Parents Deserve the Praises During Week of Celebrating School Choice

It’s National School Choice Week (NSCW) and those who devote their professional and personal lives to the advocacy, writing, and evaluation of policies and policymakers responsible for the availability and accessibility of high-quality options, are celebrating the hard work of the previous twelve months as well as the schools, optional and otherwise, that make such a week worth commemorating.

Though the celebration is not limited to non-traditional public schools, charter school proponents lead the pack with festivities honoring the seminal role they play on the school choice stage.

Education reformers, charter school leaders, grassroots organizers and policy wonks certainly deserve a pat on the back, but there are others that deserve to publicly take a bow.

School Districts

Too many school district leaders throughout the country are hostile to charter schools and other options and do one or both of the following: offer superficial choice and creating a choice process impossible for parents to navigate. Superficial choice says to parents: “looky, your child may attend this really high-performing school but you must get them there.” If transportation becomes a barrier, is it really choice? In the same spirit, some districts require parents to submit multiple applications to as many locations with instructions buried twenty-levels deep inside district websites, as seen in Oakland, CA.

According to the Center for Reinventing Public Education report on Common Enrollment, Parents and School Choice, there is a national push for common enrollment which “allows families to fill out a single application with a single deadline for any and all schools they wish to apply to. It’s meant to cut down on the confusion and stress of choosing a school and to assure families that the application process will be fair.” While this is not perfect, it’s an effort that illustrates a district’s commitment to empowering families.

So we must acknowledge districts not completely closed to the idea of offering choice,  that offer choices worthy of celebration and present a clear roadmap to accessing these choices.

Thanks, Nashville

I’ll start with hats off to Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools! For years, the district has worked to offer families a menu of options, providing transportation in some instances. And with the introduction of charter schools more than fifteen years ago, Nashville has increased, though slowly, high-performing choices to families. While the choice application and selection process are not perfect, district leaders work hard to make the process as accessible and navigable as possible.

But perhaps I’m most proud of the district’s Big Hairy Audacious Decision to hold the annual School Choice Festival during this year’s National School Choice Week! Metro Schools — 180 schools strong — includes charters, magnets, high schools with dozens of career academies, International Baccalaureate, open enrollment schools (schools with extra capacity opened to anyone), GREAT zoned schools (based on address) and more. I don’t know if the decision is rooted in fight or spite, but either way, parents win. To borrow a phrase from Metro Schools, yes, “excellence is everywhere.”

The REAL MVP of School Choice Week

Speaking of parents, without them there is no National School Choice Week. If there is an NSCW parade, the grand marshals should be parents who, by selecting the school that best fits, are making their first, best investment in their child’s educational lives. As a matter of fact, let’s just call it National Parent Educational Selection Week!

Moms, dads, grandparents and other guardians: I salute you! The choice is yours.

 

#EdChamp2017 Bold School Board Member Mary Pierce Ends Solid Service at One Term

I cannot tell a lie. Mary Pierce, the soft-spoken, pro-charter school, mom of four from the well-to-do side of the tracks made little impression on me during her school board campaign four years ago. I felt she was a project, a creation to fight the “status quo”, by the Nashville education reform crowd — a crowd I didn’t trust — and if I didn’t trust them no way I could trust their candidates. Mary, I thought, represented what I had seen so many times in this city — someone with a little time on their hands and could speak intelligently about the failures of the systems without ANY connection to those falling through the cracks.

It was recently said to me “Nashville is so white!” and that came from a white person who has lived other places. As a lifelong Nashvillian, I know that better than just about anyone here. But I understand what that person meant. Everything from entertainment to government is geared toward making Nashville’s majority comfortable while projecting an image to the world that this city is a welcoming place to all who can afford to comfortably live here.

So, without really knowing her, Mary Pierce represented the Nashville that the leaders in this city are so eager to protect and enhance. And now, four years after first meeting her, and, ultimately, getting to know her she has decided to end her school board service at one term. And while I am sad to learn of the news, I certainly understand.

Who IS this chick?

