Category: Children

LeBron James Opens I Promise School in Hometown of Akron for At-Risk Kids

LeBron James speaks on the first day of class at the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. The LeBron James Family Foundation is the school’s top donor and worked with Akron Public Schools to meet all its standards and regulations. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

by Tania Ganguli via latimes.com

As he drove to the school he was helping open in his hometown, LeBron James’ emotions brought him back to when he was the same age as the kids who were starting school there Monday.

He remembered school meaning nothing to him. He remembered it being too far away for him to get there, especially when his mother didn’t have a car. He missed 83 days of school in fourth grade. “It was a surprise to me when I woke up and I was actually going to school,” James said.

As he got older he learned about the value of an education, and how important that was to break poverty cycles. That’s why Monday mattered so much to James, the NBA’s biggest star who recently left Cleveland for the Lakers.

At 8 a.m., 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders started at the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. It is a public, non-charter school, just like the ones James attended as a child, but it seeks to offer all the things kids growing up like James did need to succeed. The LeBron James Family Foundation is the top donor and worked with Akron Public Schools to meet all its standards and regulations. And here, the staff attends to not just the children’s education, but also the outside factors that might interfere with that education.

The kids received high-fives from the staff. They begged their teachers to know if “Mr. LeBron” was going to visit their classrooms. Some parents who’d lost jobs asked if the school could help them find new ones. A homeless family asked if they could get help, too. The answers were yes, yes and yes.

“We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban and public school excellence,” said Brandi Davis, the principal. “We are letting people know that it is about true wraparound support. True family integration, true compassion.”

AKRON, OHIO JULY 29TH 2018-School principal Brandi Davis waves in the lobby of the I PROMISE School
Principal Brandi Davis waves in the lobby of the I Promise School. “We are going to be that groundbreaking school that will be a nationally recognized model for urban and public school excellence,” she said. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

It began as an idea inside a monthly brainstorming session between James and Michele Campbell, the executive director of James’ foundation.

Sometimes her job is to manage the expectations of a man who believes, on and off the court, that he can accomplish anything. In this case, she let slip an idea he latched on to right away. Maybe their reach would improve if they created a school, she mused. “Well, why aren’t you doing that?” James asked.

She told him the foundation wasn’t ready for that kind of project. He told her to get started anyway. “There’s nothing that she can’t do,” James said. “If I tell her to go build a rocket and take it to outer space, Michele can make it happen.”

Like the early days of space travel, this was uncharted territory. The school district worked with the foundation. They brought together 120 stakeholders — parents, corporate sponsors, students, teachers, administrators and volunteers — to find out what students in their district really needed. Akron public schools are some of the lowest-performing in Ohio.

They settled on a program that helped teach the skills children need to handle trauma they see in their daily lives, combined with a hard math and science curriculum that would help further their education.

The school’s “wraparound” services help reduce stress kids might feel when their parents are struggling financially. That includes job and family services, a GED program, a food pantry from which they can shop and choose their meals, and help with housing if needed. They have a seven-week summer camp program to help avoid the trouble that comes with too much free time.

Every student gets a bicycle because when James was growing up, he used one to get away from the more dangerous parts of his community. The students also get a Chromebook to complete their homework. “I wanted to keep it as consistent and as authentic to when I was a kid,” James said, while adding generous touches and technology.

The children were randomly selected from a pool of Akron students whose reading levels were a year or two behind where they should be.

“And then we got to make these awesome phone calls to parents to say, ‘Hi, would you like to be a part of something new, something different? The I Promise School,’” said Keith Liechty-Clifford, the coordinator of school improvement for Akron Public Schools.

This renovated, stately brick building sits between a McDonald’s and a convenience store. Inspirational quotes wallpaper the interior and the entrance is decorated with James’ game-worn shoes, which will be sold as a fundraiser. Some walls are painted with murals of such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.

To truly provide emotional and psychological services for at-risk children and their families requires well-trained and supported teachers. The I Promise School gives teachers access to psychological services. Every Wednesday afternoon will be reserved for career development. James even hired a personal trainer to work with teachers who want a guided workout.

