‘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. 

Saturday Morning reMIX: EdStories from March 20 – March 24

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It’s Spring Break in Nashville and the most popular ticket in town was the voucher legislation dancing its way through the Tennessee legislature. The bill targeting Memphis families zoned to failing schools passed the House Education Committee this week. The legislation now moves to the House Government Operations Committee and is pending in the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee. And the tango continues…

Screenshot 2017-03-20 at 11.39.11 AM5 Things You Need to Know About Vouchers – You Decide

 

Listen to Rep. Johnnie Turner speak against the voucher legislation that seeks to use Memphis students “as guinea pigs.”

 

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Tennessee has been accused of possibly hiding poorly performing students, but the Every Student Succeeds Act gives districts an opportunity to make them disappear.

 

More on vouchers:

Peter Cunningham, Education Post – “What begins as a program for low-income kids could become a program for middle-income and even wealthy kids. It already has in Nevada. Public education desperately needs middle-class families in its coalition. If we lose them to vouchers, political support for traditional public education will weaken.”

 

Marilyn Anderson Rhames, parent and school administrator – “I felt that the free education my daughter was getting was just too expensive. I needed to find a school that would start filling her academic gaps while also providing culturally responsive pedagogy—with an extended-day option.”

 

More News…

Amongst my readers, it seems vocational education is a hot topic. The response from the Forbes article, Why We Desperately Need Vocational Training In Schools  proved there is strong interest in the Nashville community. Forbes

The president wants to cut after-school programs because he says they are not effective. No way, says Faces of Education blogger, Kerry-Ann Royes

What grade would you give your school? Tennessee lawmakers are considering bouncing the whole grading schools idea. Whew. Chalkbeat Tennessee

Dr. Benjamin Chavis believes the federal education law is good for students of color.

Bringing moms, dads, and grandparents into school life is challenging because there are so many other important things that their require time and energy. This is a good take on how schools can better approach parental engagement. EdLanta

Warrior Mom Shares Story of Courage, Heartbreak, and Triumph

The post below is a joint project by Education Post bloggers Kerry-Ann Royes and Vesia Wilson-Hawkins who were in the nation’s capital for an education writer’s training. Both bloggers are passionate about children and families and as luck as would have it…

Vesia:

When traveling, the Southern hospitality goes with me. So when a lady sitting next to our table asks my partner, “did you order the shrimp and grits?’ it was on and popping. I knew she would be receptive to this good-natured Nashvillian.

In D.C. a day early for a writer’s training, I make plans to meet up with a fellow Education Post blogger – a perfect stranger outside of our digital education world. We follow through on our plan — take in some sights and wrap up the day with dinner and a cocktail at one of the happening (did I say happening?) spots in D.C.

My new fast friend, the very congenial Kerry-Ann Royes, is a blogger out of South Florida and we connect as if years, a million miles, and whole life experiences didn’t make us strangers just days prior. Kerry-Ann is a parent and power player in Broward County, FL and I marveled at the amazing story of my new Jamaican-American pal against the backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial.

But it was at the very cool Busboys and Poets where things started to get interesting. After sharing a very decadent white chocolate banana chocolate bread pudding (with the coconuttiest of ice cream), we were eager to capitalize on the unique opportunity to execute a project. A joint creation exceeding the boundaries of Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress; but one that makes sense. Enter the stranger woman, our neighbor, who left her table to get to the power strip underneath OUR table.

Interesting how one tiny thing leads to a 1,000 word blog! Turns out, the woman sitting next to us was no ordinary female. Actually, “superwoman” fails to accurately define her greatness. We explain why we’re in D.C. and she replied “I’m big on education.” Oh, boy, we’re listening.

Tonya Thomas, a D.C.-Maryland-Virginia (DMV) resident, is an angel wrapped in warrior clothing. After establishing her very clear stance on education, she proceeded to tell us “I don’t believe anyone should have to pay for college.” This vessel of brilliance and resourcefulness spent nearly an hour of her time explaining how she, a single mom and three-time breast cancer survivor, amassed enough scholarship money for daughter, Cydney, to fully fund baby girl’s entire educational career clear through to her doctorate.

 

Kerry-Ann:

I think what struck me the most is there was not one pretentious bone in Tonya’s body. She shared her life journey with a matter-of-fact awareness.  Stories after story, evidence of everyday resilience, especially in parenting.  “My daughter, Cydney, was a miracle baby.  She was born 2 months early, 2lbs 14 oz., and detached in utero.  I raised her by myself, but I watched my mother take care of 4 kids on her own, so it was fine.”  She was completely tuned in to Cydney’s learning needs.  “I had her in daycare, but I knew she was ready for more.  So, I pulled her out and put her in a private school from age 2-4.”  This allowed Cydney  to enter Kindergarten at 4 years old.

Tonya was everything but the image of the single parent we are often given.  Though life had given her plenty reasons to bury her head in the sand, there was none of that. There was no talk of excuses, or brokenness or handouts. Just a powerful mother, leaving her imprint on her daughter’s life.

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“My daughter was an only child. I didn’t want to overcompensate or over-indulge her.  I didn’t want her to become a brat, so we started doing community service when she was very young.” They donated all the new toys from Cydney’s birthday parties to the local hospital where she received early intervention treatment given to preemies.  “She never really liked playing with toys, and we knew someone else’s family would really appreciate it. So, that’s how we started.”  By the time of graduation from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Cydney had 1225 community service hours.

College was just another mountain for Tonya to conquer. “Scholarships were the only option for college for my daughter.  I’m a 3-time breast cancer survivor.  There is no way I could afford her $50K a year college expenses.”  All the cancer battles had run through all the college fund savings, not just for treatments, but for basic needs too.

“The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) allows you to set up a profile and you get all kinds of information on scholarships.  I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of it.”  The Gates Foundation Scholarship, which Tonya became aware of before Cydney even started high school, was also hosted through the UNCF.  And when it came time to apply, Tonya and Cydney did their research, YouTubing other Gates Scholars. “Everybody has a sad story and the application was intense.  So, we had to be get to the realness of the what Cydney had done and what they are looking for.”  

They did it.  They landed the Gates scholarship.  But that was not enough.  They kept applying.  Dance, academic, community service…it didn’t matter.  Cydney got into Virginia Commonwealth University with a full ride: Gates Foundation and Disney Scholar, among other grants.

All those recommendation letters, essays, teacher nominations and applications…now she can rest easy that her daughter is taken care of all the way through to her doctoral degree if she so chooses.  “Now, all she has to stress about is getting those A’s.”

I don’t know how we got so lucky to sit next to Tonya in this DC restaurant on a Wednesday night.  But she was a perfect reminder of why Vesia and I will keep talking about education, and shining a light in all the dark places.  Tonya and Cydney deserve it.

Nqew5Ko8_400x400Kerry-Ann Royes, Broward County, FL, Faces of Education Blog