Wanted to share with my readers Gwen Samuel’s latest, where she reflects on what it’s like being a black mom, advocating for parent choice — thought it could be helpful for others in the struggle.
Gwen is a Meriden mom, whose been fighting for kids since 2010 when she lead the charge for the state Parent Trigger Law. She’s the founder of the Connecticut Parents Union and blogs at Real Talk Gwen Samuels:
“Our children pay a heavy price when we lack consciousness…we bequeath to them our own unresolved needs, unmet expectations, and frustrated dreams. Despite our best intentions, we enslave them to the emotional inheritance we received from our parents, binding them to the debilitating legacy of ancestors past. The nature of unconsciousness is such that, until it’s metabolized, it will seep through generation after generation. Only through awareness can the cycle of pain that swirls in families end. ” ― Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children
Today, my blog as a black mom comes from a very reflective space, so bear with me as I unpack some things – but trust and believe – once I have unpacked, it’s #GameOn 4.0 for our babies. They deserve better, we must do better and simply put – they can’t wait for political correct folk!
Let’s just have some very real talk. There is absolutely no reason why we continue to sacrifice our children’s safety and innocence as children within any school that we know fails to equitably educate them.
If you don’t believe nothing else I say – please believe this – our Black, brown and poor babies matter too, and we, as parents of color and the poor will stop at nothing to ensure they reach their fullest God given potential.
So let’s start to unpack some things.
For the last two weeks, per doctor’s order, it was requested that I reduce my community activities to help identify the source of my stress related ailments. This request highlighted the importance of my self-care, not just as a nice catchy phrase, but the serious health consequences of not practicing what I preach, as it relates to self-care. Especially, as a mom who lost my 25 year old child, last year, in a fatal car accident. Grief has no expiration date. As a result, I am still dealing with waves of emotions.
Also, I am responsible for the upbringing of my other minor children. I fear everyday for their safety in schools and in the community because they will be judged on one primary fact – the color of their skin. That is real talk!
We can look at Charlottesville Virginia to substantiate my fears.
You see, I live in Connecticut where we actually had a law called the “Black Law” in 1833 implemented to keep “colored girls” from being educated.
In addition, Connecticut is facing a budget deficit in excess of five billion dollars. Our lawmakers have not approved a state budget for over 3.5 million Connecticut residents. Yet, just last week, our lawmakers chose to give raises and bonuses in excess of 100 million dollars to 15 Unions totaling 45K public employees. This leaves school districts with over 500,000 thousand students scrambling for resources during this 2017-2018 school year. The impact will be the most severe for over 200,000 students, mostly of color and poor, that attend priority school districts that serve the most vulnerable students in our state. Clearly status quo “pay to play” has its legislative benefits.
So for me, the research is clear, “Racism and patriarchy are not just things we talk about, these are forces that are literally killing us,” as outlined in an article entitled Racism and Stress Killing Black Women with research by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a civil rights advocate and a leading scholar in the field known as critical race theory. Ms. Crenshaw is also the director of the Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies at the Columbia Law School in New York City. In addition, she is also the co-founder of the African American Policy Forum (AAPF), a think tank that advances racial justice, gender equality and human rights. Talk about #BlackGirlMagic.
Based on this research of stress killing Black women, this fact alone should be a no brainer for me. I should be able to just instantly disconnect from any form of education advocacy. But the reality is – I AM A MOM first, who is also Black and like other parents, regardless of income, I am required by compulsory education law to send my children to primary and secondary public schools – the majority of which do not equitably educate all children – especially in Connecticut.
You see, at the point I chose to bring children into the world, at the young age of 24, I then became a defacto education advocate, whether I knew it, liked it or even understood it. I was responsible for, whether I was ready or not, the safety, education and overall well-being of my children and all the learning curves that will come with parenthood!
