March 05, 2015
By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper
Almost 4,000 Blacks—about 700 more than previously reported—were lynched in 12 Southern states during the period between Reconstruction and World War II, according to a new report by the Equal Justice Initiative.
“Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror” is the result of five years of research and 160 visit
s to sites across the South. The report makes the argument that these killings were a form of racial terrorism aimed at subjugating the Black community and maintaining Jim Crow segregation.
“We’re focusing on lynchings of African-Americans because when Whites were lynched it was really more about punishment — it wasn’t sent to terrorize the White community, it was intended to actually make the White community feel safe,” said Bryan Stevenson, director of the Alabama-based nonprofit in an interview with National Public Radio. “The lynching of African-Americans, on the other hand, was really a direct message to the entire African-American community — it was designed to traumatize and terrorize.”
To put in a modern-day context, the number of Blacks who were beaten, burned and ultimately hung while picnicking Whites cheered, is more than twice the number of Americans who died in the terrorist attacks on 9/11, more than twice those who died in the anti-terror campaign in Afghanistan and comparable to the number who died in Iraq.
And these acts of terror against Blacks were often state-sanctioned killings, Stevenson added.
“In most of the places where these lynchings took place — in fact in all of them — there was a functioning criminal justice system that was deemed too good for African-Americans,” he said. “Often these men were pulled from jails and pulled out of courthouses, where they could be lynched literally on the courthouse lawn.”
The inequalities reinforced by lynching has left its mark on the Black community and on public policy as seen in policies of mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive or disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of people of color, the report concluded.
“We cannot heal the deep wounds inflicted during the era of racial terrorism until we tell the truth about it,” Stevenson said in a separate statement. “The geographic, political, economic, and social consequences of decades of terror lynchings can still be seen in many communities today and the damage created by lynching needs to be confronted and discussed. Only then can we meaningfully address the contemporary problems that are lynching’s legacy.”
February 26, 2015
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Senior Washington Correspondent
As the Republican-led Congress prepares to update the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), civil rights groups, educators and student advocates fear that current proposals leave many poor and Black children behind.
According to analysis by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a Washington, D.C. –based progressive think tank, the bill submitted by Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), eliminates accountability for low-performing schools, lowers academic standards, and abolishes targeted, state-level graduation goals for students of color.
A White House brief on the ESEA reauthorization bills said that the proposal being considered in the House of Representatives will cap spending on the ESEA for the next six years at $800 million lower than it was in 2012, eliminates “guarantees that education funding reaches classroom,” and “some especially high-poverty school districts would see cuts as large as 74 percent.”
In her weekly column, Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, said no ESEA bill would be better than the one now making its way through Congress.
She wrote, “H.R. 5 also removes strong accountability provisions required to make sure the children who need help most will actually be helped. It is morally indefensible and extraordinarily expensive that we have 14.7 million poor children in our country – 6.5 million of them living at less than half the poverty level. All of these poor children exceed the combined residents in all 50 state capitals and the District of Columbia.”
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a network of more than 200 national research and advocacy groups, said that the ESEA reauthorization proposals currently pending in Congress would strip millions of students and their parents of the protections and resources that have helped them to hold their schools accountable for equitable funding and treatment.
“For the students we represent, students of color, students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students, a strong ESEA is vital to ensuring that states and school districts are living up to their obligation to provide a quality education for all on an equal basis not just for the most privileged or wealthy,” said Henderson.
On a recent call with reporters, Henderson said that the coalition of 34 national civil rights and education groups supported annual statewide assessments to evaluate student progress, transparency of the test results and additional data that empowers parents to advocate on behalf of their children.
Chanelle Hardy, the executive director and senior vice president for policy at the National Urban League, said that the legacy of the Black community’s commitment to education stems from the days of slavery when Blacks learned to read in secret and at risk to their own lives.
“This is not a conversation about how we need to convince our community to care about achievement,” said Hardy. “This is about our nation’s commitment to a system of education that prepares every child for college work and life. This is a fundamental civil rights principle and a fundamental principle of justice.”
William Hayes, the principal at Franklin D. Roosevelt Academy in the Glenville community of Cleveland, Ohio, also expressed concerns about the Republican proposals for reforming the ESEA, which was last updated more than a decade ago through the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) under President George W. Bush.
“This vote is about equity and accountability, yet everyday my students face the brutal reality that they live in a society that has not achieved its promise for a more equitable distribution of outcomes and opportunities,” said Hayes.
Hayes said that 98 percent of the students at his school are African American, 100 percent qualify for free lunch and 28 percent receive special education services.
