This is a post by my friend and colleague Tanesha Peeples,the Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post. Her mission is to use her education, passion and experience to empower marginalized populations. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, she is a Chicago Public Schools alumna and proud Englewoodian. Check out her blogging about “Hope and Outrage.” This piece was originally published at Education Post.
OUTRAGE: BLACK KIDS ARE DUMB, POOR AND INCAPABLE OF SUCCESS
Do y’all remember the line from “The Color Purple,” “I’m poor, I’m Black…I may even be ugly. But dear God, I’m here”? Well, replace “ugly” with “dumb” and we have the rhetoric that our schools have force-fed Black kids for ages.
And even after some of us make it to college, we still feel that way.
Because, let’s face it, Black kids can’t excel academically if the system doesn’t cheat for them, right?
I was shaking reading this story today. I think about every story we've seen about the get-tough schools pushing black kids to academic success, how willingly we buy into the narrative, applaud it, because we think this is what black kids need and deserve.https://t.co/TqiTukrfpw
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) November 30, 2018
That’s why administrators were changing students’ test scores, attendance records and grades in Atlanta, D.C. and Memphis so they could graduate from high school and why teachers give kids coursework way below their grade-level.
And that has to be the reason why T.M. Landry College Preparatory School made their students lie and tell stereotypical sob stories on their college applications.
But we know that Black kids are indeed very capable of achieving and excelling. Anyone who has survived a poorly performing school knows this. Anyone who has suffered a teacher who didn’t give a damn about them knows this. Anyone who got to college and figured out that they haven’t been set up for success but still graduated knows this. Anyone who is working to change that trajectory for the kids navigating the system knows that.
But this narrative perpetuated in the school system has people believing that Black kids need a shortcut, handouts, pity and mercy. And it’s especially sad when the perpetrators in these situations are Black. Zora Neale Hurston was right—all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk.
If you aren’t pissed off, you should be. Because these people and these stereotypes are the reasons why our kids are victims of the belief gap.
HOPE: WE CAN WIN
Have you ever heard of a school district wanting to close a high performing, fully enrolled school with a predominantly low-income student body? No?
Well, it was happening here in Chicago—the school-bulldozing capital of the world. But, parents stopped it from happening.
"Attorney Ashley Fretthold argued in court that the decision to close NTA discriminated against its large number of low-income and African-American… https://t.co/JhUmqgaIpu
— We Are NTA (@WeAreNTA) October 11, 2018
ICYMI, National Teachers Academy, on the South Side of Chicago, was on the brink of being converted into a high school. The parents, students, teachers and community members and even Chance the Rapper began an advocacy campaign that fought CPS and the other communities seeking to turn the elementary school into a high school.
After a year of organizing, advocacy and legal battles, not only did they win a court injunction granting a reversal of the closing but CPS completely abandoned plans to convert the school.
UPDATE: Chicago Public Schools says it is abandoning plans to convert the National Teachers Academy into a high school, citing the potential disruption of legal action.
NTA will remain an elementary school, a district spokesman says. Parents to hear their new options this week. https://t.co/rOo6Z6aupd
— Juan Perez Jr. (@PerezJr) December 4, 2018
This is a huge win for the NTA family, and also a win for parents all across the country who are fighting for their child’s education.
Here’s the takeaway:
ICYMI, We are NTA stopped CPS from converting their Level 1+, predominantly Black, predominantly low-income elementary school into a high school. It took a little over a year but they made it happen.
So for anyone that believes that we are powerless and our voices mean nothing, these parents, students, teachers and community members just proved you wrong.
From now on, there should be no excuses as to why we “can’t get it done”. We can no longer – and shouldn’t have in the first place – accept failing, under-resourced or under-funded schools.
And if we do, our kids’ failures are on us. Hold them accountable and demand the best.
Last week I wrote a piece about how the Black education movement is growing. It’s true and NTA is a piece of that movement. We are using our voices and power. There’s evidence of wins all around the country. We have to use this momentum. There’s no more room for excuses.
This should not only give us hope—it should ignite a fire. This is our time.
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