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


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


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


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.



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.


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.

Ed Reform and Its “Polite” Segregationist Agenda Take the Stage at NAACP Convention

It’s Saturday, July 22, 2017 and the 108th Convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is in session. At the drop of the opening gavel members of the NAACP will begin the business of deliberating and voting on the issues meant to further the progress of Black people in America.

Screenshot 2017-07-22 at 7.40.32 AMThroughout the next five days nearly 80 celebrities, members of Congress, and more political, religious and community leaders will take the convention stage and speak on any number of issues that disproportionately affect the Black community. The membership will hear from the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson — just to name a few.


Even more interesting than the star-studded plenary is the days leading up to the convention. The interwebs have seen a series of shots fired on the education battlefield. You already know the century-old organization dedicated to advancing “colored people” will – once again – take a stand in opposition to charter schools. I’ve written extensively on the moratorium to halt the proliferation of charters around the country and it never not shocks my system when I think about how anti-advancement of Black people this resolution is!

In preparation of the defense of the moratorium (because they already know it will be affirmed), the NAACP landed some surprise punches through its powerful partners. Known NAACP partner Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, called charter schools and vouchers “slightly more polite cousins to segregation.” But before the ed reform community was called semi-segregationists, they were called outright racists by Black America’s best friend.

I understand the teacher’s union relentless pursuit to protect its bottom line and, quite frankly, I’m sure the loss of union dues will make you say things like that, but the R-E-V-E-R-E-N-D?


There are a number of blogs, commentary, and news stories devoted to the NAACP’s stance on charters and I’ve certainly not been shy about my thoughts on the subject. I have no expectation that the NAACP will turnaround their stance on charter schools. That they will actually look at the data that represents millions of families that CHOOSE to be in these schools. The data that shows Black and Brown children knocking it out of the park. The data that shows these schools are providing a high quality choice in neighborhoods where there are none. How can anyone equipped with a heart and brain believe a moratorium on these schools is advancing a people? Unless…

The only thing can be is an inherent determination that the people who were formerly in slavery, regardless of anything else, shall be kept as near that stage as is possible…  – Thurgood Marshall

Check out these other voices:

Parents, Educators and Community Members Speak Out Against the NAACP’s Charter Moratorium by Michael Vaughn

A History Lesson For Randi on Black Education in America by Dirk Tillotson


Changing the Game: 26 NEW Rules for the Ed Reform Debate

Originally posted on Citizen Education by Citizen Contributor on March 23, 2017.

Chris Stewart of Education Post and blogger extraordinaire gives us food for thought about how to approach the ed reform debate; and it happens to fits nicely with the March 29th Volume and Light post  “They Planning for Our Future, None Of Us Involved.”

Buckle up.
Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 9.31.35 AM

The narrative of people who oppose ‘school choice’ is well documented. The same talking points are brought up again and again and usually dominate the conversation.  It’s time to re-frame the narrative, get real about the misinformation being spread and lead these conversations with a children-first line of thought. Here are Citizen Stewart‘s 26 new rules for the education reform debate:


1. If you’ve never agonized about selecting a school for your kid, don’t oppose choice.

2. If you aren’t currently responsible for closing the achievement gap, shut up about those who are – you are not an expert. Just listen.

3. If you don’t believe that poor children and children of color can learn at high levels, don’t teach in their schools.

4. If you benefited from a private school education, don’t come up with fancy reasons to deny others the same.

5. If your only experience in teaching low-income students is bad experience, don’t write a book about education.

6. Do not oppose School Reform until you are willing to put your child in the worst performing school in your city.

7. On Twitter, don’t start none, won’t be none.

8. If your public school is so exclusive that it might as well be private, don’t rail about privatization in education.

9. If you’ve never raised a black child, don’t argue with black parents about what’s best for black children.

10. There are no experts on teaching black students in America. At best you are all students of teaching black students.

11. Don’t exchange studies written by people who have failed schools in their past.

12. If your doctorate is in Amazonian trees with an focus on intersectionality, don’t argue with economists about education statistics.

13. Union funding is as suspicious as any funding. You are not pure and neither is your agenda. Don’t be a tool.

14. Great instruction, great teachers, and great schools make a difference. All children can learn.

15. There is nothing liberal about demanding historically oppressed people to turn their children over to the state to be educated.

16. Only a damn fool looks to their enemy for ideas about educating their own children.

17. Public education and public schooling are two different concepts

18. There is nothing Democratic about selecting education leaders through low-turnout elections overwhelmed by public worker money.

19. Any meeting of education professionals that doesn’t touch on student outcomes is the wrong meeting.

20. An employee occupies a classroom. To call your self an “educator,” you must have observable results.

21. Stop hoping for one-best-system to educate “all kids.” It sounds like a compassionate goal, but given the unique needs of kids it’s not

22. Yes, poverty matters, which is why you should teach your ass off, or quit.

23. The revolution will be literate and numerate. Test scores matter.

24. Black achievement is not dependent on proximity to whiteness. Integration is not a panacea, and sometimes it’s social suicide.