It wasn’t until immediately after she won the election that the no-nonsense Mary emerged and grabbed my attention. Though I can’t remember the situation or even the words she spoke, what struck me then and has stayed with me is her courage. Mary joined a school board with members ranging from agnostic to outright hostile on the subject of charter schools and whether she fully understood her place as part of that dynamic is a mystery to onlookers.

Over time, Mary, small in stature but big on bravado, owned the role of the maverick on the board, often the lone advocate on issues relating to choice or charter schools and delivering high-quality education no matter the school. I can only imagine the number of cold shoulders and side-eyes she received over the course of her term. Adults are often worse than children when confronted with someone who doesn’t walk in line with the group. But if she ever faced bullying (and rumor has it she has) we never knew it. Mary fought back by doing her homework, speaking out against low expectations, and never backing down.

Unlikely Ally

Recently, I had the opportunity to thank Mary for her service. I wanted her to know that this chick considers her an ally in the fight for choice and quality options for children of color. She has consistently voted and advocated in favor of charter school families, introducing a resolution last summer basically asking the board to treat these families as they, themselves, would want to be treated. The resolution failed. More recently, faced with a proposal to revoke a charter, Mary along with three other members exhibited loads of boss behavior despite heightened emotions and political strong-arming when the bold group voted to close the school. Volume and Light was thrilled to honor them as #EdChamps2017!

But the most notable quality about Mary’s term is that she never abandoned her platform. The platform that does not necessarily represent the “so white” Nashville. The platform for ensuring ALL families have access to many top-notch educational choices.  The platform that publicly acknowledges Black, Brown and poor families are not being served as well as they should. She carried that banner and, for that, she will always have my love and respect.

Wishing her all the best and may she find a way to stay in the game and take care of her family.

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One Year Later and Shaking My Head — Sorry, Dr. King

I decided to check out my blog from last year’s commemoration of Dr. King and what I discovered depressed me. Not only have my feelings and fears regarding the direction of this country NOT changed, they’re enhanced with anxiety.

In the past year, racism has re-introduced itself to the public forum, no longer satisfied with wrecking our institutions for people of color behind the scenes. This is due, in no small part, to this nation’s leader who makes known his disdain for Black people at every turn, energizing the hate that once had a home in the shadows.

One year ago, as the new POTUS, Trump addressed a very deceased Frederick Douglass as if he were alive. As the POTUS one year later, he exercised his privileged audacity and labeled countries with Black people “shitholes”.

In between time, he’s played cat and mouse with North Korea and celebrated racists at Charlottesville. He has killed dreams and is poised to kick out DREAMers. He has unapologetically clipped our coffers and compromised our health to benefit the rich and the greedy.

One year later… the peril is heightened.

Post below was published 1/17/17.


Today, I am not in the mood to march.

My former self would have clapped back with brute force at such a selfish statement. Armed with $100 worth of guilt, I would have said “What if Dr. King would have said ‘I don’t feel like saving Negroes today?’”

But today is a different kind of today. The black people of yesterday knew their enemy, understood their prospects, and were clear on how to overcome. Unlike today. This today is strangely unsettling for we know neither the form nor degree to which today’s hate will manifest.

We are on the precipice of an era that will, undoubtedly, redefine our nationhood. Strikingly, the American people have hired the most emotionally fragile, uncaring, arbitrary, impolitic male to lead our country. The filthy rich stand to reach stinking status and the stinking is in position to rule. So, where are historically marginalized groups in this narrative?

Herein lies the motivation for my current mood.

We are in a state of emergency

Let’s take a look from 50,000 feet at the burning landscape, shall we?

Dismantling affordable healthcare:  House Republicans nearly tripped over themselves to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Oh, and they have offered no alternative. Let’s not forget the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood.

Birth-to-prison pipeline made simpler: Senator Jeff Sessions. The senator’s record precedes him. Sessions is known for calling the Voting Rights Act “intrusive” and famous for prosecuting three black voter registration workers on trumped up charges of voter fraud in an effort to intimidate and discourage future registrants. Thankfully, the “Marion Three” were exonerated, but Sessions would go on to extend his hate agenda to immigrants and the LGBTQ community.

