What happens when a city's education system goes into crisis?

maxresdefault (2).jpg

By: Reginald Barbour

It has been said before that Washington, D.C. is the land of educational opportunity. We have traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, micro-schools, home school co-ops, and opportunity scholarships available to the city’s residents. 

However, all is not well here. Many people here don’t want to talk about it, but our children are being affected so we have to. We started 2018 under turmoil with the discovery that nearly one-third of high school students who received diplomas last year should not have due to insufficient grades, lack of course completion, or chronic absenteeism. For some it was a combination of these three factors. 

Most recently, Antwan Wilson, the former Chancellor of the D.C. Public Schools, was asked to resign after it was discovered that he “skirted” the system in order to have his daughter transferred from one school to another, without going through the proper channels. That action led to the demise of his credibility. “The trust is gone,” is what people said. 

Looking at DCPS made me ask myself a few things - what happens when one sector goes into crisis? Will the other sectors be affected? If the trust is gone with DCPS does that mean charter schools will now see an influx of students? Why does it seem like turmoil in D.C. is cyclical? If it’s not an elected official in trouble, it’s the school system. If it’s not the school system, then it’s the police department. If not them, then it’s something in the community. It’s a never-ending cycle of “something is always happening here.”

As a parent, you just want it to stop. You wish for a community where your children can just be safe in schools where their needs are being put first and leaders are making decisions based on all children and not just their own. You want to be in a place where elected officials are changing the landscape of politics-as-usual; where honesty becomes the best policy. You want your children to grow up in an area where diversity and inclusion is real and not just buzz words. Where there is equal opportunity for all. 

I asked some of my education friends if they believed that one sector affects another and I received mixed reactions. Some of them don’t believe we’re in a crisis at all; however, I disagree. Any time we have less than 30% of black and brown children who can read and compute proficiently in this city, we are in a crisis. And everyone should be concerned. 

In my opinion it’s a sad time in our city, if not in our country. We’re standing with young people who are organizing against guns in schools. But it saddens me that we aren’t mobilizing against the miseducation of our black and brown children. They are dying slow deaths every day that they are not properly educated. Can we get a march together against that? Can we come together and demand better educational outcomes for them so that they can have a fighting chance in this world? 

I do believe that when one sector is in a crisis it affects the other sectors. We might not see a mass exodus from DCPS to other types of school systems, but as residents of this city, we are all in this together, regardless if it directly affects us or not.

Black Panther and The Power of Representation

6-superhero.jpg

By David McGuire

  Just like millions of others I went to the movies to see the highly anticipated film, Black Panther. The movie was a piece of black magic. To sit in a theater and watch a movie dominated by black actors and actresses was priceless.  Black Panther was the mirror for black people. We saw hopes, dreams, and a future. Fictional or not, it showed us what happens when black people stick together and look after one another. 

Black Panther is more than a movie it is a movement; it is a statement; it is a way of life. With so much going on in the world, this movie was needed. It showed real representation of black people.  

 As I watched the movie, I thought about the youth who would sit in the theater and look up and see a black superhero. I think about my students when they go see this movie because for many of them Black Panther and King T’Challa will be their hero.  Black Panther is their representation. It is that representation that brings to the forefront the beauty and greatness of their blackness.  Black Panther represents the power and creativity of black people. It shows what happens when black people set their minds to something and stick together. 

Black Panther also gives young people another story. According to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Ted Talk, “children who are only exposed to a single story are prone to regurgitate that story because that is all they have ever known.” Black Panther now changes that narrative. It represents the richness and greatness of black people and the motherland. Adults and children can sometimes give in and be drawn to stories we see or hear. This movie represents a new story that inspires us and makes us proud. 

Black Panther represents the power of unapologetic blackness, similar to T’Challa taking his rightful place on the throne of mainstream culture. The representation in Black Panther allows for black actors such as Chadwick Boseman, Michael B Jordan, and Lupita Nyong’o to dominate the red carpet. For our black children, these actors and actress are now role models and heroes. 

Black Panther is the power of representation that will not go away. It is our ancestors wildest dreams.

All year long!

book-reading-atop-books-during-black-history-month-225x300.jpg

By Cheryl Coleman

Black History Month will be over at the end of February. The question that is asked every year is “Should we only have one month to celebrate black history?” I believe, Black History Month should be all year long. There are thousands of African American women, men and children that don’t know enough about their own history and could benefit from having a year-long intentional focus on learning about their rich history – especially in schools. All young children should have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of black history and learn about the contributions that were made by African Americans.

Black History month reminds the African American students the importance of their history but it shouldn’t end on March 1. For example, the lessons learned during February will surely capture the minds of young black men. Throughout the month they are or should be, exposed to men of color who are surgeons, scientists, senators, congressmen, or doctors. Through these men, they can see what’s possible.

My daughter attends a predominately black private school in D.C. For the first time since we’ve been there, they are sponsoring a speaker-series featuring African American men for the month of February. The series was created by a black male teacher in his first year at the school. Last week, the students were visited by Alvin Drew, black astronaut and alumna of the school. His message to the students, “Yes, even you too can go to the moon.”

Isn’t that what we should be telling our children? They can be whatever they want to be. We have to remind them that their history matters and that Harriet Tubman and Medgar Evers sacrificed so much for us. We cannot allow their lives and legacy to just “be there”. We must immerse ourselves in their world, their work, and their contributions to our freedoms of today.

My fear is although most children take history in school, there is not a big enough emphasis on the contribution of black people to the history of this nation. The history books our children use are filled with white leaders. I’m concerned that without parental support or teachers who understand the significance of including lessons of black history, our children may grow up only knowing the importance of white leaders, explorers etc.

When African American children read and learn about all the wonderful people that sacrificed so much for us and when they are exposed to great things they too will feel like they will be the next scientist or inventor or President of the United States.