MY PERSONAL JOURNEY: BEING #BLACKINBROOKLYNTECH
January 14, 2016
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by Mika

To see my alma mater trending on social media through the hashtag #BlackInBrooklynTech because of race related issues is disappointing but absolutely not one bit surprising. For those of you who are not familiar with Brooklyn Technical High School, let me get you a little more acquainted. The school is 1 of 9 “specialized” high schools in NYC (1 of the first 3); these specialized high schools are highly competitive and students must pass the SHSAT (specialized high school admissions test) to get into any of the 9 schools. The exam is very much similar to the SAT’s that you take to get into college (from what I remember at least). It’s an opportunity that is open to everyone (in regards to taking the actual exam) but not properly introduced to everyone; particularly black and hispanic students.

11960204_10154243273848957_7462516296723001291_nI knew from the moment that I received the letter saying that I passed the SHSAT my life was going to change. I just wasn’t sure if it would be for the better or worse. I definitely had my inhibitions about going to Tech. I was just a little girl from Harlem that wasn’t too open to getting out of her comfort zone and being around literally thousands of kids everyday that had almost nothing in common with me (or wanted to even try to). Of course I had to suck it up for the sake of my future, I guess. At one point I had to tell myself that there was nothing wrong with change.

My 4 years of being at Tech in one word was awkward. I went from being in a middle school where everyone accepted me with open arms, to being in an environment where people kind of gave me the side eye for being there. I did get my own little taste of the racism while in Tech. From people obviously talking about you in their foreign languages and laughing right at you to looking around the classroom uncomfortably when your teacher lets you pick your own group for an assignment. I honestly would rather be assigned than receiving a pity group invite.

You know how people make racist “jokes” but it’s just suppose to be a “joke”? That happened a lot too. According to my non black peers I lived in the projects (I actually grew up in a brownstone), I probably witnessed a drive by (I lived in Harlem, yes, but it wasn’t the set of a late 80’s West Coast Gangster movie) oh and me affording Juicy Couture, and other brands that were popular during my high school year’s, was just so unbelievable that my parents must have been drug dealers. That was the kind of ignorance that I dealt with on a day-to-day basis. But me being me, I brushed it off and went about my day the best way that I knew how. Unbothered.

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After many failed attempts at trying to connect to other students especially non black, I threw in the towel. I wasn’t going to force people to like me. That’s fine.The issues didn’t stop at the students though; there were definitely some administrators and teachers that were not discreet in showing their racial preferences. I remember crying to my parents my sophomore year, wanting desperately to transfer schools because I felt like such an outcast. During my time being #BlackinBrooklynTech wasn’t a day jam-packed with blatant racial slurs but more so a feeling of extreme awkwardness and feeling outcasted. I’m actually happy now that I made it through because it made me a stronger person. Whether or not people of other races and cultures decided to even look my way, it at least exposed me to something different.

Fast forward to senior year, during college application season, I remember the snickers and giggles I would get when telling peers that I was applying to Howard University while everyone else was aiming for the Ivy Leagues. Harvard? No, Howard. Yes, a black school. And I absolutely do not regret that decision either.

Tech Students have been sharing their run ins with racism on social media; I want to say I can’t believe it but I can. These are things that are now being said to their faces but I’m sure these thoughts have been around for years. Brooklyn Tech’s troubles with racism being publicly discussed now makes me feel kind of foolish for just brushing off the things that bothered me during my years at Tech. I commend these students for taking a stand and making a change instead of standing around and letting the issues with race spiral even further out of control. The decrease in the number of black students enrolled over the years seems to correlate with the increase of blatant racism experienced as a black student in Brooklyn Tech.

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I pray that my alma mater does get this under control, for it does have many great opportunities to offer to students. I encourage students to keep pushing to be heard and unlike myself and my peers to not let their voices go unnoticed. Tech finally being confronted about it’s struggles with racism has been a long time coming but I believe that these students coming out and publicly speaking against it is a great start. There is no reason why ANY student should walk the halls of a 10 story school building for 4 years and feel alone, unwanted and victimized.