“If you have nostalgia for the days when Blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Sen. Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois) said in a statement issued after Trump tapped Sessions for attorney general. “No senator has fought harder against the hopes and aspirations of Latinos, immigrants and people of color than Sen. Sessions.”

Doctoring up affordable housing: Lawdy! Dr. Ben Carson was tapped to lead Housing and Urban Development because he once lived in public housing. This nation’s love affair with poverty continues thanks in large part to increasing housing costs and decreasing access to affordable housing. By the way, the ‘Dr.’ that precedes his name represents MEDICAL DOCTOR. One would think that if a person is brilliant enough to perform neurosurgery that just about anything else is a piece of cake. Not so much. See Dr. Ben Carson, candidate for President of the United States.

“Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay.”

 

Finally, but first, education: The jury is still out on Education czar nominee Betsy DeVos. Daily, I fight the urge to call her Billionaire Betsy. President-elect Trump loves billionaires and clearly trusts them which produces mounds of ill-will within me. I’ve written about DeVos a few times, even leading my own counseling session to justify giving her a chance and supporting friends like Erika Sanzi who writes so eloquently on her behalf. It can never be said that I didn’t try!

But this shit is big! If we cannot get education right, we are doomed. This should absolutely be America’s top priority and I’m afraid with the incoming administration it will land just short of last. While I share DeVos’ appreciation for choice, we part at the point of her radicalized free-market approach to education. We do not want billionaires and their lesser counterparts, millionaires, buying up education real estate and peddling mirages to unwitting parents.

There must be controls. Our children, very simply, are not for sale and are too precious to be used as scratch paper.

So, I’m feeling a bit anxious today, because today’s today warrants the kind of anxiety that propels you to do something.

In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action.

– Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from the Birmingham jail

‘It’s Been A Long Time, I Shouldn’t Have Left You’ — But Let Me Explain

Ok, Ok. The amazing words in the title of this post belong to the legendary MC Rakim and DJ Eric B. ( I love you!), but biting their rhyme is a desperate attempt (but cool as hell, right?) to ask you for a big stinkin’ break. This may be a lame excuse to leave you hanging, but the first 11 days of 2018 have kept me super busy — more on this later.

However, I want to wish you a belated Happy New Year and ask you to indulge me on this short trip down memory lane (h/t Minnie Ripperton) and continue with me across threshold between what was and what’s to come in 2018. Let’s go!

Out With the Old…

Remember way back in December 2017 when we posted our final mic-drop post for the year Four Things That Must Stay in 2017 and the Boss Behavior Required for 2018? Well, not only did I love writing that post, but, surprisingly, it resonated with many people. I am always shocked when friends and strangers receive a message that emanates from my soul. Admittedly, it was a little preachy — something I violently reject from others, especially the chronically dishonest. But these times require something different from us, we cannot waste time promoting bullshit ideologies that hurt our most vulnerable or sit quietly while heartlessly watching injustices take place right before us — social justice is not a sport and it’s damn sure not a spectator sport.

At the risk of starting 2018 in the same holier-than-thou spirit that probably should have remained in 2017, I think it’s important to remember the dead, so I’m reposting the four things that, hopefully, expired in 2017. REST IN… THE MESS THAT BROUGHT YA.

Faux-Inclusion of Black Women – Inviting us to the table but somehow forgetting we need chairs, too.

False Progressivism – The New Republicans. Just be real about who you are and what you really care about.

Pro-Public Education Bit – Look, when I hear you are pro-public education, I hear “I’m really comfy with 86 percent of poor kids not reading.” And how are your kids doing in those schools? <<CRICKETS>>

Complicity – Repeating sentence above: Social justice is not a spectator sport. Your silence in the face of injustice and/or support of an aggressor is complicity — 2018 is no place for your mess.

