Here’s How We Engage Parents As We Empower Young People to Be Activists and Engaged Citizens

We could not do the work of using education as a platform for liberation without the deep support of our parents. They are our most important and most knowledgeable partners in this work. And, we deeply value the two-way communication we have with our families.

In order for us to help our students build strong, positive racial identities, determine their path of activism, and be engaged citizens, we have to humbly and assertively engage our parents and families. They are already involved – they are raising their children. There is no school-to-activism pipeline without a strong base of support in our community. For this, we are extremely grateful.

“…if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, an when the people create a program, you get action.” – Malcolm X

I was once asked how do we teach social justice without indoctrinating our students. We don’t need to. We share facts, both historical and current. As Malcolm X said, “You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to be is an intelligent human being.” Our students are definitely intelligent human beings. But, so are their parents and families and it is our job to engage them.

Here is a small example (from last month) of a teacher, Gerald Dessus, keeping families informed about the promises we have made to them.

As we dive into a new report period, remember that your children are more conscious of the injustices facing our society than ever before. Last week, several political leaders across our country faced bombed scares, and on Saturday, eleven people were murdered at a synagogue in Pittsburgh by a gunman who held anti-Semitic beliefs.

As we kickoff a new report period, we are reminded that, “if we help [our students] address and eliminate baseless hatred, we are helping to create a world that is less violent, more just, and more equitable.” 

We have a responsibility that runs deeper than test scores and academic success. We have the courageous responsibility of shaping a new generation of young leaders, advocates, and activists. Every single second with your most precious gifts, your children, is an opportunity to diminish hatred.

Join us in having conversations with your children about social justice, equality, and compassion. And please remember to vote next Tuesday!


Gerald Dessus

The vital school-to-activism pipeline our community needs can only be built and honed with our community’s involvement.


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.


  1. I love these. Thank you for what you write and sharing it. I learn a lot and am fired up to do what I can do, learn what I need to learn.


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