Tuesday, May 02, 2006

"It's hard when all they want to be are rappers and football players." - Elementary School Principal, LAUSD


Jasai - 30
Los Angeles, CA
2 children - 1 boy (11), 1 girl (5)

I. Am. Done.

This is what I feel after a week of having been pissed, blown away, astounded, dumbfounded and down right numb with disbelief; just tired, heart sick. And oh yeah... DONE!

I am the parent of a child being educated in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Undoubtedly one of the worst, most inept, racially marginalized school districts in this nation.

I will not belabor the particular incident that sent me to this place – it causes me anxiety that I would not wish on my worst enemy but suffice it to say, as a result, I demanded a meeting with the brand new principal of my son’s school.

In short, what will follow are the words out of his mouth after having spent nearly twenty minutes discussing how my son was volunteered for a program that acts as an indicator to future schools and administrators of a child with learning/behavior issues in the classroom:

J: Let me be frank with you Mr. McGee, I have an issue with the way that it seems that black boys in this district are systematically held to an expectation of underachievement or considered to have, at the slightest hint of misbehavior, some larger emotional, social or psychological issue. Issues that would rarely if ever be attributed to their white counter-parts when exhibiting similar behaviors.

His face reddens, he breathes deep...

Mr. M: Well Mrs. M, let me be honest with you, there are a lot of imperfections in our district, as in every district. Teachers and administrators are people and people unfortunately often have biases. It is difficult for some teachers when they try to reach little African American boys that come from the inner city or ...the projects. When they don’t have fathers in the home or strong male figures it is difficult to get their attention.

J: (nodding) uh huh

Mr. M: When all it seems that these little boys want to be is football players or rappers, the teachers feel as if they do not want to learn.

J: My husband is in the home. And the little boys who do not have fathers in the home should not be punished with low-expectations and generalizations by teachers who are uncomfortable with them or ambivalent about their futures.

Mr. McGee: Your right Mrs. M and it takes people that will keep sounding the bell, saying something so that one day things will change.

J: Well, since my daughter will be starting here next year, I think this school should be about the business of educating its teachers and faculty about the realities of dealing with people unlike themselves. They should maybe get some training in diversity as the face of this school is becoming more diverse every year.

Mr McGee: (nodding slowly) Yes we... well we would like to see things improve and we need people to keep sounding the horn on things like this.

The conversation went on like this for much longer than I would impose on you. And at the close of it, when I informed him that I was a writer, knew the power of words and a carefully placed letter or two and would be looking into getting some diversity training at our school, he winced out a smile and asked underneath a bit of nervous laughter:

Mr. McGee: You wouldn’t like to come and talk to the kids about writing would you?

J: Sure I would. You set it up.
______________________________________________________

If you are the mother of a little black boy or young man I implore you to sit down with him and ask him the following questions. Encourage him to be open and honest about his feelings as they relate to school.
There is a plague on our houses - on our communities. A plague that will surely wipe us out if we do not become brave, speak up, take nothing for granted and insist that the educational system that we invest our hard earned dollars in, do a full and fair job of educating our children, especially our boys. We demand it and will stop at absolutely NOTHING and NO ONE, to get it.
ASK YOUR SON

1.) How do you feel about school?

2.) What do you think your value is to the educational system.

3.) What value do you think education plays now and will play in the future for you?

4.) How do you think the educational establishment (teachers, principals) views you?

5.) If you could change one thing about the way you are being educated on a day to day basis, what would it be?

6.) What is your favorite subject?

7.) What do you want to be when you grow up?


Send your son’s responses to Jasai at 3727 W. Magnolia Blvd, Box 406, Burbank, CA 91505. Be sure to include his name, age, grade and the school district he is being educated through. We can do this mamas. We can make them listen. We can make a change. We can make the difference. If we don't, no one else will.
Please forward this post (by clicking the envelope below) to every mama you know. Got mama friends with no email? Print it and pass it around.