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Boss Behavior Required in 2018

This part of that blog was written for me and if it helped even one other person I considered that a huge blessing. I’m a firm believer that you just can’t enter a new year without hope and a missive to be and do better. So, even though I’m quoting myself which seems awfully narcissistic, here’s my Do Better list:

 I choose to take the lessons from 2017 and rock them into and throughout 2018. What does that look like?

  • It’s honoring my worth even if you don’t and especially if you won’t.
  • It’s being my sister’s keeper
  • It’s relentlessly supporting parent choice
  • And fearlessly exercising my power through the use of my voice.

In With the NEW… #BossBehaviorRequired

Speaking of “exercising my power through the use of my voice” and quoting myself AGAIN, I’m excited to let you in on why 2018 has been so busy. A group of seven women, Black women, Black Women who fight (not just advocate) for equity in education for Black and Brown children united to form a collective — “a melanin-infused collective” affectionately titled #OneVoice. As part of this effort, I have spent all of 2018 working with my sisters to bring this mission to life.

We are no stranger to blogging, as each of us, in varying degrees, is a member of the Education Post network, a national organization that generously seeks and offers its large platform to education advocates of color. From that heart-project emerged One Voice Blog Magazine, a labor of love for each us, requiring of us additional intellectual labor and precious little extra time to breathe life into this platform — which is, in fact, our budget – intellectual and sweat equity.

But on Monday, January 8, 2018, One Voice Blog Magazine was born and we couldn’t be more proud of the support we’ve garnered already – and it’s just day 4! #OneVoice is blessed with a strong cast of badass women who make waves in their respective communities. I kept waiting for them to figure out that I’m not a wave-maker, but until then I’m in with the cool crowd!

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So please check us out. We hail from NY, CT, MI, PA, FL, and TN and are educators, businesswomen, and community leaders. We are mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, and damn good friends. We love our communities and our babies. We believe in the transformative power of education and the effect our voices, individually and collectively, can have on ensuring that power serves all kids. #OneVoice #FortheChildren #BossBehaviorRequired

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So, I’m back stronger, louder, and more powerful (see below).

One Voice Founding Members: Dia Jones, Dr. Kelli SeatonGwen SamuelVivett DukesBernita BradleyKerry-Ann Royes, and Vesia Wilson-Hawkins.

Oh, and if you catch us adjusting our crowns, just chill — it only takes a moment.

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Since my last post a young, beautiful, promising life has been forever silenced from the ravages of criminal injustice borne out of institutional racism. Rest in peace and power, Erica Garner. 

Reflecting on the Year’s Education Scene and Honoring Nashville’s #EdChamps2017

Volume and Light is dedicated to amplifying and illuminating education issues and stories traditionally unavailable to readers. The mission is to offer a point-of-view of education utilizing my lens as a former public school district staffer, parent, and student. This blog seeks to inform families of the good, bad, and wrong, and because of the toxic environment for parent choice, 2017 saw dozens of posts defending parents of color in charter schools.

Taking on the role of defender means staying in constant battle-mode and it is exhausting! And in September of this year, I hit a wall. The events at Charlottesville from a month prior still weighed heavily on me, I learned the only parent organization independent of the school district was losing its funding, and more than one thousand charter school parents signed a petition demanding a little respect only to be greatly disrespected – again.

I was done.

To heal, I cut my blogging obligations down to a mere one-third of the content normally produced and began to slowly recuperate from the “crash”. Then TNReady scores. In October, the Tennessee Department of Education finally released the scores from the controversial standardized test administered six months prior. I spent the entire month with the data. I will never be able to un-know that in 2017, 86 percent of 3rd through 8th graders in low-income households were not on track to read at grade level. Eighty-six percent. Enter #FliptheScript, my effort to raise awareness about the literacy crisis facing our children. More to come in 2018.

EdChamps2017

I know I’ve devoted a lot of space to the bad and wrong, but I’ve also tried to recognize the good, to honor the real education MVP’s. While not every unsung champion made it to the blog, I think now is as good a time as any to recognize a few good women and men who have done and are doing the damn thing.