All their supplies also are provided by the school. That was a pleasant surprise for Angela Whorton, an intervention specialist at the I Promise School. She’s been a teacher for 10 years and almost always had to spend her own money to properly stock the classroom.

I Promise School
The I Promise School (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

She’s spent her own money here, too, but for personal touches. She bought a black rug that functions like a red carpet and put stars on it so the students feel special walking into the room. The writing utensils in her room are topped with white artificial flowers.

From her classroom on the second floor, Whorton pointed out of a window to a neighboring home’s modest backyard. She moved to Akron when she was in eighth grade.

“Through those trees was my backyard,” Whorton said. “And I used to dream big. At the time my mom was struggling as a single parent. She promised us that if we had an education we could be and do anything we needed to be.”

When they didn’t have electricity, Whorton’s mom lit candles so she and her brother could do their homework. When the plant where she worked shut down, Whorton’s mom went back to school and took two jobs to care for her children. She’d stand in line at the food bank to make sure she had something to feed her kids.

Whorton knows just how valuable the school she works in can be in this community. Sunday afternoon her family got a closer look at the school and she couldn’t stop her tears.

“The family wraparound approach is going to help the community,” Whorton said. “Right from my window. Looking at my backyard where I used to dream. There’s nothing more electric than that.”

A two-hour ceremony followed the end of the first day of school. At its conclusion, James spoke to the crowd. He laughed at someone who shouted “wee wee,” his mother’s nickname growing up. He paused for a moment when a man in the back of the audience shouted, “We love you!”

University of Pennsylvania Professor Ebony Elizabeth Thomas Offers List of Children’s Books That Accurately Depict Slavery

U Penn Prof. Ebony Elizabeth Thomas (photo via penntoday.upenn.edu)

by Greg Johnson via penntoday.upenn.edu

Children in the U.S. are often introduced to America’s troubled and cruel history through movies, television programs, and children’s books. Historical fiction is frequently the means by which children learn about atrocities such as the enslavement of African Americans, racial segregation, Japanese-American internment, and the genocide of Native Americans.

Discourse about these topics in children’s literature can be difficult in light of the books’ overall function to inspire, transmit values, and spark young minds. But an omission or inaccurate portrayal of the crimes and suffering can do lasting societal damage to readers and how they see the world.

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education, has for the past decade been exploring representations of slavery in children’s literature. Over the last six years, she and her research team have compiled a database of 160 children’s books covering slavery that were published between 1970 and 2015—almost half of all the children’s books on slavery published in the 35-year period, many of which are no longer in print.

An expert on children’s literature and the teaching of African-American literature, history, and culture in K-12 classrooms, Thomas says parents, teachers, and educators must consider questions of readership, ethnicity, class, gender, story, background, intended audience, and difficulty when selecting books for their students.

Thomas supports the criteria put forth by scholar Rudine Sims Bishop that children’s literature about slavery should, in part, celebrate the strengths of the black family as a cultural institution and vehicle for survival, and bear witness to African Americans’ determined struggle for freedom, equality, and dignity.

A page from Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life.”

Ashley Bryan’s “Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life” is a book Thomas points to as one that successfully gives an accurate depiction of slavery, humanizing African Americans held in bondage while also conveying the truth and difficulty of slave life.

“I recommend this book. What you’re getting here is 11 slaves’ lives and dreams that are being brought to life by this author,” she says. “[Bryan] is representing their complexity in the illustrations, his writing of the poetry. I highly recommend this because it balances humanizing enslaved African Americans, but he’s also showing the complexity of their lives.”

On top of her 160-book database on slavery in children’s literature, Thomas is conducting reader response surveys in Philadelphia public schools, and has published two articles on representations of slavery in children’s books.

Thomas also praises “Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom” by Shane W. Evans; “All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson; “Freedom Song: The Story of Henry “Box” Brown” by Sally M. Walker; “Almost to Freedom” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; “The People Could Fly: The Picture Book” by Virginia Hamilton; and “Love Twelve Miles Long” by Glenda Armand.

