Back-to­-[troubled] schools, again

CHARLENE l MUHAMMAD | 8/29/2013, 6:37 p.m. | Updated on 8/29/2013, 6:44 p.m.
Millions of Black students have begun already returning to schools across America while others are still preparing for their first ...
United States Schools RH Jimenez Graphic

“If you start with your mayor today, it could be your lawmakers tomorrow. Mess around if you want to, it’ll be your president. And mess around and we’ll be having separate faucets again, Colored over here and White folks over there,” Samuel cautioned.

“Educationally, in America, our people are in trouble! And the biggest reason we are in trouble is because we turn the education of our children over to other people,” said Phillip Jackson, founder of the Black Star Project in Chicago.

Others will never educate Black children the way they do their own, he said.

The Chicago school closures forced layoffs of 3,000 teachers and while all children will suffer, Blacks will disproportionately bear the brunt of the fallout, he noted.

Educate or die’

“It’s educate or die where the parents are going to have to get involved, the fathers are going to have to get involved and we’re going to have to take over the education of our children,” Mr. Jackson said.

He simply refuses to get angry because schools closed. Instead, he puts his energy in finding answers to common sense questions so Black children can progress. “What are the options? What are the possibilities? How can Blacks improve upon the situation?” he asks.

“They closed 50 schools in Chicago! Those schools are not coming back so the only question worth asking at this point is how are Black people going to educate Black children,” Jackson said.

His Black Star Project offers Saturday schools, outings for fathers and children, a citywide parents organization and a weekly radio show focused on Black children and education. The group spends time organizing and connecting to everyone from street gangs to religious congregations.

In 1995, 46 percent of teachers in Chicago schools were Black, by 2012, the number dropped to 19 percent, according to Jackson.

With the school closures, the numbers are approaching single digits, he said.

“The question becomes obviously, they’re coming after us. How come nobody raised this as an issue? How come nobody raised as an issue that less than 2 percent of the teachers in America are Black men? How are we going to educate Black children without Black men?” he asked.

But perhaps that’s the intention, Jackson continued. If Chicago re-opened the

50 schools tomorrow, would Black children be better educated? The answer’s no, according to Jackson.

“What we have in the schools of America is the educational slaughter of Black children, the academic and educational slaughter of Black children’s hearts, minds and spirits,” he said.

Spending time in schools, organizing parents and protecting children is a must, if children are going to be in public education, Jackson said.

So far this year, one million mostly Black fathers throughout America took their children to schools, just as they did on the first day of school each year since 2004.

The fathers, relatives and significant male caregivers joined the Black Star Project’s back to school Million Father March and made a commitment to stay involved with their children’s education throughout the school year.

The Million Father March has also improved students’ safety, said Jackson. Having men on the scene helps to keep trouble down, he said.

While school closures struck Chicago in a major way, it’s happening all across the country, advocates noted.

Carl Pinkston, secretary of the Black Parallel School Board in Sacramento, said school closures are a way to determine who’s going to make it and who will end up with menial jobs.

The Black Parallel School Board works alongside the Sacramento City Unified District Board of Education to support the academic growth and achievement of Black students.

“The challenge is how do we break from this current education system to provide the highest quality of education for our kids?” he asked. If people help Black children, all children will rise, but currently, the system feels it’s okay not to educate the vast majority of Black children, he argued.

“It basically says we have a much more lower expectation of [Black] kids and therefore we don’t have to spend all this time, money, resources to educate these kids … inevitably because they’ll end up in the school-to-prison pipeline,” Pinkston said.