Black parents, you shouldn’t stand alone

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Dear Black Parents from Memphis Lift,

I owe you an apology. Today, via social media, I watched you show up to be heard at the NAACP hearing on the moratorium for charter schools. You felt blindsided and unheard. You were threatened, and the police were called on you for fighting for what you felt was right.

.@NAACP Regional Field Director Fields Heated Responses from Pro-#CharterSchoolParents after Board Approves Moratorium Resolution pic.twitter.com/31HWUZKrX7 — Choice Media (@ChoiceMediaTV) October 15, 2016

I am a member of the NAACP and contrary to many other black folks; I do have a profound respect for them and what they are meant to stand for. My letter to you is not an entryway or access point for non-Blacks to use to attack the NAACP. My blackness just won’t allow that. Think of this as a family meeting where we have some things to address amongst ourselves. I am not interested in watching Black leaders eviscerate each other at the entertainment of other folks.

However, I do feel that we did you a disservice today. I have never worked for a charter school nor did I attend one. I have nephews that are currently thriving in one. I do not believe charters to be the Christ of education that can baptize our communities to academic heaven. No. However, I am an ardent supporter of your right to make a choice on your own. I believe that you deserve a level of dignity and agency when it comes to how your children are educated. I believe you deserve the right to have an option when one system or school is not up to your standards.

I live my life working to improve traditional public schools. It is a hard and difficult grind, but I see it as a duty for what God has personally pulled me through and I thoroughly feel blessed to be able to do it daily. I want the mark of improvement in those schools to be academic improvements that can lead to a better life for Black students. Let me be clear; I want us to build traditional public schools that Black parents WANT to send their children to, not ones that they are forced to.

I have failed you though because even with all of the degrees, the access to information, the connections I have worked to build and the social privilege I now possess, you still have not been served as best as you can, and I have little to show for how I’ve improved that. In a world where no one wants to take the blame, and everyone loves pointing the finger elsewhere, I know that part of this is my fault.

When I look at the mothers that drove seven hours to Cincinnati from Memphis just to be shut down and shut out, I think about my mother feeling helpless and aimless in my education. I think about the insecurity she must have felt not understanding how to guide my education. I think about the double-digit number of schools I attended across the country and her fear that my educational life may end up like her’s. This country could’ve done more to serve you. I could’ve done more. At the very least, today, we (and I say we because I’m a supporter of and paying member of the NAACP) could’ve made sure you were treated with more respect and dignity than you were. Today could’ve been a day that restored hope rather than one that left you feeling like an orphan with no home or protection. I watched with a clinched fist the live streams of police being called on Black parents today in Cincinnati.

I would have preferred the NAACP to call out the entire system of education as it relates to Black people on the whole. Black parents, I am sorry that you will have to listen to non-Black people quote the NAACP to you as they basically tell you that you do not have the right to choose what you feel is best for your children. It bothers me to my core.

Black parents, let me be clear, family. I don’t blindly trust any of these systems. Not-a-one-of-them to do what’s right by my people. What I support is access to all the information and the ability to do what’s best for your family. Once you make that choice, regardless of system, you must fight like hell for the edification of your child. So in this conversation, I may come off as a charter advocate. Nah, I’m an Agency advocate that understands no perfect system exists so within that context, you need the access and ability to make the best decisions for your family. Our role is to then support you in that decision and help you navigate it.

We must be better for you. Black parents, wherever your child attends school, whether it be a traditional public school, a public charter school or a private school, we can and must be better for you. I have a few suggestions on how we can do that:

  1. Traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools must put politics to the side and get real about what it means to educate Black children in this country. That involves us being adults and talking to each other.
  2. Black people have to lead. There are a lot of well-meaning folks out here leading, and I commend you, but Black people MUST be at the forefront of their liberation. When you look at the civil rights movement, there were a lot of courageous non-Black people involved, but they understood that to see real progress amongst the people it had to be Black folks out in front, leading.
  3. Black agency, or the ability to feel confident and in a position of power when it comes to issues affecting your family, must become a priority for any leader that is responsible for educating your children.
  4. Leaders of every sector of this work, we must yell down and shout out anyone that tries to blame the deplorable state of Black education in this country as a whole on the Black family. I completely understand the role the family unit plays, and I respect it. However, if any education system blames their failures on Black parents or tries to convince you there’s something wrong with us, then you should exit en masse. That’s a lie from the Devil’s lawyer, fam!
  5. We have to have a real conversation about results and who’s being educated. Our Black parents need to know that an ‘A’ in English doesn’t necessarily mean your child is reading at or above grade level. Parents shouldn’t need to know that, but alas, here we are.
  6. We must lift up and support when educators, regardless of political leanings or educational delivery system, are educating Black children well. We must seek them out in every sector of education.
  7. We must create a safe space for Black leaders on every side of this issue, along with Black parents and students to have a closed-door, family-only conversation. Remember when we used to have family meetings where we would fight, fuss, cuss, argue, eat, drink and then walk out of that house fortified as a unit and ready to take on the world together? We need that type of space.

Black people, I will be better for you and not as some savior, because (1) I can’t be that and (2) you don’t need that. I still do not totally know how, but I will do my damnedest to find out and walk in that. It starts with me. Would love to see other leaders take a similar stand publicly for our people because on the whole, this entire thing could be better for our people.

Humbly and sincerely,

Someone deeply trying to figure out how to be of better service to his people…

Are you suffering from Blackache?

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Diagnosis

Blackache [blak-eyk]

noun

  1. emotional and physical pain from hearing dumb *ss rationales as to why it’s ok to deny Black humanity constantly
  2. a condition that occurs when the confluence of rage, pain, and hopelessness consume you to the point where you shut down, take a knee or feel the urge to pick up some blunt object and throw it directly at a person asking you why you’re so mad about the police killing Black people when Black on Black crime is so ramped
  3. a loss of bodily function as your fists clinch and you yell obscenities as you watch privileged Black people sit with white people and echo “ALL LIVES MATTER” sentiments

Circumstances that can lead to Blackache

Below are some circumstances that can make your Blackache flare up. New causes of Blackache are being discovered by the minute.

  • You may find yourself caught up in conversations with people asking you why Blacks get so mad about cops instead of Black on Black crime
  • Meeting a white person that tells you silly things like, “I don’t see color.”
  • Constantly watching videos of Black people gunned down in the streets by jumpy police officers that then receive a paid vacation instead of jail time
  • When people get outraged that a ball player sat through the national anthem
  • When right after a Black person gets murdered by the police the media posts up all of his/her personal business that had absolutely nothing to do with what just happened
  • When Dylann Roof shoots up a church full of Black people and then on the way to jail, the cops turn into uber drivers and take him to get take out because he hasn’t eaten all day
  • When you have to comfort white people after Black people get shot
  • When people assume Black parents don’t care about education because they can’t show up to the 10am meeting at the school
  • When professional and educational environments are banning dreadlocks
  • When non-Black people refer to cornrows as “Boxer Braids”
  • When you are having a discussion with a non-Black person that is or has dated a Black person and feel that they are now honorary Black
  • When you find yourself having to defend the murdered Black victim because the media puts him or her on trial in the eyes of the public as opposed to the actual murderer
  • When you hear that textbooks in Texas got updated to call slavery ‘unpaid interns’

Possible Effects of Blackache

  • You may get the urge to show up to your job wearing an all black hoodie in some Timbs playing hardcore DMX (or insert another artist that scares people outside of Black hip hop culture) at a disrespectful volume
  • You may get the urge to want to slap everyone on Fox News
  • You may get the urge to tell white people how you really feel but can’t because you got bills and you know they’ll find some way to get rid of you
  • You may find yourself wishing you could be nose to nose with anonymous racist commenters on the internet
  • You may remember back to when Hillary Clinton said she kept hot sauce in her bag and you get angry all over again but then you realize you still have to vote for her because Trump is crazy so then you get even madder
  • You may find yourself wishing that your job had a ratchet room so you can go decompress all the micro aggressions you constantly experience safely with other Black people in extra ratchet ways right before your 2pm meeting
  • Looking at people mad that athletes are taking a knee in awe because you know the reaction of Black America should be 1000 times worse than that
  • Beginning to notice when people are trying to police your body, thoughts, and words more and more in your everyday life
  • Not caring how this blog post is received and not even doing spell check because you just had to get your thoughts out before you exploded

Cure/Remedy

At this moment, I do not know.