Additionally, she is working on a book about slavery in children’s literature tentatively titled “Reading Racial History,” and she serves on the advisory board of Teaching Tolerance’s Teaching Hard History project.

Thomas says children’s literature is a prime site for social reproduction, and an unexamined site of social progress, regress, and/or transformation.

“If you have children’s media that’s regressive, and the children of today are going to be the adults of the mid-to-late 21st century, if we don’t change the children’s media that they’re being fed by, just like we still remember and talk about ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and other fictions of the long-ago Victorian and Edwardian eras, they’re going to still be influenced by these current writings—from ‘Harry Potter’ to problematic books about slavery—deep into the 22nd century.”

Read more: https://penntoday.upenn.edu/news/representing-slavery-childrens-literature

FEATURE: Aaron Maybin, NFL Linebacker Turned Art Teacher and Activist, Gives Back to Kids in Baltimore

Maybin, talks to students at “Gallery Night,” an end of year art showcase at Matthew A. Henson Elementary School. (MARY F. CALVERT FOR ESPN)

via theundefeated.com

Aaron Maybin was an All-America linebacker at Penn State University and was drafted 11th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2009. He played four seasons in the NFL for the Bills and New York Jets before retiring in 2014. He has since turned full-time to his art, chronicling his hometown’s challenges with poverty and crime through painting, photography and poetry, and he works as a teacher in Baltimore schools. Last winter, he became the outspoken face of outrage after many of Baltimore schools went without heat during extreme cold. He was written a book, Art Activism, which chronicles Maybin’s journey.

Here, as told to ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, Maybin tells about his path from a life of football to working on behalf of kids from his neighborhood, how he connects with students and why he doesn’t see himself as a hero.


When I was younger, football gave me an identity.

Growing up in communities like the one I grew up in, West Baltimore, you’re always fighting for your identity. From the time you’re born until you’re grown, you’re literally inundated with stories of how your safety is always in jeopardy and how everybody – from your parents to people in the community to folks at your church – is just so hell-bent and focused on keeping you safe.

So many of us in those neighborhoods are so angry, so furious, at everything. At the world. I lost my mother at 6 years old. I was mad at God. I was mad at my family. I was mad at everything. In those kinds of environments, especially for young kids of color, people look to attach themselves to something greater.

I had been an artist my whole life, but when I was younger, it was not cool for you to just be like, “Yeah I’m an artist. I make things.” Football was the first thing I did and I excelled at to the level where I gained acceptance and admiration from everybody that saw me do my thing. It was like an outlet.

Football was the first space that I was afforded where you’re not penalized for your anger. You’re celebrated for it. You knock somebody out of a game and people give you praise. They know you as this guy not to be messed with, to be respected and celebrated.

It wasn’t until I got older that I didn’t want my identity to be tied to a game anymore.

I can look at football now with a certain amount of nostalgia and not be too heavily tied to it, because at the end of the day, I stopped being tied to the game.

It was probably around college at Penn State that I realized there’s something wrong with how we were being conditioned as athletes. Even as great a coach as Joe Paterno was, he had some deep-seated issues that were rooted in race and patriarchy and bigotry that reared their heads in how we were handled as players and as men.

The idea that we couldn’t have facial hair, for example. If it was past like a five o’clock shadow, then you would get penalized. If you had locks or an Afro or something like that, he would be like, “You’ve got to do something with that.” Guys would get it braided or twisted, but as soon as he would see it, he would be like, “Cut it.” If you look at people like myself, LaVar Arrington, Jared Odrick, NaVorro Bowman, basically every black player who went to Penn State, you see them leave and go through an almost Rastafarian physical transformation where we all grow our beards out. We all either get our hair in locks or twists or cornrows.

College years are very pivotal years, right? Throughout the same time that you’re just starting to learn about your blackness or where you fit in the larger society, you’re starting to learn about historical context of your roots. You have somebody who you look at and revere as your leader who tells you that there’s something wrong with you. That there’s something unacceptable about the natural things that make you who you are, that there’s something wrong with your person.

