Education System Fails the Black Experience

Are we a commodity or what?

Are we capital or what?

Have our experiences been sold to the highest bidder?

What is our worth?

Black bodies failed.....

The commodification of Black bodies is systemically related to the foundation of whom and what America is.  Today, I am going to put on my GRIOT hat and tell a story in a roundabout fashion coming back to the important concept of COMMODITIES and capitalism, by using the example of the American education system coupled with my own personal experience to relay a message that there is power in the story of the Black experience and its ability to unite HUMANITY.  Now, that was a mouthful.  But the reality is we have to know from whence we’ve come from to 1. be prepared for the future and 2. make every stride not to fall into further pitfalls of destruction.

MLK_This_Not_Dream.jpg

The first record of the first slave to step foot on American soil is dated back to 1619.  From 1619 to 1860, America built its infrastructure and wealth off of the systems of colonization, chattel slavery and ultimately capitalism.  After land was stolen from indigenous populations, African slave labor was brought in to work the land for free.  Pre-Civil War, slaves were property and only seen as 3/5th human.  I won’t take up too much time trying to convince people that slavery in America was 1. bad and 2. that it was not the same as slavery in Africa or 3. that Africans sold other Africans into slavery….that would be a pointless waste of time.  Chattel slavery was the worst form of human genocide, terror and trauma in all of world history…..PERIOD.  And the COMMODITY of Black bodies for profit has changed DNA patterns to accept this abuse.

The first record of the first slave to step foot on American soil is dated back to 1619.  From 1619 to 1860, America built its infrastructure and wealth off of the systems of colonization, chattel slavery and ultimately capitalism.  After land was stolen from indigenous populations, African slave labor was brought in to work the land for free.  Pre-Civil War, slaves were property and only seen as 3/5th human.  I won’t take up too much time trying to convince people that slavery in America was 1. bad and 2. that it was not the same as slavery in Africa or 3. that Africans sold other Africans into slavery….that would be a pointless waste of time.  Chattel slavery was the worst form of human genocide, terror and trauma in all of world history…..PERIOD.  And the COMMODITY of Black bodies for profit has changed DNA patterns to accept this abuse.

We have to accept the FACTS that the Great White Race was a European pursuit to competitively conquer the world the fastest, so to establish white dominance throughout the world.  Colonization in and of itself was and is manipulative.  It is defined as:

  • the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. "Africa boasts a tradition of higher education institutions that predate Western colonization."
  • the action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use. "The complete colonization of television entertainment by reality shows."

WARNING_8.jpg

We have to acknowledge how the combination of colonization, slavery, and capitalism were intentional thefts of bodies, land, and resources; and ultimately the control of bodies, land, and resources.  It was during these foundational stages of American history where the experiences of Black people were erased, silenced and destroyed.  There is no wonder or surprise that the American education system has successfully excluded parts of American history for the sake of an illusion that America had established a land for the free and home of the brave.  Quite the opposite, America has been a nightmare to the African slave and their descendants.  It has found ways to establish and keep the control of Black bodies and livelihood, via education and prisons; both of which contribute to the capitalistic structure that keeps white generational wealth 10 times ahead of Black non-existing wealth.

FACT, the Civil War was a fight to keep slavery alive. PERIOD.  Again, I won’t get into a pissing contest over why the north and south were fighting so hard over the institution of slavery that kept my ancestors as free labor.  Nonetheless, the controversial enslavement of Black people was why nearly 3 million fought and nearly 600,000 died in the Civil War.  We won’t debate the fact that several southern states were hell-bent on secession from the United States and established themselves under the Confederacy and Confederate flag to assert their state rights to continue slavery.  So if the war was about the continued enslavement of Black bodies, then the Confederate flag stands for the concept of slavery, not southern pride. 

