Thursday, November 11, 2010

Black American Reality and Fulfilling the American Dream Through Education

Kevin Chavous and Benjamin Chavis of the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) (Kevin is also chair of DFER) with a column on (I'm presenting my school reform presentation at BAEO's Sixth Annual Seminar on Education Policy & Parental Choice this Friday):



Black American Reality and Fulfilling the American Dream Through Education

Kevin P. Chavous and Benjamin Chavis

November 8, 2010


During the last several weeks there have been many published opinion articles about the state of the American dream in 2010 for people who live in the United States. Most notably, journalist Fareed Zakaria in a cover story, "Restoring the American Dream," in the November 1, 2010 edition of TIME, asserted, "the grim reality is that technology and globalization are shattering the middle class. With the midterms around the corner, the good news is that a bipartisan policy agenda can return the country to prosperity." What is the state of Black America today? What is our share of the economy?  Are our children receiving a quality education? With the nation polarized once again with partisan politics, who is going to assert and protect the interests of American Americans? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his historic "I Have a Dream" speech in August of 1963 clearly articulated the aspirations, hopes and dreams of millions of Black Americans that one day we would all have the opportunity to share in the reality of the American Dream. That was 47 years ago.


We have made real progress since that time in some areas, but today we must remind ourselves of the formidable challenges that still exist. When we used to sing, "We Shall Overcome," back in the 1960s, it was against a societal backdrop of harsh racial, economic, and political realities. But we kept our faith and marched on in spite of the gloomy forecasts, threats and acts of violent domestic terrorism against the Civil Rights Movement. Similarly today, we must keep our faith and keep marching on. We must keep our struggle for freedom, justice and equality alive with a renewal vigor, spirit and self-determination. We have more reasons today to demand equal justice and fairness, in particular on the issues of parental choice and affirming the best options for the education of our children.


There are some who think we should keep quiet and not make too much protest noise about our social condition as a people in America because we have brother in the White House. We have to keep President Obama accountable, however, on the education policies and issues that affect our children. Thus, we should not be less vocal today. We should not be less concerned about our realities in the United States. We should be more outspoken today than ever before. Our children deserve a much better quality education. We should be not less willing to speak out for the sake of our children and communities. We have always known that education is a major key to our liberation from poverty and racial injustice. That is why we are strong advocates for our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). These historic institutions of high achievement and academic excellence are needed now more than ever before because of the consequential prerequisite for a college education into the mainstream of American life. We, therefore, work also diligently to support the National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).


The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAE0) is the leading national organization that is demanding the right changes now to ensure a better fulfillment of the American dream when it comes to the education of our children. We keep using the phrase "our children" to remind us that if we do not speak out for the rights and interests of the children in our communities, nobody else will do it effectively. Too many of our young students, however, in high school and junior high school drop out before even getting a chance to complete high school and to apply to a college. Grades K through 12 have got to be our focus as well. In New York, the failure rate percentage of the third grade reading tests statewide are used to determined how many juvenile prisons are going to be built. Across the nation in too many instances incarceration has upplanted the education of our young men and women. Because of the current economy and high unemployment rates, Black people in the U.S. are witnessing a severe downturn in economic status with respect to wealth attainment and empowerment. 50 million African Americans spend more than a trillion dollars a year now, but primarily as consumers.

We have to be more focused on developing a stronger economic development and African American-owned business sector in our communities. But again, getting a high quality education and apprenticeship training are the keys to approaching an economic recovery in the African American community. Zakaria was right to call national attention to what's happening to the American Dream.  For too many in our communities it is more of the American Nightmare when it comes to poverty and self-destruction. We all must face the future with a renewed sense of struggle and commitment. Yes, it will not be easy to turn our situation around. But, how and when our situation will change for the better is now more in our own hands to the determine.

The Black Press and organizations like BAEO in all our actions and networking with a new generation of community leaders and conscious parents will continue to be the most reliable source of information and action agendas for all of us to participate. Let's work together to further change the policies and to make more educational options for African American parents as we further change America for the better. Let's end the nightmare. Let's renew the dream, the hope, the responsibility and the opportunity to move forward again.



Kevin P. Chavous is a former Member of the DC Council and the Board Chair of both the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO).  Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is a national civil rights leader, Senior Advisor to the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and President of Education Online Services Corporation.  

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