DBHS Student Publication.

The Bull's Eye

DBHS Student Publication.

The Bull's Eye

DBHS Student Publication.

The Bull's Eye

Letter To The Future


“If the hope of giving

is to love the living,

the giver risks madness

in the act of giving.

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Some such lesson I seemed to see

in the faces that surrounded me.


Needy and blind, unhopeful, unlifted,

what gift would give them the gift to be gifted?

          The giver is no less adrift

          than those who are clamouring for the gift.


If they cannot claim it, if it is not there,

if their empty fingers beat the empty air

and the giver goes down on his knees in prayer

knows that all of his giving has been for naught

and that nothing was ever what he thought

and turns in his guilty bed to stare

at the starving multitudes standing there

and rises from bed to curse at heaven,

he must yet understand that to whom much is given

much will be taken, and justly so:

I cannot tell how much I owe.

James Baldwin, The Giver (for Berdis)


I graduated in the early summer of 2015 from Diamond Bar High School. Looking over the football field from the stage where three of my peers and I were delivering our shared valedictorian speech, asking myself what I’d given the past four years of my life for—was it all for this moment?—I was suddenly reflective and anxious, thinking I had not achieved much at all, did not have anything original to say to my class of 700 peers. 

For four years I had worked arduously toward a vague concept of excellence that expressed itself in neat, concrete parameters. I was in top leadership positions across student groups, maintained a perfect GPA, nailed standardized exams, collapsed into naps at home only to study and drag until sunrise on many nights. I was ambitious, competitive, insecure, brusque, searching—had the personality of a young student—and I was motivated by the faithful desire to move toward a broader and greater future. 

By the time college apps and senior year rolled around I ached to leave California for reasons I couldn’t really name. I only had the intuitive conviction that there must be more to life than the idyllic paradigm that had been set upon the exemplary students of San Gabriel Valley’s Asian enclave. With a heady dash of luck, I received admission to the University of Pennsylvania.

Attending Penn was a shock for unimaginable reasons. It is one of the few elite American universities situated in a city so otherwise black, poor and deindustrialized, reflecting an unsavory reality of how most of America really lives—in struggle, locked out of the golden halls of the wealthy and powerful. This bleak divide is seen in how, for one, almost all of Penn’s service workers—dining workers, janitors, security guards—are black (and despite having lived here all their lives, can hardly hope that their children may one day attend this school; they are kept out for a reason). Arrival at Penn is then a whiplash experience as one attempts to make sense of existing in two contradictory worlds—how to know oneself through the white values of the American intelligentsia and social elite while living in a city where the breakdown of American society and morals is plain to see. 

I sought to be in and to know this complex reality, the natural response of any curious, searching young person. I was now daily faced with this broad world that reflected American society more completely than what I’d seen in my youth. Turning to my Ivy League education with hope and anticipation for impending answers, I was devastated to eventually realize the education furnished by Penn was failing me. It lacked purpose and did not offer viable or honest ideas for navigating my youth in this uniquely American city. 

It was this contradiction that set fire to the natural connection I was now making between knowledge as a means to understand and transform the concrete world. 

Knowing this was one fact, to live by this realization is another, and for the first time, I faced sacrifice. Young people in my position were being trained to become a part of the Western elite; this seeming silver spoon was cherished as a great opportunity. Yet its values of individualism, cynicism and decadence felt increasingly bleak and unfulfilling, and at bottom I knew I could never accept a life lived this way. 

Overcoming and turning away from the life Penn was preparing me for presented itself as a moral choice that I had to make, moving beyond selfishness toward belief in humanity and responsibility. What made this possible was the lifeworld I encountered in North Philadelphia through the Saturday Free School for Philosophy and Black Liberation, which revealed an education anchored in the history and strivings of the American Black Freedom Movement. These ideas and these people (who were so vibrant, soulful, bright with laughter, sincere intellect and dignity)—an antidote to the Ivy’s false promises—for the first time in my life made concrete the truth: that my life was indelibly connected to all others—and that I could live in responsibility to this fact.

Only close to a decade after the fact do I recognize how rare the experience of attending Diamond Bar High School was, it isn’t the majority of students in this country who have a similar opportunity to be trained in such excellence and discipline so early on in their lives. DBHS and the high-performing schools like it foster a sound intellectual foundation that, at best, bear fruit as intellectual and moral courage when its students one day encounter the stormy seas of life and attempt to do what is right within that reality. 

Meanwhile, if the journey I encountered in Philadelphia revealed the crisis of education at Penn, it also revealed what was absent from education at Diamond Bar—a certain perspective and responsibility to the American societal condition, a reality and a history in which we all live in and by which we are all made. Had I known how broad the forces really are that shape our lives then I would have been a more graceful student, more eager to nurture my organic intellect, to hear the music than to achieve a letter. 

The journey has also revealed what is possible—what can emerge from the soil of Diamond Bar. The development of academic knowledge into science, philosophy and art that are bound to purpose, and in creative service to humanity. This possibility is reflected by the greats of our nation: the music of John Coltrane, science of W.E.B. Du Bois, sermons of Martin Luther King Jr., who forever marked and made history. The moral and intellectual discovery of truth, and the courage to live by it remains the great and enduring task of any student who emerges from these sunlit, concrete halls. 

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  • C

    Sep 13, 2023 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you Michelle. I so appreciate your thinking. And very happy to have you in our life, as you live yours On Purpose, the the Black Prophetic Tradition.
    Sharing your story is courageous. I’m sure it has stirred up the bulls eye in others that have been existing, not living their best life.
    Grace and peace to you as you further actualize your potential.
    Dr. C.
    Church of the Overcomer
    The Church for People, That Don’t Go To Church!

  • S

    Skipper Bailey
    Sep 13, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Your letter is very touching and so precise and I have watched the growth and development of the share this preschool of the last 10 years. What can you say Dr. Monteiro and dedicate his life to progressive education for humanity Saturday free school is an incredible institution.

  • G

    Gregory Muhammad
    Sep 13, 2023 at 5:40 am

    This is a powerful and comforting message. I love it.