The room was electric, full of the type of troublemakers that you want to associate with. Parents from across the country who were intent on disrupting the system and fighting for the change our communities need. Grandmothers who get the cops called on them, moms who call the news out to failing schools, families who will fight back to back and toe to toe, while others have the privilege of picking and choosing battles.
Families who were angry and ready to fight.
The room itself was inspiring, the Oakland REACH had assembled real parents from Camden, Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, Denver and more. They were all fighting the same battles. And there was strength in numbers.
You can see the powerful video of the parent panel here.
Giving Parents Tools to Take it to the Next Level
“We want our parents to be at the table with systems leaders… and we want our parents to be aware of what is happening locally and nationally, to have the tools to take the work to the next level.” Lakisha Young, founder of the Oakland REACH explained as she kicked off the day, which featured a range of parent and expert panels and a frank conversation with the superintendent. Ultimately, it was a day focused on community, local and national actions, and not words.
One of the key takeaways was that the fight is basically the same everywhere. We had Black and Brown folks from coast to coast and everywhere in between; and the issue was the same. Our children do not have access to high quality schools, and are often sold on failing ones that disserve them.
This was no pity fest though, it was more revival.
“Parents Leading the Way”
“Parents need to be at the table!” that was a continuing theme. And that meant running for school boards and also being in the ear of folks that are on it, and at the tables where decisions are made. In the proverbial “room where it happens.” It also meant pushing to disrupt a system that has failed certain kids for time immemorial.
“Where do we go from here? In Memphis, we have been asking that question for 50 years, since Dr. King was killed,” Sarah Carpenter from the Memphis Lift intoned, “where do we go from here, I’m not gonna ask them, I am gonna show them…These are our babies.”
Kimberly Dukes from the Atlanta Thrive emphasized this point, “how can you make decisions for my child when I am not at the table?” And rather than waiting they are pushing, all of the groups there had parents fighting their way to the table. They also were shining light on the schools that are disserving families and fighting against the gatekeepers, that want to keep the system the same.
Amidst all the hyper produced hype, fake parent news, and dollar fifty words in education conferences, this day was different. It was real community pushing for their own answers, to the questions plaguing our communities for decades. And it was real talk about holding all public schools, charter and district accountable, because neither sector is consistently delivering for our families.
Saturday was the first step in a long march, but with allies like those in the room, I feel more confident we can get there.