This isn’t a closed article. This is now open source. Blackache is a real thing so add to this. Use it. I don’t even care if you give me credit. Share your thoughts and encourage others to as well. Add to this list because when this Blackache builds up, it takes us out.

God Bless.

Black students won’t get a better education until black parents demand it

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Recently, the NAACP called for a moratorium on Charter Schools, which would deal a blow to African American families and their right to choice in places such as California. There are a lot of families not sure what to make of the call by the NAACP but here is my message directly to parents most impacted. It is important to note that at the time of this publication, this resolution is still awaiting a vote from its national board. I say all of this as a member of the NAACP as well. 

Demand choice and quality in your schools because you and your child(ren) deserve it. Listen, here are the facts, if you just happen to be a person of color, and you don’t make a lot of money, chances are your school isn’t up to snuff. There are caring people on both sides of this reform/anti-reform debate. There are caring people inside the buildings that occupy your neighborhood, but the facts are clear, that when a school has a large free and reduced lunch student body, the school tends to underperform.

Now that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or our babies. What it does mean is that the school will require your help. It will require your voice and only when you know and demand quality, will it change.

Do you know what happens when parents at high performing schools see things they don’t like? I’ll tell you, they complain, write letters and organize. People, I’ve seen this happen regarding graduation dates and the grass not being cut. Now just picture what they’d do if 80% of the student body weren’t performing at grade level.

You can get involved in a bunch of ways; I’ll list a few here but feel free to email me if you want to know more at charles@energyconvertors.org:

– Most public schools have a governing body made up of parents, join it. Seriously. They look at budgets, school designs and more. Principals lean on these people. If you can, become one of these people. 

– Build relationships with your child(ren)’s teachers and principal. Never underestimate the power of a relationship. You’ll get information sooner and will have the ear of the people running the whole shebang.

– Write letters, emails, text messages, hell, send a carrier pigeon. Stay in the minds of the people educating your baby. When I was Director at a youth program, I worked to serve all of my students, but there was a handful of parents every single year that I knew were watching and ready to help or call us out, whichever we needed. I love those parents to this day, and all of their kids turned it around and went to college. ALL. OF. THEM.

You are not wrong for making the best decisions for your children – traditional, charter or even private (yes, even private). Listen, I understand the NAACP made news recently calling for a moratorium on Charter schools. Check this out; you are not required to sacrifice your child(ren) to a system that you feel isn’t working for you or your family. I work in public education, I’ve only attended Traditional Public Schools (TPS), and I love what I am blessed to do for a living. However, YOU ARE NOT REQUIRED TO SACRIFICE YOUR CHILDREN TO ANY EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM NOT SERVING THEM.

Whether you choose a TPS, a Charter or a Private school, you do what is best for you. I’ve seen anti-reformers write things insinuating that people of color that support choice and alternative methods of education are in some form selling out the race or being “house negroes.” Forget all that. We know what’s at stake for our babies without a sound education.

Regardless of the type, if the school is serving your child well, then I’m in support of you. If the school is not educating your child, regardless of type, then rise up and do what you need to do.

I’ve seen Black folks with means get ashamed to tell people they sent their child to private school. It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen! Why are you ashamed to provide for your kids? You don’t need to justify it. Check it out, if my parents had the means and found a dope private school for me as a child and didn’t send me to it, we’d have a very real problem! I say this a lot and will continue to say it, the schools I went to did quite a poor job of educating me. They weren’t safe either. Just because you don’t make a lot of money and have melanin in your skin doesn’t mean you deserve less. 

