Posts Tagged ‘illiterate’

Closing Catherine Ferguson Academy: Robbing the Cradle of Hope & Promise Part II

It seems like this story has been written for us since we were forced upon the shores of these United States of America. A grotesque picture book with chapter and verse depicting African men, who before being sold away or savagely beaten to death, granted only the freedom to breed Black children with the African women that would be left alone. The story, ripe with illustrations of these women held hostage by the sweet pain of mothering past loneliness-struggling to survive the harshest realities, the umbra of birthing babies void of hope.

Seems like the story was a grand mastermind of intentional design…and today the story lives on, yet told in epic portrayal.

So I instantaneously connected to that story when I began seriously contemplating the fate of Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit, a school for teen mothers and their children. To catch up on the struggle of CFA, read my previous post. But as I was saying, CFA is a school for teen mothers and their small children. We know from any evening news broadcast, the whereabouts of the fathers are highly likely behind prison walls and in detention centers, the new American plantation.We know this because our tragically failing education system disproportionately cripples our children, driving our boys into the prison pipeline and our girls into teen pregnancy and welfare dependency.

A hopeless cycle that has repeated itself unto our community so many times it has become the norm for too many across the African Diaspora. And so it is in Detroit. Yet, when vested and progressive educators got back to the basics, enhancing core curriculum by teaching economic development, agriculture and farming; honing affirmative parenting skills; encouraging breastfeeding (as we know the nutritional and research-based cognitive and sociological benefits this provides both mother and child); the results have stagnated the cycle of destitution and dependency. Now that the village of Catherine Ferguson Academy has found a way to slowly reverse a generational legacy of teenage pregnancy and dropout rates that buoy functional illiteracy, the system that created the “grand mastermind of intentional design” is interrupting progress and success.

Threatening the school with closure.

Now, granted not all Black girls are experience teen pregnancy or consider dropping out of high school. Many flourish, from being recognized as the brightest in their class to being accepted into distinguished universities to receiving Gates Scholarships. And so it may be very easy to separate the girls in our family on our block from those attending CFA. Maybe…

CFA girls and others like them may live a harsh life that when glanced at seem perpetuated by bad choices. However, we know inherently these are our little sisters…and we know their children are our children and future. What they become has strong implications on our community. We also know what plays out at CFA, is but a microcosm of the greater plan (call me a conspiracy theorist) to destruct the moral fabric and cultural fortitude that are implicit in our contributions to this country, and moreover the world. So much is invested in exacerbating vicious cycle of poverty and culpability to government. Many pockets are lined from the devastation of the poor. Jailhouses are built with the poor in mind, grants are written to big foundations, checks cut to lobby for the vices of the poor (tobacco, alcohol, gambling,). Poor people are preyed upon for the almighty green dollar. No question.

WHERE IS THE LOVE?

But here is where I become angry and a sinister dread hangs in my spirit. It is because of the obvious silence, or dare I say total disregard, in relation to the struggle of poor black girls by other Blacks.

Now, the Black community turned Jena Louisiana into a Mecca for the quest of justice when Back boys were damned into the bowels of a racist judicial system deep in the heart of Dixie. I was right there, so I know how we chartered buses, posse’d up our motorcycle clubs, and stepped into the fight with our sorority sisters and frat brothers. We braved KKK deep back roads to free our boys. Let us not forget the countless public voices that gave their platform to rally the community and urge us to keep up the fight. No proof or discernment was necessary. We fought the good fight.

Add to countless times we have swooped in to rally around Black boys in trouble. The Tookie’s and Genarlow’s and Troy’s.

I can even point out the cries of anguish as black boy after black boy is gunned down in our inner city streets. We cry hard when we’ve lost our fearless warriors. Oscar, Sean, Derrion, Amadou.

When we are threatened to lose our Black boys, we lose our collective minds. And this is as it should be.

Yet, on the other side of that, why is it, that the squalid life prospects we are losing our sisters to only renders us silent.

Where is the outrage? Yes, we hold a few conferences and have intellectual intercourse over subjects from films like Precious and Colored Girls. We wax poetic when a verbal injustice is done to our revered celebrity sisters. And we seem to come alive in all our fiery colorfulness if we discuss domestic violence of a high profile sister.

So why can’t we muster a single sentence or tweet or Facebook status or magazine spread for the sisters among us who struggle with some very real shit every single day of their young lives? How cheap do we play ourselves, and these sisters, who if not by the grace of God we could be sitting in their shoes. The little sisters at Catherine Ferguson Academy and ghettos across the country, Black girls like me and you, are living straight out of the Good Times theme song. Keeping their heads above water. Water that in their lives is a cesspool of abuse, broken hearts, hopelessness, neglect, welfare, toxic and temptation of cigarettes and alcohol, debris from failed education systems, and all the dank funk of poverty.