So here’s to Nashville’s #EdChamps2017 (another hashtag to save the world) who have served in the best interest of children, dared to think outside the box, and modeled quiet leadership and courage.

 

Dr. JoAnn Brannon, Christiane Buggs, Dr. Sharon Gentry, Mary Pierce

I’ve been around school board politics for a couple of decades – as an insider and disinterested observer – and the proposal to close Smithson Craighead Academy, Nashville’s first charter school, was a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. There would be no winners post-vote, the children lose whether or not the school’s charter was revoked and anyone in support of revocation gets the cold shoulder.

The school founded and shepherded by Sister Sandra Smithson is struggling academically and financially and has for some time now. The recommendation to revoke the charter was submitted after the director placed the school on probation in April 2017 citing serious financial and academic deficiencies.

So in November, the school board was faced with the nearly impossible task of neutralizing Sister Sandra’s legacy and love for her students in order to do the job they were elected to do– to objectively consider the merits of the recommendation as presented by the director of schools. Honoring the director’s recommendation meant closing Nashville’s first charter school. Rejecting the recommendation meant keeping open a school with longstanding dismal performance outcomes, unpaid vendors, and dwindling coffers.

“We have policies so we don’t make emotional decisions.” – Dr. Gentry

The brave group of four, faced with the hardest part of the job of a school board member, voted to forever close the doors to the city’s first charter school – led by a nun.

Though the school’s charter was renewed, these #EdChamps2017 served well their official capacity by considering the director’s recommendations and honored their moral obligation by responding as if their own children’s education was at stake.

 

ONE-THOUSAND TWELVE CHARTER SCHOOL PARENTS

School board work is a tough gig and the story above is a perfect example of its challenges. However, there is no excuse for mistreatment of a group of people and charter schools parents have been targeted for a few years now. And they are simply saying no more.

In September charter school parents wrote and signed their own resolution:

Some of us signed a letter last spring asking for the public charter-focused attacks from some of your members to stop and for you, our elected school board, to come together and focus on making all Nashville schools excellent.

Since that time we, along with many of our fellow public charter school parents, have been dismayed to see that on June 27, 2017, you were unable (or unwilling) to pass a resolution committing to treat us, our children and our public schools with the same respect as the rest of Nashville’s schools.

These parents, grandparents, and guardians deserve the #EdChamp2017 honors for courage. Signing their name to a public document of demands directed to a few school board members who work to make their lives miserable is pretty badass.

Jarred Amato

I can’t write enough about Project LIT (libraries in the) Community, the reading initiative launched by Maplewood High School English teacher Jarred Amato. I may have obsessed with this initiative a little and between this blog and fellow Nashville education blogger Thomas Weber, we’ve got Amato more than covered. In our defense, how can you not adore the idea of equipping book deserts with books covering topics and characters relevant to the students who actually live in these areas? GENIUS! And selfless.

According to Mr. Amato, “our mission is to inspire all Nashville children to become lifelong readers by making books more accessible and creating excitement about reading.”

If inspiring all of Nashville’s children was the Big Hairy Audacious Goal, the Community sorely underestimated their product. Project LIT is a now full-fledged movement with a steady flow of schools around the city and across the country joining in on the fun. As of this writing, Knoxville announced their participation.

Meanwhile, the unassuming, take-no-crap, grant-writing, book-shelving, Penguin Random House Teacher of the Year continues to teach, conducts weekly Twitter chats, and is constantly on the lookout for opportunities to promote reading and relevant content.

Jarred Amato deserves #EdChamp2017 honors for going beyond the call of duty and providing out-of-the-box services to students.

Singing Praises to the Unsung

There are education champions at every school and within every community. It is our responsibility to recognize unsung advocates like Thomas Weber, blogger at Dad Gone Wild, who has been a consistent voice for traditional schools and fierce supporter of teachers. The treasure trove of churches who partner with schools offering space for programs and events, tutoring, supplies, food, and volunteers. The silent resisters who by virtue of the school they’ve chosen send a powerful message. The vocal few with whom I may disagree but respectfully acknowledge the source fueling the stance.

