Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


Educate Girls

Took a picture of this sign at a charter school primarily serving African American and Latina girls in Los Angeles last week. We must prioritize the full education and healthy development of our young girls.

Given the increasing rates of incarceration, the increasing exploitation of our young girls through sex trafficking, and the relative inattention to the abuse of our young girls and women at the hands of law enforcement, one might reasonably conclude that the full and healthy development of our young girls is not a priority for our community.

While I, like most of you, remain clear about how important girls and women are within our community, I would also argue that we all need to express and affirm this in increasingly public ways.


Why are African American boys falling behind in third and fourth grade? How can and must schools do better?

Someone just passed this along to me, hoping to share some more information and perspective about the experience of Black boys in many of this nation's public schools.  While the discussion is from a 2012 talk show conversation, there are still some recurrent themes in here that folks should continue to be mindful of.

The larger take away... We continue to need classroom and school settings led and shaped by people who truly understand and appreciate who African American people are, African history and culture included, and can use this understanding to both inspire and guide African American children into a healthy adolescence and adulthood. Education is about the full development of African (African-American) people, and not simply preparation to work in someone else's economy and workforce.

Studies have shown that by the fourth grade, many African-American boys fall behind in the classroom. Some statistics show that most black men don't graduate from high school, which can often lead to a life in and out of the criminal justice system, unwed fatherhood and even an early death. This program will focus on the closing the achievement gap, the critical need for mentors and the importance of social influences in a young black man's life. (approx. 30 minutes)


Our Charge is the Reawakening of the African Mind – Asa G. Hilliard III / #GoodSpeechEndures #BacktoSchool

As many thousands of children head back to school today, we must pause and remember that the schooling process is not a neutral process. It is a process made up of and guided by very deliberate policies, procedures, lesson plans, instructional materials and assessments to measure understanding and retention.

We must be clear that this mix of policies and processes have been designed over time by people with a clear idea about what education is supposed to do, and what it is supposed to produce. Also be clear that the mix of policies and procedures varies from one place - even one institution - to another. This suggests that different places, and for sure different institutions, have different ideas about what the educational process is intended to do, who it is intended to do it for (and with), and rationales for why.

As we send our children to school today, and for some of us, as we go with our children to school today, we have to be asking these questions.

Dr. Asa G. Hilliard, III, in her MyTEFL reviews, remains one of our great African / African-American educational exemplars, pushing us to ask these questions. More importantly, Dr. Hilliard provided much guidance in helping to answer the same questions. In the book, SBA: Reawakening of the African Mind, Dr. Hilliard helps us to understand not only the brilliance of our ancestors and their conceptions of education and human socialization, but he also helped to lay down a pathway allowing us to reconnect to that brilliance.

So here's to Dr. Hilliard's great influence, and also to our collective recommitment to helping our children and youth - and by extension all of our community - take control of the educational and socialization forces that guide our children and families.

Asa G Hilliard - Charge is Reawakening the African Mind - Good Speech Endures


Education made the difference – Sunday Oliseh

Below are a few reflections from Sunday Oliseh, a Nigerian soccer player who's traveled the world playing soccer, and who was a key member of the Nigeria soccer team that won the 1996 Olympic gold medal in Atlanta. In this 18 minute video he reflects on his life and career as one of the world's exceptional athletes and soccer players.

God has been exceptionally great to me... But I must be honest with you. The best thing God did for me as regards to my career, was making me an African.

SUNDAY OLISEH Sunday Oliseh always loved football. His career evolved from playing on the streets of Lagos to the Julius Berger FC, from where he was invited to Belgium to start an incredible professional career. At the club level, he was part of the famous Ajax team of the 1990′s with whom he won the league and cup double in 1998. He went on to have an illustrious career with Borussia Dortmund with whom he won the German league title and with Juventus F.C. Sunday Oliseh played 63 international matches for Nigeria. From 1994, he was also part of the team, many still consider Nigeria’s best ever that was crowned African champions, winning the title in a an emphatic manner against Zambia. This ushered Nigeria unto the world stage as a force to reckon with in world soccer. The team went on to take Nigeria to its first ever World Cup. Oliseh was a tough defensive midfielder but still scored four goals for Nigeria, and will be mostly remembered for scoring the winning goal; a cracker, in the group stage match against Spain in the 1998 World Cup, leading Nigeria to a historic 3–2 win. He went on to captain Nigeria for many years including during the during the 2002 African Cup of Nations. In 1996, Oliseh was again part of history as he was a key member of the team that Nigeria that won the Olympics gold medal for soccer. He was voted by the Confederation of African Football as the third best African player of the year in 1998. Today, he is one of the most respected voices on soccer and appears on several TV programmes around the world.


What President Obama (among many others) gets wrong about ‘acting white’

The following excerpts are from an article in yesterday's Washington Post. Written by Nia Malika Henderson, it challenges the continuing myth that suggests African American children and families don't value high levels of education, nor academic achievement and excellence.

Please check out the article, share it with friends, review the research referenced in the article, and then challenge people in your circles who continue to push this unsupported argument.

At best, this myth reflects a misunderstood social interplay between African American children trying to make sense of (and explain) the social realities of schooling for African American children.

At worst, this myth reflects a deliberate attempt to deflect any meaningful efforts to promote school transformation policies and practices that affirm and develop the brilliance in our young children.

Neither is acceptable, and both stand in the way of progress for our children and families.

When President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama speak to an audience of African Americans, particularly students, they invariably mention the trope of  “acting white.”  That is the notion that one impediment to black students’ success is the belief in some black communities that academic achievement is synonymous with whiteness, and therefore devalued.


The concept of “acting white” gained traction with a 1986 research paper called “Black students school success: Coping with the “burden of  acting white’”  by Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu that was based on the study of a predominantly black Washington, D.C. public school.

