Archives for category: Hope

Historian Heather Cox Richardson reflects on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday. We now look on him as a hero, but during his lifetime, he was treated shamefully by many whites, and militant African-Americans scorned him as well, preferring the angry approach of Stokely Carmichael and Malcolm X. Dr. King was principled and fearless. He faced death daily, and he never back down. It is usually forgotten that he was assassinated in Memphis while there to support striking sanitation workers, who were trying to organize a union. He knew that unions offered the best protection for working people. White conservatives who fraudulently praise him now, claiming that racism is a thing of the past and should not be taught or discussed (so that everyone can be judged by “the content of their character, not the color of their skin”), oppose everything he fought and died for.

You hear sometimes that, now that we know the sordid details of the lives of some of our leading figures, America has no heroes left.

When I was writing a book about the Wounded Knee Massacre, where heroism was pretty thin on the ground, I gave that a lot of thought. And I came to believe that heroism is neither being perfect, nor doing something spectacular. In fact, it’s just the opposite: it’s regular, flawed human beings, choosing to put others before themselves, even at great cost, even if no one will ever know, even as they realize the walls might be closing in around them.

It means sitting down the night before D-Day and writing a letter praising the troops and taking all the blame for the next day’s failure upon yourself, in case things went wrong, as General Dwight D. Eisenhower did.

It means writing in your diary that you “still believe that people are really good at heart,” even while you are hiding in an attic from the men who are soon going to kill you, as Anne Frank did.

It means signing your name to the bottom of the Declaration of Independence in bold print, even though you know you are signing your own death warrant should the British capture you, as John Hancock did.

It means defending your people’s right to practice a religion you don’t share, even though you know you are becoming a dangerously visible target, as Sitting Bull did.

Sometimes it just means sitting down, even when you are told to stand up, as Rosa Parks did.

None of those people woke up one morning and said to themselves that they were about to do something heroic. It’s just that, when they had to, they did what was right.

On April 3, 1968, the night before the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated by a white supremacist, he gave a speech in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. Since 1966, King had tried to broaden the Civil Rights Movement for racial equality into a larger movement for economic justice. He joined the sanitation workers in Memphis, who were on strike after years of bad pay and such dangerous conditions that two men had been crushed to death in garbage compactors.

After his friend Ralph Abernathy introduced him to the crowd, King had something to say about heroes: “As I listened to Ralph Abernathy and his eloquent and generous introduction and then thought about myself, I wondered who he was talking about.”

Dr. King told the audience that, if God had let him choose any era in which to live, he would have chosen the one in which he had landed. “Now, that’s a strange statement to make,” King went on, “because the world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land; confusion all around…. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars.” Dr. King said that he felt blessed to live in an era when people had finally woken up and were working together for freedom and economic justice.

He knew he was in danger as he worked for a racially and economically just America. “I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter…because I’ve been to the mountaintop…. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life…. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

People are wrong to say that we have no heroes left.

Just as they have always been, they are all around us, choosing to do the right thing, no matter what.

Wishing you all a day of peace for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 2023.


Dr. King’s final speech:

Donna Ladd, editor and CEO of the Mississippi Free Press, writes here about the sustained rightwing effort to co-opt Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy of militant resistance to racism and his dedication to telling the truth about our tarnished history. This is an important essay. It’s about a concerted attempt to hijack the words of Dr. King by those who hate his message. It’s about conservative white people like Chris Rufo and Ron DeSantis trying to use his words to prevent honest teaching about the history of racism. I have left the fund-raising appeals in the article because I hope you will send some money to this brave publication.

She writes, powerfully:

I grew up hearing people around me badmouthing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To hear white folk in east central Mississippi in the 1960s and 1970s tell it, he was the very root of all evil, and everything wrong in their lives was his damn fault. He had marched in my hometown of Philadelphia, Miss., in 1966 amid violent chaos when I was a kid—he spoke near the murderers of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner by law-enforcement officials.

Yes, Dr. King gave his life in the search for more love and less hate, but he was not only spreading a message of love, as so many white thieves of his legacy try to say today. His message was pure fire. And he was out to hold a mirror up to our nation about white Americans—not only Mississippians and southerners—using terror to maintain power over everyone else and to enjoy the fruits of that terrorism.

Throughout his life, Dr. King toiled and ultimately sacrificed his life in the fight to change power structures and systems established and enforced to keep white people on the top and Black people on the bottom. He wanted America to understand that enslaved people built this nation—after many of their enslavers figured out how to steal the land from Indigenous Americans and forcefully remove them from the land they coveted.

