Theodore Roosevelt famously said: “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
According to a message I just received, some of our most prominent black leaders are about to put that saying into action on behalf of America’s 8 million black public school children.
A few minutes ago a wealthy African American (no, I can’t name names) invited me to attend a gathering of leaders from over 150 black organizations to construct an education agenda that all participants will support with their budgets, memberships, and infrastructure.
As a blogger in the north woods, this is the golden invitation for me.
I’m told the meeting will include black educators’ organizations, fraternities, sororities, civil rights groups, elected officials, and many of our wealthiest African Americans who have promised the group that if they devise a solid plan for improving the systems that educate black children money will not be a problem.
Hot damn, we’ve got ourselves a real movement.
I don’t know all of the folks in the coalition, but The National Urban League, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, NAACP, UNCF, National Alliance of Black School Educators, Jack and Jill, National Coalition of 100 Black Men, and the Education Trust will co-sponsor this private and unprecedented agenda-setting meeting scheduled for this coming fall.
Many of these groups have independently weighed in on education before, but, perhaps, egos and budgetary turfism have stopped them from being a united and credible threat to business-as-usual in K-12 public education.
UNCF has put out a series of excellent, informative reports calling attention to the educational needs of black communities.
The Urban League reports annually through an index in the State of Black America that includes multiple indicators of educational progress.
And, the NAACP, mostly known in the past two years for a union-funded campaign to hobble charter school growth, sues education leaders constantly in pursuit of educational equity.
Sadly, many other black organizations only exist as sputtering impotent satellites revolving around those three suns who themselves are on three different educational axes.
I say that about the black organizations that can be bothered to have anything coherent in their grant-driven agendas concerning the education of black children at all.
But, behold, after far too long, the vast universe of black organizations will be taking the first steps toward real black power by marshaling their assets, knowledge bases, and infrastructure to use one voice in demanding better educational outcomes.
This is huge news for those of us who have said for years that African Americans need not be beggers because more than any other time in our history we are gifted with all we need to address the crisis in black education.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking about all the things we lack. Is realistic to call us “gifted” with resources?
Just three of the organizations attending (UNCF, Urban League, and NAACP) have combined budgets of over $300 million.
That’s not exactly broke where I come from.
Robert Smith, whose Colorado Ranch will host the gathering, has a net worth of $4 billion, and his co-hosts Melody Hobson, Oprah Winfrey, and Michael Jordan (what???) boast a few dollars themselves.
And, in truth, many of y’all have grown folk money too.
We hear often that black people have a combined $1 trillion spending power and that if black Americans were a nation, we’d be 44th on a list of the International Monetary Fund’s 189 countries.
We spend over $810 million on bottled water alone. Based upon my cocktail napkin math skills, as produced by a failed public school miseducation, that’s enough to staff 128 averaged sized school districts with new teachers.
Tap water has never looked so good.
According to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “At the time of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s, about 10,000 American blacks — one in 1,000 — were college educated.”
Today, about 23% of us have a college degree and black college enrollment is breaking records.
While our situation isn’t perfect, collectively we own some things, we know some things, and we’re going some places.
So, how many years will we retell the story of States where fewer than 1 in 4 black fourth graders are reading proficiently as if someone in power is going to say “let’s move heaven and Earth to change that?”
By heaven and Earth, I mean pensions and people.
Geoffry Canada told you a long time ago, Superman ain’t coming. Perhaps it’s time we stop telling the wrong story and cease with the nihilistic awfulization that puts our people into a hopelessly pornographic loop as if trauma-informed appeals to emotion will shock a movable public into exhibiting a new level of care for us.
That train isn’t coming. Maybe we should walk. Fast.
We can and should pray three times a day to God for salvation, but I assume His response would be “what did you do with all those tools and resources I gave you.”
All those organizations, budgets, fancy hotel conferences, suits, ties, degrees, car leases, grants, contracts, jobs in the system, mega-churches, bougie networks, and so on?
“See, God, what had happened was….”
Admit it, even in a time where lazy talk of trauma and inequality and gaps has created consulting syndicates for the academy-born siblings of Captain Obvious, black Americans are neither too broke nor too ignorant to author white-free solutions to the most debilitating black challenges.
Among those solutions must be new schools, new pedagogy, new practices, and new systems of power and control. This is not a time to rethink, redesign, reconstruct, replicate or reform. Creating the next beta version of oppression is a rather stupid waste of our potential, so let’s use what we have and what we know to step outside of the past paradigm that has hold of us like a noose and invent our way to freedom.
Not only can we develop our own educational capital, we must. There is no hope or justice in turning our kids over to systems that are so indifferent to their success that it borders on hate.
I’m so happy about the promise of this upcoming meeting to develop a blueprint that will save our children from schools that have too little of everything we need, including expertise, strong curriculum, effective teaching, cultural competence, historical relevance, and commitment to black success.
One last word on this amazing upcoming meeting: I won’t be attending.
Not because I don’t want to attend, but because the meeting is a figment of my imagination. It isn’t happening in reality.
Shame on us.