I was recently in Hartford, Connecticut, at the invitation of Mama Gwen Samuel, an activist who works on behalf and with the community.
I wasn’t prepared for what I was to encounter; callousness of Black bourgeois, disregard for Black families’ pleas and demand for a quality education, and the drunken hypnosis of the integration moths, those who champion integration over Black self-determination, and certainly over Black people’s education.
Being at the town hall listening to Black people with influence and school choice sneer at other Black families asking for access to quality education made me remember the quote, Some Black folks don’t want to end white supremacy, they just wanna improve their position in it.
I’m accustomed to certain Black folks being okay with the status quo, with them denying school choice for others while they scurry to secure it for their own. I know the general apathy when it comes to the education of poor Black folks. It’s the classic house and field Negro playing out in the education sphere.
Shontá Browdy, parent and leader in the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP, shares her thoughts on what makes a high-performing school, “You have to understand what makes it a high-performing school. If you open the seats, it’s not going to be the same school. I am just going to be honest. I am never going to pretend like our Hartford schools – because of poverty – don’t struggle. Other schools just don’t. A magnet school does not face those same set of issues.”
What Ms. Browdy is saying is, “we don’t want dem Negroes here in our school, boss.”
It wasn’t surprising to find out that Browdy is a leader of the local NAACP. People like her have led the legendary and historic civil rights organization towards the wrong side of Black folks.
But it gets even worse.
Browdy has found her way to the table of elitists. She now stands as the gatekeeper to ensure too many Black folks don’t get past her. She doesn’t want too many Black kids sitting next to her own children or the white children who she covets.
And, if you can believe this, it gets even worse.
The seats she is protecting, the seats Browdy wants to keep poor Black kids out of, aren’t filled with white kids. They’re empty. The white families have consistently said they don’t want to attend the school Browdy’s own children attend. But like a deliriously grieving wife, she is holding on to a seat that her beloved won’t return to.
As sad as an image as that is, yep, you guessed it, it gets worse.
Browdy is on Hartford’s school board. Her role as protector for all of Hartford children has become more as a sentry for empty seats.
The problem with hoisting the integration flag above all else is that it centers integration as the central issue instead of access to quality schools in every neighborhood as the central issue. Integration as a part of an overall plan for access is fine, telling the community that the school board has no idea what to do with the 21 failing schools in Hartford, so they are just going to integrate and wait, isn’t.
Integration isn’t a part of Hartford’s plan, it is the plan. And, white parents aren’t buying it.
And, for very different reasons, neither are Black and Brown parents.
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.