reformer presented the most practical solution to racial inequality: Booker T. Washington or W.E.B. Du Bois? Not the most conservative. Not the most liberal. But, the most practical.
Karl Danso’s question left the Catholic Memorial School community deep in thought on Thursday afternoon. He smiled and scanned the Kennedy Commons. Presenting a lecture on vocational discernment before his alma mater’s Knights of the Round Table club, Mr. Danso ’04 took in the moment.
A dozen hands rose. With a slight nod, he called on senior Giovanni Rivera-Ferrara in the front row.
“I feel like Du Bois is building a house by putting a roof on first,” said Giovanni, who offered his own critique of Du Bois’ social theory.
“Nice, I like that,” responded Mr. Danso.
“I might even use that for my next lecture.”
Mr. Danso, an English teacher and Co-Dean of Students at St. John’s College High School in Washington D.C., returned to CM expecting such a response-- deep, sincere, and thought-provoking. In fact, he credits CM’s inclusive atmosphere for providing him with the space, and mentors, needed to ponder these questions during his time on the school’s football, wrestling, and lacrosse teams.
It led him to Boston College where he fell in love with education and turned it into his life’s vocation. Today, he teaches his own designed course called Minority Voices in American Literature. The course calls his students to discuss their passions in the framework of three questions from the desk of Boston College professor Michael Himes.
“Ask yourself these three questions,” said Mr. Danso to the crowd.
“What brings me joy? What am I good at? Who does the world need me to be?”
Bethesda Magazine featured Mr. Danso in their August publication, labeling him one of the six “Extraordinary Educators” making a difference in the greater D.C. area. A Roslindale native, Mr. Danso understands how social inequality sets back different demographics in urban communities.
The Knights of the Round Table sought out Mr. Danso as a role-model for students of color at CM. The club, consisting of 20 students, serves as the school’s multi-cultural club. They invited Mr. Danso to speak about his own background, upbringing, and how he found his own answers to those three simple, yet profound, questions.
Reflecting on the final question, he told the crowd that he needed to stay true to the best version of himself. This meant someone full of energy and life. He found himself energized whenever a student opened-up to him about their hopes, dreams, and passions. To him, it meant untapping potential and watching the individuals share their own gifts with the community.
“When you’re engaged in something you really care about, you’re like a fish in water,” said Mr. Danso.
His visit at CM concluded with an opportunity for students to ask questions. Students took the time to shake his hand and thank him for his time after.