Memphis Educational Equity Learning Series

You are invited to Memphis Educational Equity Learning Series- a collaboration between the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition, Stand for Children, and the National Civil Rights Museum’s MLK50 campaign. This will be a year-long free discussion series that we hope inspires thought, discussion, and action around supporting and improving the public schools in our community. It will provide context, as well as drive us to ask, “where do we go from here?”

This discussion is free! To register click here

Rest on Reverend Dwight Montgomery

Memphis has lost a giant, a trailblazer and a voice for equality in a city that has had its fair share of injustices and inequalities.

I met Reverend Dwight Montgomery during my time at the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO). He was a gentle spirit but one who could captivate an audience as his voice rang loudly from his pulpit every week at Annesdale-Cherokee Baptist Church.

He was one of few pastors in the city of Memphis that made no apologies for his stance on educational choice and for many years was a clear frontrunner on various matters in the city, specifically the black community. As long-time President of the Memphis chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Rev. Montgomery would host rallies, forums, community meetings and public gatherings that allowed individuals to become equipped, empowered and educated about critical current events happening locally, statewide and nationally. Most significantly, he carved out the role of the church in the educational movement. He spoke enthusiastically about why the church needed to be fully involved and why leaders needed to armed with the right information in order for our children to have access to high-quality educational options.

Rightfully well-respected, Rev. Montgomery would always lend his voice to the cause, but also his hands to the efforts. We thank God for the work and obedience of Rev. Montgomery. For joining the fight when it wasn’t popular. We thank God for Rev. Montgomery’s life, his ministry and his tenacity to continue on even when odds were stacked.

He became a key figure in the educational choice movement in the city when people were still trying to figure out what choice was. We can appreciate the efforts Rev. Montgomery. This city is much better because of his presence, his participation and his contribution.

We lost a huge part of the movement, but the movement will continue. As we mourn this loss, we will never forget this engaged and active faith and community leader, advocate and Pastor. Even the more, I am encouraged to continue doing my part and pray that others uphold the legacy of Rev. Montgomery by doing their part as well.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued this statement:

“I was saddened to hear this morning of the passing of Rev. Dwight Montgomery. He was instrumental in my administration’s efforts to award grants to our 1968 sanitation workers. And I appreciated his support as we work to move Confederate statues from our city. I will keep his family, friends and congregation lifted in my prayers during their time of grief.”

Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. issued this statement:

“Dr. Dwight Montgomery was a servant leader.  He inspired me, and so many others, through his work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church and other community organizations.  He will be missed.”

Sen. Lee Harris released the following statement on the death of Rev. Dwight Montgomery:

“Rev. Montgomery leaves behind a lasting legacy and he will be sorely missed by this city. He empowered young people and imparted hope in times of need. We are all better for his example, and his memory will live on for generations to come.”

 

DACA Help

Latino Memphis (a United Way of the Mid-South member agency) is offering services to help people impacted by the recent decision to dismantle the DACA program.

Saturday, September 9th / 11:30 am

Latino Memphis is hosting an information session on DACA and the implications of the President’s decision to dismantle the program. We will discuss how this decision affects current DACA recipients and will offer in-person legal screenings for $20 each to determine whether DACAmented people have any other form of immigration benefit available to them.

Wednesday, September 20th / 4 – 6 pm

Latino Memphis will assist people who are eligible to renew their DACA during a workshop presented by the MEMigration Coalition. The workshop will discuss how the President’s decision affects current DACA recipients and people eligible to renew can prepare applications under the supervision of attorneys and then file it on their own. (Fee of $35.00 plus money order of $495 for filing fees.)

All events will take place at Latino Memphis. To attend the September 9th or 20th event, please call or text Latino Memphis at 901.410.0195.

Bring Your A Game!

Please Join us: the American Federation for Children, UCAN of Memphis and the Destiny House for a public screening of the widely-acclaimed documentary, Bring Your A Game with notable celebrities: Mario Van Peebles, Ice Cube, Sean Combs and Spike Lee. 

The documentary highlights a 17-year old African-American male encounters prominent Black male icons from diverse fields in a hip, computer-generated video game-style world.

