During Black History Month, A Community Works To Keep Black Excellence A Thing Of The Past

Even though Black History Month is a whopping twenty-eight days, I had to take a break.

As adults across the country Google “black history” to find popular quotes and identities of successful Black thinkers, athletes, and performers, black students sit in schools with little chance to achieve the heights of those they’ve been told is worthy of celebration.

I’m taking a break from BHM because more than eighty percent of Nashville’s black children read below grade level while the city celebrates arrivals of Amazon and an MLS soccer team, the result of a lot of municipal promises and soul-selling. Because if the mayor, city council, and wealthy Nashvillians would invest in public school students a fraction of the interest and work devoted to selling Nashville, we’d see a different school district.

I’m on hiatus from BHM because more than ten percent of Metro Schools student population, almost entirely black and brown, attend the state’s bottom five percent of low-performing schools, but the school board somehow has time to fight each other and its one employee, and bully anyone who disagrees with them.

Who can celebrate black history at a time the powers that be are making every effort to keep black excellence a thing of the past? Stay with me.

‘Several of the board members are not honest brokers’

Late last night someone brought to my attention a Facebook post by a former school board member whose content was so troubling I couldn’t sleep. Mary Pierce rolled off the board last fall, but transitioned her school board facebook page into a platform to share “My Perspective on Public Ed as a former MNPS Board Member.”

In this particular post, Pierce writes candidly about the director of school’s issues and the behavior of her former board colleagues. She even provides receipts of shocking social media posts by school board members Will Pinkston and Amy Frogge.

Pierce writes:

I also know that several of the board members are not honest brokers. I personally watched them (consistently) share partial truths or remove proper context to create political theater (including leaks to the press or outside groups), violate every social media policy MNPS has for students by bullying parents, teachers (really anyone) who disagree with them on Facebook and Twitter, participate in unethical behavior to achieve personal goals, and always—always—portray themselves as the heroes. These are not people who put students and student achievement first, and they need to step aside for those who will serve with integrity. Roughly 85,000 students are counting on them. Furthermore, the rest of the board and the media need to hold these members accountable for their behavior. Silence only aids them.

Fifty Shades of Wrong

While I have no children of my own in Metro Schools, I still lose sleep thinking about a community that has turned its back on the least among us. A community so caught up in itself that it ignores its basic civic responsibility to take care of its children. My insomnia also stems from a week with crying parents and teachers devastated by leadership completely detached from the issues on the ground. Fifty shades of wrong.

Though I’ve taken a short break from Black History Month to take in the dumpster fire that is Black Present, I will do that thing where we post quotes from black notables and believe that that singular act is part of the solution to a 400-year-old problem.

In a 2016 TEDx talk delivered by Kandice Sumner, the Boston educator describes in perfect detail what happens to black children who come through a system never meant to serve them — “Public Education: keeping poor kids poor since 1954!”

There is nothing in Sumner’s talk that is not powerful and thought-provoking, but one statement sent me into an emotional tailspin, “our public school system has never done right by the black and brown child.” Full stop.

We know when America catches a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. We know if a school struggles with all of its students, black students will suffer worse. We know these things, feign concern and do nothing.  Well, guess what…

“When a child is neglected long enough you no longer have the right to be surprised when things don’t turn out well.” – Kandice Sumner


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