May 2018 be the year for endless unpopular, uncomfortable, and uncompromising decisions and movements that seek to change the trajectories of thousands of marginalized children in our city. Happy New Year!

Enjoy more 2017 EdChamp behavior…

Tennessee Educational Equity Coalition – Spearheaded by Conexion Americas and has the TNDOE’s ear and respect. The coalition is growing into an education policy and advocacy powerhouse focusing on equity with an eye on students of color.

Nashville Charter School Leaders join other leaders across the country to fight against their own interests. March 2017

“But we cannot support the President’s budget as currently proposed and we are determined to do everything in our power to work with Congress and the Administration to protect the programs that are essential to the broader needs of our students, families, and communities.”

Nashville Teacher Residency – Teacher prep program that seeks to satisfy the need for teachers of color. May 2017

The Passage – Two Chattanooga teachers hop on a bus and meet their students’ educational needs wherever they are! June 2017

Cicely Woodard – Tennessee’s 2017-18 Teacher of The Year is a Metro Nashville Public School teacher and we are proud. September 2017


If you’ve made it to the bottom of this post – thank you. A heartfelt thank you to those who have lifted me by supporting this blog, by supporting me. Your advice, shares, RT’s, texts, calls, and coffees have carried me all year long. I’m eternally gratefully. 

2018 is looking up — so many BOSS plans in the hopper! Stay tuned and, as always, Stay Woke.

Four Things That Must Stay in 2017 and the Boss Behavior Required for 2018

Ayyyyyyeeeee!

As 2017’s time on this earth fades to black, 2018 is waiting to take its place in the sun. As I mined through the events of 2017 — from national disgraces to local blemishes, there are many themes at a macro level that I believe will forever be attached to the year 2017: sexual assault, overt racism, and youth suicides. When assessing local patterns, 2017 for “progressive” Nashville will be the year for moves that work against its poor and Black populations.

Many events grabbed my attention throughout the year, but the themes that bore down and pierced my core derive from behaviors that I’d like to leave in 2017. For instance, America’s fleeting appreciation of Black women, the stance against charter schools and the families who choose them by the “oldest and boldest” civil rights organization in America, and the complicity of those witnessing egregious acts without saying a word.

Out With The Old…

Oddly enough, I feel as if I have a spiritual tie to 2018 and the message is clear: there is no room for nonsense as there is much work to be done.

So as we leave 2017 in the dust, here are 4 things that should stay with it:

Faux-Inclusion of Black Women

Screenshot 2017-06-13 at 12.39.08 PMYou think we don’t know. A superficial hire here (see Omarosa), a board appointment there. A couple tweets celebrating our votes that secure your place at the table. A cursory invitation to the table only to discover there is no chair (see #BlackWomenAtWork). And that one Black girlfriend… Yep, we know and it’s old. Like 2017.

In 2018 and beyond, please honor our worth. This is of far greater value than our vote or what we can lend to your credibility.

 

Fake Progressivism

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I read once about Nashville being a progressive city. If progressive means clearing out poor, Black residents to make room for richer, whiter ones; or prioritizing soccer above indigent care; or acting as a city on the rise while more than 85% of its public school children in poverty fail to read at grade level then Nashville is progressive.

Nashville is 6th in the nation in both gentrification and homelessness. Most Black and brown renters’ pay upwards of 50% of their salary in rent. The city needs more than 30,000 affordable housing units. Meanwhile, robust efforts are employed to secure support for $5 billion transit plan and $26 million soccer stadium. I suspect these are not the values of a truly progressive people. The faux concern for our fellow sister must go with 2017.

In 2018, let’s be honest about who we are or restore our moral obligation to our sistren.

Pro-Public Education Bit

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It’s no secret that the righteous indignation that cloaks this proclamation is a direct shot at education reformers. From political candidates to the PTA, pro-public ed supporters want you to know they are not here for your reform shenanigans. It doesn’t seem to bother them that they are pledging allegiance to a system ill-designed to fully educate its diverse population. Further, there is a refusal to accept that Black families are making choices and without anyone’s permission.