I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that CFA being a village of promise, where young mothers are given the tools to become self-sufficient with a vision of the future, is set to close yet I’ve not read or seen a single mention across my social networks dedicated to this issue. Is it because no one cares? Or have we too lost hope for our girls. But how can we? We’ve seen this story before… we know Maya Angelou, poor teen mother without a father for her child, high school drop out. We know Oprah, molested as a teen and left pregnant. What hope did they have…who pulled them along?

Our living legends give us a dazzling example as proof that the future can be bright for these girls, who among their alumna has produced doctors and PhD students. Let us not dim it by ignoring the present fight that we must engage. It is the responsibility of us all to put on the full armor. Put some gloss and add real shine to our lip service. Save Catherine Ferguson Academy. Save our community!

So I know the reason is not that there is no love for poor Black girls. It has to lie in that I am just not connected to the right folks in my virtual network. It’s simply because I have not reached you, but now that this has made its way to you…please take it personal. Catherine Ferguson Academy needs you to see the connection it has to you.

We need action! Many are gathering for a protest rally at the school today. Still, others around the country can support from afar. Sign the petition. Spread the word. Write letters to congressman and legislator, Detroit city officials and Detroit Public School administrators.

Beyond this travesty, let us please make meaningful connections to our little sisters in the struggle, before they ever believe they can walk a college campus. Join the National Cares Mentoring Movement in your city. Volunteer at a public school in your area. Invite a group from a girls’ home to lunch with you and your colleagues at work. We have more work to do. Need to add some shine to our lip service. For real!

Qualifications of a Change Agent

Saving the next generation is arguably the most pressing issue our community faces. The violence is deafening. The hyper-sexualized chorus of hot mommas and dope boys harmonizing over raging hormones and chemical imbalances is overwhelming. Startling statistics of illiteracy paralyze self-confidence and cripple ambition. There is desperation for resolve…a healing.

So many have researched and studied the systematic depression we find ourselves. From government entities to pedagogic institutions to interests groups many have invested in white papers and measured case studies. None though, have invested in solutions.

Yet there are those who know all too well what ails us. They are the ones living it. They are the ones perpetuating it. Too often they are the ones allowing our sickness to go untreated within our own families and neighborhoods.

The reality is, saving a generation is but a small facet of the problems the Black community faces. The larger of which is that generations are suffering. Mainly because for generations, able bodied and able minded people who recognize solutions that could begin to fix some of the wrongs are sitting back, waiting for the next person to save the day.

This is in large part due to how those government and pedagogic institutions identify great minds within our community who can play an integral role in their studies. These special minds are granted access to resources that enhance their natural minds. It is a wonderful thing when they return and give honor to the community.

However, because of their well-earned titles, often they are looked to be saviors. Preacher, educator, social worker, doctor, lawyer, celebrity are all assumed to be the answer. If any of them belong to a sorority, fraternity or professional organization they are really thought to possess the cure-all. Fact of the matter, while many of these people are driven everyday by a passion to help their communities, they are no more equipped to solve our issues than the other titled members of our community like mothers, fathers, uncles, god fathers, god mothers, neighbors, barbers, beauticians, shoe shiners, janitors, and elders.

Although the same government and pedagogic institutions tend to indoctrinate everyone with the belief that only the special people can help with societal dilemmas, we have got to embrace the redeeming value in members of our community who are not so sophisticated.

We have to believe, again, that though tongues may not possess articulate ponderings or because vocabularies are heavily laced with vernacular, every one of us have the ability to better our community. We all have what it takes to be a change agent.

Yet, I see it often. A school community that seeks only to provide support and resources for its students, but never fully engage families to take a responsible role. Panels are convened but missing is the voice of common people. Politicians seeking the vote from common folk, but rationing out provisions and incentives to social service agencies that manifest the “missionary” mind set that they have to deliver the community from itself, never going within to find solvent cures.

The reality is, in urban America a young black male can absorb as much knowledge sitting in a barbershop on a Saturday morning as he would sitting one week in a classroom.

There is an unassuming woman on the south side of Chicago saving lives. She doesn’t have any illustrious titles preceding her name, nor following. She is not a member of a high-profile family. This woman, Diane Latiker simply saw devastation around her and went into survival mode to ease the trauma. Diane started Kids Off the Block, an after-school tutoring and mentoring program, and infected other everyday folks like entrepreneurs and others who belong to neighborhood social clubs.

Across town on the southwest side one man, Sy Smith, leads a national movement, National Block Club University, where he empowers neighborhood residents to combat the crime in their area. He has an all hands on deck approach.

That is the point of it all. Obviously there is a sense of pride we all feel when our treasures are found and valued by others. We bask in the validation that we have produced and nurtured those who represent the super heroes amongst us. Still, there has to be an equation of value and balance. Time to stop putting it all on the shoulders of our educators, doctors, lawyers, preachers, etc. All of us can touch a life and brighten circumstances. We have to have confidence that we too are special enough to do the work of healing our community.

Question is what is holding us back from recognizing this?