First let me say that the views and and opinions expressed in this piece are not those of Tanesha Peeples, Deputy Director of Outreach for Education Post, but those of Tanesha Peeples, resident of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood and long-time education advocate.
Now let’s get to it.
A couple of years ago, I attended a gala to raise money for college scholarships for urban youth. There were definitely some high rollers in the room—I’m talking spending $20,000 or more at an auction for various wines and national trips. It was mind-blowing—more than what my Englewood upbringing had accustomed me to.
After the auction came the part where rich people get to see where their money is going. Displayed on screens throughout the room premieres the story of “Daquan.” Daquan is one of many youth who come from the “ghetto” (I frown upon this word, by the way).
Daquan’s father was a gang member and drug dealer who was incarcerated. His mother abused drugs, leaving her incapable of adequately providing for Daquan and his siblings. Daquan was, of course, on the wrong path himself but was magically saved by this organization and now his life is going just great—the end.
I wanted to throw a chair at the screen directly in front of me.
A Condescending Viewpoint
Too often these are the stories that are told and shared about Black people. That all youth come from broken homes with criminal or minimally engaged parents and have no chance for redemption unless it comes from wealthy elitists. And I’m so tired of it.
But finally somebody is doing the right thing, restoring my faith in nonprofit organizations actually having the forethought, insight and genuine interest in sharing authentic stories from all points of view.
The focus groups hosted by Education Post homed in on elements that enhance and impact the quality of education and academic achievement in Black communities. And these conversations were had by all Black people—students, parents and educators.
There were no sob stories, complaining or pointing the finger. Just people gathering and talking about what works best for them and how to fix what doesn’t. People being proactive and solutions-minded. It was more refreshing than a ride down Lake Shore Drive on a mild summer day.
But after watching these videos, you can’t help but wonder why more of these conversations aren’t happening in all Black communities. Especially in Chicago where Black students travel outside of their communities to go to good schools. Or in Memphis and the District of Columbia where administrators are illegally changing students’ grades or allowing them to graduate despite months of unexcused absences. In Baltimore, where the public schools are literally falling apart. And in Minnesota where the state supreme court has to decide if and how the schools should be desegregated.
These are all issues that need to be discussed and remedied, and that cannot happen without our voice or input. Honestly, they shouldn’t be initiated by any nonprofit organizations because it’s our responsibility first to ensure that our students are receiving a quality and well-rounded education, that teachers and parents are supported and that there are great schools in our communities.
I’m happy to be a part of an organization that believes that better and authentic conversation leads to better education. But we need to lead the charge from now on and take our seats at the table. Because if we don’t, there’s a strong likelihood that only the “the Daquans” will be televised and not the progress.
Let’s start talking, y’all.