None of this history is pretty or honorable, and Dr. King never tried to say it was or to cover up any of it. He wanted it taught to every person in this country and certainly wanted children to grow up having learned the lessons of the past. He knew that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” And he was blunt that he was not likely to live long enough to see that happen.

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When a white man shot him at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Dr. King was more focused than ever on systemic racism and its links with poverty, and he was a harsh critic of capitalism and the Vietnam War. He was putting together the Poor People’s Campaign intending to occupy Washington, D.C., to bring more attention to the racism-poverty connection.

Of course, I didn’t know all that until I was well into adulthood. I knew most white folks in Mississippi hated him, and he was a martyred hero against racism. Like many Americans, I was fed the whitewashed version of Dr. King, which has worsened over the decades. I was nearly 40 when I studied with Dr.Manning Marable at Columbia University and learned the larger and more accurate history of Dr. King, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, and many Black freedom fighters. I’ve also read his speeches; I know fully what Dr. King was about and what he supported.

Just read his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop Speech” in Memphis.

Now, 54 years after Dr. King went to Memphis to support a labor strike by sanitary workers, we see so many arrogant efforts by white Americans to remake him into their preferred hero—you know, the one who would tell us all now to forget all that sticky history and get along despite the systemic inequities our history embedded into our nation’s DNA.

It would be funny if it weren’t so sick and offensive. Right here in Jackson, a public-policy institute led by a former Brexiteer from the U.K. used a photo of Dr. King and his words out of context in a report a year ago to push legislation against so-called “critical race theory” in schools. Their report argued the precise opposite of what the Black freedom hero said or wanted. They even twisted his call for “being judged by the content of their character” out of context to make absurd statements about Dr. King, like this one: “Instead of celebrating the enormous achievements made since the Civil Rights Movement, critical race theory specifically rejects King’s color blind ideal and seeks to racialize every aspect of culture, sport, and public discourse.”

“Color-blind ideal”? That’s what this institute—and its board of prominent white Mississippians—think Dr. King meant by the need for white Americans to stop judging people by the color of their skin? Seriously? That’s some shoddy thinking. Or propaganda, as it were. Such cynicism can explain why this institute claiming Dr. King’s moral ground as its own has nine white men and two white women on its board.

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As we consider Dr. King’s legacy this weekend, we must study the whole legacy. No serious person can argue that he would want this nation to block the teaching of our full race history from colleges, schools and homes. No serious person would say that he would want us to simply be proud of how far we’ve come and not examine how far we’ve got to go—until that arc bends toward actual justice and inequity is no longer baked into our systems. No serious person thinks Dr. King would not want us to interrogate how and why inequity became baked into our systems and how to fix them so they don’t keep replicating themselves.

And no serious person would argue that Dr. King would not want the systemic history of slavery, massacres and lynchings that helped end Reconstruction and install Jim Crow, the story of little Ruby Bridges or our Medgar Evers or Lamar Smith down in Brookhaven, the story of ongoing attacks on public education since integration—or the full story of his real dreams taught to every American on this road to eradicating the baked-in legacies of racial suppression and white supremacy.

I get it. Complaining that teaching real race history is somehow “Marxism”—which no serious person would do, either—is bringing back the stunts and propaganda the rich and powerful white people used successfully to scare white folks back in the 1950s and 1960s and even inspire violence against Dr. King and Mr. Evers. The rewriting of history is sick politics. But it is a stunt that all serious people of any party who are, indeed, working not to judge people by their skin color must reject loudly and definitively.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life to speak truth to power. We owe it to him to continue doing just that.

Donna Ladd, Editor and CEO

[I am not inserting a link because I can’t find one. Google Mississippi Free Press. If you find a link, please send it.]

I am sending my third contribution this year to MFP.

Blogger John Warner saw that the New York Times asked right educational experts to reflect on the purpose of school. He thinks they missed the point that is most important. His response reminds me of what John Dewey emphasized. For a child, school is their life, right now.

He writes:

Just about every essay framed school as something that would deliver some kind of positive future benefit. The reason to go to school is because it will pay off someday in terms of economic prospects, or being an informed citizen, or having an appreciation of nature.

This views the result of school as a product, an outcome. I would rather we look at school as a process, an ongoing experience. For that reason, my answer to the question “What is school for?” is:

To be engaged.