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

salina here. and i FEEL you. I'm an educator, 10 years deep. You are RIGHT on with your commentary. Keep fightin the good fight... and know that there IS a small but MIGHTY cadre of us who DO NOT PLAY. We are all over this district, some at charter, some at public, and we're working to make things CHANGE. But remember, schools are INTRINSICALLY a micro in the macro. The same SICKNESS (racism,white supremacy, capitalism) that exists in the macro manifests in our classrooms...but that's a whole nother' long story.
There's an event on Saturday at John Muir Middle School from 8:30- 3:30 discussing these issues and the role that HIP HOP can play in subverting the oppression that we see...

8:38 PM  
Anonymous schunetta burns-wilson said...

God got a blessing in store for u

9:21 PM  
Blogger Brandi said...

Wonderful Post! I hope you can make a difference!

7:47 AM  
Anonymous jasai said...

we can all make a difference. we have to say something - out loud -and do something. something drastic and consistent. we have power. we always have. now we must exercise it.

8:40 AM  
Blogger G Bitch said...

Do you only want to hear from boys currently in elementary/secondary school or hear from some boys/young men who made it to college but could give feedback on their experiences in school?

Yes, a major crisis. Brava for sending out the call. That principal is full of shit. I don't know how you kept your cool. I would've gone off. DAMN!

And then there's the side I get at the college-level--young men who look at me like i farted on their mamas when i expect their BEST work from them, not some piece of shit they scribbled while i called roll.

9:44 AM  
Blogger cloudscome said...

You are so right. God Bless You and your work.

9:44 AM  
Blogger being mama daily said...

G,

PLEASE, please, please have any boy, young man, grown man who will, share with us how they feel about the way in which they are (or are not ) being educated. Do they feel like they are bieng taken seriously? Challenged? regarded? pre-judged. Even the ones who love their experience; we want to hear from them to; see what that looks like. We have to hear what is happening straight from them. We will make the people who need to hear, listen. we can and we will.

10:30 AM  
Blogger bygpowis said...

i hear and see the probelm. taught two years elementary school in brooklyn. i had to leave one school for my own sanity. have a slightly different take on growing up in school. i was borne in the caribbean where there's a premium on education. my mother started her own school, all my aunts were teachers. in ameirca, with all its contradictions, school was a sanctuary for me. the rest of my life was complete chaos growing up in brooklyn but i had teachers who steadfastly believed in me. school wasn't all roses though. I struggled hard with issues of identity, race, "smart black guy" in the class syndrome. but i battled through it. i'm not a saint but i came out, went ot college. and i want to share that story... because of this post, i'm gonna start another blog off bygpowis all about my experiences growing up --in school. i want you to read the tale of a regular black boy just searching for definition, where school is a mojor force in his transformations.

10:40 AM  
Blogger bygpowis said...

i got my first post up on the black boy experience in school. it's the "17 to Life: A Memoir in Black" link from bygpowis... happy reading... if you like, i'll recall more of my school days and other lessons of a black boy becoming a man becoming human in america.

12:18 PM  
Anonymous jasai said...

bgypowis: I appreciate this take because I just had a conversation with a co-worker (white, which really doesn't mean anything as so many black people feel the same way) and basically her question was, “even if the teachers encourage and push our children and create positive educational spaces, they still have to go home to the same, crime and poverty, confusion and minimal parental supervision, so what’s the point?”

This is how they feel. If you are born into the wrong class with all the wrong circumstances facing you, there is no reason for them to waste their time.

We are going to pay for this people. Don’t you think we aren’t.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

as a mamma 2 two young men...18 and 13, I applaud you!!!!

my boys and I talk.I mean really talk!!!! Even though the media can have a negative impact on their dreams/goals my boys know that t.v. is just entertainment......N.B.A.AND.N.F.L. is just for entertainment purposes!!!

