Pittsburgh! Below is an excerpt from Brother El-Mekki’s speech at a school choice protest in Pittsburgh. This is one of those once in a lifetime speeches, that can galvanize the school choice movement. I’m happy that I was there to capture it. Below: El-Mekki Live from Pittsburgh!
Honestly, I knew very little about the school. But after researching it more, it began to appeal to me. The city I grew up in is very sports orientated. Many people that made it out, did so by utilizing an athletic gift. I’m thinking about what if my town had an Urban Dove? It could have quite possibly changed the trajectory of a lot of people in my city and gave them a chance at life. Here’s more info on Urban Dove Charter School.
Moreover, this goes way beyond the type of racism that you may think. It brings you back to the Civil Rights Movement and the vitriol racism blacks faced by whites in the South. But let’s remember this is NYC. The progressive North is usually responsible for subtle versions of racism. The type of racism that you know is there but often hides under layers of formalities and nuance. Whereas the Overt Southern racism is the type of racism that figuratively punches you in the face, and is all too obvious.
Nigger Boy Email.
The following is an email that was sent to the inbox of the Empire Charter Consultants group. Now, I have to warn you, as someone that was born in the South, I have never heard or saw the words “Nigger Boy” used together. I have heard of stories, but this is a first for me. Orthodox Jews feel about black students from Urban Dove inhabiting a space in Brooklyn. If roles reversed, this would surely have the optics of a hate crime. These kids want a good education, and they deserve it.
No one (regardless of race or creed) should be able to stop this. It is beyond me why the Jewish community feels this way about Black kids. These racist underpinnings may be deeper rooted than a simple eye test.
These are Kids.
However, my point is these are kids. And the response and actions to deny these black students access to space based on the fact that they are black are beyond racist.
These kids have already fallen through the cracks. Their focus needs to be on schooling and credit recovery. Orthodox Jews that live in the community should accept and embrace these students. This story should be getting a lot more attention than it is receiving. It is a painful reminder of how insignificant blacks are in the lens of others.
If you know Aden, you know he’s a very intense guy. Not highly recruited out of High School, he decided to play his college football at the University of Stony Brook. My first encounter with Coach Smith was interesting. I was talking with one of his teammates. He was a defensive back. I told him if I played WR, they’d take his scholarship. Aden immediately came to his defense. I liked Smith’s approach and immediately took him under my wing as my protege.
Split Second Decision Making by Coach Smith.
Circa 2019. This season started badly for my friend, the head ball coach. Smith and his SWR team were involved in an early-season scrimmage vs. Babylon. Against Smith’s better judgment, and without proper officials in place to referee the game, Smith and his team played the game. The game got “chippy,” and the students ended up in a physical altercation. Smith, acting in the best interest and safety of his players, intervened and stopped a student from the opposing team from sucker punching one of his students.
The media crucified Coach Smith for his actions. It was a relentless assault on his character and his decision making. As my good friend was experiencing this situation, I checked on him frequently. He was always in good spirits, and he would always end our check-ins with his patented phrase, “One day at a time.”
The superintendent of SWR faced a challenge. On the one hand, you have the media putting pressure on the guy to terminate the coach. On the other hand, Smith’s team stepped up, the parents of the players stepped up, and said without Smith’s actions that day, someone could have gotten badly hurt. With this testimony, the SWR superintendent made the right call in Bringing Coach Smith back to the sidelines.
Long live the Ques! ΩΨΦ
Today as I write this blog post, I’m incredibly proud of my fraternity brother (ΩΨΦ) Coach Aden Smith, Sr. Guy, you persevered and pushed through the adversity and brought home a championship. Your legacy cemented forever. I’m proud of you, brother, God Bless!
It’s that time of year when every administrator should be preparing themselves for their first round of formal observations. Hopefully, this isn’t the first time teachers see you in their classrooms. I would love to think that you have been a fixture in classrooms, and teachers/kids know what to expect when you visit. As you observe these classrooms do so knowing that everyone can’t be highly effective. If every teacher were highly effective, quality education for students and families would not be on the decline in the US, it would be on an upward trajectory.
The Dog and Pony Show.
If you are in classrooms all the time, you know when you see a “Dog and Pony Show.” That’s when a teacher teaches like his/her pants are on fire. They deliver a sound lesson that has all of the bells and whistles that they have grown to expect you to love.
As an administrator, it always angered me to know that as a teacher, you could bring high levels of instruction to students, but you choose not to. You decide to teach one time a year when you feel your job is on the line. That’s not okay!
Principals, Get in These Classrooms.
Moreover, administrators, I implore you to get into classrooms before observations. Check-in with the students and ask questions about how their learning is going. If you ever want unsolicited advice on how to improve a school, talk to the students. They will tell you how they can optimize learning opportunities.
Every Teacher Can’t Be Highly Effective.
Okay, I’m sorry, I’m getting off-topic. Every teacher can’t be highly effective; it’s impossible. If every teacher were highly effective, we wouldn’t have a crisis in education. No schools, no students (especially schools for the poor and disenfranchised) would identify as underperforming. After all, how could they be? How could a school with highly-effective teachers be labeled a failure pit?
