Category Archives: Civil Rights

Addressing the Mental Health Stigma in the African-American Community

It is not my intention to make our need to embrace better mental health a racial issue. All Races experience concerns centered around their ability to deal with mental health. However, there has long been a stigma assumed by African-Americans and their willingness to deal with mental health issues.

Here are the facts:

* According to the 2014 US census report, 13.2%of Americans identify as Black or African-American. That’s about 45.7 million people.

* Historical adversity, I.e., Slavery, sharecropping, exclusion from health benefits, lack of social and economic resources, incarceration, etc.

* Negative attitudes towards blackness, stereotypes, mistrust of authority are all significant components of why mental health problems exist in the Black Community.

Prayer As a Cure for Mental Health Disease:

I’m not at all blaming the Black church for the mental ailments that exist amongst African-Americans. But in my honest opinion, the church does play a role in its provisioner’s ability to act upon their mental health needs. It’s time we move away from things can all go away with prayer. If it’s an issue that needs to be diagnosed and addressed, we owe it to ourselves and our families to address these needs.

There’s at least one:

We all have that family member that at one time or another we’ve said,” ________ is crazy as hell.” We’ve mentioned this in a joking and loving way. Rarely have we taken it one step further to say, some mental health needs should be addressed with so and so. It’s a reluctance that exists for us to have serious conversations with our loved ones. I know this is where I fall short. I know in order to help others; I must first address my own inadequacies.

I also have fell victim to the mental health talk. My hotbloodedness, and quick temper, as well as the predisposition of being a Black man in America, are all triggers. Throw in a high-stress job, with other people’s lives that you have to be responsible for, and it would behoove you to partake in some self-care, including mental health check-ups.

Sometimes when you self-identify with a problem, it’s easier to convey that thought to others. Given the dangers that exist with not addressing mental health in our communities, its time we knock down those barriers and help the ones close to us address their needs.

If you have a family member or a loved one that is in need of mental health help, here are some steps you can take to help:

1) Listen without judgment.

2) Create a safe space where you are a trusted person in their lives.

3) When they have questions about mental health needs, volunteer to be there every step of the way. No one should have to go through addressing these needs alone.

Elizabeth Warren Pulls a flip-flop on School Choice

Senator Elizabeth Warren:

For those of you that do not know, before the presidential aspirations, the exploratory committees, the serendipitous DNA results, Senator Elizabeth Warren was once a champion for school choice.

In her 2003 book, “The Two-Income Trap” (co-authored with her daughter, Amelia Warren Tyagi), Warren endorsed a school-voucher system to free children from the tyranny of educrats assigning them to schools based on where their parents can afford to live.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Before the Flip-Flop:

It was during those times; I could see myself backing an Elizabeth Warren run for president. The forward-thinking, the honesty, the willingness to fight for the people was evident in the beginning stages of Warren’s political career.

In an article originated by the NY Post, Warren goes on to state, “With fully funded vouchers, parents of all income levels could send their children — and the accompanying financial support — to the schools of their choice.”

Senator Warren spoke to how zip codes should not be the determining factor of how parents select schools for their children. By selecting schools in this manner, the poor and disenfranchised would always be at a disposition. Schools for the poor are still less desirable than schools for the more affluent. In other words, parents shouldn’t have to buy houses that can’t afford, to have excellent school choices for their children.

Circa 2016, Massachusetts was at the forefront of the school choice debate. The citizens of Massachusetts had a ballot measure Question 2 that supported the expansion of ten new charter schools. Massachusetts charter schools perennially outperform Boston public schools. Adding twelve charter schools would have been a direct measure to level the playing field for the poor. It provides them with much needed school options.

Question 2 Massachusetts Charter School Expansion

No support on Q2:

Senator Warren refused to support the measure. Warren’s rationale for no was as follows, “I will be voting no on Question 2. Many charter schools in Massachusetts are producing extraordinary results for our students, and we should celebrate the hard work of those teachers and spread what’s working to other schools,” Warren said. “But after hearing more from both sides, I am very concerned about what this specific proposal means for hundreds of thousands of children across our Commonwealth, especially those living in districts with tight budgets where every dime matters. Education is about creating an opportunity for all our children, not about leaving many behind.”

Elizabeth Warren 2020:

That’s a direct contradiction to her initial support for school choice. I don’t know which Senator Warren we’ll get if she’s elected president. It is for that reason that During the early stages of the 2020 presidential campaign, I can’t throw my support around Senator Warren. It’s not to say that I won’t, but as an informed citizen I need to hear more. I have to know that Senator Warren will unconscionably fight school choice options for the poor under any circumstances, even if it means she doesn’t win the Democratic primary. It is then and only then will I be able to throw my support around Senator Warren.

Most Still Missed the Mark on NJ High School Wrestler Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson:

Much to do has been made about Andrew Johnson, the young wrestler from NJ, who was made to cut his dreadlocks off to compete in a school-sanctioned wresting match. I’ve seen some opinions go so far as to say, the referee who asked Johnson to cut his hair deserves a lifetime ban, a punishment that I do not disagree. But did we miss the mark?

In today’s “cancel culture,” it’s easy for people to be canceled. But did the write folks get canceled in this scenario? We’ll take an in-depth look and determine that. We’ll examine the actions of the following people: the coaches; the teammates (white and teammates of color); the ref; and the bystanders; and the post remarks by the superintendent of schools.