Check out NBC’s article about what Brooklyn Tech students have been saying in reference to the school’s continuous struggles with race related issues.

 

This post is republished with permission from astoldbymika.com.  MIKA, is a self-proclaimed beauty & self-help book enthusiast, hip-hop connoisseur and lover of all things wo-man.

1 Comment

  1. #BlackInBrooklynTech #RightClickCopyPaste

    #BlackInBrooklynTech #RightClickCopyPaste Open Letter:

    I learned of this entirely REPREHENSIBLE situation from one of Dr. Boyce Watkins’ videos on YouTube. The last time I was at Tech was in 2010 for a class reunion, and the demographical imbalance of the Tech student body is astounding; it simply slaps one in the face the moment one enters the building. The current milieu in terms of racial composition at Tech is now clearly quite different from the one I was immersed in during the 80’s and 90’s. Change is good, but not all changes benefit everyone in an equitable fashion. The paucity in representation of URM students nowadays at Tech can simply no longer be denied. I could not help but smile encouragingly to the few black and brown faces I saw in the classrooms and hallways there. They, in turn, seemed so darned happy to see me. As if to say, “How did you make it through this?” They looked like they were walking in a minefield. I often wondered how these kids were faring.
    I have always considered myself to be an extremely perceptive individual. Perceptive to the extreme. This turn of events is no surprise to me at all; it’s been a long time coming. I have stated this back in 2010, and I am saying this again now. We already have a Chiraq. Do not allow our esteemed institution of learning to morph into a Techganistan. Tampering with a student’s education is equivalent to tampering with a student’s socioeconomic and psychosocial futures. Students should not have to be racially ostracized and pedagogically gangbanged by a form of “academic yakuza” in the name of obtaining a high caliber education. This statement is inclusive of every creed and race and is applicable to any Tech student. Fill in the blank here: ___________. Tech used to be THAT multicultural school where we all felt accepted; felt safe. I personally believe that in addition to increasing the number of African American students at Tech, there should also be a concomitant rise in the number of Latino students as well. All complexions reserve the right to representation in the Tech Hall of Fame. The fact that this brave handful of students has garnered national attention via the #BlackInBrooklynTech movement is a testament to the fact that they feel unsafe, unheard, and disrespected. I belong to Generation X, so here it is: kids, what you did here is EVERYTHING. And I respect you for it. You have taken and passed the specialized entrance exam in order to become a Technite. You have just as much right to be inside all of the floors, cafeteria, library and the basement pool of Tech as anyone else. You passed the test; they know you are HERE. But #BlackInBrooklynTech will allow you to be HEARD. Mr. Asher, this is no compliment to you or to the school’s administration. Please retain the right to feel insulted. This. Is. Hideous. These are Technites, not Techknights. However, knights are known to do battle if need be. Tech’s website has an SAT question of the day. How about an EEOA question of the day: When should Black students cease to feel racial discrimination at the school they earned the right to obtain an education in? The answer to the EEOA question of the day would be: Right NOW.
    Discriminatory behaviors and ideologies are birthed from a cryptic, dark, sordid, infectious place deep inside of someone else’s pathological psyche. To the Technites of color who are being tormented by this situation, know that this is about the TRANSGRESSOR and not YOU. Do not allow yourselves to be burdened with someone else’s seriously demented baggage. Encourage those in the wrong to leave their psychological Samsonite at the front door of 29 Fort Greene Place, aka Brooklyn Tech Way and to shut it. Not only do students not feel safe, not feel welcome, but even when they’re in school, they’re not able to produce the way that they really should, they’re not able to get the grades that they can because they’re worried about their safety, they’re worried about their futures, they’re worried about how other students and staff perceive them. I have experienced a significant amount of discrimination to win the right to be listened to and to be taken seriously in my career, so you have a support in someone who is tremendously well versed in dealing with these particularly peculiar set of circumstances. If you believe that you are going nowhere fast and that there has been no improvement, you have the right to contact the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education and file a discrimination complaint. If required, I suggest you do this as a group. Believe me, you will be taken seriously and your concerns will be addressed. OCR will open a case and send investigators to that school building. Questions will have to be answered; and explanations must be made clearly, sans ambiguity. Their mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. This needs to be adopted as Tech’s mission as well. Here is some information for you:

    Who Can File a Discrimination Complaint?
    Anyone who believes that an educational institution that receives federal financial assistance has discriminated against someone on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age, or who believes that a public elementary or secondary school, or state or local education agency has violated the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act, may file a complaint. The person or organization filing the complaint need not be a victim of the alleged discrimination but may complain on behalf of another person or group.
    Timeliness
    A complaint must be filed within 180 calendar days of the date of the alleged discrimination, unless the time for filing is extended by OCR for good cause shown under certain circumstances.
    Institutional Grievance Procedures
    Prior to filing a complaint with OCR against an institution, a potential complainant may want to find out about the institution’s grievance process and use that process to have the complaint resolved. However, a complainant is not required by law to use the institutional grievance process before filing a complaint with OCR. If a complainant uses an institutional grievance process and also chooses to file the complaint with OCR, the complaint must be filed with OCR within 60 days after completion of the institutional grievance process.
    How to File an Online Complaint
    Complainants wishing to file a complaint may do so by:
    Mail or Facsimile: Complainants may mail or send by facsimile a letter or use the OCR’s Discrimination Complaint Form available from one of OCR’s enforcement offices (see the list of OCR’s offices in this brochure). In your correspondence, please include:
    • The complainant’s name, address and, if possible (although not required), a telephone number where the complainant may be reached during business hours;
    • Information about the person(s) or class of persons injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s) (names of the injured person(s) are not required);
    • The name and location of the institution that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s); and
    • A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in sufficient detail to enable OCR to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the alleged discrimination (race, color, national origin, sex, disability, age or the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act).
    E-mail: Complainants may file a complaint, using the following e-mail address: ocr@ed.gov. Use the same procedures as above.
    Online: Complainants may file a complaint with OCR using OCR’s electronic complaint form at the following website: http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html.
    For those without current e-mail accounts, Internet access may be freely available from your local public library, and free e-mail accounts are available from several large providers.
    Note: A recipient of federal financial assistance may not retaliate against any person who has made a complaint, testified, assisted or participated in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under the laws listed on the first page of this brochure. If you believe that you have been retaliated against for any of these reasons, you may file a complaint with OCR.
    Where to Write:
    Headquarters
    Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education: 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202-1100
    Customer Service Hotline #: (800) 421-3481 | Facsimile: (202) 453-6012
    TTY#: (800) 877-8339 | Email: OCR@ed.gov |Web: http://www.ed.gov/ocr
    Be forewarned: the students are not accepting this situation, and as a Technite, an academic, and a professional of color, neither am I. Students should not be forced to shutter themselves down to nothingness simply to bolster the insecure egos of others. There is nothing MICRO about microagression. These behaviors and statements are of the lowest common denominator. Even if this commentary is lengthy, I tend to be a person of very few words but of action. It is inadequate to decry these behaviors without proactively doing something more to assist these students. Those signing this petition and any in solidarity with the students are emphatically emboldened to send communications to elected officials throughout Brooklyn to notify them that their involvement in this is paramount. It is as simple as filling out a web contact form on their respective websites. City Council member Laurie Cumbo should be the first to be contacted as she is a Technite. Leave Anthony Weiner’s sorry self alone, ha, ha. NYS Senator Kevin S. Parker’s office is a stone’s throw from Tech at the Shirley A. Chisholm State Office Building located at: 55 Hanson Place, Suite 650, Brooklyn, NY 11217 Phone: (718) 629-6401 Fax: (718) 629-6420 parker@nysenate.gov. He is also a CUNY Professor who understands how minority students struggle in academia. Brooklyn politicians frequently mention how they are the first African Americans to do such and such. Well, it’s time for them to put theory into practice, because we vote for them and so do the parents of these Tech students. Where are Yvette Clarke, Una Clarke, Eric Adams, Mathieu Eugene, Hakeem Jeffries, Walter Mosley, Ms. Bichotte, the Barrons, et al.? Velmanette Montgomery can discuss black and white folks’ dietary habits in public, but she is not discussing this? Senator Montgomery is the Chair of the Senate Committee on Children and Families. So what’s up, Senator girlfriend? Help these children. They look like you. Dante De Blasio should not be the only one of color to get a pass just because of who his father is, and I love, love, love me some Mayor and Fire Marshall Bill! Go with the ‘fro? How about go for what you know: equality. We are all Tech Engineers. Speaking of afros, to Miss N Isis McIntosh Green, the Technite disgraced by this horrendously racist and vitriolic comment from her Guidance Counselor, “The day you get above a 90 average I’ll grow an Afro.” The unnecessary reference to ethnic hair brings to mind a perpetrating Rachel Dolezal and her 99 cent store yaki. Guidance, indeed. The Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Association needs to take action regarding this. What are the four blacks and browns sitting on this board doing? We need to know. Two of you work for Con Edison. Fight the power by shutting off the power. (Just kidding on that one.) From a fiscal perspective, donations from minority alumni (and willing others) need to be withheld until this improves. I will not donate ONE CENT to Tech until they admit more URM’s and treat them fairly. Stop payment on those checks. The teacher was randy, and well, Randy Asher, what are you doing? I mean, really? Ignore a repeat sex offender issue. Ignore a racism issue. Why pay for what is TECHnically a form of child abuse? Eight, in this case (percent), is not enough. Money talks, b.s. walks.
    I’m not proud to sing any Tech alma mater while this mess exists. This tomfoolery should have ended with my generation; not continued into theirs. They need advocacy, not adversaries. Let the kids deal with grades, but a spade must be called a spade. Mr. Asher needs to get the lack out of lackadaisical and fix this. He has always been an exercise in complacency and he is too darned comfortable. Faith without works is dead. Restore your student’s faith in you and your ability to well meet the needs of the Tech student body and effectively cultivate a domain engendering success not for Techknights, but for all Technites.
    Sirach 7: Do no evil, and evil will not overtake you;
    avoid wickedness, and it will turn away from you.
    Do not sow in the furrows of injustice,
    lest you harvest it sevenfold.

