During #EssenceFest 2016, OurBKSocial sat in on the education panel for an Essence Empowerment Experience. On Saturday afternoon July 2nd, in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, Louisiana, revolutionary educator Dr. Steve Perry moderated a very serious discussion on education and our youth.
Dr. Perry is founder and was principal of the very successful Capital Preparatory Magnet School in Hartford, Connecticut. He is an education contributor for CNN and MSNBC, a columnist for Essence magazine and an author. Most recently he has collaborated with Sean “Diddy” Combs to open a new charter school in Harlem USA. Capital Preparatory Harlem Charter School will open in August for the 2016-17 school year.
Dr. Perry elicited answers to his thought-provoking questions from two esteemed panelists: Dr. John B. King, Jr. and Nadia Lopez. Dr. King is Secretary of Education. In overseeing the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called Dr. King “an exceptionally talented educator,” committed to “preparing every child for success.”
Dr. King comes from a family of academics. Both of his parents were educators who sadly died when he was just a boy. Dr. King says New York City public school teachers in Brooklyn at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain J.H.S. in Coney Island saved his life. He knows first hand why having qualified, dedicated, and caring teachers in public schools is so important.
The other panelist, Nadia Lopez is principal of Mott Hall Bridges Academy. Mott Hall Bridges is a public middle school founded by Lopez in 2010. Located in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Lopez has shown the world we can produce high achieving students amidst the overwhelming challenges of a neighborhood once known as the murder capital of NYC. She believes in her scholars and uses words to uplift them understanding the great impact words have on their success.
Last year, President Barack Obama invited Lopez to the White House, she has received the Medal of Distinction from Barnard College, the Change Agent Award at Black Girls Rock, and served as guest presenter at the Other Festival this year.
The stage was set with three outstanding educators focused on our children and their learning. But wait – summer has officially begun and schools are out until September. This is not the time for school talk. This is the time for the beach, day camp and chillin —right? Well let’s look at some statistics.
“Young Black men — across the board — score below their counterparts when it comes to graduation rates, literacy rates and college preparedness. And many African American men, in turn, are virtually locked out of employment and are filling up the nation’s prisons in disproportionate numbers,” writes Tamika Thompson for Tavis Smiley Reports.
A point of fact, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery except in the jails and prisons. The prison industrial complex grew significantly during Reconstruction, the period right after the Civil War. Several prisons in the South had been slave plantations. Young men of color are still being enslaved in the 21st century.
Parents we have work to do. Our children are not for sale and deserve life and liberty in their pursuit of happiness. The consensus of the panel was that we must get involved with our children and their education early and stay involved by: taking parenting seriously, showing up at school, being a part of the process by electing and supporting politicians and educators that believe in and recognize our children’s successes and achievements. Freedom comes at a cost and we must do the work.