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How Long Must Black Children Suffer American Mis-Education?

The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility. We have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.” ~ bell hooks

The present-day landscape of urban education in America mimics an awful research study of human subjects akin to the legendarily unethical and criminal Tuskegee Syphilis experiment of 1932-1972. In 2014, the nation observed the sixtieth anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, purported to transform the pursuit of educational equality in U.S. education. However, in the 64 years since that decision, Black students have not reached levels of academic achievement comparable to students in other demographic groups (NCES, 2013a). Academic achievement disparities between Black students and their White, Asian, and Latinx counterparts have been well documented over the past two decades. At a time when children of color comprise a majority of students in most urban districts, and will be the majority in the nation as a whole by 2025, “we face pernicious achievement gaps that fuel inequality, shortchanging our young people and our nation” (Darling-Hammond, 2015, p. 3). According to Check & Schutt (2011) “teachers, counselors, administrators, coaches—practically anyone involved in education—work with at-risk students at some point. They often find they need to learn more about at-risk students by reading the research or perhaps even conducting research of their own” (p. 65). Thus, in disproportionate rates, Black youth are the unwitting casualties of a sad, unfortunate experiment in #Miseducation.

Across the United States of America, students of common racial and poverty lines languish in urban, academically low-performing schools, which are overwhelmingly subjected to seemingly identical elements of mis-education. This increasingly criminal, trial-by-error form of education occurs by our collective permission, given our ignorance and/or stubborn unwillingness to implement another paradigm. In addition, this gross mis-education occurs at the hands of the widespread ineptitude of multiple factions including policy makers, authorizers, institutions devoted to teacher preparation, pedagogical leaders and practitioners to the parents and students themselves. As such, since we are all, each one of us, equally at fault for the abject failure of an entire educational system completely failing a growing ‘at-risk’ student population – we must approach the remedy with a collaborative, ‘all hands on deck’ and full stakeholder investment in the solution.

It is my emphatic belief that authentic education is only possible when students are regarded as equal, valuable partners in the educational process. Thus, in order for educators of good conscience to affect meaningful and lasting change, we must espouse the cause of liberation by facilitating the growth of men and women who critically generate knowledge from their own unique, culturally-rich worldview. The problem of mis-education raises “fundamental questions about how educators and schools contribute to these problems . . . how can we make schooling meaningful so as to make it critical and how can we make it critical so as to make it emancipatory?” Teacher education programs need to evolve and reflect the increasing diversity in public schools. Ogay and Edelmann (2016) stated, “An online consultation of teachers revealed that 66% of the respondents felt that they were ill-prepared to address diversity in the classroom.” And, while this does not mean that every teacher (largely White females), must become card carrying members of the Black Lives Matter movement in order to prove their readiness to be apart of the liberation-driven solution, it does mean that the previous playbook of instructional “Best Practices” and modus operandi must be radically reshaped or altogether discarded.

A liberation-based pedagogy is, at its best, a level of culturally significant and 21st Century pedagogical strategies fueled by my own practical experience as a career educator in exclusively high-needs, urban schools across America. An Educate To Liberate infused education provides the world with the thinkers capable of challenging (and ultimately transforming), the status quo. My firm belief in a revolutionary pedagogical approach is equally inspired by the powerful body of research-based scholarship underlying the failure of countless education reforms and represents an attempt of grasping for a solution uniquely geared to the 21st Century needs of this nation’s underserved masses. While the #EducateToLiberate paradigm does not profess to have the answer to all that ails us on the pedagogical forefront, there are explicit strategies, studies and efforts underway to empower each of us to evolve into the kind of revolutionary-activist educators capable of collectively transforming the world (one classroom and/or school at a time), by teaching students to think critically. Not only does this fulfill the universal need for increased academic achievement, but these tools arm us to promote the creation of empowered intellectuals who are, as a result of their liberating education . . . accountable for their own freedom from oppression.

“The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel it’s warmth.” – African proverb #EducateToLiberate 💜

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In Marching For Our Lives We Recognize That Black Lives Matter

The Educate to Liberate collective (comprised of conscious scholars, educators, activists and others aligned with an academic, liberation ideology), wholly salute the #MarchForOurLives movement for its inclusivity. We acknowledge this initiative as a powerful platform to prioritize both the uncompromising survivor spirit of Parkland students who were very recently victimized by gun violence; and to highlight the pivotal, unfiltered voices of Black youth, whose very existence has always been unjustly traumatized by violence. Given that violence is a tangible accompaniment and by-product of America’s embedded system of institutionalized racism, Black youth are passionate and informed advocates. Though all-too-often marginalized, the courageous voice and historic revolutionary activism of Black youth can now begin to duly earn a righteous position of esteem in the youth leadership canon. The recognition that Black lives, do indeed matter, is long overdue. And in order to truly be meaningful it is incumbent upon this and all other viable movements, to increasingly sustain deep inclusiveness to engender respect and/or to impact history as an authentic, revolutionary force of change.

It is an inarguable fact that Black youth have long laid an exemplary foundation with which to usher in this modern, clarion call for anti-violence activism and systemic change. The uncompromising, valued and painfully self-aware narratives of Black youth have repeatedly been sounded: in Oakland-on behalf of Oscar Grant; in Chicago-on behalf of Hadiya Pendleton; in Ferguson-on behalf of Mike Brown; in Baltimore-on behalf of Freddie Grey; and perhaps most tragically, in New York-as evidenced by Erica Garner’s unscripted, martyrdom-aligned supreme sacrifice on behalf of her unlawfully murdered father, Eric Garner. In fact, because the articulate and impassioned voices of Black youth have so long been ignored by mainstream media-it is glaringly apparent that the #MarchForOurLives youth movement stands on mighty shoulders.