The politics are never more important than the needs of your child. NEVER! Not even a little bit. I just said, I have no opinion on the type of schooling you choose for your family. So, please do not be the person of color that sent their child to a private school and then start shaming other people of color living in poverty for wanting to send their child to a charter. Don’t do that.

I just gave you props for making the best decision for you and your’s, don’t deny that same opportunity to someone else.

Don’t be the person that exercised their right to educational choice and then go into the hood and start screaming privatization to someone trying to ensure their child gets the same thing you got. Black folks have historically been miseducated far before the rise of Charter Schools or even vouchers. I see you all. I know many of you. Stop that. As an oppressed people, how do we work together better? How do I support you regardless of the delivery system of education you choose?

Don’t blindly trust any of us. Ever! Seriously. Always ask for data. Look for proof. Look at history. Look at what you’ve seen in your neighborhood. Whether the person is a reformer or anti-reformer, do your research. Walk in those hallways and talk to people, all different types. Every school won’t work well for every child — that’s just the truth. This business breeds a lot of demagogues on all sides, and your support is the capital they need to survive and thrive.

Finally, there are excellent public schools, both traditional and charter. There are also some pretty horrible ones too, both traditional and charter. People will be cherry pick stories to build their cases, but the truth is, it is good and bad in all of these systems. Find what works for you. Here’s what I do know without a shadow of a doubt, if there was a school that served mostly white, affluent kids and it was failing 80% of those students, those people would burn it down. They would, for lack of a better term, exercise their right to choice because they understand how powerful of a tool choice is.

Black people, don’t be so quick to hand over a form of power you currently have. Public education is something I’m dedicated to improving, and the pressure from you all is paramount in making that happen. Keep demanding quality. I promise you; it is possible. 

In Love, Cole Out.

We need more Black folks that ended up successful despite a horrible education making decisions

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I was a Black kid that went to pretty bad public schools. My parents had a drug problem and both spent time in jail. We were homeless. My community was in constant turmoil due to violence, both Chicago, and Oakland. I had behavioral issues. I had some teachers that cared. I had some teachers that may not have cared as much. My schools looked like prisons.

I graduated, went to college and now have a few degrees. I work in public education. I don’t hate charter. I think reform is needed and I understand when we fail kids in education many of those kids die younger than kids with better educational opportunities. I possess a set of skills that’s difficult to articulate but is needed. I am one of many.

But I don’t see those other voices in the education space. I don’t see these folks being asked to the table to help lead us to better results for kids. It was hard for me to get here. I bang this drum with everything I have because there’s so few people like me trying to solve the problems that the folks like me face. There are too many folks not like me trying to take options away from folks that grew up like me. There are too many folks not like me lowering the bar so they can feel better about themselves – and we let them! We let them try to close down schools that are educating poor black kids well. We don’t allow anyone to actually critique how poor black kids are getting educated. It’s our fault.

Here are some solutions.

  1. If you are in a significant position in education, attract smart Black people that have navigated the system. Help them learn the ropes. Set them up for success. No revolution can occur without the people that are directly oppressed. I’m collecting both mentors and mentees right now. I both need support as much as I need to give it.
  2. Lift those voices. So often there are conversations about us without us.
  3. Help people see that they deserve better. Look, I didn’t know what was possible in education until I started traveling the country and learning what great education looked like. It’s hard to picture something you’ve never seen before. You have to expose people to transformation if you want them to demand it. Until then, we’ll continue to fight for crumbs. We’ll continue to fight to keep bad schools open. We’ll continue to argue again our best interest because it’s all we know. It’s all I knew. It was all I had so I fought for it. If I’d known what was possible for me in education, I would’ve robbed someone for a school voucher or school choice – anything – in 1997 when I entered high school.
  4. Black folks that grew out of these broken systems can do things that other folks can’t. I got invited into people’s homes. I could hold students accountable better. I knew the language. My students couldn’t play me, they knew I knew the streets just as well as they did. They knew I was showing up at houses if you skipped out on my program. They knew I was having a closed door conversation with students and parents when my kids didn’t give their best effort. There are just some things I can do that my counterparts can’t.

