[caption id="attachment_22149" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]With opportunity gaps widening for poor children and children of color, new guidance from the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education offers new hope and protection from discrimination. For the first time in 13 years, the Department now makes clear that states, school districts, and schools must make education resources equally available to all students without regard to race, color, or national origin. It prohibits schools and school districts from discriminating in their allocation of courses, academic programs and extracurricular activities, teachers and leaders, other school personnel, school facilities, and technology and instructional materials, and offers steps to level the playing field. This is some of the unfinished business of the Civil Rights movement and a giant step forward for poor children, often children of color, currently taught at higher rates by inexperienced, unqualified, or out of field teachers and provided far fewer resources than their wealthier peers. Our responsibility now is to ensure that children left behind truly benefit from these protections.
[caption id="attachment_21452" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]We know the commonly repeated claim that there are more Black men in prison than in college isn’t true—but in 2011 Black men accounted for fewer than 6 percent of undergraduate students and 4 percent of graduate students, though they made up 8.7 percent of 18-29 year olds. Many who go to college never graduate. At a recent symposium co-sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund and the Educational Testing Service on “Advancing Success for Black Men in College,” the focus was on solutions and how to get more young men to attend and graduate from college. The marvelous opening panel featured four Black men in college sharing their experiences including the opportunities that helped them most—and the advice they would give to an audience of third grade Black boys.
[caption id="attachment_21178" align="alignleft"]Congressman John Lewis, civil rights strategist the Rev. James Lawson, and former Ambassador Andrew Young [/caption]“None of us had any real education in social change. I was a biology major and a preacher. And yet we found ourselves in positions where we had to change the world . . . and what you will find is that it is easy if you listen to that still, small voice within. That’s where you hear God.” These wise words were shared recently by civil rights warrior and former Atlanta mayor and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young with nearly 2,000 college students and teachers gathered together to prepare to conduct summer Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® programs. They are literacy rich child empowerment programs for pre-K-12th grade students to staunch summer leaning loss. Andy Young reminded all of us how critical it is to find significance and purpose in one’s life’s work—one worth living and dying for: “Now, Dr. King used to tell us all the time, ‘You’re going to die, but you don’t have anything to say about where you die, how you die, when you die. The only choice you have is what it is you die for.’ So each day you need to chart your life so that if your life were taken on that day, people would say, ‘This is what he gave his life for’ or ‘This is what she gave her life for.'”
“I found my voice long before I became a writer in community organizing. That’s where I found my voice, where I was able to take all that pain and transform it into something useful in the world, and I never looked back.” Michael Patrick MacDonald is a storyteller. Michael recently encouraged the crowd of young leaders at the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools’® National Training to understand the power of storytelling to create change.
[caption id="attachment_20992" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – Preamble to the U.S. Constitution
[caption id="attachment_20931" align="alignleft"]studentleadercollective.org[/caption]On June 14th I had the honor of giving the undergraduate commencement address at Seattle Pacific University. Commencement speakers usually do their best to share a lesson or two with the graduates, but this year Seattle Pacific University students, administration, and faculty inspired me and people across the nation by how they responded after a campus tragedy that should have been unthinkable but instead has become all too routine: a shooting at their beloved school.
[caption id="attachment_20789" align="alignleft"]slipperyweaselsociety.blogspot.com[/caption]This column is not about the recent story making headlines in New York City on Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to lift a ban on pet ferrets. But it is about weasels. Age-old weasels still causing Americans pain and suffering and blocking progress towards a better, safer America for all. Sojourner Truth was a brilliant but illiterate slave woman, a great orator, and a powerful presence who possessed great courage. She challenged the racial and gender caste system of slavery by suing for the return of a son sold away from her. She got thrown off Washington, D.C. streetcars but kept getting back on until they changed the rules and let her ride. She stood up with fiery eloquence to opponents and threatening crowds who tried to stop her from speaking. When a hostile White man told her that the hall where she was scheduled to appear would be burnt down if she spoke, she replied, “Then I will speak to the ashes.” When taunted while speaking in favor of women’s rights by some White men who asked if she was really a woman, she bared her breasts and allegedly famously retorted, “Ain’t I a woman?,” detailing the back-breaking double burden of slavery’s work and childbearing she had endured. When heckled by a White man in her audience who said he didn’t care any more about her antislavery talk than for an old flea bite, she snapped back, “Then the Lord willing, I’ll keep you scratching.” And when decrying her exclusion from America’s life and professed freedoms during a religious meeting where another speaker had just praised the Constitution, she told this story:
Not every speaker tells a crowd of young leaders that their job is to get into trouble. But that’s part of the message iconic civil rights warrior and now Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) conveyed at last year’s week-long Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) Freedom Schools®’ National Training that began June 1 for nearly 2,000 college-age Freedom School servant leaders and site coordinators.
[caption id="attachment_20632" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]“Foster care is not fun for anyone,” says 24-year-old law student Amy Peters, who entered Nebraska’s foster care system at age 12 and remained until she “aged out” at 19. Fortunately for Amy, she excelled in high school and was accepted at the University of Nebraska, and because she was attending college was eligible for housing, health care, and financial assistance until age 21 through Nebraska’s Former Ward Program. Amy knows very well she was one of the lucky ones.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ran on a campaign to fund full-day public preschool for all New York City children through a modest increased income tax on residents making more than $500,000 a year. Although Mayor de Blasio’s tax proposal was not approved by the state legislature or supported by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the legislature did approve statewide funding for pre-K that included a $300 million increase for New York City’s preschool program.