Surveys show that pre-pandemic we had something of an “engagement crisis” with fewer than 50% of students saying they were engaged in school and nearly one-quarter saying they were actively disengaged. Engagement declines with each successive year of schooling. This problem has been significantly exacerbated by the disruption of the Covid pandemic.

By framing school as something that will only have benefit in an indefinite future, we ignore the importance of living in the present. As I say in my book Why They Can’t Write, “Life is to be lived, including the years between 5 and 22 years old. A world that suggests those years are merely preparation for the real stuff, and the real stuff is almost entirely defined by your college and/or career, is an awfully impoverished place.”

Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor of Florida, will choose Karla Hernandez-Mats as his running mate, according to the Miami Herald. She is the president of the Miami-Dade teachers’ union. She is also a wonderful person. She is articulate and super-smart. I met her in Miami in February 2020 when I had an event to promote Slaying Goliath at Miami’s famous bookstore “Books & Books.” Karla interviewed me, and she was terrific.

Help Charlie Crist and Karla Hernandez-Mats defeat DeSantis, the man who censors books, bans discussions of racism and gender, opposes women’s right to an abortion, and wants to destroy public schools in Florida.

Help Florida join the 21st century!

Charlie Crist, the Democratic Party’s candidate for governor, has selected the head of Miami-Dade County’s teachers union as his running mate to take on Gov. Ron DeSantis in the fall, the Miami Herald has confirmed. Three sources briefed on Crist’s decision confirmed the choice of Karla Hernandez-Mats, which was first reported by CBSMiami. The Crist campaign declined to confirm the news. An announcement is expected Saturday.

Read more at:

Dr. Michael Hynes is the Superintendent of Schools in Port Washington, Long Island, New York.

He writes:

My daughter Sadie has taught me more in her 9 years of life than I have learned in my past 52 years of existence. My wife Erin and I had no idea that our daughter had Down Syndrome when she was born. Sadie had to stay in the newborn intensive care unit for a few weeks and we met some of the most compassionate and amazing professionals in the world. Unfortunately, we also met others who were much better off keeping their thoughts to themselves.

I remember a doctor at the hospital telling me he was “sorry” after Sadie was born. On another occasion, a family member shared with my wife and I that “Mongoloids can be nice people.” She didn’t mean to upset us; it was her mental model about Down Syndrome. Initially, as parents we were surprised with the multitude of closed-minded comments we came across. As Sadie grew and we brought her to restaurants, stores or in public, people would stare at her longer than one should.

I’m sharing this with you not to complain; but doing so because we began to learn how the world can perceive others without knowing anything about them whatsoever, except through the lenses of their biases and assumptions. Little did they know our little Sadie has the best sense of humor and can read on grade level like here peers. She enjoys music and hanging out with her best friends like all children do. As parents, we began to advocate for more programs in her school and for the school districts we served in.

I probably should have started off this reflection by sharing both Erin and I are school Superintendent’s. She is an Assist Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and I have served as a Superintendent of Schools for the past 11 years. Here are the lessons we learned from our personal lives that now transcend to our professional ones.

  1. You never know what others are going through. I have a much deeper respect for parents who have children with autism, Down Syndrome, ADHD, OHI, etc. They have incredible stories to share, and we need to support them as much as their children.
  2. Never place limits on your child or students. Don’t accept what professionals say at face value all the time. If Erin and I listened to what some professionals believed Sadie would never be able to do, her life would be so much more unfulfilled. She is flourishing.
  3. In the education system I have served in for over 25 years, we need to remove the word “special education”. This word places a label on a child that never leaves them and carries a negative connotation with it. Yes, the children are “special”, but they are certainly not less than “typical children”. By the way I loath that phrase as well.
  4. Inclusion is important. Integration however is critical. It’s great to be included but to be fully integrated is where the secret sauce is. Separating and segregating children is not the answer. Teach them to become independent and watch them soar!

Sadie is now in 4th grade. She continues to surprise people with her intelligence, humor and at times stubbornness. We are so fortunate to have her in our lives. There are other “Sadie’s” in every school in America. Are we as school leaders doing everything in our power to make our school system more inclusive and integrated? That’s for you to answer and my hope is that you strive to make that a reality. Every child will benefit from it.

As expected, the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which stood for half a century as a guarantee of women’s reproductive rights. About half or more states have already passed or are about to pass laws banning abortions, even for women who were victims of rape or incest, even for women whose life is in danger. The “right to life” so prized by anti-abortion activists does not include the life of the woman.

