There are not many who choose to stand up for children. It’s just not that type of country. We are known as a place that promotes democracy, yet places kids, especially Black and Latino children, at risk. Despite what people think, having less money (to a certain degree and threshold), in itself, should not put children at risk. Policies enacted by those in power put kids at risk.
However, I am thankful for the resisters. There is hope because of them.
Thank you, families. Those families who reject the slick potions sold by politicians who say they champion “public schools,” yet have done everything in their power to avoid fairly funding them. Those families who see beyond the negative rhetoric associated with Black families exercising school choice. We thank the families who resist false and general narratives spun against their right to choose. Those families who recognize when those in power stand in opposition to school choice, they only stand in our communities’ way.
Our families know that while many politicians and policy makers want to block school choice for Black families, these same privileged folks use their money and influence to pave the road to school choice for their own kids. The path of the privileged always remains unhindered. America’s greatness has never been about how it treats its Black and Latino children.
parents, We are successful because of you
Thank you for the big things. While you are incessantly judged, scorned, and berated by those who are prone to disrespect the Black community, we see you. You work nights and several shifts, care for other’s kids, and you ensure your children are here.
Transit strike, rain, snow, or even the beautiful days that may be enticing to cut for others, your children, grandchildren, and foster children attend school. 95% is our average daily attendance. 95% of our students return yearly, despite Philly’s transiency. Sibling enrollment means that you choose us again and again. Thank you.
Our community is vibrant because your children are here. Daily. Thank you for trusting us with your largest investments. State law demands that you sign up yearly, and you do that. Extended day, week, and year are strategies that we use to support your child’s academic and personal growth. Your support makes these strategies happen.
You are resilient and aware when some legislators oppose your family’s right to choose, yet exercise it for themselves and their descendants. Your right to choose your child’s education is as much of a right for you as it is for those who oppose it.
Know that those who oppose you would never stand for their own children being landlocked into persistently failing schools. I know you won’t stand for it either.
And others pretend to champion your child’s education and well-being through school choice and other helpful initiatives, but what they really champion is “small government” and big armies. You see through them.
Educators with the right mindset are nothing short of Freedom fighters
Thank you to those Freedom Fighters who teach and lead in our schools and classrooms. This country has never shown that the education of Black children is of the highest priority, but for you, it is. You stand against the negative narrative about Black and Latino children. You stand as allies like those abolitionists of yesteryear who placed single candles in their windowsills. You not only take a stand, but you take action.
You put in massive amounts of hours, are underpaid for the level of importance of your work, and make connections, both academic and personal, with our students that will help them radically adjust the life trajectories they faced before your partnership.
You show up. You don’t pontificate from afar about what Black kids need. You don’t tell them to hold on while you patiently wait for more resources. You are able to elevate various truths while you wage these battles: kids need far more resources and they need access to good instruction, safe schools. Now. You know that one of the most important resources that Black kids are deprived of is great teachers. Thank you for owning that truth and changing the narrative about what Black kids can accomplish.
And, most importantly, thank you to our future. Our youth who attend school, work hard, resist false narratives about inner city Black kids, push through trauma, yet work on learning more about the impact that it has on humans.
When our school became a turnaround, it was the 2nd most dangerous middle school in Pennsylvania. Although adults often get the accolades for turning around a school, it is always the students and their choices that most impact a school community.
I am grateful that you advocate for yourselves and others, you speak truth to power-both inside and outside of our building, and you are committed to leading and serving your community-wherever that ends up being. Your work is only just beginning.
Resist. Resist. Resist.
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.