2017 National Black History Month Theme: Black Education In Crisis
“Educating a child is too great of a task and too important for America to the keep getting it wrong and letting it wane” (A Talk with the Community: Politics, Education, and Other Social Issues, pp.57).
According to Dr. Carter G. Woodson in the Mis-Education of the Negro, he stated, “The most imperative and crucial element in Woodson's concept of mis-education hinged on the education system’s failure to present authentic Negro History in schools and the bitter knowledge that there was a scarcity of literature available for such a purpose, because most history books gave little or no space to the black man's presence in America.” It was never the intent of the majority community to teach anything other than a Western-based, colonial-conqueror center education. Curriculums are built around the maintenance of the status quo and supremacy.
It is intentional that formal education was denied to people of color in the United States of America. It was illegal for a slave to know how to read or write, because it imposed a threat to the institution of slavery. According to the South Carolina Act of 1740, “Whereas, the having slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it enacted, that all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe, in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.” Furthermore, the Virginia Revised Code of 1819 stated, “That all meetings or assemblages of slaves, or free Negroes or mulattoes mixing and associating with such slaves at any meeting-house or houses, &c., in the night; or at any school or schools for teaching them reading and writing, either in the day or night, under whatsoever pretext, shall be deemed and considered an unlawful assembly; and any justice of a county, wherein such assemblage shall be, either from his own knowledge or the information of others, of such unlawful assemblage, &c., may issue his warrant, directed to any sworn officer or officers, authorizing him or them to enter the house or houses where such unlawful assemblages, &c., may be, for the purpose of apprehending or dispersing such slaves, and to inflict corporal punishment on the offender or offenders, at the discretion of any justice of the peace, not exceeding twenty lashes.”
In order to overcome those fundamental educational disparities, local school autonomy must rest with the community. Education must continue to be free. It must start in the mother’s womb, and be reinforced in households. Education must be considered as the lifeblood of a people. It can light up the darkest most desolate places of our lives. Education is one of the most potent weapons that can be used against an oppressor. Education can pull one out of poverty and lead to economic prominence. Education can shape one’s worldview and deconstruct ignorance. Education is able to create social justice and break down walls of bigotry. Education can fortify a family and cultivate a community. Education will employ political power if a people seek it wholeheartedly.
So, lets send out a mandate.
*We must require elected official leaders to take a litmus test on their involvement, advancement, and improvement of educating people of color.
*We must take preventative measures that ensure our children are fully equip to learn prior to reaching the schoolhouse door.
*We must supplement the school’s curriculum in our households in the area of cultural studies.
*We must seek out resources that promote literacy.
*We must turn off the television, come off the computer, and open a book.
*We must lobby our elected officials to direct funding to our schools and students.
*We (parents) must be willing to ask for help understanding the curriculum and our children’s homework.
*We must realize that the status of black education is a 400-year long problem and there are no quick fixes or magic bullets.
*We must address our attitudes about education within our families and promote educational advancement.
*We must recognize that grades are not the beginning and ending our destiny. It is simply an indicator of effort.
*We must know that K-12 and post-secondary educational attainment is one of the best things that we may seek; and that our children cannot simply go to college, but must graduate.
*We must create a comprehensive plan to deal with issues surrounding mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery if a crisis hits our schools (i.e.-fights, bomb, threats, and school shootings).
*We must take ownership and accountability of our schools and their success.
*We must recognize that there is emotional pain and trauma attached to the plight of the undereducated.
*We must get on the committees that write the tests and the curriculum.
*We must become lifelong learners and students of history.
*We must know that we are in a global competition.
*We must recognize that there is a linkage between educational advancement and social mobility.
*We must learn to be entrepreneurs first and other people’s laborers second.
*We must be better stewards of our finances so we can focus our dollars to maintaining our communities.
*We must learn to love and lead in our households, our street corners, our blocks, our neighborhoods, our communities, our cities, our states, and our nation.
*We must seek to be the dream that our forefathers and foremothers wished for, and procreate generations that are the definition of excellence.
We are more than able to overcome the crisis in black education. It is a race that must be won. We will have to pace ourselves in order to stay the course. We will get tired. We may even lose some runners. We have to plan our race and train. We will have to outperform sprinters that have lapped us for centuries. We will have to position ourselves with runners that share our goal and are willing to cross the finish line with is. In spite of it all, we will win. We will win. We will win.