As was not quite so expected, the Supreme Court gutted the Miranda rights of people who are arrested. Police may fail to tell prisoners of their legal rights, including their right to remain silent.

The Trump Court is remaking and redefining the law in a radical way. There is nothing “conservative” about their willingness to toss out precedent. There is something very radical about the jackhammer they are using to change social and legal norms.

Women will die because of the Court’s decision to throw out Roe, which several of them pledged in public not to do. The old coat hanger routine and the unlicensed abortionists will return. Women who can afford to flee to a state where abortion is available will do so. Those who can self-medicate with Internet anti-abortion drugs will do so, although some states are trying to ban Internet abortion drugs (will they open every package to every woman of child-bearing age?).

The Court’s decision on New York’s gun law is terrifying. Be prepared to see armed men (and women, don’t forget Congresswoman Lauren Bobert) strolling through your neighborhood or shopping malls. If the six justices actually think that open carry is a fine idea, why won’t they permit it in their own courtroom?

Make no mistake: the current majority on the Supreme Court is not conservative; it is radical, in its reckless disregard for precedent and the safety of citizens.

The Court is not libertarian; its decisions require millions of people to abide by their cramped view of the way things ought to be. The state must fund religious schools, no matter how bigoted and discriminatory they are, if the state funds any private schools. States and cities must not protect their public by enacting laws that prevent them from openly carrying a deadly weapon.

We can expect even more intrusive decisions, valuing property rights over human rights, corporate rights over workers’ rights.

We will be living with this narrow-minded, bossy, intrusive Court for many years. My generation has failed. I look to the enlightened young people, the product of America’s much-maligned public schools, to reverse course in the future and preserve this fragile experiment in democracy from the ideologues who seek to destroy it.

For an insightful assessment of how the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion will affect women in Texas, read this article in The Texas Monthly.

An excerpt:

An excerpt: As trigger laws go into effect around the country, Texans seeking surgical abortions will likely find themselves in either Kansas or New Mexico, the two nearest states where the procedure will remain legal—though both have a limited number of clinics, which is likely to make scheduling an appointment difficult. Kansas has four clinics, which currently serve 530,000 potential patients of reproductive age. Now the state’s clinics will be the nearest alternative for 7.7 million such patients, according to theGuttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group that researches reproductive health. New Mexico, which has seven clinics, will be the nearest option for 1.9 million potential patients, the vast majority of whom will be Texans.

What about abortion pills?

Medication abortions, which are nonsurgical and administered by taking a two-dose regimen of pills that terminate a pregnancy, are currently illegal in Texas after the seventh week of pregnancy; after HB 1280 goes into effect on July 24, medication abortions, which are currently the most common type of abortions in Texas, are included in the total ban on the procedure in the state.

As of last December, Texas law also forbids the shipment of pills that induce an abortion “by courier, delivery, or mail service.” It’s unclear how Texas officials plan to enforce this law, as many U.S. and international organizations offer the pills by mail, or whether those who seek care after a self-administered abortion could face criminal charges under HB 1280, depending on how the law is applied.

Legislators see the Supreme Court ruling as a green light to outlaw abortion and criminalize anyone who performs one. The penalties are as stiff as murder.

Robert Hubbell is a wonderful, sensible blogger. I enjoy reading his posts. Here is one that ties together our current “gloom and doom” about the politics at home with the defiance and courage of Ukrainians who are standing up to a brutal invasion.

He wrote:

The media doomsday machine is in overdrive.

Readers are again filling my inbox with stories that predict disaster for Democrats in the midterms. All I can say is that we should be thankful that the journalists declaring defeat are not in charge of defending Ukraine. The current narrative is that the only issue that matters to voters is the economy. Of course, except for inflation, the economy is strong—a fact universally ignored by the media. But in the “short-attention-span” media, the criminalization of abortion is a story that has run its course and is baked into the outcome of the midterms. Such a view denigrates the role of voters in the political process and ignores the possibility that the attitudes of voters can change over the course of an election.

So, let’s reset where we are at this moment in time. Most primaries for midterms have not yet occurred, so Democrats don’t know who they will be facing. But we have strong signals that Republican candidates will be more extreme, less qualified, and more vulnerable than the GOP had hoped. The surge of activism that should follow the criminalization of abortion is just getting off the ground. The final opinion was expected in late June; the leak in early May caught many grass-roots groups by surprise. Republicans and the mainstream media want to create a narrative that says, “Nothing to see here, move along. The fight over abortion won’t motivate Democrats or persuadable Independents.”