Let’s also be clear, Abraham Lincoln was no hero in favor of ending slavery either; he was a President stuck between a rock and a hard place.  As a matter of fact, his Emancipation Proclamation speech given on January 1, 1863, only addressed freeing slaves in rebellious states, leaving loopholes for other states to continue and/or establish slavery elsewhere.  Also, it should be noted, Lincoln and his family benefited from slavery and grew immense wealth from said system; so his quasi-freedom statement in the Emancipation Proclamation did nothing to stop the enslavement of Black bodies.  It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when the final slaves were notified in Texas of their freedom of no longer being slaves.  Juneteenth is and will forever be the ONLY day in American history associated with freedom and independence….not the 4th of Ju-lie and the Revolutionary War.  In all actuality, the vast Atlantic Ocean would have eventually been enough to stop the British control over the United States….I digress.

Let’s flip through the pages that were intentionally left out of the history books.  Deliberately left out, so you don’t know about concepts, people or movements who have fought for LIBERATION unless you go looking for this information.  Because at the end of the day, the system doesn’t want us to know about the accomplishments and resilience of Black folks…..

  • AFRICA…..culture, religions, tribes, drums, advancement, resources etc.
  • slave rebellions…..too many to name or count
  • establishment of Slave Patrols “overseers” (current day law enforcement)
  • slave codes
  • white supremacy and Jim Crow laws
  • vagrancy laws
  • convict lease programs
  • literacy laws to vote
  • grandfather clauses to vote
  • the fact that being able to read was against the law
  • creation of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)
  • Lynching
  • the burning of several Black Wallstreet communities
  • Marcus Garvey, Garveyism and the Pan-African movement, United Negro Improvement Association and the Black Star Line
  • Congress of Racial Equality 1942
  • Brown vs Board of Education
  • lynching of Emmett Till
  • work of women like Ida B. Wells and Fannie Lou Hammer
  • Race as a human classification
  • COINTELPRO
  • SNCC – Student Nonviolent Coordination Committee and RAM
  • Stokely Carmichael
  • Segregation
  • the Civil Rights movement
  • Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • assassination of Patrice Lumumba
  • 1961 United Nations floor protest
  • redlining, ghettos, and gentrification
  • Max Stanford aka Muhammad Ahmad
  • Queen Mother Audley Moore
  • The Negro Digest
  • Group of Advanced Leadership
  • Watts Riots of 1965
  • rise of the Nation of Islam
  • Assassination of Malcolm X
  • Black Panther Party, Black Guerrilla Family and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, DRUM (Dodge/Detroit Revolutionary Union Movement)
  • Kwanza
  • the long hot summer of 1967 – “red summer”
  • Detroit riot of 1967
  • Memphis sanitation strike
  • 1968 and 1972 Olympics Black Power salute
  • establishment of the White Panther Party - 1968
  • Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark
  • Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention
  • Marin County courthouse incident
  • Jackson State killings
  • Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970
  • Congressional Black Caucus
  • War on Drugs 1971
  • Attica Prison riot
  • Operation PUSH
  • African Liberation Day
  • MOVE
  • National Black Feminist Organization
  • creation of the DEA - Drug Enforcement Administration
  • creation of Affirmative Action and how it was intentionally destroyed
  • integration efforts and bussing
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972
  • The National Conference of Black Mayors
  • Boston bus desegregation
  • Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974
  • George Jackson Brigade
  • the real history of the establishment of the Bloods and the Crips
  • New Black Liberation Movement
  • the incarceration of black radical leaders, like but not limited to Mumia Abu-Jamal, Delbert Orr Africa, Janet Holloway Africa, Jalil Muntaqim, Mutulu Shakur, Sundiata Acoli, Joseph Bowen, Kojo Bomani Sababu and so many others
  • the creation of crack and the influx of planted guns in Black neighborhoods
  • maximum minimums
  • post-Hurricane Katrina
  • excessive bail and sentencing
  • Black Lives Matter
  • APTP – Anti-Police Terror Project

 

With all of these subjects left out of education, Black students, in particular, are left to wonder about their value in the world.  These subjects already have major connections to the over-criminalization of Blacks, and prove without reasonable doubt that young Black people are faced with “adultifiction,” which is an intentional theft of our childhood and youth.  One can reference the gaps in academic, social and emotional achievement of Black students to the 65 years since the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision on segregation and separate but equal doctrine.  Educational inequity also lends to the power of the Black experience, thus why it is deliberately left out of modern day teaching.  If people are empowered with the truth it puts white supremacy in jeopardy of extinction…..which puts white privilege in jeopardy and the white normative becomes sub-standard, ultimately effecting white generational wealth.  And Black bodies no longer exist as COMMODITIES or CAPITAL in capitalism.

