Thursday, December 19, 2013
Bringing Regularity to African American Children
President Obama says African American people having a stake in this country is normal, “regular.” Something we do not even talk about any more. Having a stake and taking advantage of the stake are not one in the same.
Dr. Emma Jones, Director of Maxine Mimms Academy – Seattle, says that being regular is all there really is. When we are irregular we are suffering from disease. I am privileged to regularly be in the presence of African Americans who are finding answers to the problems presented by African American children who are not regular, out of rhythm with their natural selves and out of sync with a forward moving society. Just as any child who has a critical ailment, African American children in the collective are best revived to their most healthy existence when the parent is involved in the cure and sustained care of the child. Parents for Student Success, a parent directed non profit in Seattle, has established an Academy for developing Parent Practitioners. These parents see the world of raising and getting the best education for their children through the world view of a parent. They are fully engaged partners with any and all who make decisions about their children. Without this level of engagement of parents of African American children, the children go lacking, some have actually died, from violence, suffer from extreme traumas, that are never healed, or they wander through life never getting to their best purpose or becoming contributors to the societal good.
Fortunately, the majority of African American parents, have a sort of genetic memory that despite exposure to what makes children not function to their fullest, can keep them well. Genetic memory is passed on through culture. There is no culture that is not steeped in survival and well being. Violence is not an African American culture, resisting oppression and seeking self sufficiency is very much a part of African American culture.
Education is and has always been a major part of the African American culture. There is a legacy of 104 Historically established and sustained Colleges and Universities in the United States to support this. There are many family stories of learning in segregated schools being taught in church basements, even clandestine reading lessons during a time when southern states made it a crime to teach a slave to read. Fredrick Douglass, in his writings tells of hearing his master tell his wife that the reason for such a law was that it was not possible to enslave a person who is educated. He had been taught enough about reading to go on to continue to teach himself, and read every book in his master’s library. He, freed himself, went north and was the first African American to receive a PhD from Harvard. The possible for greatness is inextricably linked to an education that frees the mind, thus the person. African American lead and guided universities throughout the southern and border states are clear examples of our ability to bring about equity and excellence for our African American children. Helping them become more regular.
Students who were mediocre students in our school across the nation are accepted into these colleges and receive the rigor, and high expectations that has always been part of the African American view of education as a liberating tool. These children who were said to be failing or not teachable in schools created primarily for the well being of white children, do well when the education sees a value in them as contributors, not just consumers.
Failed children have for the past quarter century have been fodder for the economics of failed humanity. More money is placed in schools when the students are poor, not excelling and their families create new jobs for social service providers. These agencies for the parents, like the schools of the children are not administered to bring those served to full equity. In fact the problem proposed to be solved is exacerbated by inept problem solving, administration, and implementation. The victim becomes the perpetrator. African American children are not learning, families are not feeding them, housing them, being engaged we need to put more money into the solution, and this is just too hard we need higher salaries. The industry built around irregularity of black, brown and poor white children is a corporate levels. The former Community based organizations, are being swallowed up by mega organizations with corporate representation on the Boards of Director, and what were Directors from within communities are now replaced with Executive Directors, and the new practice is to give the title as that of corporate leaders; Chief Executive Director, and Chief Financial Officers. These are titles of huge industries.
Like the medical industry, there is little interest in getting patients well back to “regular” the drug industry finds its wealth in giving out pills that do not heal. They solve a problem, but does not solve “the” problem associated with many diseases, and irregularities of our bodies.
Back to the issue of African American children in Seattle, where I do the bulk of my work with parents, policy makers and educators, African American parents are becoming Practitioners and have called in specialists to bring about a healing for what plagues our children and their educational well being. Some of the procedures will appear to be radical to a more healthy observer, but as with what is life threatening, to not administer an extreme cure for an extreme life threatening illness might mean the death of the patient. An example is Saturday Math Academy and Early Morning Algebra. Parents asked Norman Alston a professional mathematician to teach their children. His methods are extreme, he teaches complex math to children as young as 6 years old, 8 year olds can identify a Unit Circle, which is calculus, and solve algebraic equations. They learn from this the elements of balance, and that algebra teaches equity.
