Turns Out There Are Dope Education Warriors in Rhode Island

Aug 15, 2018 12:00:00 AM

by Tanesha Peeples


Recently, I wrote a piece about the kids who won’t be returning to school this fall because they were victims of gun violence. This week, I’m watching a host of back-to-school celebrations. It doesn’t feel right. Not when people act like the guns and the schools aren’t connected. The crises that Black people deal with on a daily basis overlap and we can’t solve one problem without addressing the other. Some people would prefer to ignore the fact that gun violence directly impacts a child’s ability to learn. But when I think of our youth, [pullquote]I can only think of how hard it would be to go back to school when all summer they’ve witnessed murder and bloodshed.[/pullquote] They’re too busy being worried about who’s going to die next. Or if they’re going to be next. Driving home the other night, I was suddenly overcome with anxiety and frustration thinking of the senseless violence and unnecessary deaths. Honestly, I thought I was going to have a panic attack. At just that moment, I drove past a prayer group that stands on the corner of 119th and Michigan every Friday night, praying for peace and seeking to interrupt any violence that might go down. Next thing I knew, I was standing with them and praying—praying for peace of mind and peace in my community. But, it was only a temporary comfort. If I feel like this as an adult then I can’t imagine how these kids feel. https://twitter.com/JaclynCorin/status/1020860988327727106


It’s always inspiring to hear news about gains and strides being made for Black people. But it’s particularly fascinating when it’s from places that aren’t always in the spotlight. (Sometimes I forget that Black people live in other cities outside of Chicago, Atlanta, New York and LA, lbvs!) But recently I’ve learned that there are a lot of movers and shakers in Providence. [pullquote position="right"]Yep, there are Black people in Rhode Island, too![/pullquote] These millennial leaders are changing the game for students and families in Providence through entrepreneurship, innovation and advocacy. There’s Barbara Mullen, who is the co-director of the Learning Leader Network for the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity. CLEE has a phenomenal staff who is putting their all into closing the academic and equity achievement gaps for underserved students. Barbara is a hardcore advocate for equity for all students, especially those with special needs. But most importantly, she is an advocate for her own daughter, Lilly, and has taught her how to be a voice as well. Kiara Butler is the founder and executive director of Diversity Talks in Providence. I love how Diversity Talks is flipping the script—it actually gives students the opportunity to teach the teachers on how to better support them. Kiara is a warrior. She has overcome the endless obstacles thrown at women of color who want to be entrepreneurs. She’s survived childhood trauma. And because of her own experiences growing up in and navigating public schools in Mississippi, she has become a warrior for students. Just check her out in this TEDx talk. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Le9w0C3pJUs Carlon Howard is the executive director of Breakthrough Providence. Here’s why they’re dope: Not only are they creating pathways to college for low-income, academically motivated middle school students in Providence Public Schools, they also encourage talented high school and college students to pursue careers in education. That last piece is critically important considering that the percentage of teachers of color in America hasn’t even hit 20 percent, even though most public school students aren’t White. I’m hoping that their efforts produce more students like Shamar Knight-Justice. And, Carlon is the co-founder of EduLeaders of Color, an organization that cultivates spaces for leaders of color invested in dismantling inequities in education, strengthening organizations led by people of color, and fostering community partnerships to create systematic change in education. https://vimeo.com/282716338 These are leaders, game-changers and role models for the students and families they serve. In Rhode Island, no less. Where else are the inspiring Black education warriors whose stories need to be told on the national stage? Hit me up on Twitter and let me know!

Tanesha Peeples

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 advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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