I didn’t realize how problematic it was back then. I was young. I didn’t really understand how deep those things went and where they were coming from. I just knew that those were the guidelines that I had to abide by. We’ve got to ask ourselves why a lot more.

Continue reading “FEATURE: Aaron Maybin, NFL Linebacker Turned Art Teacher and Activist, Gives Back to Kids in Baltimore”

Jacksonville Jaguar Marcell Dareus Donates $125,000 to Help Build Classrooms in Haiti

Marcell Dareus (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

by John Reid via jacksonville.com

On his humanitarian trip to Haiti last month, Jaguars defensive tackle Marcell Dareus attended the groundbreaking ceremony on a three-classroom building that will be named after him.

He was greeted by government dignitaries and school officials and toured monuments and museums. And like last year’s trip when he met more than 800 children, Dareus was struck again by the emotions he saw.

“It is one thing to give money to something and hope for the best; it is quite something else to witness your efforts and see the gratitude and thankfulness of not just the children, but the whole community, for doing what you’re doing,” Dareus said.

″To receive their blessings and hear their words of appreciation directly was something I could have never imagined several years ago. Their gratitude and happiness was overwhelming and showed me that what I am doing is going to have a tremendous impact on their lives.″

It is the second consecutive offseason Dareus has visited Haiti to reconnect with his late father’s homeland and give back through the U.S.-based charity, Hope for Haiti, that serves as an implementing partner for school construction, teacher training, teacher salary subsidies, mobile clinics and back-to-school support for students.

Haiti is still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake in 2010 and damages caused by the 145 mph winds from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Through the Dareus Foundation, he donated $125,000 to fund the three-classroom building at the Christ-Roi Primary School of Cammy.

In addition to giving the kids a new school, his monetary efforts will go to funding teachers’ salaries, school supplies and some of the necessary infrastructure to sustain education. Dareus donated $25,000 to Hope for Haiti during last year’s visit.

Dareus was 6 years old when his Haitian-born father, Jules Dareus, died from prostate cancer. His mother, Michelle Luckey, died in 2010 from heart failure shortly after Dareus won a national championship with the Alabama. Jules Dareus lived in Haiti until early adulthood before coming to the United States.

“I promised my mom that I would support Haiti in any way I could and now I am using my platform to keep my promise,″ Dareus said. ″It’s a beautiful country with incredible people and children who need help. I want to make sure I do everything I can to lift them up. This is just the beginning of what we’re looking to accomplish here. I plan to come back after next season to see the new school and decide what else I can do to continue to build a legacy of hope for Haiti.”

Source: http://www.jacksonville.com/sports/20180627/marcell-dareus-donates-125000-to-help-build-classrooms-in-haiti

Christina Lewis’ All Star Code Nonprofit Raises Over $1 Million to Expand STEM “Summer Intensive” Program for Boys of Color

by Selena Hill via blackenterprise.com

All Star Code (ASC) will carry out its mission to educate, prepare, and place young men of color in the tech industry through its fifth annual “Summer Intensive” STEM summer program. The nonprofit announced Tuesday that it raised over $1 million for the growth and development of the program. ASC also received a record number of applicants—nearly 1,000 for just 160 spots. According to Christina Lewis, who founded ASC in 2013, the organization is on track to educate a total of 10,000 young black and Latino men in tech and entrepreneurship by 2022.

“All Star Code’s impact continues to spread as we establish a pipeline of talented and ambitious young entrepreneurs who are ready to enter the tech industry,” said Lewis in a statement. “Tech is one of the most influential and lucrative industries, so it’s vital that Black and Latino young men are better represented in this space to capture its economic opportunity.”

BOYS WILL LEARN WEB DEVELOPMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN STEM SUMMER PROGRAM 

ASC’s flagship “Summer Intensive” program is a free six-week course that teaches students web development skills and about entrepreneurship. It also empowers students with soft skills and a network of like-minded peers. It will take place in New York City and Pittsburgh.