Please get a new label in 2018 – one that supports children and values families.

Complicity

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said silence is complicity and if we’ve learned anything from this year it’s that silence is no longer an option (see #MeToo, #Resist). While 2017 will be forever tethered to the rebirth of brazen racism (Charlottesville and the POTUS who supported it), it will also be known as the year powerful bullies took a tumble thanks to the power of one brave voice that led to a collection of courageous voices.

In 2018, our voice is our weapon against bullies, racists – blatant and unsuspecting, misogynists, and the people who protect, hire, and groom them.

 

In With the New… 

As I look to the new year with optimism and a healthy supply of badassery, I must recognize 2017 as a formidable sparring partner. The gut punches that come from racism, sexism, and educational malpractice hurt like hell and stay with you, coloring relationships and decisions for the rest of your life. But thank God we have a choice!

I choose to take the lessons from 2017 and rock them into and throughout 2018. What does that look like? 

  • It’s honoring my worth even if you don’t and especially if you won’t.
  • It’s being my sister’s keeper
  • It’s relentlessly supporting parent choice
  • And fearlessly exercising my power through the use of my voice. 

Excuse me while I adjust my crown.

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Wishing the best for you and yours! Have an amazing 2018.


DSNhIYNX0AAx-fBThis post is dedicated to the social justice work of Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner who was killed by NYPD. Erica joined the Black Lives Matter movement to fight for justice for her father and remained on the battlefield until she suffered a heart attack on Christmas Eve. Erica is currently fighting for her own life and needs our prayers and positive energy.

Keep Your Accolades, We’re Here For Our Piece of the Promise

It seemed like all of America voted in Alabama’s Senate election this week. Everyone had something to say about the decades-old Republican seat up for grabs. But in true cinematic fashion, Democrats pulled off a miracle and gained another seat in Washington.

We may never identify the magic that led to Democrat Doug Jones beating ultra-conservative Roy Moore in an equally conservative state. One thing is for sure — black people unexpectedly showed up and showed out in a way only we know how. If you are a Democrat in a contest against hate, we’re here for you. And black women? When America is against the ropes, with one hand lifted in praise and the other prepared for battle, time after time black women have carried this nation on our backs using our vote to restore America’s promise. And Tuesday night’s election was no different.

Sadly, for black women, America’s promise of equality, justice, and freedom for all is, at best, false advertising and, at worst, soul-crushing betrayal. Since the birth of this nation, black women have nursed and nurtured the soil and soul of this land. For this country, we have fought and died, marched and entertained, built and reconstructed, all without condition and with love and forgiveness.

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

As I think about our heroics throughout the generations, I declare that I am Fannie Lou Hamer sick and tired of the promise prostituted to secure our vote and then ripped from our fingertips post-election.

But not all of the blame falls on the shoulders of the politician or the party. No, voters too often believe their voice ends with the ballot. I’m here to tell you – hell to the naw! Casting your vote is only the beginning.

We can’t afford to do what we’ve always done by giving away our vote and our trust. Because how far has that taken us? Let’s see: black women are highly educated yet earn significantly less than men of any race and white and Asian women. No matter where we live in this country, large percentages of black children cannot read. In rapidly gentrifying cities like Nashville, black families are disproportionately squeezed outside of the core where affordable housing is at a premium and distant from vital services. Disparities in healthcare, loan acceptance, employment, and the list goes on…

With these irrefutable injustices looming over our lives we simply don’t have the luxury of walking out of the voting booth feeling satisfied. We cannot be satisfied until we are paid our worth. We cannot be satisfied until 100% of our children read at or above grade level. We cannot be satisfied until we make sure policymakers and shakers see us in every decision.

You’ve voted, now make good on your vote. Honor your investment by following the news, question decisions that don’t pass the smell test, and offer praise and gratitude at the appropriate times. Get your piece of the promise, sis.

And always stay woke.

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A version of this post has also been published on Ebony.com.