We will never get to where we need to be in education if we keep icing out the oppressed folks that busted through. We make it seem like it’s impossible, but it’s not. I guess if we keep saying it we can let ourselves off the hook. You know, if folks were as creative around how to educate poor Black folks as they are around not taking responsibility I would’ve received a top notch education.

 

Peace. Cole Out.

How can we better survive the killing season?

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I’m an Oakland boy but the place that birthed me is in crisis and the world is numb to it. Chicago, one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen, is losing Black life at an astonishing rate. What’s worse is that very few folks outside of Chicago are discussing it. The past two weekends have been particularly bloody (read here and here).

The vast majority of my relatives live all around the Chicago area and it astonishes me how so many lives can be taken and the conversation be so small on the national front.

I’m gonna have a real moment with y’all right now. I’m that dude that people say are angry. Folks say there’s a chip there and I’ve always been this way. I go to work and intentionally walk around my entire office every single day and speak to people – not just because I’m this super friendly guy, but it’s because I know how people see me. It’s the way they’ve always seen me, so I put people at ease. But when there are so many inputs that let us know that Black life isn’t valuable and it’s reiterated to you time and time again, it changes you.

I’m talking about cops killing us, us killing us, food killing us, water killing us, education killing us, our government killing us, poverty killing us – ALL OF IT. So when we step up, we’re met with a prime mixture of animus and patronization.

The cop had due cause. Let the hood take care of itself, eventually they’ll kill each other off. We need Monsanto. Just give schools more money. Charters are manipulating you. Don’t blame teachers. If they just got jobs, this wouldn’t happen.

Get outta here with that, man! For real.

What are we doing, both collectively and individually to add value? So many people out here make money off of Black suffering. There are so many nonprofits. So many schools. So many candidates. So many books.

My people dying is a cash cow for this country!

If you’re happy in your life and have some success, I need you to mentor someone. If you’re a Black man and you spend time with your kids, bring along the kid with no daddy.

Murders go up when the temperature rises in Chicago!

How bothered do you need to be?

I just spoke on an education panel discussing the normal stuff; charter schools, achievement – you know, all the stuff reformers and anti reformers discuss. The arguments where neither side is changing the other sides mind. The spaces where we all are just taking up space. I just couldn’t get over what’s been happening to Black folks.

I feel like I just kept yelling that our education system has never really educated Black people well, especially after Brown vs. Board. I just kept going back to the shootings that happened over the weekend. Last weekend it was 40 plus shootings, this weekend (at the time of writing this) it was 18. 13 people killed. This is Chicago for people that look like I do. This is Chicago for poor folks. This is the America that poor folks of color often experience. In this story it’s Chicago, but it’s our country.

I’m all over the place so I’ll end it with this list because we can all do something:

  1. Be a mentor.
  2. Get in front of these Black boys and girls and show genuine interest in them.
  3. Dads and men matter – to the dads on the block, make room for another kid or two in the neighborhood. Take them with you.
  4. Black churches, come on now! You were and are the backbone of our communities. WE NEED YOU. There was a time when you could go to the Black church and get all the information you needed. There was a time when we used to see y’all in the streets.
  5. Mosques, we need you. When I was a kid, y’all had brothers on every corner as we walked to and from school. You brothers made us get to school on time, told us to respect the girls and asked us what we learned. Y’all corrected us and I always respected it, even as a Christian boy. We need y’all.
  6. Media, tell the stories. For real. Make this country care like you force me to care about whatever the Kardashians are doing. Why are there like five shows focusing on OJ Simpson right now? I don’t care anything about that dude.
  7. School leaders, both reformers and anti reformers, I want to see conversations about Black kids. Talk to me about how they’re achieving or no achieving.
  8. The list isn’t exhaustive. It’s clear I’m writing off pure emotion. So what I want to leave you with is DO SOMETHING!

Show these kids we care about them. Chicago, Oakland, Detroit, show em. Welcome to the Killing Season. Hopefully it’s the last one.