    I’m about that business of getting these kids their educational due in an academic environment fostering dignity, equity, and respect to transform them into the worthy, divine and educated young specimens of fabulosity that they truly are. You kids are righteously on time with this due to the recent MLK holiday and your upcoming culture fair on 1/22/16. Complete as much AP as you can and obtain that REGENTS diploma. Take it from one who did it and one who knows, you’ll need it. I eat, live, sleep, and breathe a lifetime of STEM. STEM forever! I urge the students at BTech to grow through what they go through. To the other young Technites who care: If you witness a classmate being treated with impertinence, you can help by removing that person from the offensive party/situation. I would never urge you to confront a teacher directly, but don’t just stand there and do nothing. Technites help each other. Please right-click, copy, paste and use your petition (or any) comments to send an e-statement to Brooklyn elected officials to let them know that right now, there is more than just a tree growing in Brooklyn. These officials write the legislation which determines education. Tech has a problem, and we must solve it. This is a movement for fairness, for all students. We’re not going to take it anymore. #BlackInBrooklynTech #RightClickCopyPaste
    Love you kids, keep fighting the good fight. Power to all of the people! In the immortal words of that extra very special Brooklynite, a one Mr. Biggie Smalls: (With some modifications in the name of artistic freedom/poetic license, of course…)
    You know very well who you are
    Don’t let them hold you down, reach for the stars
    Considered them fools but don’t you drop out of high school
    Stereotypes of a black student misunderstood
    And NO, it’s still NOT all good
    Uh, Mr. Randy Asher and if you don’t know, NOW YOU KNOW. DO SOMETHING about it.

    Reply

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