The effectiveness of All Star Code’s curriculum is amplified by corporate partners like AT&T, Cisco, Goldman Sachs, Google, JPMorgan Chase, MLB, and Medidata, as well as the academic institutions Chatham University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Education, which provide operational and financial support and services. Through these partnerships, students will gain access to mentorships, speakers, and professional work culture.

Since its creation in 2013, about 300 students have participated in ASC’s flagship summer programs. Of the summer intensive students, 95% of All Star Code graduates have gone on to four-year colleges, while half of the graduates have created their own business or tech-related project, reads the press release.

Lewis says she was inspired by her late father, iconic businessman Reginald F. Lewis, to launch ASC as a vehicle to diversify the tech space. “I channeled his legacy to start All Star Code,” she said. Before his death in 1993, Reginald created TLC Beatrice International Holdings, the first black-owned global enterprise to earn more than a billion dollars in revenue. “I realized that if my father were a young man today, he would no doubt be working in technology, the growth industry for building wealth in the 21st century,” Lewis told Black Enterprise.

Source: http://www.blackenterprise.com/black-boys-stem-summer-program/

Black Fire Brigade in Chicago Opens Center for City’s Youth, Plans to Provide Mentorship and Training

Chicago’s Black Fire Brigade opens new facility (Photo via twitter.com)

via newsone.com

Chicago’s Black Fire Brigade—a group of the city’s African American firefighters and EMTs—wants to inspire youth to pursue careers in fire science. The group recently opened a new center in Ashburn designed to train the firefighters of tomorrow, ABC Chicago reported.

The brigade pays homage to firefighters and paramedics of color who have lost their lives while serving, the news outlet writes. The group hopes that the legacies of these fallen heroes will live on through youngsters who come to the center and show interest in joining the fire department when they get older. At the center, they will provide mentorship and training to help Black men and women prepare for the firefighter’s exam.

Founder and president of the Black Fire Brigade Quention Curtis says that he hopes the new center will serve as a haven for Chicago’s Black youth and prevent them from getting involved in the streets. “This is about saving these kids’ lives who are dying in the streets every day,” he told the news outlet. “It’s about bringing these firefighters together so we can do that.”

The center was also created as an avenue to overcome racial inequalities that Black firefighters have experienced in the department. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the city has shelled out $92 million in settlements due to the Chicago Fire Department’s discriminatory hiring practices against people of color and women. “There are so few of us, and we’ve been so separated. We’ve never come together as a whole to discuss our issues, how to address them. My thing is to end all that,” said Curtis.

The center will live at 84th and Kedzie. There was a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Saturday.

Source: https://newsone.com/3813064/chicagos-black-fire-brigade-youth-clubhouse/

Craig Kirby’s “Golf. My Future. My Game” Foundation Works to Teach Game to Youth and Diversify Industry

Image: Craig Kirby, back right, with participants in "Golf. My Future. My Game."
Craig Kirby, back right, with participants in “Golf. My Future. My Game.” (Photo: Courtesy Craig Kirby)

by Michael Cottman via nbcnews.com

Craig Kirby, founder of “Golf. My Future. My Game,” is on a crusade to introduce more black teens to the game of golf.

Kirby started the non-profit golf foundation in Washington, D.C., in 2014. He’s been working to expose the predominantly white sport to young kids who may not think the game is accessible or possible as a career option. Roughly 80 percent of recreational American golfers are white, according to the 2015 Golf Diversity & Inclusion Report. Within golf-industry workers, that percentage jumps to nearly 90 percent.

Kirby, 55, said he knew nothing about golf until he was invited to play by three white classmates in college. He hasn’t looked back since. “We teach them the game of golf, the business of golf — from soup to nuts,” Kirby told NBC News of his foundation work. “They learn everything — from the pro shop to the cart shop to the back office. It’s a complete golf experience. If kids don’t want to play golf professionally, there are plenty of great jobs within the industry.”

Kirby, a former Democratic political strategist, said he handles everything from fundraising meetings to arranging local transportation for the program’s participants. He tries to open professional doors on the golf course and behind the scenes, making connections with golf-club owners, caddies and even golf-wear designers. He also emphasizes the availability of college golf scholarships.

