Dear poor Black folks born into poverty. No one is coming to our rescue, B! No one is coming to ensure that our living conditions are right. No one is coming to make sure that we are fed and clothed. No one is coming to make sure your babies are respecting old folks in the streets. No one is coming to make sure cops stop killing our people. No one is coming to make sure we stop killing ourselves. No is one coming to make sure your kid catches up in school. No is one coming to make sure your kids have salvation. The only time they’re coming is when we are doing the entertaining and even then we won’t get the recognition or the credit we deserve.
Everyone loves black folks but don’t no one wanna be black. They love what we produce. They what how we dress. They love how we walk but we gotta save ourselves because when it hits the fan we are subhuman and the world will tell you it’s ok to kill us.
We gotta save ourselves. We can all play a role. In this article, I’ll focus solely on education. Consider this the first of a series.
If you hate how Blacks are educated, then get involved.
You don’t have to be a teacher, even though we need more of them. However, you can be a force by showing up and advocating. That means demanding quality for your babies. In order to do that, it means learning what quality actually is. It doesn’t matter if you have a Master’s degree or dropped out of the 8th grade, your presence makes a difference. When you take your pain and passion and learn the language of change, you can move mountains.
There have been massive movements in schools and districts that have been led by concerned parents. These parents took their disdain for how their children were being (mis)educated, learned the language that administrators communicated in, and built movements. It happens more often than folks may think.
Listen, Brown v. Board was and is seen as a huge legal win for civil rights. We were finally going to get to share schools with white folks. The thought of integration, at the time, is exactly where a humane and sane society should be. However, one must remember, there are always unintended consequences and Brown v. Board would spell the death of the Black educator. You see, when all of the country began pushing into integration, that was meant for students, not the Black educators that taught those students. As a result, we saw a full sect of the teaching profession phase out to the point where only 2% of all teachers are Black men.
It’s rough out there. I won’t focus this article on the need for Black teachers. There are a ton of articles out there on the subject, I know this because I’ve written about it several times in the past myself. I think we are at a point where it is safe to say that we need more Black teachers in America. I will focus on simple ways we can all add to the solution.
Parent power is truly impactful.
When parents organize and have a strategy, they oftentimes get what they want. It doesn’t take hundreds either. A group of 5 or so well-organized parents that understand the language administrators speak can move mountains. When parents get fed up with certain things and begin making demands in unison, things shift.
Volunteering in the classroom can have a lasting impression on everyone involved.
You can volunteer as a parent or community member. Most teachers won’t turn down free support. Whether you are reading in the corner to a bunch of first graders or you are leading high schoolers on a local college tour, the impact can be mighty. It sends a message to the students, faculty and community that we value our kids. I am a strong believer that when people feel valued, they perform better. I believe that’s true whether it’s a student, a teacher or a janitor.
Mentorship is a direct means to taking back education for Black folks.
Much of life is experience. I remember going to college and thinking I’d leave ready for a career and some amazing company would be sitting there ready to make me an amazing offer. NOPE! Not the way it works. It’s the connections we make that tend to help successful people navigate their way to success. It happens a lot. Mentors can open a gateway to child’s mind by exposing him/her to new things. You have no idea the type of impact it can have on a child just by seeing a new career option can have. When I learned that there were people that got to get on planes and write about what they saw and make enough money to own a home and raise a family I was blown away.
Be an encouraging presence.
In school, I didn’t always really care how well I did. I’m just being honest. As long as I got to play basketball, I was good. So I did enough to make that happen. However, when I knew I had to answer to someone that knew I had potential and explain to them why I wasn’t doing that well, it changed me. I hated having to explain my failures or lack of trying to other people. Think about it, go into a classroom and build a relationship with a struggling student. It’s crazy how hard that student will work to impress you.
If you live in Oakland and you want to get involved, I got hundreds of kids that could use you, right now. Again, no one’s coming to save us. Yelling at the television or the blogs won’t change anything. Talking about what needs to happen with your friends over coffee won’t change anything. Tweeting what should happen with the hashtag of the day won’t do it either. Come rock with us. Email me [firstname.lastname@example.org] or tweet me [@ccoleiii] and we can get you started. Come change some lives. Peace.