Total Equity Now: Literacy at the Ground Level

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Today we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and those who served this great nation before us. I will tell the truth, this morning as I awakened I had to remind myself about the purpose of this day. This day is meant to bring our communities together, with one purpose, and one goal: to serve.

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Many took their efforts to the streets. I personally joined the efforts of Total Equity Now (TEN), Teacher’s College Black Student Network, and other graduate level organizations at Columbia University in spreading literacy awareness across east, west, and central Harlem in New York.

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As a part of their initiatives, TEN is working towards putting a book in the hands of all of Harlem’s citizens. One way they are pushing this initiative is by declaring the 1st of every month “Literacy Across Harlem Day”. On this day they are encouraging Harlemnites to carry whichever novels they are reading in their hands as they travel throughout the day.

We spoke with many families, the young and old, encouraging literacy in our communities. Along with raising awareness, we also gave individuals a list of over 10 Harlem library locations, a staggering number for such a small portion of New York. Reading books is only one of the many ways in which we can encourage the plight of education in our communities, but it is one of the most important and easiest ways to promote literacy. A college education may cost thousands, but placing a book into the hands of a mother, father, or child, is one of the most inexpensive and sometimes free gifts that one can give. In the world of policy and in the world of education we commonly throw around the word EQUITY. Well, as we fight for equity, let us consider the things that we can give within the confinement of our own communities that are proven and effective ways of getting one step closer to an equitable and accessible future for all children. After passing out flyers in Harlem, we went to the Sister’s Uptown Bookstore & Cultural Center (located at 1942 Amsterdam Ave. @ 156th Street), a locally owned bookstore that is full of African culture and is celebrating 15 years in the Harlem community. It was an amazing experience to see a bookstore that was very focused on the cultural relevance of African history. After attending the bookstore, I am rest assured that it will be one of my favorite spots in New York City.

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If you are in Harlem and you are reading this, please share “Literacy Across Harlem Day” with your family and friends, and even if you are not in New York, please spread this initiative to your cities and states! I look forward to seeing you all on the train and walking the street with your books in hand. Perhaps we can chat about what you’re reading. I’ll be ready, will you? Now, lets get to reading!

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-CSGilmore “Stay tuned and stay informed”

Lets Talk Reauthorization: No Child Left Behind

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The past week was an interesting time in Washington, DC! There was much buzz about the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, an act that has been on and off the senate floor for the past six years. Now the U.S. Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander is making NCLB one of the top priorities of 2015.

Follow the following link that provides information on the senate committees’ plans for the reauthorization. In addition, there is a discussion draft of the proposed reauthorization, and it is open to public comments, so please check it out.

Link- http://www.help.senate.gov/newsroom/press/release/?id=cd9bafad-958e-49e4-92ea-d1db1bbaf421&groups=Chair

After much discussion, I realized that many are unaware of the right of their opinion being forwarded to the committee- and this is a right that we must practice.

I hope that you all continue this journey with me as we follow the progression of NCLB throughout the chambers. Below feel free to express what you think about the reauthorization- will it change the way we approach testing and define accountability? Will more power be given to state and/or local institutions?

Lets talk!

Call To Action: Voices Against Mass Incarceration

cornelwestLast night, on Columbia Law School’s campus, many joined together with Cornel West and Carl Dix for the “Voices Against Mass Incarceration and Police Terror” event.

If you didn’t know, October 22nd is National Day of Protest!

If you want to walk in honor of stopping police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation, come out to Union Square in New York City at 1pm, on October 22nd!

This is a nationwide call to action, so if possible, students and community members and leaders across our nation should also organize where you are. Don’t let the action end with Ferguson. Please do not let what has begun be in vain – lets maintain this momentum! Our voices must continue to be heard until something changes. ‪#‎dontsleep‬ ‪#‎cornelwest‬ ‪#‎carldix‬ ‪#‎oct22‬ ‪#‎nationaldayofprotest‬

-CSGilmore

Stay Tuned and Stay Informed!

“He was starting college on Monday”

michaelbrowngradphoto1On August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, St. Louis, Missouri, 18 year-old and unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson County policy department. Brown was reported to be leaving a local convenient store with a friend, and was in route to his grandmother’s home when the incident occurred.

Since the shooting death, the residents and others who are furious and sympathetic towards the events have taken their emotions to the streets, through what some may call both nonviolent protest in the day, turned violent protest by night.