I believe the above narrative badly mis-reads what is about to happen. We are no longer arguing over abstract legal principles. We are facing a situation in which abortion will be a crime, and teenage girls raped by family members will be ordered by the state to bear children forced on them by violent attackers. The narrative ignores that a strong majority of Americans supported the Roe / Casey paradigm for balancing individual liberty and societal interests. And it ignores the fact abortion is far more common than many believe. Per the NYTimes, “25 percent of women will have an abortion by the end of their childbearing years.” Telling those women, even retroactively, that they are “felons” or “criminals” will surely have some effect on their view of their Republican accusers.

So, what should we do? First, we need an attitude adjustment. If you see a story predicting disaster, you must summon the fighting spirit to say that pundits and “conventional wisdom” do not control your actions or your destiny. The fighting spirit of the Ukrainian people is instructive. The “conventional wisdom” predicted their defeat in two weeks. Our first clue that the Ukrainians would not allow conventional wisdom to determine their destiny was Zelensky’s statement, “I need ammunition, I don’t need a ride.” The second indication came from the defenders of Snake Island who were ordered by a “Russian warship” to “surrender” before being shelled. The reply, “Russian warship, go f**k yourself” will live in legend. [Note: The “warship” in question was later sunk by Ukrainian missiles.]

We all need a bit of the “in-your-face” confidence to tell the doomsayers what they can do with their predictions. In that regard, I recommend the video in a tweet by MeidasTouch, “Hey, Republican Party. Go f—k yourselves.” Fair warning—the video includes about a dozen profanities, which are usually unproductive and distracting. But the sentiment expressed in the video captures the fighting spirit that all Democrats need at this moment. Republicans are busy telling the mainstream media that the 2022 midterms are over and that Democrats should surrender. As the Ukrainian defenders on Snake Island said, “Russian warship, . . . .”

Tom Ultican, retired teacher of advanced mathematics and physics in California, is now a significant chronicler of the Destroy Public Education movement. He attended the recent national conference of the Network for Public Education in Philadelphia and recapitulates the excitement we shared at being in person after a 2-year hiatus.

After every conference, attendees say, “This was the best one yet.” They enjoy meeting people who are doing the same work to fight privatization of their public schools. By the end of the conference, attendees say they feel energized, hopeful, and happy to know that they are not alone.

I urge you to read Tom’s post. You will get a sense of the embarrassment of riches available to attendees.

I should add that the Nebraska Save Our Schools group shared the Phyllis Bush Award for Grassroots Activism. Nebraska is one of the few states that has managed to protect its public schools and keep out both charters and vouchers, despite being a Red State.

The Pastors for Texas Children, a co-winner of the award, has repeatedly blocked vouchers in the Texas Legislature and has consistently fought for funding for public schools. PTC has opened chapters in other Red states, where they mobilize clergy to support public schools.

A high point for me was interviewing “Little Stevie” Van Zandt, a legendary rock star and actor (“The Sopranos”), who is dedicated to getting the arts into schools, not as an extra, but across the curriculum. we had a wonderful conversation. He has funded lesson plans based on rock and roll, available free at his website TeachRock.

All of the general sessions were taped. I will post them when they become available.

If you don’t know the work of Jitu Brown, this is a good time to inform yourself. Jitu Brown has worked for many years as a grassroots organizer in Chicago. He wants families and communities to be able to advocate for themselves, and he trains them to do it. He ardently opposes school closings and privatization, methods of ”reform” that are imposed on communities of color by the powerful. He led the successful hunger strike that blocked the closing of the Walter S. Dyett High School, forcing Mayor Rahm Emanuel to rescind the closing and to reopen the refurbished high school. Out of his work in Chicago, Brown led the creation of the Journey for Justice Alliance, which has chapters in 36 cities. J4J strongly supports the establishment of community schools that meet the needs of communities and build networks of families and communities.



National Leaders Back ‘Equity or Else’ Campaign and
Push for Biden Budget Initiative: $440 Million for Community Schools

(WASHINGTON, D.C) – On Tuesday, December 7, 10 a.m. ET, the American Federation of Teachers president, Randi Weingarten; National Education Association president, Becky Pringle; U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD; Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16; Journey for Justice Alliance national director, Jitu Brown; and Schott Foundation for Public Education president, Dr. John Jackson will join national justice and education union leaders to hold a press conference in support of the “Equity or Else” campaign to announce a brand new commission, and amplify its strong support for President Biden’s education budget which will announce a groundbreaking increase of 41 percent for school funding in his proposed FY2022 budget. This Equity Commission will engage municipalities and the federal government to inform government officials at every level on how to create investments and policies that transform quality of life for all Americans, with a focus on equity.