We will gather to have dinner, discuss the movie and talk about the relevance in today’s society.

Letter to my child

#Charlottesville

I hate to have to expose you to such a cruel world that we unfortunately have to live in. Being a parent in today’s world, I am almost forced to teach you about hatred, racism, and the unwarranted acts of violence that happens for the strangest of reasons and in some cases, no reasons at all. With the most recent tragedy of Charlottesville, I am heartbroken. I am frustrated. I feel helpless. There are people in this world that have been taught to hate. I can’t understand how one could teach another to hate. As a mom, I am totally discouraged. How do I protect you? How do I ensure this never happens to you? How can I promise you a life of love, peace, joy, happiness when there are individuals intentionally around ensuring we, as a people, never experience the, “American dream – the true pursuit of happiness.”

I have to write this letter to you. I have to let you know where my heart is. I have to let you know what is happening around us is real. It exists and there is a strong possibility that one day you will come to face to face with the harsh reality of it, but I want you to be prepared. I want you to be aware and I want you to know, even in the face of it, you can overcome what others may have succumbed to and even died for.

Charlottesville can happen to anyone, at any place, at any time. I am not ignorant to that fact. I will admit I don’t know how to talk to you about this. Parts of me do not want to, but I can’t remain silent to the injustices that are blasting loudly in society. First, I’ll speak to you, my child. I will admit to you that what has happened is heart-wrenching and indeed a tragedy. How do we stop it? I don’t know. I do know it exists. It’s embedded in our country’s fabric. I want you to always be aware of what’s happening, be cognizant of your surroundings, your behavior, and actions. I am not saying this matters most or that it will prevent events from happening; however, you will at least understand the seriousness of such matters and what you can do to steer clear of being a victim. I couldn’t stand it if you were ever a victim.

We could possibly waste time blaming individuals. In a separate letter or conversation, I might discuss that. For this purpose, I’ll focus on simply assuring you, my heart, in this letter. I hate there are people who have so much hatred in their hearts to kill and injure innocent people, but I want your heart to be pure, as pure as it can be. Despite what we see, I want you to love all people. I want you to treat people fairly, simply because we were all made by the same hands. God is our creator and we all bleed the same blood as humans. The bible teaches us to “love thy neighbor” and despite how easy it is for resentment and bitterness to settle in our hearts, we must push past it. Do not let anger build in your heart. It will only kill you internally. It will only distract you. Let love prevail. If there is anything I can teach you, it’s the significance of loving God, loving yourself, and loving others. It’s not much, but it’s all I have to give you and I pray it just might possibly save your life.

Remember, my child, Charlottesville can happen to anyone, at anytime at anyplace. Know this. Now what you do with this letter, the words poured from my heart and your voice is up to you.

Proud to be your mom,

I love you.

Letters compiled from mothers in Memphis (Nora Wade, Kendra Buckley, Sylinda Ayers and Trenese Wilson)

 

Where does Charlottesville fit in the classroom?

As a former Social Studies/History teacher, teaching tragic events like Charlottesville is both challenging and intriguing to present to students. Despite the realities of the emotions and the built up anger and resentment, a practitioner has to find the most intellectually non-offensive approach to talk about such a happening in today’s society that sometimes pulls at the creative genius of an educator.

To avoid having to think too hard, one might even stray away from even discussing it, leaving the commentary up to social media platforms and news outlets. It takes a brave individual to channel their emotions in such a way that creates a conducive learning space for such topics to be intellectually discussed.  You still must approach this with an agenda. This is not the time for random conversations, aimless debates, but a hearty discussion of what is happening and what happens next? It’s a time to infuse the present with occurrences of the past and tie it in to paint a picture while posing the question, “Is history repeating itself?”

Charlottesville belongs in the classroom. At the basic level, it’s a current event. More deeply though, it represents the remnants of history that displays some of the darkest moments and times in American and world history. Beyond the Social Studies and History classrooms, Charlottesville belongs. It has so much impact in any environment where students gather daily to learn, grow, and develop.