Since the foundation’s inception, Kirby said about 300 kids from all types of socio-economic backgrounds have participated in the various programs, clinics and internships. Kirby’s mission comes as several prominent golf industry leaders acknowledge racism as a persistent problem in the sport.

“There are real diversity issues in golf and there is a real history of exclusion and racism,”said Jay Karen, CEO of The National Golf Course Owners Association, which represents more than 3,400 courses. “We need to reconcile this history, but we also need to do better. We need to welcome and invite people who have not traditionally been part of the golf industry.”

One of Kirby’s most steadfast supporters is World Golf Foundation CEO Steve Mona. Mona said he tries to give Kirby a national platform to grow his program and introduces him to some of golf’s most prominent leaders. “We want to make sure golf reflects the diversity of our country and, ultimately, it’s good for the game,” Mona told NBC News.

In April, a Pennsylvania golf club owner called the police on five black women golfers, claiming they were playing too slowly. Last week, the women filed formal complaints against the club alleging they were discriminated against due to their race and gender.

The women did receive an apology, but the incident made national headlines and led the club to lose some business. “It’s not a golf issue, it’s a human issue,” Karen said. “It’s a shame the police were called to resolve a conflict that could have been handled through a conversation, talking to each other as human beings. These kinds of conflicts should not happen on golf courses and they shouldn’t happen at Starbucks.”

Only two black golfers have earned their PGA cards since Tiger Woods began his career in 1996. No African-American woman has ever won an LPGA title. Among America’s 15,000 private golf courses, only about a handful are black-owned, Kirby said. Kirby takes his students to one of them: The Marlton Golf Club in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

“We take our kids to golf courses and give them a whole new experience,” Kirby said. “They get lessons, guidance and advice from experts in the golf industry who look like them. I don’t want black kids to say they can’t play when get they get invited to play.”

To read more: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/foundation-aims-steer-black-kids-golf-course-n884011

Akosua Haynes, 10, an Aspiring Astronaut, and Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, Healing from Losing Her Mother, Win Writing Awards from Library of Congress

Akosua Haynes, 10, wrote a letter to Margot Lee Shetterly, author of “Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race,” letting Shetterly know her book solidified Akosua’s decision to become a NASA astronaut.

Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, wrote a letter to Gabrielle Zevin, author of “Elsewhere,” thanking Zevin for helping her heal after the sudden death of her mother.

The letters — each a thing of beauty — were part of a Library of Congress writing contest that invites fourth- through 12th-graders to write to authors and let them know the impact of their work. Close to 47,000 students from across the United States entered this year’s contest, which began a quarter-century ago.

Out of those tens of thousands of letters, Akosua and Rylee each brought home first place wins. Akosua, a fifth-grader at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Hyde Park, won the fourth- through sixth-grade division, and Rylee, a seventh-grader at Dwight D. Eisenhower Junior High School in Hoffman Estates, won the seventh- and eighth-grade division.

Their letters are night and day — one born of sorrow, the other born of joy. But they share an authenticity and richness that speaks to the ability of books to guide us through life’s various triumphs and travails.

“One night my siblings and parents were in the living room watching our favorite show,” Rylee wrote to Zevin. “A commercial came on so I got up to make cookies in the kitchen. Then my oldest sister, Sydney, started whispering, ‘Mom? Mom?’ No answer. I looked over to see my dad standing over a shaking body. ‘I’m calling 911!’ She had had an aneurysm and wasn’t waking up. I spent those few days in that hospital room listing all the things I did wrong and what I would change once she woke up. She never did.”

In “Elsewhere,” 15-year-old Liz ends up in an Earth-like place called Elsewhere after being hit and killed by a taxi. From there, she watches the world she used to inhabit.

“Liz tortured herself by going to the observation decks to see her old life every day,” Rylee wrote. “She sat there watching her best friend being happy without her. She watched everyone move on. Everyone except Liz. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I didn’t want to become a ghost person living in the past.”

Rylee said the letter to Zevin was the first time she’d written at length about losing her mom, who passed away in December 2016.