Other Perspectives:

Firstly, the coaches. Sharif El-Mekki described this perfectly in his blog post. He talked about the duty of the coaches to protect student-athletes. Coaches spend a lot of time with student-athletes. As a former student-athlete, I have coaches that I still look at as father figures. These coaches and their inability to stand up for Johnson was a huge letdown. Should the coaches be canceled?

Next, Citizen Stewart touched on an angle that many of us missed. That was the performance of the school, and why we really should be mad. The school performs poorly academically when compared to other high schools in NJ. Citizen contends that not only has Johnson been failed by this act of discrimination, but he’s also been failed by a school system that does not adequately prepare its scholars. Should the school be canceled?

Moreover, I was able to zoom in on a picture that I found to be extraordinary. Many of Johnson’s white teammates gave him high-fives, and pumped him up for what they assumed was a selfless act.

I’m guessing they never took into account the more profound sacrifice that Johnson had to make, a sacrifice all too common for those that look like Johnson. However, sitting on the bench was a young student of color, who in my opinion looked paralyzed by what his teammate was being asked to do. Where were the other bystanders, why didn’t anyone intervene on behalf of this student? Should the bystanders be canceled?

Response from Superintendent

Superintendent’s Response:

Lastly, and probably one of the most important takeaways for me, was the response of the superintendent of schools from Johnson’s school district. In his attempt to (CYOB), he missed on an opportunity to use this occurrence as a valuable, teachable moment for his stakeholders. Instead, he insists Johnson made his own choice, distancing himself away from the matter. Should the superintendent be canceled?

Implicit Bias Against SoC

Implicit Bias in NJ:

When I first caught wind that, a young scholar-athlete was asked to cut off his hair to compete in a wrestling match; I know the implications. It’s almost 2019, and we have a student of color (SoC) ostracized and told he’s ineligible to compete because of his hairstyle. It is time for a great awakening amongst our people. This incident is another instance of why the Obama administration got it right by providing Civil Rights protection for students of color (SoC).

This act of discrimination is another instance where our emotions can get the best of us. My initial thoughts are everyone needs to be held accountable for this injustice. However, after further analyzing the situation, I want more than accountability. How can we use this racist occurrence to spurn policy change in education?

I want us (people capable of seeing things objectively) to look at this incident objectively (while still being pissed off). This act could be the act that highlights the type of discrimination SoC face daily. We need to focus on change.

Other instances of discrimination Amongst PoC.

Whether its the young lady in Philly not being allowed to play basketball due to wearing her hijab or the young lady in New Orleans being sent home because of her hairstyle, black popular culture is under attack. We must defend our students in all circumstances.

So yes, you have every right to be passionate about the injustice that continues to happen to SoC. The question is, what are you going to do to keep fighting for their rights. We know the current administration does not care about the civil rights of SoC or other disenfranchised groups. It’s up to us.

School Choice Matters Most for Poc (People of Color)

School Choice:

One of the main concerns that I hear from school choice pundits is “charter schools and other choice type schools take away valuable resources from school districts.” To those pundits, I ask these simple questions: What should parents do if traditional public schools do not work for their children? Should they allow for their children to be sacrificial lambs in failing schools while educators work toward fixing the problem? How long should they wait? How will they be viewed if they decide not to wait?

Many parents that exercise school choice are products of traditional public schools. They speak rather candidly about the failures of said schools. These schools have left parents with animous based on their own experiences. Even with this expert knowledge, we still have folks questioning the rights of parents to make informed decisions about the education of their children. There’s nothing more offensive than reading parents are choosing to send their students to charter schools because they are uninformed. That couldn’t be more from the truth.

School Choice Matters to PoC:

As educators, we should never question or second guess a parent’s choice. Why? Because parents have the right to make the decisions that they feel are in the best interest of their kids. We can have conversations with parents to ascertain why they made their choice, but we are in no position to make that choice for parents. Parents are experts when it comes to their children. While educators also have a level of expertness, its more broad view expertise, while the parental knowledge allows parents to be laser-focused on the needs of their children. The goal should be to support a parent’s choice, not to question it or undermine it.

School Reform:

I think we are all school reformist in one way or another. Currently, “reform” is such a dirty word that when its heard, it immediately forces some to take offense. For those offended by the word ‘reform,’ I ask if the district schools are failing, what are parents supposed to do? I’m an idealist. I don’t ever want to call someone anti-school reform. I hope that we can all agree that all schools can improve and that its the job of educators to ensure that improvement. If we can agree to look at it from that perspective, then we can all agree that in theory, we want the best for children. I don’t expect for us to agree on what “best” looks like, and that’s the beauty of it all. We don’t have to agree, because it is the parent’s choice to determine the best fit.

Animus towards School Choice:

Moreover, if you have hatred towards those that exhibit their right for choice, I ask why? Affluent parents exercise school choice all of the time. When politicians in Washington, DC decide that they want to send their children to Sidwell Friends, or other elite private schools throughout Maryland and DC, they are exercising their choice. When families on NY’s upper east side decide they’d instead send their kids to private schools with 50k yearly tuition, again it is their choice. No one unfairly persecutes these parents. I’ve never read any literature recommending these parents send their children to district schools. However, when people of color exercise their options, they become bad parents?

I have heard enough about blaming parents. We provide parents with a product. If parents are unhappy with the product, they have every right to go after the best product that will work for them. We are in no place to judge them for that. We should all support their right to choose. In my opinion, those that exercise their right to choose & stand out is because they aren’t afraid to stand up.