Sunday, August 2, 2015

Hanging on to Hope to Keep Black Men and Boys Alive - Marian Wright Edelman - Children's Defense Fund

Hanging on to Hope to Keep Black Men and Boys Alive

Email - Marian Wright Edelman Photo

Our history is for decades we humiliated people of color. For decades we excluded people of color. For decades we shamed and burdened and beat people of color. Bryan Stevenson, founder and president of the Equal Justice Initiative, and author of Just Mercy
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the world’s leading peace and justice advocates, has called Bryan Stevenson “America’s Nelson Mandela.”  He has gotten innocent men off death row, successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court multiple times, including to ban “death sentences” — capital punishment and life imprisonment without parole for offenses committed by juveniles. In June this man of great moral clarity and brilliance spoke about “How to Keep Black Boys Alive” to 2,000 college-age Children’s Defense Fund Freedom Schools® servant leaders at CDF-Haley Farm. He focused on how we can break up the Cradle to Prison Pipeline that feeds 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 into America’s morally indefensible and unjust mass incarceration system. Here is some of what Bryan Stevenson told our young leaders:
Bryan Stevenson_NationalTraining2015
“We’re living at a time when there is an incredible crisis that young men of color are facing. There is a challenge that is unique in our history. We’ve always had challenges but this is a different kind of challenge because it is structural, it is systemic, and it is institutional. And it presents itself in this kind of really misguided almost kind of bizarre exploitation of the word ‘justice.’  It uses that word to perpetuate an unprecedented injustice that we’ve never had to face like we’re facing today. And I’m talking about the criminal justice system.”  
Bryan put it in perspective for the young college audience. In 1972 — 300,000 people were in jails and prisons in America compared to today with 2.5 million people behind bars. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s imprisoned. And in Alabama where he lives, a person with a criminal conviction permanently loses the right to vote. Right now in Alabama, 31 percent of Black men in the state have lost the right to vote.
To dismantle this Cradle to Prison Pipeline requires, he says, Americans to change the way we talk about race and confront our history of racial inequality. “The great evil of American slavery was not forced labor; it was the narrative of racial difference that slavery created.” That narrative said: “These black people, they’re not like us. They’re not fully human. They’ve got these deficits. They’re not smart. They’re not this. They’re not that. And because of that, we’re actually doing something civil and Christian by enslaving them. And that narrative was the great evil of American slavery.”
This history of bias and discrimination manifests itself with a presumption of dangerousness and guilt that gets assigned to all Black people, he continued, “That presumption was created during slavery, nurtured during terrorism, legalized during segregation, and it’s now being implemented by mass incarceration. We need to understand that these acts of violence in Ferguson and Baltimore are a manifestation of this presumption of dangerousness and guilt. And we’ve got to free America from this burden.”
Bryan Stevenson is surrounded in Alabama by many symbols of slavery and the Old South and shared this story about visiting a new client on Alabama’s death row. As he parked, “This truck was there. And some of you all who live in the South see these things all the time. And this truck was like a shrine to the Old South. It has all of these bumper stickers on it. It had the Confederate flags everywhere. It had the gun rack. … There was a White guard standing at the prison door when I got there. And I said, ‘Hi, I’m here for a legal visit.’  And the first thing the man said to me was, ‘Well, you’re not a lawyer.’ I said, ‘Oh, yes, sir, I am.’ He said, ‘I don’t believe you’re a lawyer.’ I said, ‘I am an attorney. I’ve been to this prison before.’  He said, ‘Well, where is your bar card?’ Well, my bar card was in the car. He made me go back to the car to get my bar card. I came back. I felt insulted. I showed him my bar card. I said, ‘Look, I want to go inside now.’ And the man said, ‘All right, all right, but you’re going to have to get in the bathroom. I’m going to have to give you a strip search.’ I said, ‘No, sir, lawyers don’t get strip-searched coming into this prison.’ He said, ‘You’re coming into my prison. You’re going to get in that bathroom and get strip-searched.’” 
After driving two hours to get there he made the very difficult decision to submit to the humiliating search. More hurdles and indignities followed. Finally when the guard unlocked the door the guard asked, “’Did you see that truck out there with all those bumper stickers and flags?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I saw that truck,” He said, ‘I want you to know that’s my truck.’”
Antagonized and angry, Bryan Stevenson went to meet his new Black client who had been in 29 foster homes by age 10, showed signs of bipolar disorder by age 13, symptoms of schizophrenia by age 15, used heroin by age 16, was homeless by age 17, began having psychotic episodes by age 18, and in the midst of one, stabbed someone to death by age 19 and was on death row. There was no mental illness defense in his record.
“The first thing [my client] said to me was, ’Did you bring me a chocolate milkshake?’ … And so I put my pen down and said, ‘Look, I’m sorry, I didn’t know you wanted me to bring you a chocolate milkshake. Next time I come, if they let me, I’ll bring you a chocolate milkshake.’ And this man smiled and smiled and smiled.”  Every time Bryan talked to his client after that, the only thing he wanted was a chocolate milkshake.
Months later, Bryan and his team presented a vigorous mental illness defense to a judge over three days. That same prison guard who had strip-searched him on his first visit to his client brought the defendant to the hearing and glared at Bryan in the courtroom each day. But Bryan was feeling hopeful about the outcome and weeks later returned to death row for a visit.
“I was walking to the prison and what do I see in the parking lot?  That truck. And I was feeling tired. I didn’t feel like I had the energy to deal with this guy. I said, you know, I don’t want to deal with him today. I’m just going to drive back another day. And that’s when I realized I was losing my hope.”
Refusing to give up hope, he turned around, got his bar card and walked to the guard at the door and said, ‘Hi, I'm here for a legal visit. Here’s my bar card.’ And the [guard] immediately [responded], ‘Hello, Mr. Stevenson. How are you?’ It completely threw me. I said, ‘I’m fine. I’ll go in the bathroom and get ready for your search.’  ‘Oh, Mr. Stevenson, we’re not going to do that today,’ [the guard replied]. I said, ‘Really?  Thank you. Well, I’ll go back here and sign the book.’ He said, ‘Mr. Stevenson, I saw you coming and I signed you in.’” Then the guard told Bryan, “‘You know, I came up in the foster care system too. I didn’t think anybody had it as bad as I did, but I realized that maybe your client had it worse than I did. I’m a very angry person. I’ve been angry my whole life. But I’m going to tell you something. I think what you are doing is a good thing.’ And then he looked at me and says, ‘I hope you keep fighting for justice.’”
The guard shook Bryan’s hand. “And I turned to go inside the prison and he grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Wait, wait, wait, I’ve got to tell you something else.’ ‘What’s that?’ I asked. He replied, ‘I just want you to know I did something on the way back from the courthouse.’ I said, ‘What did you do?’ He said, ‘Well, I took an exit and I took your client to a Wendy’s and I bought him a chocolate milkshake.’”
The bottom line message of this extraordinary caring lawyer for the young leaders was: “I believe that each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done. I think that if you tell a lie you’re not just a liar. I think if somebody takes something that doesn’t belong to them they’re not just a thief. I think even if you kill somebody you’re not just a killer, and that other thing you are has to be mended and responded and nurtured and loved and protected.”
Bryan Stevenson believes as I do that the same is true for America. America is much more than the worst things we have ever done as a country and we have done some very bad things including slavery and Native American genocide which we have never fully admitted and repented from. America can come closer to her dream and professed belief of freedom, justice and equality for all only by heeding Bryan Stevenson’s final lesson that day.
“We have to judge how we’re doing in America, not by looking at how we treat the rich and the popular and the famous. You have to judge how you’re doing in a country like ours not by how you treat the privileged and the rich but by how you treat the poor and the incarcerated and the condemned. That’s how you judge how we’re doing.”