“Last year, I wrote some poems and random paragraphs, but not anything like a full piece of writing,” she told me last week. “I don’t think I was ready before to put it down on paper because things are so much more real when you put them on paper.”

In her letter, Rylee told Zevin that “Elsewhere’s” theme of acceptance really struck her.

“Liz took some time learning how to move on from the life she used to know,” she wrote. “She was stuck. Thandi, her roommate, had no problem at all. From the start she said there was no point being sad at what she couldn’t change. I read that, wishing my heart could catch up like Thandi’s did in two pages. But everyone takes their own time to keep their mind and soul in sync. Knowing that my mom wasn’t coming back home was difficult to even imagine. I had to accept that life would go on without her, but only if I moved on.

“I wanted to live my life and not wait for it to be over,” Rylee wrote. “Thank you for a world where my own mother can see me writing this letter from an observation deck. Thank you for the idea that once I leave this world, I will return. Thank you for the lessons I couldn’t live without, and the book I won’t forget.”

Continue reading “Akosua Haynes, 10, an Aspiring Astronaut, and Rylee Paige Johnson, 13, Healing from Losing Her Mother, Win Writing Awards from Library of Congress”

Third-Grader Kori Scott, 9, Saves Choking Friend with Heimlich Maneuver, is Named ‘Mayor For The Day’

Photo: Courtesy of John Henry

by Brandee Sanders via newsone.com

A third grader from East Orange, New Jersey received a huge honor from the city’s mayor after saving her friend’s life. 9-year-old Kori Scott was named “Mayor for the Day” after stepping in and performing the Heimlich maneuver while her friend was choking, News 12 New Jersey reported.

The incident happened at Bowser Elementary School while Scott and her friend Astah were eating lunch in the cafeteria, the news outlet writes. Astah started choking on her food and ran to the water fountain. Scott ran after her friend and used the Heimlich maneuver; a first-aid procedure that she took training courses for with her mother.

“I did it 1-2-3 and food came out,” Scott told the news outlet. Her loved ones praised her for her quick response in the scary situation. “It could have ended very [differently’]” said her mother Kiana Scott, who serves as a security guard in the East Orange School district. “I’m glad Kori was a quick thinker and I’m glad she remembered what her father did when he did it on her.”

Scott’s heroic efforts caught the attention of local community leaders. East Orange Mayor Ted Green made Scott the “Mayor for the Day” on Friday. “I am honored to stand here and recognize Kori as one of East Orange’s own hometown heroes,” said Mayor Green in a statement. “Kori’s brave actions have already made an incredible impact on our city. Her smart instincts and quick actions are characteristics of a true hero, and it fills me with pride to have her here today as a representative of our city and community.”

Source: https://www.theroot.com/new-jersey-3rd-grader-becomes-mayor-for-a-day-after-sav-1826479039

The Forgotten Girls Who Led the Movement for School Desegregation

Millicent Brown, left, 15, daughter of state NAACP President J. Arthur Brown, one of two black girls to enter Rivers High School in Charleston, S.C, chats with fellow students while awaiting a report from police and fireman concerning a bomb scare at the school on Sept. 3, 1963. (AP Photo)

by Melinda D. Anderson via theatlantic.com

There’s an enduring myth that the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was “the first step” in the fight to desegregate schools. Rachel Devlin, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, is looking to upend that myth. A Girl Stands At The Door, her new account of the black girls and teens who laid the groundwork for the historic ruling, draws from interviews and archival research to show that before Linda Brown, a 9-year-old, became the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, a generation of black girls and young women from the Deep South to the Midwest fueled the grassroots crusade to strike down the “separate but equal” doctrine in America’s public schools and colleges.

Before Brown, some dozen lawsuits were filed on behalf of young black women attempting to enroll in all-white schools—and after Brown, black girls, almost exclusively, did the hard labor of walking through all-white mobs and sitting in previously all-white classrooms, with sometimes hostile classmates and teachers, in pursuit of school integration.

I spoke with Devlin about the black youth who led the effort to racially integrate schools and catalyzed the broader anti-segregation movement. The interview that follows has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.


