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


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.



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.



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.


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 Also, if you would like more information on how you may join the 4A’s organization, please visit their website at . Also attached is their membership application for your perusal,

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


If you are interested in guest blogging with us, please submit your blog post or your interest to

Superintendent Dr. Owen Roberts begins tenure

Hello Friends, please check out our first “The MECCA” video blog! There will be more to come in the future! Enjoy and Stay Tuned and Stay Informed!


The board has made their selection, to go to the moon with Dr. Owen Roberts

Dr. Owen Roberts

Dr. Owen Roberts


“I will do everything in my power to meet the expectations of the board and the community” states Dr. Owen Roberts who was selected Wednesday afternoon by the Alachua County School Board as the next Superintendent of the district.

I wish that you all could have been in attendance to hear the applause as community members took a deep lasting breath of satisfaction in knowing that the process was completed.

Community members included members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated the Mu Upsilon Omega Chapter, the University of Florida’s very own Professor Samuel Stafford of Political Science, City Commissioner Yvonne Rawls and many others. Many in support of the candidate Dr. Owen Roberts, as the floor was opened to the community, many stood to express their deepest support.

But not only was the support of the candidate shown from the community, but it was also shown in the way in which the board voted.

So you may all understand the layout of the meeting, we first heard from the District Advisory Council (DAC) which was comprised of appointed teachers, and community leaders- one of which including former City Commissioner Cynthia Moore Chestnut.

The DAC was a part of the process from the beginning in which they helped to formulate the questions asked during the candidates’ interviews. And they also aided the board in discussing the candidates much further, even to the core of the character of each candidate.

The DAC explains that their responsibility was to only give conclusions and not a recommendation to the board. And when they gave the conclusions based off of the candidates’ resumes, interviews, and the community receptions, I must say that they did not hold back. The DAC was completely honest, and what maybe a board member would have been afraid to say (for their own political agendas), they mentioned.

And as a community, I believe that we must congratulate the DAC for their diligence and honesty, because at the school board meeting they truly spoke on behalf of the people.

Next, Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson collected the ballots of the school board members in which the following rankings and points were given:

1st Place Vote= 5 points

2nd Place Vote= 3 points

3rd Place Vote= 1 point

 The following chart displays how each board member voted:

Superintendent Selection Straw Poll

Griffin McNealy Oyenarte Paulson Roy Total






















As you can see, two board members refrained from voting in the Straw Poll. And with the ballots not being the official determinant of who would be selected, the tension was a little high.

However, board members April Griffin and Carol Oyenarte both later confirmed in their statements as to why they chose to refrain from voting in the poll. April Griffin explained that she could not rank the candidates because of some reservations that she had about each of them and that she’d previously spoken to each candidate personally about her doubts during their visits to Gainesville, Florida.

Though Griffin had reservations, she did make it clear that “In the best interest of our students I will support whoever is chosen”.

In addition, Oyenarte stated “None of these candidates met our criteria”- as she further explained that they did not meet the criteria that they set out for in finding a candidate who was very knowledgeable with budgets, and very experienced.

And although Oyenarte believes that the candidates did not meet the full criteria, she also felt inclined to explain how she (like Griffin) will support whichever candidate was selected- and she liked Dr. Roberts who she stated impressed her from the very beginning. And though she did not vote in the poll she applauds and can see how she and Dr. Roberts are one in the same for their belief in a “Children First” approach.

I must say, although Griffin and Oyenarte’s views sort of shook up the meeting, I appreciate a board and members who will not simply be “yes men and women”, but are taking their jobs seriously.

Furthermore, as shown in the poll, the other three board members Eileen Roy, Gunnar Paulson (chair of the board) and Leanetta McNealy were in full favor of Dr. Owen Roberts.

In his statements, Paulson even said “I don’t see how you can criticize this man at all”.

And McNealy applauded Paulson for his tenacity throughout the process, because it led to Wednesday night’s decision and the ending of a long 8 month search.

I must say that I too am satisfied with the end result of the search.

Dr. Owen Roberts is also the first black man to be selected as the superintendent of the Alachua County School District, an honor that I hope he will carry with the utmost gratitude.

I am honored to have been a part of the crowd who cheered, and I am honored to have followed this search from the beginning to the very end.

I am also happy that you all have followed me along the way. This is only the beginning friends.

With this being said, let us congratulate and welcome Dr. Owen Roberts.