One of Cleveland’s wealthiest subdivisions borders Glenville to the north and the city’s cultural center with museums, botanical gardens and the Cleveland Institute of Music to the south, Hayes said. The Cleveland Clinic, perennially ranked by as one of the best hospitals in the nation, is just a 15-minute walk to the east of Glenville.
“Surrounded by so much prosperity and bright images of the American Dream, my students could easily be forgotten, were it not for our federal government ensuring that communities remain accountable,” added Hayes.
Hardy said that civil rights groups were extremely concerned about resource equity and ensuring that low-income students at majority-minority schools have access to early childhood education and high quality teachers.
Researchers at CAP found that school districts spent $733 less at schools that were 90 percent minority compared to schools that were 90 percent White. That money could be spent on veteran teachers, school counselors and laptop computers.
“It’s no secret that more than 50 years after Brown our communities and schools are still very much segregated however the concentration of poverty has become more exacerbated as affluent families of color have left our communities to go elsewhere,” said Hayes.
Nancy Zirkin, the executive vice president of the Leadership Conference, said that no one can deny that NCLB has room for improvement, “but the proposals in front of Congress now throw the baby out with the bath water.”
Zirkin explained, “These proposals bend over backwards to accommodate state and local entities that have both failed our children and avoided any real accountability for their failures.”
NCLB was characterized by high stakes testing that led some school districts to trim physical education and arts programs to make room for more rigorous reading and math course work. Educators railed against “teaching to the test” and questioned the need for multiple assessments throughout the school year.
Hayes said that he wasn’t naïve to the unintended consequences of the “accountability movement” that came with NCLB, including the narrowing of the academic curriculum and the over-testing of students linked to controversial teacher evaluations, but he still didn’t believe the shortcomings of the law warranted a complete hands-off approach from the federal government.
Hayes said he was frustrated at the thought of a federal government willing to step away without stepping back to the table to help to fix NCLB.
Hayes added: “As a school leader I can’t imagine a time where my administrative team could ever see a problem with our students and say to teachers, ‘It didn’t work so I’m just going to let you figure it out by yourselves.’”
But in the eyes of some educators and civil rights leaders that’s exactly what the Republican proposals do.
“We can’t go back to a time when these schools were ignored,” said Zirkin.
“We can’t assume that we have good information on student achievement based on socio-demographic factors,” said Hardy. “We have to do our part with our federal tax dollars to concentrate those resources where they need to be.”
February 19, 2015
By Marian Wright Edelman
I’m grateful for a powerful new book, Girls In Justice by artist Richard Ross, a follow up to his moving earlier Juvenile In Justice, which combines Ross’s photographs of girls in the juvenile justice system with interviews he gathered from more than 250 detention facilities across the United States. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the deeply disturbing photographs speak volumes. Ross uses the power of photography to make visible the hidden and harsh world of girls in detention. These heart wrenching images coupled with the girls’ ages and life stories should move us to confront the cruel and unjust juvenile justice system in our nation.
These girls are ours: our neighbors, our children’s classmates, our daughters and granddaughters, sisters, cousins, and nieces — and, for some young children, our mothers. Girls In Justice begs the questions: Why are so many girls, especially girls of color, confined in our nation’s detention facilities? And what are we as a society going to do about it?
We must all work tirelessly to give hope and a fair chance to these girls and all children by promoting policies, programs, and supports that help them and their families, especially those most at risk. We must combat systemic problems that contribute to family and community dysfunction and wreak havoc on developing children including girls; we must dig beneath the surface and examine the root cause of girls’ “offenses” and why injustice saps the hopes of so many young lives on our watch.
In 2013, one in five girls in the United States was poor, and girls of color were disproportionately poor. From birth to young adulthood, children – especially poor children and children of color – encounter multiple and cumulative risk factors that often result in their being funneled into the prison pipeline through the juvenile and criminal justice systems and locked up behind bars. Such massive incarceration is sentencing millions of children to social and economic death. The pipeline to prison is lodged at the intersection of poverty and race and is intolerable in a professed society of opportunity.
While twice as many boys as girls are arrested, girls are the fastest growing segment of the juvenile justice system. As girls rock the cradle they rock the future, and we must pay attention to both girls and boys to ensure the development of healthy families.