I have had my battles with the San Diego unified.........the best battle was when they wanted me 2 put my oldest son on meds when he was in the 3rd grade...they had NO CLUE that I am a nurse!!!!!! Boy did I let them ALL have it that day!!!!! The principal, teacher,school.nurse.and counselor!!!!!

uh oh I lost my point..........hate it when that happens...........

go mamma!!!!!

thanks 4 checking out my lot spot in the blogsphere!!!!!!!

5:36 PM  
Blogger The Phoenix aka ThatGirlTam said...

My stepson will be getting your questions TONIGHT!! He's 12, going on 35. He goes to the BEST middle school in the Long Beach Unified School District (it's a California Distinguished School). Since he's been living with us for nearly 2 years, we monitor what he watches on television and what he listens to on the radio (which I actually don't even listen to - thanks to my iPod). He has never lived "in the hood" or had to deal with "street" real life situations or mentality. Yet he's DEAD SERIOUS when he says, "When I grow up, I'm gonna be a rapper!" When my husband and I attempt to discourage him in those pursuits, he gets upset.

I let him listen to a CASSETTE (remember those?) of my college sweetheart (also an aspiring rap artist from the early 90s). He secured a contract with Priority Records. He was talented...but the label never pushed him and his career went to the toilet. I saw my stepson bobbin his head to the music and then explained to him that the man he was listening to is LIVIN LARGE! Not because of the music he had just heard, but because when the music shit didn't work out, he had a college degree and a 4.0 GPA to fall back on. Now he's some big wig president of a large internet financial insitution. BALLIN...

This boy brings us home lousy grades and shows so many signs of "giving up" - on himself, on school, on everything...yet he can sit in his room trying to come up with some of the most BOOTLEG ASS rhymes you've ever heard.

He tries so hard to exude what he feels is his "blackness" (in a house full of HI-YELLOW ass people) and spouts things like Jesus Christ was a BLACK MAN (don't even get me started on THAT conversation). Our young boys are so lost...and we as parents need to help them find their way and get them back on track.

Sorry this was so long, I think I was channeling my girl P! HAHAHAHA

12:58 PM  
Blogger bygpowis said...

frustrated black moms with young boys. are there books out there for your sons that show them what life is like for a black boy becoming a man becoming human in america? i want to know the competition. if there's none, all the more reason to scribe one.

7:17 PM  
Blogger being mama daily said...

Good idea bgypowis! There is an author, Jess Mowry who writes wonderful - though at times gritty - prose about growing up as a young black boy. "Six out Seven" is one, while his most famous is "Way Past Cool".

Nathan McCall also wrote "Makes me wanna Holler" which is a huge favorite. And Richard Wright's "Black Boy" is a classic. (My son read it for a 5th grade oral book report. He was so pround to have read it until his teacher told him she did not think it was an appropriate book for the catagory of non-fiction....oy vey! He did the report on it nonetheless)

In any event, there are not a lot of books and even fewer contemporary books (although I did JUST but Hill Harpers "Letters to a Young Brother") so the market is WIDE open.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous angel said...

(Jasai: since you encouraged me to send this (even though we discussed it privately) here it is. Forgive my long-windedness).

You know, I don’t know what troubles me most about
this:

A) a federal program that has done exactly what it was purportedly designed not to do, and that is, leaving children behind. A program that has turned schools into prisons—overcrowded and underfunded; principals into wardens and teachers into police; children penalized for the slightest infraction that reminds the folks in charge that yes, they are still children – babyish, squirmish, inattentive at times, bored and tired, too. A program that cuts out arts and phys ed
programs, eliminates outdoor recess time and generally lacks the innovative approach to teaching that is necessary for a child to develop a love for learning, which in turn, leads to a productive life. An outdated program that believes that a test score is indicative of learning, indicative of having gained
knowledge. A punitive system that makes students and parents angry and teachers frustrated since their primary role is to teach students how to pass a test so that they themselves (and their colleagues) can keep their jobs.

