The Director’s Corner
Janice E. Hale, Ph.D.
Professor of Early Childhood Education
Founding Director of ISAAC
Wayne State University
The African American middle class is not sufficiently alarmed about the situation affecting the educational fortunes of Black children. We are the most affluent, well educated group of Africans in the world. We have the largest number of elected officials with unprecedented power and money, yet the statistics affecting our children grow worse and worse each year. In my 3rd book, Learning While Black, I call for the organizations that are controlled by the African American middle class to stand up for Black children. If we as African Americans don’t stand up for Black children, who will? If not now, when? Nothing and no one is going to improve the educational fortunes of Black children until we do.
John Legend pointed out that there are more African American males under correctional control today in this country than were enslaved in 1850.
Benjamin Mays, former president of Morehouse College, tells the story in his book, Born to Rebel, that he came to Fort Wayne, Indiana when I was an infant. He had a speaking engagement in the city and when he attempted to claim his room at the YMCA, they would not honor his reservation when they saw that he was Black. Dr. Mays knew that my father was a Morehouse man who lived in the city. He called and my father went to get him in the middle of the night to stay in our home. Black people stood together against racial injustice because we were all in the same boat.
After the 1972 Supreme Court school desegregation decision, civil rights groups tried to achieve the desegregation of the schools. However, powerful judges and legislatures thwarted their efforts. How vividly I recall white parents in Boston burning buses that were designed for school desegregation.
The system did eventually allow those of us who could afford it to move to the suburbs and access predominantly white schools. We were also able to enroll in exclusive private schools that had previously shunned African American children. What most people do not know is what is happening to Black children in those schools.
In Learning While Black, I wrote a 50 page chapter chronicling what I went through in trying to get my son through the first, second and third grade of an exclusive white private school in my community.
The first step in assuring the marginalization of African American children in school was providing the Black middle class with some degree of access to the American dream. We think that we don’t have a dog in that fight so no leadership has emerged to change what is happening to the masses of our children in inner city schools.
Yvonne Jackson (Corporate Executive) and I were best friends since our freshman year at Spelman. We spent long hours discussing the fact that there is no civil rights vision for uplifting the masses of African American people. That is still true today. All of the strategies focus upon giving The Talented Tenth a Better Chance. While Yvonne was quietly contributing more money to Spelman than any other living alumna, she also contributed more money to ISAAC, than any other person. Won’t you join her?
James Comer has stated that never in the history of the world has an individual needed the level of education that is required today to meet their adult responsibilities. Not only does an individual need to know more than ever before, but everyone must meet that standard. The only place this society has prepared for people who cannot function – is prison. They have eliminated welfare and they have closed the mental hospitals. Only the punishment industry is the largest growing entity in our society.
The problem is that our keenest minds are not devoted to solving social problems. The problem also is that everybody thinks they can do education. So, we have lawyers, psychiatrists, corporate CEOS who are the architects of Black education. The problem is that Black scholars do not receive their fair share of research dollars to create solutions for Black children. Many foundations have declared that they will not accept unsolicited proposals from persons in the field of education. We do not have a strong infrastructure in the field of education that is providing leadership for change.
It is time that someone did something about it. It is time for a PLAN. ISAAC is a Movement. Think of us as a civil rights group singularly devoted to educational equity for African American children. Every initiative, every activity is designed to effect change. If we become united around the issue of closing the achievement gap confronting African American children, the gap will be closed. Most organizations are numbers crunchers. They collect statistics on how bad the situation is. There are no viable solutions offered.
It is my contention that there has been little progress on this issue because what is lacking is an infrastructure within the African American community that can effect such change. The various entities within our community are disconnected. There are educational and psychological scholars in our community. There are educational administrators in our community. There are foundation executives in our community. There are governmental grants administrators. These various entities do not work in tandem. Additionally, there is no collaboration to ensure that African American children and researchers working on their behalf receive their share of research funding.
We have civil rights organizations that all have education on their agendas. African Americans surpass white Americans in charitable giving. Yet, there has been no comprehensive Movement to close the achievement gap facing African American children. It is my contention that the quality of education African American children are receiving in the schools in which they are the majority are found is far below the quality most white children receive in suburban and private schools or wherever they are found.
Please join us at the Conference for Research Directions (CORD) which will be held on Hilton Head Island in May. The purpose of the research component of ISAAC is to strengthen the intellectual infrastructure that can provide leadership in crafting a plan to liberate our children. I stand before you as an educator with the solution. However, the opposition is so strong and the fight for intellectual domination is so intense it is hard to be heard. Black children are the “cash cow”. Everyone is scrambling to get the money. I thought that all I had to do was write my books. That is not enough. You have to push your solutions.
We cannot depend upon the mass media to elevate and coronate those they think should have the microphone. Additionally, those of us who are in policymaking positions must open up seats at the table for African American scholars and intellectuals. However, to get a seat at the table, we have to come together as a community and make some noise. The people who are at the table now either think that things are going fine as they are or they think they are the only ones who can offer a solution. Our purpose today is to get a seat at the table.
Another purpose of this conference is to build an infrastructure of a tight knit community of scholars who can pursue a collaborative research agenda and seek funding for that agenda. The first step in that process is for those who are interested in the fortunes of African American children to affiliate. We are spread out across our disparate disciplines. We do not know each other. Once we bring scholars together and strengthen the facet of our infrastructure that generates knowledge, the next step is to engage those scholars to collaborate around a research agenda. Visit our web site for registration information for the conference that will be held on May 7 through May 10, 2017 at the Beach House on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Please send a donation to support our work. You can make a donation through the web site at: www.africana-children-isaac.org. We are a non-profit organization. Every penny you donate is tax deductible. Our work can only progress if you donate to our cause.
Winston Churchill once said that you can always depend upon Americans to do the right thing when all other possibilities have been exhausted. In 1945, during World War II, he was the commencement speaker at Harvard University. He took the podium and his entire speech was these words:
Never, ever, ever, give up.