Girls of color and poor girls face special challenges before they enter the juvenile justice system, during their confinement, and when they return to their communities after release. At the front end, racial disparities and the lack of appropriate treatment and support that run through every major child-serving system negatively impact their life chances by pushing more children into juvenile detention and adult prison. These include limited health and mental health care; lack of quality early childhood support experiences (including home visiting, Early Head Start and Head Start, child care, preschool, and kindergarten); children languishing in foster care waiting for permanent families and shunted through multiple placements; and failing schools with harsh zero tolerance discipline policies, mostly for nonviolent offenses, that suspend, expel, and discourage children who then too often drop out and do not graduate.
Girls in the system often encounter a unique set of challenges. Almost three quarters of them have been sexually or physically abused. Most are arrested for nonviolent offenses such as truancy, running away, or alcohol and substance use which can often be linked to severe abuse or neglect. These nonviolent offenses, or status offenses, would not be considered offenses for an adult. Poverty has an impact: although the trauma of sexual violence and abuse affects many girls, poor girls often lack adequate supports to keep them from juvenile detention.
Victimized girls often face more trauma and stigmatization by being held in juvenile detention facilities instead of diverted to appropriate community-based alternatives. Whether confinement is temporary or longer term, programs and personnel are often not equipped to deal with their unique needs and sometimes exacerbate the trauma. Reports are rampant of confined girls being emotionally, physically, and sexually abused, isolated, separated from their babies, unable to visit their family members regularly, and humiliated through common practices like pat downs.
It is way past time for every adult to take responsibility for reducing the number of girls and boys behind bars through prevention and diversion programs and community supports both before and after detention. And it is way past time for adults of every race and income group to break our silence about the pervasive breakdown of moral, family, community and national values, to place our children first in our lives, to rebuild family and community, to model the behavior we want our children to learn, and to never give up on any child.
We do not have a “child and youth problem” in America. Rather, we have a profound adult problem. It is time for adults to address it and to give all of our children true justice: hope, opportunity, and love.
Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to www.childrensdefense.org.
February 12, 2015
By Charlene Muhammad
LAWT Contributing Writer
Whether you teach in a public, charter, independent or home school, the “Building Intellectual Equity” special online Black History Month course offers something to empower people of all ages, families, educators, and those who love learning.
Founded by Dr. Larry Muhammad, the Unlocking Genius Institute took a fresh approach to Black History Month and divided a four week course into the following topics. “Black Creativity and Black Genius, The Power of Study/The Skills needed to mastering any Subject,” “Building Intellectual Equity,” and “STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Healthcare and Economics.
Early registrants paid $25, a discount from the $97 course fee. Ordinarily, the course fee would be approximately $400, according to facilitators. Its 24 high quality video and downloadable lessons are also viewable on all mobile devices.
During a one-on-one interview with contributor Charlene Muhammad, Dr. Muhammad explained the course outline, how longtime and novice educators may take advantage of it. He shared more about the Unlocking Genius Institute’s aim to start a new tradition for Black History Month by not just celebrating Black heroes, but taking the time and opportunity to focus on learning and building a better learning environment.
L.A. Watts Times (LAWT): What inspired this Black History Month education project?
DR. LARRY MUHAMMAD (LM): It came about from my work and effort to create the Unlocking Genius Institute (UGI). In launching UGI, I felt it would be ideal to launch it during Black History Month under the theme Building Intellectual Equity. This thought hit me after seeing the way our people were fighting and struggling with the issue surrounding Mike Brown and Eric Garner, and I asked myself what can we do as a community to ARM ourselves in an intellectual and intelligent way to prevent from becoming victims. What would be different if Eric Garner had been a product of a family and community that invested in him and made him a genius in creative ideas and thinking. He wouldn't haven fallen into the hands of wolves.
LAWT: How and why did you select the educators that have partnered with you to bring this to our people?
LM: These are some of the most active people in our community and not just action, but intelligent, researched based action. Very focused and effective people!
LAWT: Is it open to anyone who’d register or is it open to all, but centered just on Blacks?
LM: It’s open to everyone, but centered around focusing on Black families, although UGI’s long term goal is to serve all with a new educational paradigm and idea(s).
LAWT: How has it been received? Can you rate any feedback yet?
LM: It’s been received very well with positive results! Many people are not acclimated to learning online, but we are enrolling adults and families with children and they’re really enjoying it.
LAWT: Why was it important to launch it now?
LM: Black History Month will help to launch a suite of course offerings we have planned for families and for schools.
LAWT: What are your expected outcomes and what are your plans looking forward from this four-week special?
LM: My goal is to serve at least 500 families before the month is over. If we get close to the month and were not near that number, then I will make a special effort to offer the course at another special rate so families will enroll and experience what were experiencing. Thank you!!
LAWT: And thank you, Dr. Larry.