Judging by the passion and eloquence of the conscious youth of all ethnicities able to utilize this national platform to our collective advantage, the selective omission of past injustice upon oppressed masses (in particular that of Black people), has clearly not been lost on this informed, social media armed and politically savvy generation. As a matter of documented record, today’s youth are literally screaming: “Representation Matters” in the most poignant ways conceivable, as they speak truth to power on behalf of the issues of gun reform, marginalization of the needs of American youth and misplaced political allegiances. Undoubtedly, the notion of inclusion is itself a Revolutionary act.

Based on the widespread success of the #MarchForOurLives initiatives around the country the empowered, collective message of our youth is clear: enough is indeed enough and it seems NRA funded politicians are being put on notice, at the same time the media is being duly forewarned that the whitewashing of the anti-violence movement, is unacceptable. It is both transparent and disingenuous for the mass media to continually capitalize upon the abject suffering of the Black masses in a vacuum as merely “a Black problem”. Violence in the Black community has been intentionally used as a means to further perpetuate the myth of White supremacy, exacerbate the oppression of impoverished schools, neighborhoods and/or to increasingly promote injustice, racism and the systemic extinction of Black people. Clearly gun violence (and the extremist right-wing, hate propaganda determined to have repeatedly fueled the countless young, White, terrorist shooters), has now officially backfired on America. As such, violence can no longer be falsely characterized as a norm of the Black experience, but is an unprecedented enigma which encompasses the entire American experience…

The #MarchForOurLives movement leaders are duly noted for their conscious, moral barometer and strategic, inclusive attempts to engage a few key voices of Black youth in this initiative. It is becoming more apparent that the experienced voices of Black people are no longer considered incidental to the youth leadership narrative, but rather worthy of a vital national platform of significance, which should have been here all the time. No longer will the Black experience be overwhelmingly ignored and omitted from the public platform of the national anti-violence stage. Our dues have been paid and our investment is in blood, sweat, tears and the incalculable loss of Black lives.

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And A Child Shall Lead Them…

The youth of America have spoken. Their message is loud and clear. And like @LittleMissFlint their impassioned plea and powerful, uncompromising leadership will resonate throughout the annals of history, as far more than just a mere 17-minutes, non-violent demonstration. The wave of meaningful student activism, sparked by the outspoken survivors of the most recent school shooting massacre (at the now infamous, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida), has only just begun to reveal the leadership potential of this savvy demographic. As the world watched, our children officially forged a firm place in international history on Wednesday, March 14, 2018 also known as #NationalWalkoutDay in concert with what is bound to morph into a formidable youth-led movement to stand the test of time. The simple yet significant takeaway from this historic movement? #Enough.

This entire generation was raised in the literal crossfire of countless episodes of school violence – rendered more disastrous by the widespread proliferation of U.S. assault weapons. Therefore, no other population is more acutely affected, painfully aware and ultimately more qualified to comprise this organic movement and address the prevalent U.S. school gun violence issue than our children. In terms of specific demands, the youth driven, @NationalSchoolWalkout platform realistically advocated for the following 3 Congressional actions:

-Ban assault weapons;

-Require universal background checks prior to gun sales;

-Pass pivotal gun violence legislation empowering U.S. courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.

While students across the country marched to enact Revolutionary and grassroots level reforms to end gun violence and ensure school safety, the U.S. House of Representatives simultaneously passed a bill to fund security measures within our nation’s schools. This bipartisan bill was a definite start in the right direction, however it admittedly fell short of the intended goal due to its conspicuous lack of inclusion of any of the aforementioned platform demands. Of course, as a potential form of adult-inspired and nonsensical distraction, there is also an increasing debate about whether or not to arm teachers (who already suffer from the criminal absence of tangible resources and a respectful increase in meager pay wages to empower the successful education of our students), but alas…I digress. The most significant and newsworthy caveat to this powerful youth movement which bears mentioning for its admirable ‘Bad-Assness’, is that the youth overwhelmingly frown upon any form of traditional, sell-out, NRA-aligned, hence ‘deep political pockets’ financed gun control initiatives; but opt instead to ‘give the finger’ to the status quo, which openly prioritizes guns over their lives.

In a nutshell, our children are courageously paving the way for entire generations of seemingly clueless adults, as well as future generations yet to be born. The youth are righting the wrongs they unintentionally inherited from us-their beloved parents-and in the case of the #NationalSchoolWalkout movement, they are literally fighting for their lives. This radical changing of the guard is the fulfillment of prophecy of all successful movements and is – as it should be – an uncompromising force teeming with independent thought, interracial/intergenerational support and replete with lasting change agent capabilities. Our legendary Civil Rights Movement predecessors would be proud. I am wholly inspired and deeply ecstatic to witness this remarkable show of well organized, civil disobedience. As adults let’s agree to remove the limiting constraints of either Democrat or Republican party agendas and reserve our trademark and otherwise woefully misplaced judgment to simply stand in awe of our children’s collective ascendancy to leadership. Our future is in good, capable (and assault weapons-free), hands.