B) a public school system supported by tax-paying
citizens, full of very young, very white women (more
often than not) who supposedly need "diversity
training" to "deal" with children who don't look like
them....I mean what is UP with that? My white
teachers (who were very nurturing, let me add) in Long Island New York hardly needed any diversity training. They knew not to put their hands on me and I knew to follow their directions because they were the adult in the situationand my mother would kick my ass if I dared to disrespect any adult AND many of them had grown children of their own (which alot of these young women today do not) and hence, knew the difference between what was normal "boyish" immature behaviour and what was behaviour that required modification (read: after school detention) and what was behaviour that needed psychological counseling or other intervention.

C) that it's true -- as I've seen in my daughter's
school -- that a whole LOT of young people --
especially boys -- are growing up without fathers.
That a whole lot of black women were sold a bill of
goods by the feminist movement that said, "we can do it ourselves" and it became the black woman's national anthem, not realizing that raising children is SERIOUS business and that where white women do appear on the surface to be "doing it themselves," the reality is that behind closed doors they receive a whole lot more money from their often wealthier ex-husbands and a whole lot more support from their families and insular communities. Rarely after divorce or separation do their children stop going to private school, stop going to their swim and dance lessons, soccer and lacrosse practice, etc etc. I will raise my hand to be the first person to say to black men (my black man included): yes, we need you and no, we cannot raise healthy black children without you. I don't give a damn what the feminist movement said (which was never concerned about black women or her children, let me add. read bell hooks and you'll understand) . A Mother and a Father: that is the least that our children deserve. I have a circle of brothers and brother friends whom I talk to (all grown, educated and gainfully employed) about their experiences and almost all
have reported immense confusion, anger, and
frustration growing up without their father that at 40 and 42, they are only now getting a handle on.

or

D) that perhaps C. Delores Tucker was right, way back when she was trying to warn us of the culture that WE were creating then -- a thug, bitch, ho culture that would ultimately eat our children alive; while we were busy telling her to shut up and get with the program, she was enough of a visionary to realize that a culture was brewing that would have no fear in calling its mothers, sisters and aunts bitches and ho's and skanks; a culture that glorifies violence and puts a premium on fast money (no matter whether its legal or illegal); culture that says to our children -- "get rich or die trying," ; a culture that tells young men that it is cool to wear clothes hanging off your ass while you walk down the street with half your hair unbraided -- no need to look decent because, after all, you can always get a record deal if you fail out of school; a culture that puts a premium on swinging naked from a pole in a dark nightclub rather than get a $6 an hour job to make it through college.

The truth is that all around our country (and other countries too, by virtue of the internet and satellite t.v.) this IS all that a lot of our young children, boys in particular, aspire to -- part of it is the system but if I'm to have a shred of honesty, I have to say that part of it is the culture WE create and support everytime we swipe that debit card to pay for a movie or CD that puts a black man in a skirt and calls it entertainment or in a prison suit and calls it justice. Everytime we buy a record that says, "Hey, I'm a pimp and a hustler," then this is what we get.
Folks, we've got to start seeing how culture plays itself out in our children. We have absolutely got to.

My friend just told me about her thirteen year old daughter's friend who spent the night a few weeks ago, woke up and came downstairs with tight booty jeans on and a tight t-shirt on that read: "If at first you don't succeed, buy me a drink."

Okay? Thirteen years old.

So the question becomes for me: a) who bought the
shirt (since she's obviously too young to have a paying job) and b) does she even know the implications of wearing such a shirt? When confronted by my friend she simply shrugged and said, "it doesn't really mean anything."

Right.

In my opinion, we have to deal with (and admit to) all of the above.

ANGEL

7:20 AM  
Blogger being mama daily said...

Angel,

Sharing is caring. Clearly we all need to do a bit more of both. Thank you for even taking the time to give this issue clear, thorough thought.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Trula said...

WORD

I LOVE this post, you are so right! and I am participating in your project. I have 2 sons, ages 11 and 8. I bailed on the inner-city school district we were in (Cleveland) before my oldest started kindergarten, because the academic's being taught were so low and I saw black boys being treated like criminals. I was in tears over having to put my son in such a school. So we moved to a suburb, where my kids are part of only a handful of black children. I hate that my kids are racially isolated but short of home school (which did not work for my family) we didn't know what else to do.