37551956_10214336498859977_2115081186358329344_n.jpg

Hence the importance of Ethnic Studies before college…..because guess what, everyone doesn’t go to college.  But everyone needs to know each other’s experiences and struggles…..it helps when we go to the bank, the supermarket, while driving, getting gas, while reading or watching the news, while interacting in the park, living in community, at work and while being entertained.  We are more alike than unalike and it is at these intersections where stereotypes can be broken down to the core.  At these intersections, we can build and change the standard of engagement.  At these intersections, we can heal from trauma.  At these intersections, we can experience truth and know our ancestors.  And at these intersections, no matter how uncomfortable the conversation might get, we ALL are given the opportunity to grow.

I consider myself, in the words of LL Cool J, “an around the way girl” from Oakland, CA…..intuitive and observant.  In my home, I was instilled with pride and a belief in my abilities, beauty, and value to this world.  I was taught about Black history and the world around us.  I read Black authors and poets, learned the history of music and sound, watched Roots every Christmas break, celebrate MLK day and Malcolm’s birthday, never gave credence to Columbus discovering anything and so much more.  When I graduate from high school, I felt accomplished, having earned a 3.89gpa, scored fairly high on my SAT test and received awards and scholarships for my academic prose.  I was a social nerd….book smart and streetwise.  My grandmother called me an old soul, often saying “she’s been here before.”

I took all of this foundation with me to Spelman College (BTW, also accepted into Stanford, Berkeley, NYU and others). After taking my college entrance exams, I was faced with the reality of taking remedial Reading and Math for no credit.  This was the first time in my life that I felt like a failure.  And it was at that moment that I was committed to changing what educational equity would look like for Black students who looked just like me.  I thought I was going to college to study Genetics or Law, and I ended up studying to become an educator.  I earned degrees in History and Psychology and went on to obtain a Secondary Teaching Credential and Master’s in Education…..with the sole purpose of being an example and resource to Black students but to also change the paradigm of educating Black students.

When I entered the profession of teaching, I worked diligently at being more than a teacher, but being a mother to many, mentor, social worker and resource to all students who sought my assistance.  I intentionally sought out Black students to create support systems for their success.  I was accused by some Black student of being extra hard on them, but quite the contrary, it was my goal to prepare them for the real world.  I invested additional time outside of the workday, money, and resources to make sure all of the students who entered my classroom felt included.  As a history teacher, I started each year off with books, readings, poems and movies like Soul Food, Joy Luck Club, Mi Familia, Barrio Boy, Mississippi Masala and Push to name a few.  In an effort to understand each other, it was important for me to highlight myths and stereotypes while drawing on commonalities.

While teaching, I was also sucked dry by the educational system who saw my willingness to help Black students and I became the “go to” for everything Black on all of the campuses I have taught….Mrs. Lewis can you run BSU, how about cheer, can you write a letter of recommendation, can you help us get a grant, can you testify in court on behalf of a student, can you go with a pregnant student to the doctor, or can you do home visits.  Students would sometimes ask Mrs. Lewis by chance do you have some extra snacks, can I get a ride home, Mrs. Lewis thank you for listening to my problems, Mrs. Lewis I am going to miss you…..and to this day I get social media messages from students of all races and nationalities, who remind me that my presence in their lives wasn’t in vain; even though the burn out was real.  The education system doesn’t care how it disposes of Black students or Black teachers and staff for that matter.