25. America has thousands of half-empty urban schools. Let’s not “talk” about integration or evil school closures. Solve both, enroll now.

26. Concerned about schools “choosing their students”? Call your Congress members and ask for a ban on using addresses to enroll students.

If You Care About Education Then Karl Dean’s Run for Governor Should Be On Your Radar

The 2018 race for governor of Tennessee has been a thing for nearly two years. During this time, there has been no shortage of suitors whispering sweet nothings in the ears of potential voters – both Democrat and Republican. Currently, Tennessee sits solidly in the red, but if history is any indication, our next governor is certain to make our red eyes blue.

We’ve heard rumblings from Democrats former mayor Karl F. Dean and state representative Craig Fitzhugh. And just yesterday, real estate magnate and former Nashville mayoral candidate Bill Freeman backed out and rallied behind Fitzhugh (already interesting). Additionally, we’ve heard from a long list of Republican hopefuls currently enjoying their day in the red sun. But Sunday, The Tennessean broke the news of the race’s first candidate, Mayor Dean.

It’s All Connected

Karl F. Dean, a northern transplant and man of means, spent many years as the city’s top lawyer before making a run for mayor in 2007. Dean brilliantly ran on the slogan “It’s all connected” winning over the hearts and minds of those of us concerned about education, safety, and economic development. The two-term mayor made good on his promises and our little city looks almost entirely different in 2017 than it did 10 years ago when the good mayor took the reigns.

Photo: Nashville Downtown Partnership

Nashville is a beautiful city. As a native Nashvillian, the city’s aesthetics have always been a source of pride. Interestingly, despite all the growth, the city is even more beautiful. From the walking bridge that beautifully welcomes visitors into the city, to the un-Nashville-like bus station, to the blocks-long convention hub, the Music City Center—all can be attributed to Karl F. Dean. All things we didn’t know we needed.

Education Matters

More than buildings, Dean’s impact can be seen in less obvious (socially acceptable) ways as found in our education landscape (you didn’t think education wasn’t going to be discussed, did you?). The then-mayor had a thing about charter schools and quickly assessed the city’s collective disdain for the money-sucking, anti-union craze forced upon us by the state’s Republican delegation (note: the mood hasn’t changed much).

Photo: New Hampshire Business Review

Taking matters into his own hands, the mayor forced the anti-charter town into the world of ed reform— and we went in kicking and screaming. Intent on doing it his way, Dean brazenly created a charter school incubator, a pipeline designed to groom the perfect application for submission to the unfriendly school board. Even though these applicants were backed by the mayor there was little guarantee they would be approved.

Working at Metro Schools during Mayor Dean’s tenure, each application from his incubator was submitted to my office. I watched charter hopefuls submit thoroughly vetted, perfectly coiffed applications clearly churned out by a highly skilled team of application whisperers. While I’ve never been anti-charter, I was miffed at the audacious operation. Fast forward a few years and I can help but respect the vision. Though still not wild about how it was executed, I get it.

Further, as Dean staffer Courtney Wheeler tweeted at me, the gubernatorial hopeful is not an education one-trick pony. She reminded me of the increase in teacher pay under his leadership and Limitless Libraries, a ground-breaking partnership between the city’s libraries and school libraries, giving students access to the “world” (literally) from the comfort of their own school. And there are more things we didn’t know we needed.

The creation of Nashville After Zone Alliance (NAZA) is an excellent example of campaign promises made good. Using his background as law director, Dean understood better than most the connection between schools and criminal justice. So after discovering a swath of kids of a certain age without supervision and positive engagement, Dean created NAZA to catch them during a particularly critical time in their development. Before NAZA, students between the ages of 10 and 14 were left to their own devices often leaving them vulnerable to undesirable influences and behaviors. 

Oh, but we can’t leave out the not-so-gentle introduction to alternative teacher prep programs Teach for America and The New Teacher Project. Adding more furor to the teacher’s union and public education purists alike. Yet, these projects are now an integral part of how we do business which is a testament to the man’s vision. Or power.

Sour Grapes Never Die

While this is not intended to be a pro-Dean piece and I’m still munching on a few sour grapes from his time as mayor, it would be inauthentic for me to ignore his influence on our collective expectations for high quality schools. Some of the schools created out of the incubator are not only in existence but thriving. He made those of us eternally loyal to traditional public schools to take notice – even while we were kicking and screaming.

Speaking of screaming… After the candidacy was made official, my Twitter and Facebook was on fire; lit by the same anti-charter crowd that experienced great success during last year’s school board race. Meanwhile, those warmer to the prospect tended to be those friendly to ed reform. So, while he may be a moderate in terms of business, the same cannot be said about his stance on education. But there’s plenty of time to make peace or wage war. 

Only 21 Months To Go

Breaking from tradition, I voted for Republican governor Bill Haslam twice because of his platform on education. If I had to put my money on a Democrat with a different eye for education, Dean would be the guy. In the meantime, I’ll wait for the campaign’s education platform with the expectations planted by the guy who could be our next governor. Don’t sleep on this race.