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Black Activists Sound Off
“Great Awakening” Needed to Save Black Males, Restore Respect for Education
Lone Star Power Pages
DALLAS- It took the “Great Awakening” to change thinking, turn the tide and create revolutions in religious and cultural thought in America.
African-American activists point to the need for a new kind of “Great Awakening” to help save Black males and restore respect for education in the Black community.
“The state of Texas has failed Black males and has done so for the past 30 years,” said Dallas School Board Trustee and activist Ron Price. “This is our problem and now is the time for us to step up, focus on our children and become part of the solution to help our babies succeed.”
Price is part of a group of 100 Black men in Dallas rallying to make a difference and call to duty African-American men to be involved or get active in the lives of young African-American males.
The goal is to get the young brothers to understand the value of education in their lives and send a strong message to school board and educators that enough is enough.
The idea of an "awakening" in the Black community implies that African-Americans educators, parents and community leaders are in a period of slumber or existing in a state of apathetic passiveness and lack of involvement.
This, according to activists is a recipe for failure and dooms young Black America by diminishing its chances to compete in a global economic environment well into the next generation.
The problem and facts are simple as reported by Dr. James Williams of the Buffalo Public School System and figures from the Schott Foundation
Young African-American males face enormous odds, with a majority born into poor and working class households.
In school, young Black men have higher rates of suspension, expulsion, dropout and placement in special education than other groups. In adulthood, African American males are more likely to be unemployed and incarcerated or on probation than men of other racial groups. In fact, African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population but Black males represent nearly half the male prison population.
According to figures developed by the Schott Foundation, in an economy that requires more and more education, only 42 percent who enter ninth grade graduate from high school and the old blue-collar jobs that used to provide a family income, secure employment, health care and pensions are disappearing making it more difficult.
In addition, these children at risk are raised by a single parent and too often are starved from the start — of adequate nutrition, adequate health care, adequate learning stimulants that are vital for young minds.
During the education years, many attend overcrowded schools stocked with inexperienced teachers and face discrimination in discipline and are slated for special-ed courses.
Black male youth are also underrepresented in advanced-education placement courses designed to help them get into college.
Simply put, many are not making it and without intervention and action, many are headed toward jail, not toward Yale.
One of the problems over the years that has taken hold and is hurting progress is the stranglehold of power and tight reigns school boards have on districts.
So much that it is a free speech issue that needs attention before tyranny takes over.
Activist Brenda Fields believes it is time to demand more from elected school officials responsible for educating African-American children.
“School Boards like the DISD (Dallas) are out of control,” she said. “They are not representing the people and have not told the truth and have worked against the people by whittling away our voices and our rights to participate and give public input.”
She fought her own battle for access and protecting the integrity of years of Black history in a battle over the renaming issue involving Dallas’ first Black High School-Booker T. Washington High School.
She said the only way to get back that free speech is for the public to wake up from apathy, make noise and demand accountability that returns school board government to a status where it is government “for the people and by the people”.
Lee Alcorn, head of the Coalition for the Advancement of Civil Rights, said in some cases African-Americans in power and leadership on school boards and schools have been our own worst enemies.
“African-Americans in charge of African-American students should be a good thing,” he said. “It looks pretty bad when we are in charge and our children are at the bottom in academic performance and are placed in danger of failing and not being able to compete in life.”
According to Alcorn, it seems that some Black educators become consumed with position and forgotten the real mission to mentor and nurture the success of students. He also laments the apathy in the community that leaves many parents outside of schools and uninvolved in the academic planning and preparation of their own children.
“This is a case of dropping the ball,” he said. “Parents have not been involved and leaders have mismanaged tax dollars, talent and resources. This has hurt our children and failed and deprived our community of future leaders.”
He notes the failures at the former Wilmer-Hutchins ISD and the problems in the North Forest ISD in Houston, the Dallas ISD and Lancaster ISD as examples where
Black leaders and schools are coming up short and not making the grade opening the door for the Texas Education Agency to takeover and shutdown Black districts.
“There appears to be more focus on dollars than the children,” It is disappointing when you look up and see so many school districts and boards where Blacks are in charge under fire and scrutiny.”
Alcorn and Price believe the next “Great Awakening” in the Black community than can change the direction for Black males and restore respect for education is linked to honesty, self-examination and taking responsibility for the problem without fingers pointing.
“We must stop fighting one another,” Price said. “’It is important that we come together now as a Black family as a whole and help our babies succeed before it is too late.”
(The Goal For Every African American Male)