Journey for Justice sits at the helm of the coalition that has been pivotal in shaping President Biden’s agenda on education, especially around community schools. The Equity or Else campaign is a coalition of leaders and organizers from different quality-of-life areas, including education, housing, health care, environment/climate justice, youth investment and food production and delivery, to promote education on how inequity impacts these areas and the grassroots solutions they have organized.

The coalition includes: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School.

WHAT: News Conference with National Education and Justice Leaders on President Biden’s Budget Proposal and Brand New Equity or Else Commission

● U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD
● Congressman Jamaal Bowman, NY-16
● Becky Pringle, president, National Education Association
● Randi Weingarten, president, American Federation of Teachers
● Dr. John Jackson, president, Schott Foundation for Public Education
● Jitu Brown, national director, Journey for Justice Alliance
● Zakiyah Ansari, Alliance for Quality Education, state advocacy director

PLEASE EMAIL MAYA.HIXSON@GMAIL.COM TO RSVP*** WHEN: 10:00 AM ET, Tuesday, December 7, 2021

WHERE: The National Press Club, 529 14th St., NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC (Vax card or Negative COVID Test Required)

Facebook Live:

FURTHER BACKGROUND: The Schott Foundation’s national Opportunity to Learn Network, in partnership with the Journey for Justice Alliance’s Equity or Else project, is launching a nationwide campaign to reverse the trend of privatizing public schools and in its place implement its proven plan for reimagining an education system that has long neglected Black and brown children and starved their schools of resources.

Bolstered by a newly created Grassroots Equity Commission, Equity or Else has come to Washington to back the Biden administration’s budget, which would double the Title I funding that targets low-income schools and, for the first time, allocate $440 million for sustainable community schools. The commission, formed by Schott with J4J, will engage local and federal government in exploring how institutions engage Black, brown and working-class families.

Intent upon getting true equity in education for children of color and reversing the runaway school-privatization trend abetted by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, grassroots members of campaign organizations will also meet with key senators and with current Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.

The time is ripe for reimagining public education. The Biden administration is committed to allocating critically needed new resources for the task. Congress has shown itself willing and able to provide those resources. The conviction of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers has amplified the discussion of what equity actually means. The pandemic has highlighted the stark inequity that afflicts children of color. And those who have been left behind are raising their voices to demand the rooting out of systemic racism in every institution, including: schools, hospitals, healthcare, food production and delivery systems and public safety.

The Schott Foundation’s Loving Cities index assesses how these institutions function in Black, brown and working-class communities. Equity or Else is founded on the proposition that this reimagining of policy must be guided by the voices of those who have been most deeply affected by inequity. We have come together and are finding solutions that meet our needs.

Equity or Else is doing listening projects with people in underserved communities across the country. The Equity Commission will engage officials from municipalities and the federal government to explore how those foundational institutions in those communitIes can be reimagined, with a focus on equity. By using data from all these sources, the commission will be able to inform government officials at every level on how to create equitable investments and policies to transform quality of life for all Americans.

The following national organizations are participating in the overall Equity or Else campaign: The Alliance for Educational Justice, The Center for Popular Democracy, National Alliance Against Racist & Political Repression, Dignity in Schools Campaign, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, Appetite for Change, Alliance for Education Justice, Clean Water Action, White Coats for Black Lives, National Nurses United and Black Lives Matter at School. For more information go to

Founded in 2012, the Journey for Justice Alliance (J4J) is a national network of intergenerational, grassroots community organizations led primarily by Black and Brown people in 36 U.S. cities. For more information go to



At a time when teachers are burned out and leaving, when teacher shortages are growing, it’s useful to learn about a beloved educator who inspired many children, including her own. And, as it happens, she was the mother of philosopher Cornel West.

Journalist Seth Sandronsky writes about Irene B. West here:

Irene B. West was a trailblazer on many levels. As Elk Grove’s first Black classroom educator in what was a rural community, she enjoyed a long career as a teacher and principal.

The Elk Grove Unified School District named an elementary school after her in 2002. West died in April at age 88…

The school now showcases a stunning memorial mural of West and her favorite saying: “If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail. If you can’t be the sun, be a star. It isn’t by size that you win or you fail, be the best of whatever you are.”