Y’all, I’ve been stuck in The Sunken Place. But with Fourth of July rapidly approaching, I’m taking the opportunity to climb out.
“Get Out” movie director Jordan Peele created a not-so-mythical mental condition called The Sunken Place, a weird space between being “woke” and physical incapacitation. Knowing better, but for one reason or another, unable to do better. Some may simply call this being Black or Brown in America in 2017.
In an effort to battle my way out of this mental incarceration, I’ve spent the entire month of June on an inspiration safari, my personal journey to freedom. Luckily, after a calendar filled with coffees and lunches with folks who are doing the work, and some quality time with my fellow education bloggers, I’m moving further from The Sunken Place and closer to my truth.
Here’s What Truth Looks Like
Operating in my truth means to build up this platform created specifically to inform and inspire, to lift up Nashville’s marginalized parents, to remind families that neither race nor situation should determine their child’s educational outcome.
Remembering my belief in the magic of an incredible education, the power of an engaged parent, and the importance of a community unwilling to allow even one of its most vulnerable to fail. Confidently understanding this is the trifecta that will bring those on the margins into the center.
We’ve tried the “trust me” relationship with education systems for 150 years. All we got for it was under-educated and under-prepared graduates who feed the social service sector and prisons.
—Chris Stewart, education activist and blogger at Citizen Ed
But from The Sunken Place I see the sick political games being played. I witness those with little to lose arrange and rearrange the pieces and change the rules on the backs of poor children. Watch them feed parents a big pile of bullshit and then expect them to happily consume it. I’ve even seen them humiliate parents who actually had the courage to refuse the bullshit—in a display reminiscent of a public lashing.
Over the years, I have tried to be a team player for all sides of the education debate. But, I learned quickly that in the politics of education, it was expected that parents are supposed to choose a side—either the status quo or education reform—anything but the children!
—Gwen Samuel, CT parent activist and blogger
Recently, I joined a couple dozen education bloggers at a summit that provided the occasion to experience former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan speak passionately about this work. Noticeably, Duncan laced his speech with “kids” and “children” and “students”…oh yeah, that’s who this is for. With all the adult politics, you can easily forget. It was sorely needed inspiration for embattled education advocates in need of a refill.
The former secretary’s speech reminded me that nasty tete-a-tetes with school board members do nothing for children. I was reminded that on the ground, where real families are making decisions, is where the magic happens. It was a reminder not to engage with the intellectually dishonest, and instead spend that energy on saving children and building up families and communities.
Because of the countless experiences during my 30-day safari, I’m working my way out of The Sunken Place and regaining my footing. I will continue to insist all parents be afforded the opportunity to make choices from a menu of great options. And if that choice is a zoned school, well, hallelujah! But when zoned is not the choice, I will not accept the traditional patriarchal response where parents are admonished, or even punished. (See this Nashville Scene article.)
I ask that you please stop the disparaging remarks toward our families for our choice.
—Nashville Charter School Parent Camiqueka Fuller to School Board
This year’s Independence Day takes on a new meaning—a unique kind of freedom from the political shackles we all find ourselves. From this point forward, I won’t be accepting anyone’s leftovers, BS, half-truths, and untruths.
And I’m calling on you to roll with me.