Remember at the beginning of this BLOG, when I said I am a griot/storyteller…..well in a roundabout way, I am getting to the point I am trying to make.  America may not have taught us many things about the Black experience, culture, and worth, but it sure has taught us to give up and to believe the hype that we don’t deserve dignity, humanity, attention or guidance.  We are, like our slave ancestors, commodities; bodies to fill seats and bodies to control subject they are afraid to approach.  And don’t be a Black teacher/staff who speaks up on injustices, you are the first to go.  I didn’t go quietly though…..I went kicking and screaming and ended up with a hefty severance package and depression.  But it didn’t matter how right I was in speaking up and blowing the whistle on injustice, I was vilified and criminalized in the eyes of my students who thought I was fired.  Imagine the shame and guilt of being a reliable Black resource to Black students, and is essentially removed from the equation of their success.  I was silenced, it was effective and long-lasting.

Caskets_Aireal.jpg

I like many other Black educators turned my experiences into revolutionary fulfillment.  I sought ways to educate Black students on my terms.  I currently seek ways to marry education and activism, which allows me to continue the fight for educational EQUITY.  And I stayed true to the commitment I made back in 1989 when I discovered the education I’d received in California was subpar.  So every time I and other activist show up at district meeting to challenge the equity Black students don’t receive, I am humbly reminded from whence I have come….an around the way girl from Oakland, CA who graduated from the dysfunction-ally labeled Luther Burbank HS of Sacramento, CA; where BTW the majority of my Black classmates are doing quite well in the world.  Or when activist show up to change the standards of engagement with respects to punitive responses when Black bodies behave in the same ways in which white bodies behave, but are criminalized with punishments that feed the school-to-prison pipeline.  Or when Black students are exposed to racist bullying from adults and students and are told to hold on for change, when instead of change Band-Aids cover problems that require surgery.

Thus the needs to address how all teachers teach Black students, and from this day forward, seriously investing in Black bodies instead of commodifying and capitalizing off of them.  I was recently asked the question….. “What words would you offer future white and non-black teachers about working with Black students?”  I thought for a moment and it boiled down to not erasing us, silencing us or criminalizing us.  Watch this clip…..

On a recent Facebook post, I said: BLACK bodies have NEVER been humanized in America, they (we) have ONLY been seen as a COMMODITY.  Historically, Black bodies were the CAPITAL in capitalism. Pre-Civil War, 2/3 of the GOP was based on the free labor of Black bodies and Black bodies were counted as property.  And people can’t see why angry moms show up in school offices, cussing and fussing about their child’s education or punishment?  Or the question continues to get asked about when the contracts with law enforcement as SROs will end?  Or when will the achievement gaps be addressed and closed?  Or why is mainstream public education, so against the charter school initiative when Black students are often times doing better in a charter setting?  Questions and struggles that lend to the need to advocate for and offer solutions to the educating of Black students without fear of their success.

THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR OUR SUCCESS.

THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR OUR SUCCESS.

THERE IS NO NEED TO FEAR OUR SUCCESS.

 

Resources used for this BLOG include:

History of criminalization – https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2065341063558937&id=346937065399354

Educational Equity – https://youtu.be/c8HmJhcviCU

Power of the Black Experience – https://youtu.be/A4ZSd7H1aV4

Adultification – https://www.law.georgetown.edu/poverty-inequality-center/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2019/05/Listening-to-Black-Women-and-BlackGirls.pdf

65 years since Brown vs. Board of Education – https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/65-years-brown-v-board-ed-school-segregation-persists-n1006356

 

 

Coming Events:

May 29th – Court Support for Tanya Faison – 8:30am @ Superior Court of California County of Sacramento, 720 - 9th Street, Sacramento, CA

July 6th – 1st Black Saturdays – 2pm @ McClatchy Park, 3500 – 5th Ave, Sacramento, CA

July 17th – Let’s Recall Scott Jones! – various locations


Donate Find an Event

connect