What does July 4 mean to me? A day off work and hopefully a powerful plate of barbecue. But, it’s definitely not
my Independence Day. And it shouldn’t be the independence day for Black students and families.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom.” And since independence implies freedom, I contend that Black people are not fully free. We’re not free from the oppressions of this country when 54 years ago, the
Civil Rights Act banned segregation in public places but
schools are still very much segregated. https://www.facebook.com/BetterConversationBetterEducation/videos/844007615797935/ We’re not free when schools in predominantly Black communities
consistently underperform and fail students. And when reformers push for better quality schools and choice in communities of color,
they’re attacked. Why is it that the only way to
receive equity in education is if White kids take their resources to Black schools? How is that independence? And there’s absolutely no celebrating Independence Day when the
civil rights protections for students with special needs are being stripped away. https://twitter.com/realfacade1/status/922105339381678080 This is just the education piece. Let’s not forget the
history—the injustices, inequalities, the racial profiling and the racism. If you’re Black and celebrating “Independence Day” on the Fourth of July, I’m looking at you sideways.
Hope: Communities Stepping Up
If you drive through the west and south sides of Chicago, you’ll notice a church or some kind of religious institution on almost every other corner. Next to it, you’ll also notice several nonprofit organizations. And it’s probably the scene for many communities of color across the country. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen as much permanent or organized collaboration between these community pillars—not before
MICAH and NOAH. These community-based collaboratives have brought hundreds of organizations together in Memphis and Nashville to give their communities voice and drive change through collective advocacy. And as far as I’m concerned, every underserved community should have a MICAH and a NOAH. https://twitter.com/NOAH_Action/status/1010977598799798280 And honestly, I think if my
community and others had these umbrella organizations, we wouldn’t have seen
so many schools close. Because while we like to blame the failure and closings of schools on districts and administrators,
we’ve failed in holding those who are responsible for educating our children accountable. Beverly Robertson, the fundraising co-chair for MICAH, said, “Transformative change needs power. We must organize people, plus raise money to have power.” If each and every underserved community developed this mentality and its leadership organizations banded together, we’d see drastic change in our quality of education and quality of life. I’m hoping that MICAH and NOAH stick to their difficult but possible and noble plan of, “...speaking truth to power and [serving as] a voice for those who have no voice in our community.” And I’m hoping that they serve as an example to other community-based organizations and I encourage them to collaborate because at the end of the day, I think we’re all working towards the same goal—to better our communities. We can get there, if we work together.
Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and ...