So, I say all this to say, make sure the observations match the data. If students aren’t learning, teachers aren’t highly effective period. Let’s use observations as tools to help improve instruction, thus improving student outcomes. And while you are doing your pre-obs, observations, and post-observations, please remember that every teacher can’t be highly effective.
We need more high-quality Teachers of Color. I want to make that clear, as we continuously hear the argument that the teaching field overall is lacking in diverse candidate selection. However, I’m using my statement as a clarifier. I believe that a “Bad” Teacher of Color can cause irreparable damage to student achievement. The damage is magnified compared to a lousy teacher from any other race. Especially as it relates to students of color.
Episode 40- 8BH
Episode 40 was a banger. We talked extensively with Dr. Lindsay about her research on Black teachers. We also probed deeper into Sharif’s work at the Center for Black Educator Development. It lifted my spirits and gave me hope while giving me anxiety and pause, “At the same damn time.”
8 Black Hands Podcast.
Thats the fantastic thing about the (8) eight black hands podcast. We all have our conventional ways of thinking, and it’s uncompromised. It is a podcast made by the people, to be enjoyed by the people. But enough of plugging those guys.
Students Emulate What They See.
The importance associated with having at least one black teacher in K-12 is staggering. The research is promising, but it’s not anything that we don’t already know. People emulate what they see. Of course, if kids see an influx of careers that are lifting the race, the children will begin selecting jobs that mimic that success.
Moreover, it is unspoken that we need more Black and Latinx teachers. I can’t and won’t argue that point. I will say that compromising the integrity of becoming a teacher is where I draw the line. There have been some talks of creating ways to ease teacher qualification tests to attract more teachers.
Finland As a Case in Point.
Let’s use Finland as a case in point. Everyone rants and raves about the Finnish education system and for a good reason. The Fins rebuilt their educational infrastructure, and students have benefited immensely.
I have two takeaways from the Finland ed rebuild. 1) The fins select teachers that identify as the most gifted. It is harder to become a teacher in Finland than it is to receive an acceptance letter from Harvard. 2) Compensate teachers based on results. If teachers get results, there should be a compensation model based on that.
The Benefits of Quality Teaching.
Growing up, I benefited from having Black teachers. They were pillars in my community — all revered teachers. I saw life could be different from education. Later in life, the impact of my teachers magnified as I was able to refer to the lessons taught. As impactful as that learning was, I also learned a great deal from my white teachers. Some were equally amazing.
In conclusion, if you love kids, you can be successful in teaching. However, teaching black kids takes more. It takes having a keen understanding of the historical disadvantages faced by Blacks in the United States. Knowledge of this doesn’t mean you’re supposed to feel sorry for Black kids and let them get away with things. It means you hold them accountable.
Lately, I’ve heard arguments that leave me angry and confused. Most of these arguments center around “Cancel Culture, ” “Agency,” and “Ownership.” “Black Mamma” Agency and Ownership in the era of cancel culture is real. Alas, we have folks that are trying to discredit these ladies, and I simply will not have any of it.
Agency, for this blog post, is defined as action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect.
The Powerful Parent Network is a group of parents and grandparents that are fighting for equity and school choice. During the campaign cycle, these elders in the Black Community have made their presence felt by exercising their right to protest.
I’m not sure how you all show agency, but in my community, we show it by getting results. The Powerful Parent Network showed their agency by fundraising to attend the most recent Democratic debate held in Atlanta, Ga. This is an important fact to highlight. Many of those that were against these parents’ right to protest said these parents were funded and influenced by billionaires looking to privatize education.
Below is the link of parents soliciting funding to attend the debate.
Can we express our views?
Americans pride themselves on the power of the 1st amendment and one’s right to free speech. Free speech can make you feel uncomfortable and force you to see the other side of an argument if you are open to seeing it. Exercising this free speech is how some of us express our Agency. People have the right to express their opinions. That doesn’t in any way, discredit you. We can disagree and still be friends. We can even grab a beer.
Ownership in the Era of Cancel Culture.
Ownership is the act, state, or right of possessing something. The educational system in the United States was never meant to educate Black folks. It isn’t me pulling the race card; it is me reminding you of how painful it has been to be Black in the United States.
The mere notion that these women, who have put our country on their backs, these women who are the moral fabric of our country are bought and sold is assinine. It’s the perfect argument for those of you that want to deflect instead of reflecting.
Moreover, some folks get uncomfortable when the topic of race surfaces. That’s not my problem, nor is it my cross to bear. We should be open and honest and have more conversations about race and what it means to be a member of the underclass. Only then will things change.
But I digress.
The Powerful Parent Network is a phenomenal group of advocators for school choice. They have expressed their Agency, and their voices lifted.
Black Mamma Agency: There’s Nothing Like It.
There have been feeble attempts to discredit their lived experiences. It happens way more often than I’d like to discuss. It’s fine when Black folks are the help, second class citizens, but the moment we express unfairness in a system that we all know is unfair to the underclass, black people are painted out to be bought off by billionaires, heels, incapable of good thoughts. To be able to have these thoughts, and express them, that’s why we fight. That’s why we should continue to fight. And before you even think about canceling these Black Mammas, here’s a PSA on cancel culture:
Lastly, we shared our thoughts on Black Mamma Agency on the 8 Black Hands Podcast. If you get a chance, give it a listen.