Contributed by Teade Tagaloa, a single mother living in Nashville. She works with parents in the Nashville Rise network of schools to improve the education system for her son and all students.
In 2005, I had my son and I was terrified. I already knew that, because he was a Black male born to a single mother, society had already put a label on him. I wondered if I would be able to care for him, would he love me, how would he be when he grew up? What was I going to do with a child?
I didn’t want the world to see my son as a number, so from that day forth I vowed to myself that no matter what I had to sacrifice, my son was going to make it.
Once my son started school in Lexington, Kentucky, I saw that it wasn’t working—and I wasn’t satisfied. I thought to myself, “There has to be something better than this.”
THE SCHOOLS IN OUR AREA WEREN’T GETTING BETTER, ONLY WORSE.
The schools in our area weren’t getting better, only worse. So, I packed our bags and made the tough decision to leave everything in Kentucky behind. We were Nashville-bound.
Once we arrived, I realized that while Nashville was a much bigger city than Lexington, bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Every child in Nashville does not have access to a quality education, and the only kids who attended good schools lived outside the city.
There were no support systems available to help me navigate the school system, so I had to research and tour schools on my own. After months of research and trial and error, I found a school that fit all of my son’s academic needs. However I noticed that while my son loved the academic structure of his school, there was still something missing. My son enjoys playing basketball, but the school he attends does not have a strong athletic team.
My son began to get in trouble, which frustrated me a lot. I knew sports motivated him, but I could not (and still can’t) seem to find a school that has a great academic program and athletics.
This struggle made me feel defeated.
BEING A SINGLE MOTHER TO A BLACK MALE IS LIKE A BALANCING ACT IN THE CIRCUS.
Being a single mother to a Black male is like a balancing act in the circus. You have to balance finances, education and a household, and you can’t let any of those fall. In doing all that, I lost myself. I got so caught up in trying to make it that I forgot to stop and spend quality time with my son.
I felt so guilty.
Until one day I had the opportunity to meet the Nashville Rise team.
Nashville Rise provided me with the opportunity to meet other parents who were facing the same issues. Through attending their meetings and engaging in community activities, I became empowered. I learned things about the school system I never knew. I became an even bigger advocate for my son’s school, as well as for schools in my area.
I started attending parent meetings at my son’s school and challenged other parents to think outside the box. I became a part of figuring out how to fix our broken system. Doing all these things felt good. Not only that, the good feeling trickled down to my son, who felt motivated as well.
Although I haven’t found that perfect school with the athletic and academic balance, I’m able to be a part of an organization that is advocating for change, elevating parent voices and empowering parents to grab a seat at the table during the conversation on reform.
And for that I will forever be grateful.