It is Back to School month, and while parents like me should be getting into gear for back to school activities, this black mom finds herself weary, heavy-hearted and angry. If you feel the need to call this the "Diary of an Angry Black Woman" or the "Blog of an Angry Black Mom", because the only way you know how to describe a black woman is with a label - then do you "-boo-boo" - because this Black parent, will definitely be doing me -fighting for equity and justice in the educational rights of children--especially the marginalized children, like never before! Why? It's because MLK states clearly that "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" --and ALL children matter! Also because if parents don't stand up for their children and all children - then who will? Really, who will?
I am very skeptical and somewhat angered with those who don't have children or a family member in these unjust failing schools yet they claim to be expert enough to define the narrative of those who do! It goes without saying whoever controls the narrative controls the story and the so-called solutions which, for the most part, do not actually meet the equitable educational and life needs of marginalized children.
For example, you can extend the school day of traditional schools all you want but buildings don't educate children it's the educators in the buildings that educate children. If teachers do not believe children of color can learn during regular school hours what will extending the day do for these children - traumatize them longer?
It is immoral and inhumane to keep forcing parents of color and the poor to subject their children to the many traditional public schools across the United States, that do not treat them as human beings deserving of dignity and respect at a minimum, under the guise of achieving the American dream- an education.
How can we say in the Pledge of Allegiance "One Nation Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All" yet treat children of color and the communities they live in like we are less than human beings? Where is the Justice for All in that!
In addition, I am heavy hearted -why? Before my son Jemel, age 25, died in a fatal car accident five months ago, I interviewed him for a book I am still writing - Game On Parents! Moving from the Sidelines into the Game of Educational Reform! He was a high school dropout and I needed to understand why he dropped out because based on "research" since his mom is educated with a traditional high school diploma and some college; he should do well - right? Let me say this clearly, data or research will never replace the need for relationship building in our schools and communities. Developing and sustaining relationships builds trust!
For the record, because dropping out wasn't an acceptable option, my family encouraged my son Jemel to go to JobCorps. He successfully got a diploma through their educational program and completed a culinary arts certification program as well.
Having that experience with my son's alternative education is why I stand in opposition against any system that denies parents their constitutional right to choose the best educational option for their children! Why are parents of color, mostly black parents, and those in low income communities, forced or strongly manipulated with "fear tactics" to stay in a failing school or choose a school that just can't meet their child's educational and emotional needs?
I respect the National NAACP as the oldest civil rights organization that fought to ensure we have the liberties we have today. However, as it relates to their resolution to put a moratorium on Charter schools, I strongly oppose this referendum, because effective charters are viable educational solutions along with effective traditional public schools, vocational, and early child hood Head Start programs. And for those who are using this as a divide and conquer strategy, it does not work with this black mom. With that said, maybe their moratorium should be against ANY failing educational institution that does not ensure equity in education rather than then singling out all Charter Schools.
And finally, I am troubled that we as black and Latino folk keep giving people "free passes" when they fail to do right by children. Why-- because they are having courageous conversations? I am tired of the over used term "Courageous Conversations" because I see too many people, patting themselves on the back, due to the fact that they are "talking" about how terrible it is to oppress and deny communities of color access to equitable opportunities in economics and educations versus doing something to abolish discriminatory practices that deny thousands and thousands of children, mostly black and/or poor, of all ages, a quality education because of the color of their skin and their zip code.
I say to parents, from personal experience, that our kids will never forget when we fail to keep them safe. I say this because my son Jemel, may he rest in eternal peace, stated he dropped out because "the high school allowed him to be bullied most of the time and you mom wasn't as active in my school, as you are now". With tears in my eyes, I stated to my son "I was much younger and I was taught to just trust the school system, they are the experts and I couldn't give you what I just didn't know".
Yes, our children love us, even with our shortcomings, but how can we say we love them unconditionally when we allow, yes allow, many public schools to deny them equitable access to educational opportunities because of the color of their skin or zip code thus treating them less than human. We must demand educational options and/or be willing to boycott and walk out of these failing schools for the sake of our children. For their well-being, it must become paramount that we never negotiate our children's safety, education, and overall well-being - ever!
And for those who believe they are "Captain Save a Black and/or Poor Child" let me be clear, parents are very capable of speaking for themselves, many just need access to supports that teach them how to navigate the educational landscape.
Most parents don't need you to speak for us, we need you to work with us because every time you take the "savior" approach it feeds into the narrative that parents are less knowledgeable and don't understand. We definitely know what failing schools that discriminate look and feel like because many children of color are forced to attend them every day - but those days will soon change because parents, students and communities are moving from the sidelines into the game of education reform because it has become a matter of survival! #GameOn