The Next Generation
Enrich Our Education
By: Dr. Shanelle Benson-Reid
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves…We should, therefore, protest openly everything… that smacks of discrimination or slander.”
- Mary McLeod Bethune
Climbing into bed and anticipating my sleep is perhaps my favorite time of the evening. I smile every night as I pull the blankets over me. Last night was a typical evening, and all was well as I was preparing for bed. Until my phone started buzzing. Seldom do I turn it off completely because, as you know, the hustle never stops. So, here I was, seeing back- to-back messages displayed on my screen. Not happy about the interruption, I finally grabbed my phone to check the level of their urgency.
They were from close friend. She just wanted to tell me about her day. I smiled. It’s always a pleasant surprise when she connects with me. Unfortunately, what she wrote about wasn’t so pleasant. She had spent the day at her grandson’s school and wanted to share her experience:
My grandson is in 2nd grade and attends an urban, public school. His teacher had called me about his behavior, so I decided to go to visit for a few hours. Of course, he straightened up-- until another child socked him in the nose. I was able to keep him under control and talked with the other child about not being violent. But, I realized today the real trouble that inner city children are in because of the deplorable economic and social conditions of their parents and their communities. Children are suffering. I saw behavior problems that are beyond the scope of teacher duties. Many were uncontrollable. The teacher, who was frazzled and retiring soon, enlightened me on what many children have revealed to her about their home lives. I left overwhelmed, wondering “Just how will these children make it?? How will they make it??”
I started to cry. I didn’t know what else to do. After reading this and recalling an earlier meeting of my own, I could only offer tears of despair onto my sorrow-soaked pillow.
As I cried, I found myself reminiscing about my own son’s experiences. He hated school. I would look in his face and see his hopelessness. Every day, he went to class, and every day, he failed. He didn’t connect with his teachers, he had few friends, and my frustration and anger only heightened his feelings of failure. At the time, I felt overwhelmed by it all, but I decided that I could not allow this to be his story. So, I became a teacher. I saw teaching as a way to infiltrate the system. I thought, “If I can get in, then I’ll be able to see everything, and I can help my son.” And did. I saw it all. That’s when I changed.
I stopped blaming him for his inability to “do school” like the other students, or even his sister for that matter. I took a deeper look at the education system and came to the realization that it was simply not created for him to be successful. How could I stay angry at him?
You see, our youth have to navigate two worlds: their academic world and their personal world, and often times the two cannot coexist without conflict. As parents, it is our duty to work with our young people to help them to accept both, understand the differences between them, and assist them in navigating these realms successfully.
We are responsible for their futures, and it is time for us to start behaving as such. Let’s start by believing the best for our youth. Let’s uplift them and let them know that they are descendants of kings and queens, and that royal blood flows through their veins. This may require a shift in how we view ourselves, but this type of mental transformation is necessary. If we want our children to succeed, we have no choice but to start doing some things very differently.
Right now, our youth should be our greatest priority. We should be involved in all aspects of their lives. We can start by making it a point to visit school campuses every week. While we’re there, we can connect with their athletic coaches and get to know the counselors at their school. If they belong to Faith clubs, we need to meet the religious leaders who serve and speak with them. We must be aware of and active in all of their relationships. We should start connecting with their friends too—and with the parents of their friends.
But it goes beyond that. We also need to help our young people alter their belief system and their perspective on life. They must be encouraged to forge positive social bonds and taught how to advocate for themselves. If you’re a parent, teach your teenager to foster relationships that support growth, maturity, knowledge, and success. Explain to them how the world works. Tell them why they must form alliances with like-minded individuals and stakeholders that can partner with them to address their current academic outlook. Help them take ownership of their education. Teach them that in this world we live in, their success depends on their participation.
The morning after I received my friend’s text, I woke up at 4:45a.m. The despair was gone but in its place was anger. I lay there thinking about how our whole country is in an uproar about the recent Department of Education confirmation. The public is alarmed because Ms. DeVos may begin to siphon money away from all public schools. I thought to myself, “You fear losing money, but our [inner city] schools have never been adequately funded!” You [non-POC] ask us to stand with you and attend postcard-writing parties to voice ‘our concerns,’ but you have never toiled over the blight of the urban school system. You ask us to call our local representatives, contact our senators, protest in the streets, let our voices be heard for causes that are near and dear to you, but we’ve been screaming since 1619. And our whimpers have fallen on deaf ears.
But, then I thought, I can’t let my anger get the best of me. So, now I am sitting here writing this article, reminding you that we are responsible for our own surroundings. Concluding that no one else will shoulder this responsibility.
We cannot afford to look to local, state, or federal entities to develop or revitalize our neighborhoods. The obligation may not be ours, but we’re the only ones that may ever get it done. But first, we must decide that change is possible and that we are fully capable of determining our destinies.
Our current system of governance leaves us dependent on several forces of oppression. Social programs created to assist us also destroy us because our reliance on these programs continues to subjugate many individuals’ efforts to thrive. If these systems are ever going to be dismantled, we have to take up the hammer. Our community must create and support our own businesses, and homes and neighborhoods. We need to be accountable to each other if we truly want to transform our lives.
How else can we help? By finding individuals and families who have similar beliefs and building relationships with them. By accessing the human capital in the area. Let’s identify local citizenry with products and services that will benefit us and our families. We really can grow and build together, and tap into what is readily available. We can also make a difference by visiting our local schools at least twice a week. This is imperative. Let’s put some people on notice by showing up and speaking out. It is time to take a stand.
It is time to work like our lives and the lives of our children depend on us.
The harsh reality is, they do.
Reform Map for the Community
Step 1: Empower Our Youth
Address Belief Systems
Promote Positive Social Bonds
Help Youth Find Allies
Summary: Step 2: Engage Parents
Affect Their Mindset
Teach Parents How to Meet Teachers
Visit Schools in Groups
Connect with Student’s Peers
Connect with Other Parents
Summary: Step 3: Enrich Communities
Build Positive Social Systems
Foster Business Ownership
Care After our Neighborhoods
Make the Most of Human Capital
Focus on Education
Keep Fostering Growth
20 Reasons to Just DO IT!
By Lauren Malloy, Bloom & Flourish
Sometimes the desire we feel to accomplish our goals sub comes to the negative thoughts of defeat in our head. The fear of the unknown, of failing, of getting it wrong or not feeling like we can often wins the battle in our mind. The thing about wanting to Bloom where you are planted, and Flourish where faith takes you is the “doing”. Doing what you can where you are and taking those steps, big or small to create your flourishing life.
I know the feeling of debilitating fear and being frozen in place, wanting more, but fearing the unknown. I have found some great reasons to PUSH past that fear and make my dreams come true. I hope you find some reasons to get motivated and just do it.
1. Because you are the daughter / son of the KING
2. You are made in HIS image
3. That desire that is inside of you, is not there by mistake
4. Someone is depending on your idea, business,
creation to help them
5. You are GOOD ENOUGH
6. The kids will be alright ( they will be even better when
you are happy doing what you love)
7. No weapon formed against you will prosper
( they may form, but will NOT PROSPER)
8. The resources are out there
9. You have the power to change what you do not like
10. Hard work does pay off
11. He will never leave you nor forsake you
12. Comparison is the thief of joy
13. A little progress each day adds up to big results
14. You have the ability to let go of the thoughts that don’t
make you strong
15. No one is you, that is your power
16. It is ok to NOT do it all
17. Everything you are going through is preparing you
for what you asked for
18. Perfect is in the eye of the beholder
19. What is meant for you will not pass you by
20. The Best is Yet to Come!