Fordham and Ogbu concluded that blacks created an “oppositional cultural identity,” because of their historical oppression at the hands of white Americans, and thereby had come to devalue whatever they associated with whiteness, including social markers like academic achievement and speech patterns.


But is there a problem with the Obamas’ focus on “acting white” as an explanation for how black student’s perceive academic success and the achievements of their peers?

Over the last 20 years, in several studies, the original theory has been largely debunked.


And that’s the part that the Obamas leave out in their constant rehashing of the idea of “acting white.”  Their rhetoric, while seen as refreshing and bold by some, actually seems to confirm a stereotype, that somehow African Americans don’t value academic achievement, even though history and the Obamas’ own lives, not to mention the millions of other black kids who will go off to college in the fall, suggest just the opposite.

A personal aside:  I mentor a young woman who recently graduated from an all-black D.C. charter high school, in which almost every graduate goes off to college. The valedictorian of her class is a young man who wrangled with his parents as graduation approached over a problem–whether to accept a full ride to Yale or Stanford.

During the commencement ceremony, each student who got a scholarship stood up as a list of the awards and the total dollar amount was read out loud.  The valedictorian’s list was by far the longest with the highest total–$1.17 million to be exact.  And as the school official read that long list, the crowd — teachers and administrators, parents and mentors and brothers and sisters and friends of the graduates — began to stand and cheer.  His ovation was by far the loudest and longest.


Debunking the Myths of School Closures

The infographic below is another in a series developed by the National Opportunity to Learn Foundation, highlighting the detrimental effects of school closures - especially on African American and Latino children and families.

More specifically this one takes on and exposes four of the myths frequently cited by proponents of school closures.

  • Most students won't go to better schools.
  • Closures won't save the district big bucks.
  • These aren't empty schools.
  • Closures do have a big impact - on everyone.

Please be clear that these closures are not inevitable, and they tend not to happen within communities whose families are organized and vocal against the closings.

After the analysis, readers are directed to a resource that describes real and viable alternatives, A Proposal for Sustainable School Transformation. Check it out to get some additional ideas about why the alternatives make sense, and how we can all get more involved.

In cities across the country, education officials are closing public schools en masse, impacting thousands of students, disproportionately those from communities of color or low-income families. Officials use a variety of justifications to defend the closures, citing everything from budget concerns to promises of better opportunities for students. But as this new infographic from the OTL Campaign illustrates, these justifications don’t hold up to scrutiny.

debunking the myths of school closure



Pedro Noguera: Closing the Gap – Helping Students Achieve Success (Penn State)

What can be done to help students achieve success? NYU professor Pedro Noguera discusses education's most pressing problems.  Approximately 30 minutes.  November 2013.

Dr. Noguera is one of our most insightful and passionate researchers actively working to make schools more responsive to our children and families, and thus far more effective in producing high levels of achievement among African American children.

The following are among the numerous critical points Pedro Noguera touches on during this interview and discussion:

  • We frequently use poverty as an excuse for why we are poorly serving large numbers of children. There are examples of high performing and high poverty schools. We've studied what they do right. We should replicate those strategies if we are serious about getting better outcomes for children.
  • We have invested in prisons at far higher rates compared to education. This trend works against our national interest, and undermines our goal of supporting children.
  • We should be investing in early childhood education.
  • Schools should encourage the natural curiosity of children. This will help us get them excited about learning.
  • Schools are hyper-focused on discipline, and we're using forms of punishment that reinforce or exacerbate the problematic behaviors rather than change them.
  • We have to focus on engaging students and building character, not criticizing and tearing them down.
  • Schools can and should welcome parents into the school and the classroom in very constructive ways.
  • Just because parents aren't formally educated doesn't mean they don't affirmatively support high levels of achievement.
  • Kids thrive best when they have supportive, nurturing relationships with caring adults... who genuinely want to engage with them. Children tend to be self-motivated under these conditions.
  • We have to routinely analyze and assess every school's strengths and weaknesses, and work on the weaknesses. Too often we use assessments as weapons against teachers and students, and not enough as a tool for targeting enhanced supervision, support and instruction when and where needed.
  • Expecting better outcomes, understanding and responding to the complexity of challenges facing teachers and schools, and directing our resources to support improvements are all key ingredients to succesful improvement efforts.
  • The work of creating high quality schools is complex, and so must our policy proposals be if they are going to be useful.
  • Most parents want their children to do well, even when they don't know exactly what supports or detracts from that goal. We have to remind parents how they can help their children to be successful.

I'd also encourage all who are interested to visit the companion webpage for this interview for additional interesting discussion and resources.


On Love, Democracy, and Public Schools: Sabrina Stevens at TEDxNYED



Why I Hate School But Love Education – Suli Breaks (Spoken Word)



Saving Our Boys – Concerned Black Men National

Below is a 30-minute audio podcast of three advocates and scholars working tirelessly for more accountable and responsive systems and opportunities for young African American males.

The big take-away here is that our young boys are not in fact seen and treated as young boys and adolescents - with the right to experience a normal childhood and developmental process, but are seen through a prism of fear and criminality by the larger American society.

Change and success for our young African American boys depends on us (parents and extended family, or those others of us in positions of authority) becoming far more consistent, deliberate and thoughtful in our advocacy and championing of them - and with a sense of urgency.  We have to create opportunities for our young children, and hold others accountable for doing the same.  We have to be our children's biggest advocates!

Here's the 30-minute CBM National Podcast from July 2013...

CBM National Executive Director George Garrow is joined by Dr. Ivory Toldson, editor of The Journal of Negro Education, and Dr. James L. Moore III, director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male, to discuss solutions to issues facing our young Black boys and men, what can be done at the highest levels of government, business and society to help them achieve and succeed in America.


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