These last two weeks allowed me to self reflect on what it’s like to be a parent of color, with limited income in the 21st century, committed to my dreams for not only my life but the lives God has given me responsibility for – my children. And the heart I have will not only allow me to fight for just my children, because my children are not in this world alone, as result I fight for all children – because all children matter.
And because I do not claim to be a victim of my circumstances, I strive daily towards solutions to do what God has called me to do and understanding His word “to whom much has been given, much will be required”. But He also says in Matthew 10:16 “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
As we know, a serpent is wise, with keen eyesight and is quick to learn. A dove is meek and gentle – but do not underestimate their cognitive ability.
I say all this because the time is now for parents, especially Black, brown and the poor, to plan more effectively and utilize legal strategies to ensure Equity and Justice in education. This includes not allowing ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security even within our so-called allies camp. Why? Because our children’s safety, education and well-being is literally at stake in the public education sector because there is billions allocated to education and failing to educate our children of color and the poor is how they make the bulk of their money!
And for those who hope everyday for things to get better for our babies, please remember – Hope is not a strategy!
You may ask, what is so urgent that requires this drawn out blog?
Well, it’s the same thing that’s causing many parents across the country anxiety right now…It is Back To School Time! Yes, its that time of year again.
Many parents, like me, are preparing to send part of our heart back to school for another school year.
Once again, we are buying school clothes and/or praying our children have not outgrown their uniforms from last year.
Once again, we are attending back to school events and listening to leadership from the school district tell us how great this school year will be for our children. And they always say welcome and appreciate the parent voice.
The traditional school system will discuss how they will have trainings to empower parents. Of course, this is to ensure compliance with their agendas for our children.
Let us be clear. There is a clear distinction between being empowered and being IN POWER!
The law says we are empowered with power through the Constitution:
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that parents possess the “fundamental right” to “direct the upbringing and education of their children.” It declared: “the child is not the mere creature of the State: those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations” (Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534-35).
The Supreme Court criticized the Nebraska state legislature for attempting to interfere “with the power of parents to control the education of their own” (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 402). And the Court ruled that a parent’s right to raise his/her children means that a parent is protected from unreasonable state interferences, one of the unwritten “liberties” protected by the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment (Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 399).”
Yet, with all this “legal” power, once again, we, as parents, especially Black, brown and the poor, cling to the hope, with every fiber of our being, that this back to school year, will be the year with a safe, welcoming and nurturing school environment free from bullying and low expectations.
In addition, we pray that this is the year classrooms are filled with diverse educators that reflect the communities they serve; and, most importantly, they believe in our child’s ability.
But the sad reality is, during this 2017-2018 school year, thousands of black, brown and poor children will return to majority traditional public schools that cannot and in many cases will not choose to meet our children’s academic needs, to include not ensuring they are being taught in safe environments.
So, the question we parents have to answer, this year, is why do we continue to sacrifice our children’s safety, education and overall wellbeing in schools we KNOW are not good for them?
Again, I must stress, that at some point we, as parents, must realize that hope is not a strategy! We must plan, use the law to our advantage and demand access to safe and high quality educational opportunities since many of our traditional school systems continue to ignore the needs of our children–especially the most vulnerable!
We, as parents, are the most neutral stakeholders in education because we are guided by unconditional love, not collective bargaining agreements. We only want what’s best for our children and all children – no hidden agenda – just safe, high quality educational opportunities for all.
This is why we MUST demand #ParentChoice by exercising our parent rights!
To be successful in our authentic parent-led grassroots advocacy efforts, we must move from just being empowered parents, prescribing to other people’s agendas for our children, to being IN Power creating our own agendas, doing whatever it takes for the sake of our children.
During the 20th century, our ancestors were willing to walk miles, face lynching and beatings during the Montgomery Alabama bus boycotts to ensure our rights when we were children,. Surely, with 21st century tools to include social media, we can consider boycotting too and voting more intentional as a collective. Don’t you think our children’s safety, education and overall well-being is worth every possible effort? We have to try. For the sake of our babies -we have to try!”