Tayé Foster Bradshaw, Kirkwood, Friday,February 19, 2016
Two days ago parents and supporters in the Hazelwood School District stood outside schools with signs of support for the students.
They set up a facebook page and urged everyone to come to the Tuesday, February 16, 2016 school board meeting to protest the proposed budget cuts that would affect PE and music, among other cuts, including cutting maintenance staff.
Parents were understandably upset that this suprise cut was announced without working information presented to the public.
Questions were asked all around from the high salaries of the superintendent and assistant superintendents to the catered meals at the board meeting. What about the students remained a constant underpining of what the parents were asking.
On Friday, they wanted the media to be present at an all-district orchestra concert to highlight the importants of the arts in education and urge the district to not cut the program. They have been quite vocal about their demands, reaching even to wanting the board members ousted. Three of the board members are African-American. Some residents have discussed the reactionary measures of parents who did not attend budgetary board meetings and now that the cuts for the next school year have been made public, are trying the issue in the court of public opinion.
Beneath it and how connections were made to a sister district twenty miles south was the fact that black students will once again be left behind.
This district, Kirkwood, has both had task force meetings to discuss the "achievement gap" at the same time there have been board meetings to eck out life without increased taxes. The music programs have not been touched, 25 teachers and 16 support staff are all without jobs. The proposal includes larger class sizes, increased distances for bus transportation, and student fees for extracurricular activities.
Another district, Jennings, has appointed an African-American male as the superintendent who once led Ferg-Flor until the all-white board ousted him, a district where Mike Brown was killed and that is predominately black. The new superintendent replaces the African-American female superintendent who quietly moved the district from underperforming to high performing. She thought revolutionary, in a primarily lower income community, and opened up a home for homeless students, allowes families to take care of essential needs like feeding their children and doing their laundry, creating an inclusive community. She showed what is possible.
Mention was made that it is all connected from "affluent" districts with "high property values" to those who are seeing plummeting property values in northern counties. It all has the appearance of an orchestrated attempt to either dismantle public education, devalue a predominately black school district (70% of the students identify as African-American), or completely destroy the region that brought disparities in health, income, education, and property to the national forefront through the Black Lives Matter protests that propelled after Mike Brown, Jr. was murdered.
This was just a couple weeks after Beyoncé put the world on notice, encouraged black women to get "in formation" and left white America scrambling to put a narrative around the images they did not understand. Right on the heals of retired white NFL players calling Cam Newton "boy" because of his refusal to entertain the press that wanted to rake him over the coals because the Panthers "lost" to Peyton Manning's white America glory.
The protest at Hazelwood mirrored one about a couple months ago. A similar group of parents and teachers met at the school board meeting in Kirkwood to voice their displeasure in the district cutting teachers, support staff, and department budgets after a tax increase did not pass the November ballot. The conversations are still happening, including demands for the superintendent's salary to be cut, certain board members to be recalled, and a reminder to not hurt the children in the process of adult decisions.
Monday night, during the Grammy's, artist Kendrick Lamar, left the audience speechless when he did a performance that highlighted the continued enslavement of black men in America. It was a bold move, an uncomfortable move by all the white faces in the crowd, that unapologetically used the medium of art to tell the story of those in chains in private prisons.
This is all connected.
Connect the dots from the election and the racialized rhetoric of Donald Trump and Rafeal Cruz to the continued over-policing of black bodies and 10:1 suspension rate of black children in St. Louis area schools. It is all part of the larger narrative.
February is Black History Month.
All across the country, there have been dings against black expression and existence.
Black girls in school were told they could not wear a Gélé during Black History Month, it was deemed unprofessional, so parents protested.
In Kirkwood, there was an African-American Achievement Award ceremony where middle and high school students with a 3.0 or above were recognized. It was met with some continued complaints from white parents who said the black kids should not be recognized for "just a 3.0" and from some black parents who said the white teachers and peers needed to be there who keep saying the "achievement gap" to cast dispersion on the intelligence of black students in the majority white district.
St. Louis city razed Kiener Plaza, displacing a lot of already displaced homeless people, to make way for a greenspace that is sure to just benefit the wealthy neighbors along Lindell Blvd.
It is all connected, this orchestrated dismantling of any cultural gain over the past 50 years.
PBS aired a documentary on the Black Panther Party. The same party that fed children and left the country with lasting legacies like Women-Infants-Children and school lunch. This is the same party that has been compared to the Ku Klux Klan as a "hate group." Of course non of this is true and even those making the loose comparisons know it is true, they are just trying to derail any conversations of racism and classism that continue to cripple most of the black community.
All this is wrapped up in the continued discussions of President Obama's intended Supreme Court pick after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away on Sunday. The week in racial rhetoric escalated to the point of Mitch McConnell demanding that this two-term, overwhelmingly-elected president just serve three years of his second term, that he not be allowed to choose the justice. The republicans suddently realized that this election matters even more than they thought while their clown circus continues between Trump, Cruz, Rubio and the rest. Hillary and Bernie are both battling it out. It is all undercoated in race, Clinton and Sanders are both pandering in South Carolina, memes all over facebook, wondering if black folks are going to listen to Cornel West or Jesse Jackson.
Blackness is the connected tissue.
Popular women's magazines are appropriating black style and calling it something other than millennia-old corn rows. This is after they tried with the white girls in afro tutorials or the criminalizing of black women in Iowa and Texas who have been doing natural hair to the school in Barbados, an AfroCaribbean nation, exhibiting its colonialism by telling black school girls that they must straighten their hair to attend class.
What is the fear of the black woman?
What is the fear of the black man?
What is the fear of the black child?
When examining the sociopoliticalcultural issues of this past week, it is clear that there is nothing new under the sun and connect-the-dots will continue until black lives really matter and people can just exist without the perpetual game playing with people's lives.