I am passing this info on to all the mothers I know of black sons, please let us know how it goes.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Unsaid said...

THANK YOU JASAI!!!! I linked to your blog from your comment on chelle's.

As a mother of a 5 year old boy I have already begun to fear that my son may already have been written off and doomed by the school system. We started with issues in daycare where they want him medicated! The doctor I discussed it with didn't even do any evaluations, he just wrote a prescription!!!! That is ridiculous. I am scared to have my child starting school in the fall. But I am ready to be vocal, not to let things slide when it comes to my child. Thank you for this inspiration Jasai...truly.

1:29 PM  
Anonymous jasai said...

Unsaid,

Ask your baby these questions, even now at five; especially now. We need to know what they think about school and education and observe how these views change shape over the years and the factors that contribute to that.

Keep fighting. Keep asking questions. And when they get tired of answering you - about your child - ask some more. Stay in their faces and offices. Listen to your baby and listen to your own heart. We owe this to our children.

The educational system is broken. And until it gets fixed we must fill in the gaps.

2:41 PM  
Blogger bygpowis said...

i liked the black boy biographies. "kaffir boy" by mark mathabane, "the rise and fall of a proper negro" by leslie alexander lacy. i like real life. its what we have to deal with. who's written the "black boy" for today? a life based in the present and all therein. james baldwin talked about the "pimp, the whore and the racketeer" on his harlem street. black boy biographies don't change. says somethign about us... somethign we have to keep writing about.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Miss Ahmad said...

As the child of an educator who has dedicated the last 25 years of her life to educating children I am well aware of what's happening on the other side of the desk. Marginal salaries attract marginal teachers, more often than not.

My mother taught 3rd grade for years and years because that is the age that young black men are tracked, given medication, put in special education classes, and deemed uneducable.

Our education system is sadly a reflection of the socio economic divide and we have been far too long on the short end of the stick.

These young men are the future leaders, of communities and families, they deserve a fair chance!

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am willing to bet that if we had not allowed illegal immigrant's children a free ride in our public schools, the education for all of our black children would be of a higher quality, (in California). The sheer numbers of these children have crowded the classrooms and changed the curriculum and the school's spending priorities.

Public schools used to have smaller classrooms, more extracurricular and elective activities, i.e. Art, Woodshop, Home Ec, Drama, Literature, Advanced Placement/College Prep classes, etc. These were not afterschool activities, but classes offered during the school day.

There was PE every day, nutrition breaks, and recess breaks. There were books, paper, and writing utensils for the whole class that could be stored in your own personal lockers. Field trips, and individual attention for students needing more help were common occurances at the elementary, junior high and high schools.

All of that changed as more and more programs were designed to cater to these other children. The teachers who could speak Spanish and English (bi-lingual)were given bonuses in pay and preferential treatment. Black people, (teachers, students and administrators) got the short end of the stick. The public schools for the most part are horrible places to send your children.

It's a shame that it has turned out like this. Those of us who can, pay handsomely to send our children to private schools to get the education they should freely receive from the public school system in America. What kills me is that we are tax-paying, US citizens. If anybody should have to pay to have their children educated, it ought to be the illegal immigrants, not the other way around. We need to flip this situation right-side-up and get the public schools back. I don't know how, but it needs to be done.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Jasai said...

I wholeheartedly agree with the above comment and it seems that so many of us are afraid to make this honest, calculable assessment.

Change in this area will only come from voicing and voting. I don't think as black women who are citizens of this country, we should be afraid to say, "Give us back our seats and resources. Give us back our opportunities."

At some level it is absolutely a political numbers game.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous jasai said...

…and while I believe it to be a viable, worthwhile mission - getting in concert with the immigrant voice in order to modify immigration laws and make coming to this country to live and work more accessible - I believe that people should not be immigrating in droves and certainly not at the expense of American children’s education.

4:42 PM  
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