As the leader of the classroom, it’s your responsibility to adequately incorporate Charlottesville; it’s almost a non-negotiable. The reality is maybe we haven’t discussed these matters enough. Maybe we thought we left these kinds of acts in history books or plastered across walls of memorials in museums? Maybe we actually thought this all was a distant memory of what this country was and certainly not what it currently is? Maybe we figured it was only a Southern thing, or East coast thing, or a random act of….? Racism? Hatred? Violence? All of the above?

I wonder how will Charlottesville show up in the classroom? Oh, how I wish to be given a week with students just to ensure Charlottesville does indeed show up in the classroom. Honestly, I can’t blame any teacher not wanting to be the carrier of such tragedy and the facilitator charged with dissecting it all and helping to guide students to a deeper understanding. I am in full acknowledgment that Charlottesville may not end up in our classrooms, but it should. Why? It’s already in our communities, city, and country? Let’s simply add another C, the classroom.

If we don’t teach against Charlottesville, then we’re leaving it open for our students to form their own opinions and come to their own conclusions. We have enough of that happening with adults. Let’s empower our students. Let’s encourage them. Let’s do what we’ve been called to do – educate them. We can’t afford not to. Charlottesville is real. No different than the race wars of early history, the segregation and the sit-ins of the 60s, the revolutions of the 70s, all part of the fabric of a country that said we were all created equal, given the same rights as one another, yet still a threat simply because of the color of skin.

I absolutely applaud those that have inserted Charlottesville. Interestingly, Charlottesville inserted itself. My plea is that students everywhere know that history does not have to repeat itself. Let’s teach against what’s obviously still being taught: hatred, racism, and violence.

Classrooms everywhere deserve the chance to tackle this now, so the next generation of leaders can leave it all where it belongs – back in history.

 

Where are the children?

As of Wednesday, thousands of children are still not registered for school. There were several early registration events planned throughout the summer and this past weekend to provide parents with an opportunity to get students registered, but despite such efforts, as a district, over 10,000 students still have not made their way to a school within the Shelby County School (SCS) district.

I can’t say that this is a surprise. Remembering my own time as both a legacy Memphis City Schools and Achievement School District employee, enrollment would be pretty low during those first few weeks of school and not leveling off until on or around the Labor Day holiday. Weeks would pass before we could say classrooms were full with bright minds eager and ready to learn. It was never strange to have students straggle in after the Labor Day holiday and try to make the necessary adjustments to catch-up. Missing almost a month of school is not okay even if it is the beginning month. How do we emphasize this to parents? With the many back-to-school events, the registration drives and even the convenience of online enrollment, we’re still left asking the question, “Where are the children?”

For some parents, it’s a matter of understanding the different school zones and which schools their children can attend. For others, it’s the inability to buy school uniforms and/or supplies for their children, so they choose to keep them at home until they’re able to do so. Over the last few days, I received phone calls from parents who were still “school shopping” and wanting information on where to send their child; they are still unsure as to what their final decision would be. Though puzzled by what I perceived as a late pursuit, I did my best to work with parents and give them the information they requested.

Sadly enough, this is a reality for our school district and one that we’ve lived through for years. Both the charter sector and the traditional public schools have worked on decreasing these late enrollment numbers.   In their defense, they’ve tried to be accommodating to parents because of their varying schedules and family demands.

What is apparent is we have a great number of students who have yet to walk through the school doors. Where are they? At home perhaps? But they need to be in the classroom learning. School is in session and we’re still searching for children.

 

Enough Already?

It’s the 2nd day of school and already students and parents are in an uproar over the tiffs over college applications and high school seniors. For the past few weeks, there have been articles written regarding the number of applications high school seniors should complete.

There has been serious debate over how many applications is enough and how strategic is it for seniors to apply to over 20 schools especially considering application fees and the time it takes to complete lengthy application questions and provide supplemental documents. Who has time for all of that? Who has money to go towards application fees? What is the purpose of this? All of these are valid questions that has been raised by parents, students, and community members. Those of us in the educational arena ponder and shrug our shoulders, not sure about the why?

I recently received a text message from my cousin telling me about an allegation at a local high school that’s threatening to issue Fs for every student who does not complete at least 20 applications. Of course, my reply to this was a simple, “Whattttttt?”