African Americans do not discriminate or separate that these have been applied to us and our children. We were once separated based on our color and we know it is not natural. So when African Americans brought into being expanded math for our children it attracted others; The classes have Asian, white, hispanic, bilingual students and parents fully engaged with each other. We know that African American children are trend setters, what they think is cool, other children will follow. So it is in the best interest of all to create with African Americans trends of excellence, that comes from hard work and focused capacity building.
Africatown Education and Innovation Center is the recently established think tank and solution center for the education of African American children and the economic self sufficiency of their parents. Yes, African Americans like other families fall upon hard times. But when we are in charge of helping them out of these hard times and are funded to solve the problems, families do not have generational cycles of hardship. From the days following the emancipation of slaves, until the mid 1970’s a century later, each generation of African Americans did better then the prior in the same or greater numbers than the general population. Then, something happened and we have been sent on a path of failed policies, solutions, administration and implementations. Africatown, Parents for Student Success, Technology Access Foundation, Village Spirit, First Place, Fear No Number Math, Life Enrichment Institute, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, are all clear examples of what can occur when African Americans take their own lead.
Each of these organized efforts work in sync with each other, and are growing to bring a healthier environment into being for our children. But the nature of the irregularity that our children and families are in requires capacity building to reverse the damage. So we work with whites and all people who can help us, there is no drawback in being help mates across all of the distinct populations.
I think that the regular President Obama speaks of is demonstrated in his campaigns and presidency. He is changing the image of America as a separatist nation to one where there is no majority or minority. We need that lesson to come more quickly to Washington State in the education and well being of African American children, their families and all children who are not experiencing excellence. But to heal one and and leave very ill others living in the same environments, only leads to the infection of all, thus creating an epidemic. This is being now reported by global media. The United States is now only mediocre in the education of our children. Well what did we expect. You can not have the amount of failed education heaped that is heaped upon African Americans so firmly established that it has created spin off economies and think that all the children would not be likewise touched in a negative way.
Whites who have the primary control of policy making, the processes that lead to the passage of policies, and the management of funds meant to bring equity and excellence. Changing this will require radical moves and changes. Unfortunately, much of what occurs to create what is in place, is system based, not individually. So, we have people with the best intentions, themselves falling prey to the system in place to separate by race, class and national origin. So while some immigrant groups are absorbed within one generation into the USA society, other are forever referred to as refugees and immigrants, even after receiving citizenship. I grew up during the days of the “civil defense drills,” the Russians were coming and they were are enemy. Yet, as immigrants and refugees, there was not one negative statement made against them. They are known to be much more violent and onerous in their gang activities in WA State but the system allows them the same respect that all whites get, their crimes are associated with the individual. African American crime is associated with the entire population and cast as our having a culture of violence.
New voices, added to new narratives can change the dynamics of what bring irregularity to African American children. I ask all who got to the end of this to work with us who are Taking a Leap With African American Children. Jumping over obstacles, and being strategic in how we leverage our human and fiscal resources to get past what plagues our children, our families and our village. Much of the work will occur internally among ourselves, but the major work is external to what we have controlled for the past quarter century. We must get back to schools and agencies being primarily centers of learning and capacity building. We watched them turn to what they are now, primarily economic centers. This does not detract for decent salaries, but accountability measures must be in place. Those who are not elevating African Americans should not be able to be funded year after year at the detriment of those the propose to be funded to educate and bring into self sufficiency.
Africatown Education and Innovation Center brought together a collaboration of African Americans and with little and no compensation in some areas, kept African Americans in daily high expectation environments. At the end of summer they out performed the children in every other summer program in Seattle. The Fashion Design class, kept students at design boards and sewing machines and resulting in a public fashion show, no less than any we see on television. The little preschoolers learned the languages of their peer, and were bilingual within two months. The parents were fully engaged and the teachers taught from love and determination. Those who devise, set policy and administer funds for the $237,000,000 Family and Eduction Levy showed little if any interest in these solutions and outcomes coming from within community and united the community. Where African Americans are funded they are rewarded for being in a silo.
So, we can and will bring about a more regulated life for African American children in Seattle and the nation. Our newly elected Mayor, Ed Murray has met with President Obama and other newly elected Mayors. He tells us that the issue of African Americans is a major part of the conversations he has had with these mayors. He has proclaimed an intent to make Seattle a model of ways a city can turn around downturns for African Americans. For this proclamation I applaud him, and commit to helping making this happen with support from the best of who we are aligned with our own action that will help him get us where we need to be.