Melinda D. Anderson: A disproportionate number of black girls were at the forefront of the school-desegregation movement from the late ’40s to the mid-’60s. Why were black girls continually chosen to break the color barrier?

Rachel Devlin: Interestingly, there are no written records about why girls were chosen over and over again in individual lawsuits. These choices were made on a level that was not always entirely conscious. Parents would explain why they should file a lawsuit, and girls agreed. Many of them said, “I was willing.” Other parents drafted their daughters, and the young women cooperated, yet most of the young women who participated were fully invested in school desegregation.

The other thing about girls is that they were good at it. To speak to principals and lawyers and the press you have to be poised, you have to be personable and diplomatic, and young black women had these attributes. They dealt with constant verbal and sexual harassment on the streets of southern cities, of northern cities, and they were acutely aware of their self-presentation in public. It was drilled into them as a way to protect their dignity. Also, very few African American girls and young women did not at some point in their lives work in a white home, and they had to learn how to navigate around white people.

But I want to be clear. This was not just about being accommodating—they knew how to stand their ground. Girls were good at combining different forms of bravery; they could be both stubborn and tough, but also project social openness. They had that sense of self-possession that was extremely useful in these situations.Anderson: You write that the language in the Brown v. Board of Education decision contains “the same moral conviction that inspired black girls to walk up to the doors of white schools and seek to cross the threshold.” In what way are these girls’ untold stories reflected in this landmark ruling?

Devlin: A black girl walking up the steps of a white school and announcing her intentions to go to school with white children was a radical act of social optimism.  Most white people—and a good many African Americans—in the late 1940s and early 1950s believed that white and black children would never be able to learn in an integrated setting. That racial hostility was intractable.

In fact, judges who ruled against these plaintiffs said just that in their decisions. By showing up at the schoolhouse door, these girls were asserting not only their right to attend historically white schools, but that they believed they were capable of sharing a classroom with white students. Their actions and moral clarity reflected their confidence that they and their white peers could coexist in the intimate setting of a school. The Supreme Court decision asserted this same presumption: that it was fitting, right, and possible for children of different races to attend school together in the United States.

Anderson: The battle for school integration sparked bitterness, anger, and even violence. Some of these black girls were elementary-school age. What was the physical and psychological cost of being first?Devlin: Tessie Prevost-Williams and Leona Tate integrated T.J. Semmes Elementary School in New Orleans, in third grade. Along with Gail Etienne, the three of them received the worst violence that I recorded in the book. Because they were so young and so little, people would punch them, trip them, spit in their food. They said they could hardly go to the bathroom because that was a very dangerous space. It was a war inside the school. Tessie, Leona, and Gail all said it was a living hell.

I think the resilience that these young women had is hard to imagine. One would think that it would have been a crippling experience, but they sensed from a very early age the weight and enormity of what they were doing. They came to understand the notion of sacrifice for social justice. The stamina that it took to survive was fed and reinforced by the magnitude of what they were accomplishing.

I think it’s very hard from a current-day perspective to imagine a child going through that. In some ways we just have to be astonished at what they did. America was effecting social change on the backs of young children, and we have to ask ourselves what this means about political change in this country, that we leaned on young children to do this work of racial reconciliation.

Anderson: You talked to some of these women in your research. How do they view the resegregation of schools today—what some have called the broken promises of Brown v. Board of Education?

Devlin: Of the nearly 30 people that I interviewed, to a person, they still very much believe in what they did. They tend to look at the broader changes that have happened as a result of Brown v. Board, the day-to-day interactions between white and black Americans in a society that is diverse and desegregated. They see a larger tableau that has been fundamentally altered because the schools desegregated—the ripple effects of the Brown decision.

They also understand that people within the black community question desegregation. Some of them have even been the object of complaints: If you hadn’t done this, we would still have all-black schools. But they say it had to be done. Millicent Brown, who was among the first to integrate schools in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1963, put it in a way that’s quite striking: “We could not have apartheid in the schools.”

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/05/rachel-devlin-school-desegregation/561284/