I didn’t understand or maybe I did and simply needed clarity. I wanted my cousin to be wrong about what she heard and was passing on to me? She went on to share with me the conversation she had with our younger cousin who is an alumni of the high school and now has two younger sisters attending the school, one of them being in the current graduating class of the school.

Her younger sister informed her of the English teacher’s threat and like any student’s response when threatened with a failing grade, she responded angrily by telling someone which was her sister. Of course, the cousin patrol got on it.

They took the issue to Facebook which sparked a heated discussion between my cousins, some alumni of the school, educational advocates, and experts that have years of experience working with high school seniors and college admissions.

The post which began like this-

I will NOT be supporting my High School Alma Mater after the recent B.S. that I have heard about seniors applying to colleges and their English grades. Pure coonery when a lot of those kids do not know how to read or write properly. Miss me with propaganda. I’m only here for true education equality and having these kids really pursuing their dreams on their OWN path. Oh, and are we going to even talk about funding them for the mess and/or ACT scores? There are pros and cons to every path? You’ve lost a tiger. Don’t care how you feel. Let’s support our students of color the RIGHT way and not sabotage them with grades.

One of those experts who weighed in was the gladiator herself, Memphis native and Director of Advocacy for the Memphis Education Fund Tosha Downey who responded with this wise counsel:

“Not 100 applications. No counselor worth his/her salt advises students to do that. My daughters crushed the scholarship game, got almost a million dollars and applied to LESS THAN 10 schools. They also had time to visit schools, talk to admissions offices, play tennis and run track, and focus on a balanced senior year. They chose schools that were an exceptionally good fit for them. They got great internships, studied abroad, and finished with almost NO DEBT. People are missing the goal.”

Many chimed in and were tagged, including School Board Commissioner Miska Clay Bibbs, who asked for clarity and was interested in learning more. Even though this is an ongoing story, what’s evident is more individuals have become enlightened and aware of events happening inside of their school walls.  Whether we as the public agree or disagree, people are speaking up about what’s occurring and lending their voice to issues that concern them.

I am personally proud of my cousin for her bold stance – for using a social media platform to simply shine a light on an issue and ultimately advocating, not just on the behalf of her sister, but for all kids by seeing the bigger infraction against students.

I’m intrigued to see how this story develops. Below are a few of the articles written about this issue that has circulated most recently. Please feel free to catch up and read up!

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

Memphis school leaders want to know if ‘million-dollar scholar’ campaigns are hurting more than helping

They Each Applied to More Than 100 Colleges. That May Be the Problem.

And again, it’s only the second day. 178 more to go. Stay tuned.

 

ESSA Bootcamp

On July 24, 2017 ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) will be holding a Bootcamp at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis sponsored by the Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition. 

Daria Hall, the Vice President for Government Affairs and Communication at the Education Trust, is expected to serve as the featured speaker. Daria brings considerable expertise on the federal ESSA law and will provide a national context for what the law means for students and what advocates in Tennessee must do to ensure our state plan’s implementation is focused on ensuring all students succeed. 

We are also expected to hear remarks from Terri Freeman, the President at the National Civil Rights Museum, and a presentation from Mary Batiwalla, the Executive Director of the Office of Accountability at the Tennessee Department of Education. 

 Attendees of the Bootcamp will receive a few pre-reading materials in order to prepare them for the day.  Some are very cursory, but we are also attaching a full link to the TN ESSA Plan and a national peer review of the Tennessee plan. As with all homework, the more you do in advance the more you will get from the day!

Some of the reading material will include:

1. An Ed Trust document about what ESSA means for equity

2. A glossary of education terms

3. A Tennessee Department of Education document detailing changes from draft to the final plan

4. a LINK to the final TN ESSA plan and supplemental fact sheets and presentations 

5. a national peer review of the Tennessee Plan from Bellwether Education 

Please feel free to join us for a full day of learning about Tennessee’s ESSA plan and what it will mean for students, schools, and communities across the state. The Bootcamp is from 9-2pm.

Click here for registration and additional details