Below is a call to action from the More4Mann coalition regarding the future of the Horace Mann school building, and the future of Black youth across our city. There is a rally and press conference at 2 PM at Mann, 24th and Cherry in Seattle.
Whether or not you agree with the tactics and rhetoric of More4Mann and the Africatown Innovation Center they are building , you have to admit they have created a situation where the severe obstacles facing Black youth can no longer be hidden behind school district smokescreens. They have refused to leave the Mann building until the District takes these issues seriously, and partners with them to actually do something about it. This is a historic opportunity to start head-on confronting the institutional racism that our passive aggressive middle class politicians want us to ignore.
Needless to say, every powerful act of Black liberation in the US tends to create a backlash from people who are scared to do what it takes to dismantle white supremacy, and are even more scared of the new world that young black geniuses might build if they’re armed with a powerful education.
There has been a media backlash this week against the More4Mann movement. I’m worried that it might be part of certain faction’s efforts to sabotage the Africatown programs and to force Supt. Banda to back down from the public comittments he has made to partnering with the More4Mann movement. Banda had said publicly, on record, that he would allow the Africatown Innovation Center to rent space in another district building during construction at Mann, and to return to the Mann building in the fall. We need to hold him to this promise, because the district has not yet committed to it in writing.
We encourage everyone to engage in the debates and to write comments on these articles:
Even more importantly, everyone in the city who cares about fighting racism in the schools, and anyone who cares about Black youth should come out to the press conference on Sat at 2 PM. This is bigger than simply a local struggle in the C.D. It is a growing, broad-based, city-wide, multi-communal movement with leadership from accomplished educators and activists of African descent.
I went to the Black Education Summit held at the Mann building on Oct 5th, and I was totally energized and inspired to hear the presentations of educators like Dr. Joye Hardiman, Marcia Tate Arunga, and Dr. Debra Sullivan. As a teacher who works in the ‘hood, I’ve sat through hours of boring, useless, naive, and dishonest professional development trainings on race and diversity. All of them talk about race very narrowly in terms of multiculturalism and awareness of white privilege. This may be better than nothing, but they fail to recgonize the need to decolonize our entire curriculum, to change every aspect of the learning culture and institutional structure of our schools in order to meet the needs and desires of students of African descent.
None of those trainings have really illuminated the cultural assets and intellectual strengths that students of African descent bring to the classroom. None of them have really helped me relate better to my students. None of them have affirmed my love for my students, or my efforts to be a part of their community, on their terms, in ways that can help them see their own potential, their own futures, not some teach-for-america-white-guilt-freedom-writers-I’m-gonna-save-the-poor-black-kids bullshit.
I knew Africatown was the real deal the minute I heard highly experienced Black educators speak about things I’ve experienced in the classroom and have never head any teacher, from any racial background, talk about. Like the fact that students need to see us teachers as whole, three dimensional people, not simply as distant, flat authority figures who fill bureaucratic roles. Many Black students want to pose and answer high-level critical questions and want to co-create knowledge with their teachers. They love to play with langauge and to create rich, literary narrations of every aspect of life, including informal interactions. They are bored answering questions if they think their teachers already know the answers to these questions and are not telling them.
I had learned some of these things from my students, my friends, my mentor teachers, and my coworkers. But I was constantly looking over my shoulder, doubting this knowledge, thinking maybe I was being “unprofessional” for teaching this way. These aspects of my teaching seem to work for my students, but I’ve been worried some district official will walk into the room and censure me. It was incredibly empowering to hear accomplished educators with years of teaching and research experience affirm that yes, this is how we should teach. It made me want to put every ounce of energy I have into teaching and learning with my students.
Imagine if every teacher in the district could experience that? Imagine if the Africatown educators set up a thriving pilot program at Mann. Imagine if they research and analyze their own practices over time. Imagine if they offer professional development to teachers in other schools based on their findings, so that we can replicate their successes in our classrooms?
Despite what the critics are saying, the Africatown educators are not being racist when they say that Black students learn differently. They are simply pointing out a fact you will NOT learn in a 28 day Black history month unit that spends the first two weeks on slavery. That fact is this: the Black community has not only experienced oppression and victimization but also resistance, creation, and cultural brilliance. The community has struggled hard to maintain and grow aspects of what several of the Africatown educators call an “African centered epistemology” – the belief that human beings are inter-related and we can only know ourselves and grow ourselves through each other. This is such a powerful antidote to all of the individualism, competition, standardization, and bureaucratic boredom of capitalist education that we’ve been railing against on this blog. It is a unique cultural expression of the idea of “from each according to ability, to each according to need” that many of us are fighting for in all aspects of our lives.
In other words, I think that an African-centered learning process is not only different from what other district schools have to offer. It is better. Students of all races could benefit from learning this way. The haters should step out of the way and the district should partner with More4Mann and allow them to work with teachers across the district to make this happen.
We are hosting a Press Conference this Saturday, November 2nd at the Horace Mann Center (24th and Cherry).
MORE 4 MANN
THE POWER OF WE!
The community mobilization around the Africatown Center for Education and Innovation at Horace Mann has reached a critical moment, and we need all hands on deck. Many of you are also working on developing an African-American education agenda for Seattle Schools and we invite you to join us this weekend. Let’s unify, and shift the paradigm for our youth.
We intend to announce the positive educational outcomes and programs we plan on developing for our youth in the community; and announce our forthcoming partnership with Seattle Public Schools. Come and learn about many of the successful programs created and organized by parents and community members.
We need every parent, child, youth, and community member that is able to attend in support. We want to present a unified community and message to the media. We are taking responsibility for the education of our children and providing the district an opportunity to rectify past inequities and ineffective methods to educate our children.
We will no longer accept and allow sub-standard resources, results, programs and policies directed to our young geniuses. The 2012 Seattle Public Schools Data for African-American Students highlights the crisis-
- Only 48.5% of African-American 10th graders met or exceeded standard for Algebra
- Only 29.1% of African-American 10th graders met or exceeded standard for Biology
- 26.9% rate for short-term suspensions for African-American middle schoolers (highest number in the district)
We will no longer accept these types of results. We have amazing parents, students, activists, educators and leaders in our community. We have resources, and we have the solutions. We will only accept a narrative that begins to aim for 100% graduation, 100% African and African-American students ready for college AND career, and 100% of our students matriculating to post-secondary options with a network of mentors, and a strong positive identity in-tact.
Join us Saturday. Facebook the event. Invite a friend. Bring your children.
- If you only have only 1 hour in the day- I’ll see you at the Press Conference at 2 pm.
- If you have an extra hour- arrive at 1pm and join us for a meal beforehand.
The paradigm has shifted, and we’re not turning back.
See you Saturday!