Despite all of such events, one thing remains at the core of the story, the lack of humanity that was shown by Officer Wilson, and what appears to be shown through the protest that are taking place on the same street in which Brown was killed.

With all being said, the point I want to draw much attention to is the identity of the victim, Michael Brown. As we already know, the media has a huge effect on how one is portrayed. Everyday we post pictures without realizing that upon our very own death, one could use such posted pictures as a complete reference of who we were. Besides, after your death, the only recollection of your life are those pictures and memories that are left behind. However, if I don’t know you, a picture is worth a million words.

Well, many “facebookers, tweeters, and instagrammers” alike, have taken on a campaign entitled with a hashtag: #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. This media protest started because news reporters and others reporting on the event continually used photos of the victim that depicted him as a “thug”. Users of social media sites expressed their concerns and disapproval’s, because there were several pictures of Brown, such as his high school graduation photo, that could have very well depicted him as what he was, a young, educated, black male.

 

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Now, being young, black, and educated does not exempt you from making mistakes, possibly disrespecting authority, or perhaps (as Brown is allegedly accused of doing on the day of his death) strong arm robbing a convenience store. However, is it not important to present a victim in their true character? Is it not important to ensure that we give the victim a positive voice? Because at this point, as was also done in the case of Trayvon Martin, when we depict such victims who die due to what are seen as racial profiled shooting deaths, we are not giving them a chance to genuinely be the victim- for they are convicted as being the problem or living a life that would result in such a dreadful end, before the alleged murderer is even put to trial.

Just imagine how such depictions change the mindset of the jurors in the case. Just imagine the amount of human error in a case based off of the character of the dead. Besides, in the Trayvon Martin case, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, juror B-37 revealed that herself and two others were ready to acquit George Zimmerman at the beginning of deliberations, and that they felt that Martin contributed to his own death and also sympathized with Zimmerman. Now, this is my own opinion, but at some point in time, I’m positive that jurors concocted their own opinions about Martin. How he looked, dressed, the people he associated with, etc. The pictures, the memories he left behind, they told his final story.

But don’t we know better? Don’t we have more regard for human life than this? Don’t we know that a picture is not everything? Don’t we know that having even an education does not exempt the black man from such brutality in America?

This leads me to my next question: Why does the media feel the need to overly note that Michael Brown was going to begin college that following Monday? Does attending an academic institution make the situation worse? Will it make our communities sympathize more with the deceased because he apparently “wanted more out of life”?

Some may say, “he was trying to make it out of Ferguson”, “he was going to college- he was a good guy”. I understand the sentiments, however, I do not understand why we choose to believe that we as a community must validate why the shooting death of Brown was wrong because “he was going to college”.

As I recall, former FAMU student, Jonathan Ferrell was educated, and Henry Louis Gates (thankfully, not deceased) was educated as well. Did this stop the racially charged profiling? No.

The point I am trying to make, is that in this nation, when you are staring at the barrel of a gun you don’t have time to shout your educational credentials, you don’t have time to explain how you are about to make it out of poverty or the life you once lived, you don’t have time to explain how your parents traveled near and far to ensure you received the best education, and you don’t have time to say, “I am a good guy”.

When you are faced with the barrel of a gun, the only thing you have time for is to believe that just maybe if your life is taken that day, you will be remembered in the best way. You will be remembered for being that young educated male or female, you will be remembered for marching for what you believed in. And if you haven’t done any of that, if you don’t have a college degree or you’re not known locally, or nationally, let us hope that our media will have the decency to display you in the highest form of humanity.

 

-CSGilmore

Blow Up The Pipeline

“Blow up the pipeline, as long as it’s there it suggests that something should flow through it” says Superintendent Dr. Owen Roberts Monday night at the African-American Accountability Alliance community meet and greet thrown on his behalf.

The existence of alternative schools in the district and how they are fostering the school to prison pipeline was one issue that was brought up by a community member and teacher at the meet and greet.

And I must say, it is comforting to have a superintendent who acknowledges that the pipeline exist, but refuses to lean on the issue to the point that it will stunt the growth needed in the county to alleviate the issue.

The African-American Accountability Alliance (also known as the 4A’s) who is led by its President Darryl Lloyd (a native of Gainesville, Florida), planned the reception as a way to invite the public to join in on a dialogue regarding several of the critical issues facing the Alachua County School District. Issues such as the achievement gap, graduation rates, the plan to

Darryl Lloyd, President of The African-American Accountability Alliance Meet and Greet

Darryl Lloyd, President of The African-American Accountability Alliance Meet and Greet

address low performing schools in eastern Alachua County, the lack of minority teachers and administrators in the Alachua County School District, and the superintendents vision for the students in the Alachua County School District.

