“The youth are our future” is not a metaphor.
Last week, I found myself at a Black children’s parent-teacher meeting. As someone out of school and without kids, I wasn’t expecting to find myself participating in a conversation/workshop on Black children’s educational progress at Jackie Robinson Elementary. I was invited there for an informational on a school-day festival for Black kids that I was hoping to participate in, but I ended up sitting through a 2 hour discussion on
“What can we as parents do to help our Black children succeed in a system/world that they are not even close (yet) to understanding or utilizing?”
trying to look like a concerned mom. This was a lil awkward for me.. I felt like it wasn’t my place to be present as someone without kids. But still I was included in the meeting. They never asked me to leave and they encouraged my feedback. I paid attention. Even though I didn’t know at the beginning of the meeting what I would be receiving from being there, I knew that there was a reason that I didn’t feel the need or want to leave. I kept my eyes on the PowerPoint presentation showing me that only 24% of Black students at the school scored at least proficient on their English testing, only 25% in Math, that only 94% were showing up to school regularly, about 32% were receiving referrals, and 25% were getting suspended. I listened as the parents shared their opinions on what they thought could be the causes for this… And then I was reminded of my time as a grade-school (specifically high school, *gag*) student, which wasn’t long enough ago to be fully burned from my memory.
I remembered the too-many-nights of staring at papers with sentences I read over and over again and still could not comprehend. I remembered waking up and wondering if (hoping that) my breakdown would be today; How could I again face the disgusted eyes of my peers (and sometimes school officials)? The disappointed looks of teachers when I turned in blank or half done homework? My “friends” who spent most of their time with me talking about what we hated or who misunderstood us? My piece of shit boyfriend who was stuck in the principal’s office again for fighting? Another fight with my parents over my tragic grades when I got home? My own self for being so lost and thinking I was so stupid and wanting friends so bad I was consistently suspended for ditching with them? Etc.? Etc.? FUCK. And when I look at how I felt then… the root cause of most of my suffering, confusion, rebellion, and heartache was that
I felt completely unsupported and unloved.
These are our children, and are the answers to the problems we face NOW. We need to be the people we want our kids to be, we need to show them what success looks like, what love looks like, what support and understanding looks like. If we are not present in our children’s lives, showing them what positivity, progression and wisdom looks like, then another force will take our place, and will be the ones to influence their education, well-being and our fate.
It starts with us.
How We Can Benefit OUR YOUTH Now
Questions to Ask Ourselves
Thank you to Dr. Deena Brown for originally asking me these questions during the Black parent-teacher meeting at Jackie Robinson Elementary and bringing this to my attention.
- What do I want for the children of my community in an educational setting?
- What do I see?
- What do I need to help me help my kids?
- What will I do now?
Opportunities to Positively Influence The Children of Our Community
- Volunteer at public schools (Long Beach, CA & Los Angeles, CA Links): LBUSD http://www.lbusd.k12.ca.us/Departments/Parent_U/vips.cfm; LAUSD https://achieve.lausd.net/Page/9647
- Substitute w/ or without credentials: http://www.swingeducation.com/
- Mindfulness Teaching In Schools: https://mindfulnessinschools.org/
- Get Involved at the YMCA: http://www.ymca.net/be-involved
- Reading to Kids: http://www.readingtokids.org/Home/main.php; https://readingpartners.org/
- Getting Involved In Your Community- HealthyChildren.org: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Community/Pages/default.aspx
- Donate to Fund Youth African Drum Classes: https://rhythmartsalliance.networkforgood.com/
- Donate to Public Schools: https://www.fundforpublicschools.org/
These are just a start to the many options we have available to play an influential role in the lives of our youth. If you have a talent, money, time, love, SHARE IT. We all have a choice in the fate of our future. This is our responsibility as co-creators of a free world.
Peace and Love,
Katherine Elizabeth Jackson