“Educating Black children in America is a revolutionary idea,” says Dr. Fuller, and Stewart follows by stating, “8 million Black students, everyday walk into a school system not defined for them”. The panel on the status of Black Education in America was engaging, thought-provoking, and inspirational. The three panelists Chris Stewart (Founder of Wayfinder Foundation), Margaret Fortune (Fortune School of Education), Dr. Howard Fuller (Marquette University), and moderated by NBC News host Rhema Ellis, shared their inimitable perspectives on the status of Black Education in the United States.
What made their perspectives inimitable, and the conversation refreshing and honest was the experience and breadth of knowledge each possessed from their area of expertise. Chris Stewart of the Wayfinder Foundation brought insight from a data perspective and as a president of a public school board. Stewart aided the audience in gaining a deeper knowledge of the political implications of redlining or gerrymandering of district lines, that allows for Black communities to be deprived of resources and further widening the opportunity and achievement gap.
Dr. Howard Fuller’s perspective, as a professor at Marquette University and a Civil Rights activist, encouraged the audience to really examine the bigger picture as to how we got to a place where 8 million Black students are walking into a school system that is not defined for them, and that is understanding that America is a nation built upon slavery, where Blacks are less human then there counterparts, and in understanding this intricate dynamic of American history, then we can begin to build an equitable education system that supports closing the academic and opportunity gap.
Ms. Margaret Fortune is a champion and equity warrior for Black students, as she shared her work and the progress of advocating for Black Children in Sacramento, CA., by bringing together local and regional partners in the area to provide funding for public charter schools focused on supporting college are career readiness. It’s not just one school, it is 10 schools, that Fortune championed to open in the community, and all approvals came in one night.
Nonetheless, these inimitable perspectives were on display due to the intuitive moderation of discussion by NBC host Rhema Ellis. Ellis was superb in taking the pulse of the room and facilitating the discussion to each panelists strength.
“People don’t care about black children, and in particular poor black children, they are not a priority; racism is fundamental to the American fabric; if you understand that, we came here with them not caring about us, then we can start to begin to be at the center of things that are important to this (education); but non-blacks can’t care as much of us because they don’t have the same struggle.”
What made the session engaging, thought-provoking, and inspirational are a few memorable takeaways. The first, “80 percent graduation rate, for white students, and 69% graduation rate for Black students”. Why is this? Dr. Fuller goes on to state, in paraphrasing, “People don’t care about black children, and in particular poor black children, they are not a priority; racism is fundamental to the American fabric; if you understand that, we came here with them not caring about us, then we can start to begin to be at the center of things that are important to this (education); but non-blacks can’t care as much of us because they don’t have the same struggle.” This statement was the most engaging statement I heard at the conference because it was honest, and it is a hard truth to swallow, as it the reality for Blacks. Subsequently, Stewart followed with the most thought-provoking statement by saying, “Black Children are the new cotton in public education; Harvesting the per-pupil dollar spent.” Themes of overidentification of Black Students in special education, high rate of Black students being suspended, and high-rate of Black students in credit recovery and retakers of courses for credit, all lend to Stewart’s statement. Organizations and school districts are profiting from the inequities of a school system not designed to support Black students to succeed but to be unexceptional.
The inspiration from the panel came from all, but mainly from Fortune, who shared her journey with the audience of how we move forward to make Education in America better for Black students. First, understanding that the work to be done is not a school issue, but a community issue. Fortune states, “This is a community issue, and building coalitions of non-blacks to advocate for black students is a critical part of making positive change“. Fortune made it a regional issue oppose to a local issue in the Sacramento region, which paved the way of opening 10 schools for Black students. Also, Fortune shared that we must focus on Literacy and reading, for our Black students, especially at the elementary age, because literacy and reading are at the core of all learning and a strong predictor of student success at an early age.
In closing, “8 million Black students every day walk into a school system not defined for them”. My challenge to you is, what role can you play in providing a more equitable school system defined for Black students and other students of color and how can you support closing the belief gap amongst adults that all students can learn?
Guest blog post courtesy of
Bruce L Douglas II, MBA
Educational Consultant, Public Consulting Group
My mission is providing equitable outcomes for students, especially students of color. I facilitate The National My Brother’s Keeper Forum on Equity, supporting school districts to collaborate on best practices for providing equitable outcomes for students of color. I consult with school districts across the country to boost academic achievement and student engagement with academic programming. Also, partnering with state departments and districts to solve the national teacher shortage crisis, at Public Consulting Group, an international consulting firm. I’m passionate about innovating teaching and learning at the K-12 level, to be designed for all students and eradicating chronic absenteeism. Most importantly, I’m a father to my daughter and son, and husband to my beautiful wife residing in the Chicagoland area. I’m a graduate of the University of Illinois – Urbana, with a BS in Political Science, and an MBA from Louisiana State University- Shreveport.
Photo by Tico Mendoza.