Say Her Name Brotha—Ruby Bridges

Guest Blogger Dia L. Jones joins Phillys7thWard to respond to Reverend Al Sharpton’s latest shenanigans.

“Proud of my sister, Randi Weingarten exposing the history of racism in the mis use of the charter school movement. Truth is the only way!”

What the fuuuuuu…is he serious? Has he completely lost his freedom-fighting mind? Where is the former Reverend Al Sharpton?

When I read that mess, my brain loaded me with images little Ruby Bridges walking on the steps of her PUBLIC school, briefcase in hand, dressed to the nines with a stoic face. If you know who she is, then you know what I speak of.  If you don’t know who she is, shame on you and I will fill you in with a few descriptors.


Say her name, brotha—Ruby Bridges

How in God’s name are you even comfortable, as a Black man who has spent his whole life fighting against racism, pointing the finger at charter schools for having a history of racism? Do you not know the history of racism in the public schools in this country? Or are you now pandering to Weingarten and her political agenda? I’m offended, saddened and angry at you for bowing down to anyone who would block a great education to children anywhere, especially the Black and Brown children you allegedly fight for on a daily basis.

I’m so confused, so let’s look at the facts.

In 2009, Al Sharpton, Newt Gingrich and Arne Duncan traveled across the country on an education tour to visit schools in several cities. They visited many types of schools including traditional and charter public schools. The civil rights leader, former House Speaker and Education Secretary were promoting the following for ALL children:

  • Higher learning standards
  • Lifting restrictions on the growth of high-quality charter schools
  • Turning around low-performing schools
  • Improving principal and teacher quality
  • Greater transparency and accountability in all schools.

These leaders created a joint statement for the people. “Our hope is that these school visits and conversations will inspire the full array of stakeholders to set aside partisanship and ideology and join together in support of a common education reform agenda that addresses our core challenges and provides every child in every school the very best education possible.”

Fist up and Afro picked, I stood up and gave those folks a standing ovation. A bi-partisan group of leaders put their differences aside and worked together to ensure education equity for every child in every school. We were finally fighting for the common good of ALL children everywhere, regardless of zip code. Yes!

Sadly, my Black pride was short lived on this issue and American slime-ball politics made a vicious come back.

My soul is angry with Brotha Al and I did some research to try to understand his purpose.

“I also wonder what else was going on in 2009. Many folks were at first bewildered when Sharpton — who has ties, both financially and ideologically, to teachers’ unions’ groups — started advocating for charter schools; they were later shocked, shocked to learn that a mega-billions hedge fund linked to conservative school reform had channeled a $500,000 donation to Sharpton’s National Action Network when the organization was struggling with tax woes.” Will Bunch, The Inquirer Daily News

Hmmmm…I see.

Y’all this mini-sermon is for the Rev. Al Sharpton, so bear with me.

“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Tim 6:10)

Rev. Al, you are not the one grieving. Our children are. My expectation of you…our expectation of you…is that you do what is right for our children, families and communities. You are not the leader of Black folks, but since you say you are, you better damn well act like it. You will fight for education justice for us. ALL of us. We demand it. Deal with your money issues without standing on the backs of our people. Please hear me.

And just like it is your calling to save all souls everywhere, “Come to me, ALL you who are weary and burdened” (Matt 11:28), it is also your calling to fight for the right for ALL parents to put their children in any school anywhere, traditional, charter or other. It is your job to fight for ALL children to receive a quality education. In all schools. Period. Our people deserve better. America deserves better. Ruby Bridges deserves better.

Say their names, brotha—Ruby Bridges, Homer Plessy (Plessy v. Ferguson), Oliver Brown (Brown v. Board of Education), Jose Cisneros (Cisneros v. Corpus Christi Independent School District) and in 2017 the brothers and sisters in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Redefine your purpose. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?” (Ps 27:1)

Dia L. Jones has worked to build culture rich schools and organizations for the past 20 plus years. For the past 13 years, she has been a teacher, Dean of Students and an Assistant Principal in traditional and charter schools in Philadelphia. In 2016, she was chosen by Educators Rising to help create a national curriculum to cultivate high school students from around the country to become highly qualified teachers. She was a 2017 Ryan Fellowship Finalist. She’s an avid reader, traveler, a photographer, news hound, sports watcher, foodie specialist and awesome auntie extraordinaire—ask her multitude of nieces and nephews. Later this year, she is launching a blog entitled where she will shed light on all things educational equity in hopes to push educators into 21st century discipline practices; ultimately destroying the school-to-prison pipeline.



Sharif El-Mekki
Sharif El-Mekki
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.



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