And as expected, several African-American community leaders attended the meeting. Some in attendance were Cynthia Moore-Chestnut, Diyonne McGraw, the University of Florida’s Professor Stafford, and a host of teachers in the district who came to show support on behalf of Superintendent Roberts and the community.

Furthermore, the superintendent made a promise that in 100 days he would give the board a sense of how he feels about the current state of the Alachua county school system.

“I’m not afraid” says Dr. Roberts. “to do the right thing takes courage. It’s action that makes a difference. At the right time and the right way”

Roberts definitely makes it known that he will take a very hands on approach with the community in which he confirms that he has traveled to all of the schools in the district, and is almost done with the assignment. He says that he is ready to take off his tie and engage with the community.

He even described himself as a catalyst for change. One who regulates the reaction, but he does realize that this work is “going to require all agents and people of this community”.

At this point, I must say that it is hard to not like Superintendent Roberts. Especially when he is very clear about what he knows. Being someone who is research driven, and believes not only in data crunching but using such data for practical matters, he confirms what many forget, “student achievement is not a mystery”.

I was a proud advocate when he said this, because this statement couldn’t be more true. However, we discuss these issues of student achievement as if we don’t know what students need in order to succeed, but we have the answers. The real problem lies in whether or not our schools have the resources and/or the teachers who are willing to do what it will take to make our schools better for our children.

Superintendet, Dr. Owen Roberts

Superintendent, Dr. Owen Roberts

One issue that is stopping the achievement of students in Alachua County is that of language barriers, in which most children are failing because of a lack of reading skills, explains Superintendent Roberts. He explained that students need reading not only for English and reading courses, but the lack of this skill will transfer into other subjects: besides, reading is a daily skill that one must use for everything.

As he did in St. Lucie County, he mentions investing more into early childhood education so that this issue can be avoided at an early age. Besides, we have to admit, it is easier to develop a younger child, than it is to remold a struggling student in middle or high school.

With everything said and done, there are so many promises that a Superintendent can make, but Dr. Roberts has been completely honest from the very beginning, and he is confident about what he knows about education and about our district. I believe that we should all continue to support him as he continues to work alongside his colleagues to travel the district, and find answers to Alachua County’s school districts’ problems.

“Be patient, but hold me accountable, hold the school board accountable”, says Superintendent Roberts. He asked for this accountability and that’s exactly what we as a community should do.

-CSGilmore

If you have attended any of the meetings and/or you have a community response to the meet and greet as well, please send your letter to themeccablog@gmail.com. Also, if you would like more information on how you may join the 4A’s organization, please visit their website at http://4as.us/index.html . Also attached is their membership application for your perusal, http://4as.us/application_new-member.pdf

Stay Tuned and Stay Informed!!!

The MECCA Turns 1: Letter from the Editor

 

themeccaanniversaryHello Friends,

A year ago today we began this journey of The MECCA. You all began this journey with me in a critical time in my life in which I decided that I would no longer go to law school, but I would take a year off to pursue the next step in my life of becoming engaged in education. Being someone who is highly interested in education (the policies, inequities, and the connections within our communities whether economical or environmental) it has been an honor to share my interests and even cover educational news occurring both at the local, state and national level.

Now that a year has gone by, we are not going to stop, we will continue to move forward in this journey of The MECCA. It is only my hope that you will continue to become engaged in the conversations we spark, and that you will even take an interest in writing to us to be featured and tell your own story, and share your opinions, findings, and interest with us.

In addition, with a new year comes changes, and to begin our new year we have added more writers, that are now formally called “The MECCA Writers”. These individuals are all activist, community members, educators and writers who understand the mission of The MECCA and why it is needed in our communities. With this being said, the first installment of The MECCA Writers are Juliun Kinsey of Gainesville, Florida, Jasmine Brown of Tampa, Florida, and Hanifah Christie who will reside in Thailand. We hope that you will embrace their writings as you have so humbly embraced mine, and we look forward to more thought provoking conversations in the future.

You will be further introduced to these writers in the future, but until then, stay tuned, and stay informed!!!

Yours truly,

Courtney S. Gilmore

Creator, Editor and Writer

The MECCA

If you are interested in guest blogging with us, please submit your blog post or your interest to csgilmoreblog@gmail.com.