Let’s Get This Bag From the Government to Build Our Freedom Schools

Black people, it’s time to claim our bag and finally build an educational system that works for us!

Back in March I wrote about how we need to end the pandemic that is racism in our public schools. I went into the fact that before Covid -19, the government made all the excuses in the world about how there was no money for education. But since ‘The Rona’ hit, money has been dished out for everything—stimulus checks, corporate bailouts, Kente cloth for all of the Democrats on Capitol Hill, etc. It hasn’t been a free-for-all and people are definitely still struggling but they found the coins somewhere to help out.

Months later, here we are still battling coronavirus and racism. Because while there’s a whole conversation going on about how to support low-income families in returning to school, I haven’t seen or heard any significant efforts to include the voices of those families. And from the looks of it, regardless of if the decision is to send kids back to physical buildings, do full distance learning or a combination of both (referred to as a hybrid model), Black kids will still be screwed.

Same shit, different day.

But a few things have happened recently that are inspiring me to think differently about how we can make this work for us. I’m thinking about how we can design a system that actually educates our kids, safely send them back to school and one that economically stimulates and empowers our communities.

First, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation called the “Support Children Having Open Opportunities for Learning (SCHOOL)” Act which would allow per pupil funding to follow students to whatever school their parent chooses—whether that be a home, private, parochial or another local school/institution offering in-person classes. 

Dun, dun, dun…the reemergence of that good old school choice conversation that people, especially teachers unions, love to hate! I’m all the way here for it!

Then after national cries to defund police in schools, some school districts are actually bending to the pressure. Chicago recently joined those ranks, stripping the police budget of 18 million dollars.

And finally, with so much chaos and uncertainty around reopening schools, people have been coming up with their own alternatives in small group learning called “pandemic pods”. 

Dope idea, if you can afford it. Because while rich parents are easily pooling what may be loose change to them to hire a full-time teacher for their three to four children, poor parents are struggling and anxious trying to figure out how they’re going to go to work and make sure their students are logging on (if they even have access to the internet) or worried that they’ll bring the coronavirus back home after a day at school. They don’t have the luxury or privilege of just throwing a pod together.

Now here’s where I need y’all to dream big and get a little radical with me but, it’s going to take some work—advocacy, activism and unifying work to be exact.

The same pressure we’ve been applying for Black lives to matter, we need to apply to the education system. What that means is applying pressure for the release of per pupil funding to parents. 

That also means pressuring school districts to redirect funding from SRO (school resource officer) budgets—and whatever other ineffective/harmful investments—to academics, services and extracurriculars that actually support our kids’ social, emotional and physical health.

We then use that bag to invest in models we actually trust to educate our kids—old and new. Those funds can be used to hire good teachers to lead education pods, utilize spaces within local churches, non-profit organizations and businesses to host that learning, contract with providers that have already developed a proven culturally relevant curriculum that cultivates our kids’ self-determination. The sky is literally the limit!

And I know this sounds like a lot but we already have some of these things in the works. Like peep this, the National Parents Union is offering grants for people to start home and microschool pods. Free money, y’all!

Another advocacy group of Black and Brown parents, The Oakland REACH , kicked off a city-wide virtual hub for their students because they weren’t going for the widening of literacy or opportunity gaps because of Covid or this crooked ass public education system. This can be replicated everywhere.

Authors and activists Tyson Amir and Joy Elan have been partnering with teachers, schools and districts throughout the Bay Area to deliver culturally relevant and rich curricula. If we can use their curricula along with other developers to shape an engaging and useful school day then we’ll be in business and our kids will actually learn something.

And I know there’s a gap in resources, particularly around technology and the internet. But try not to worry about that—me and some other activists are pushing on the FCC and government to provide free internet access to all families. 

But in the meantime, Maurice Cook, a giant and dedicated public servant in Washington D.C., has been hustling to get students and families free bookbags equipped with laptops and is also on Team “Fight the Digital Divide.”

Yep, leave it to me to be trying to build Freedom Schools in the middle of a pandemic, lol! But y’all, this is entirely achievable—and it’s time. I know there are a thousand things we’re concerned about as a community but as I’ve said before, we have to be proactive if we want to beat the coronavirus and finally make Black lives matter across the board. So in the spirit of the late, great and honorable, John Lewis, let’s get into some good trouble and get this bag from a government that’s robbed us of reparations, justice, and a comfortable quality of life.

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