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Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

"Why have Democrats been supporting a process that is tearing the heart out of public education? Paul Lauter emeritus professor Trinity College, Hartford,

Paul Lauter is an emeritus professor of literature at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. He is general editor of the Heath Anthology of American Literature.
"Why have Democrats been supporting a process that is tearing the heart out of public education?
"There seem to me to be two critical answers. First, the Democrats are very attached to the views of the mainstream civil rights organizations, which have continued to back high-stakes testing. Perhaps those organizations believe that high-stakes testing, reporting of “failing” students and teachers, closing down of schools, substitution of profit-making charters for public education, and the rest will somehow transform the segregated, feeble education provided in most schools of poverty. One would think that after all these years of “No Child Left Behind—Except Ours” they would arrive at another agenda: like joining activist students in demanding full-funding of public schools, enabling them to continue as community centers, supporting (and decently paying) teachers, and the like. Is it cynical to ask whether the organizations pay too much attention to those, including those in the federal government, who fund the attacks on public education?
"Second, the Democrats, for good historical reasons, have been too attached to establishing policy priorities through national elections and legislation, and federal agencies. After all, “States Rights” for years cloaked racist and retrograde local policies. Civil Rights activists therefore tried to move court cases from state to federal jurisdictions; appealed to federal farm bureaus to challenge racist state and local policies regarding support of black and Hispanic farmers and farm workers; and opposed efforts of states like Texas to impose backward ideas on nationally-circulated textbooks (think the Texas Book Depository), and the like. And they have turned to the federal government to fund schools of poverty functionally abandoned by state and local governments. So it’s no surprise that Democrats have paid far more attention to presidential races and too little to local politics; the results of the 2010 and 2014 elections show what a disaster that has been. What, then, to do?
"Republicans are, on the whole, clearer about their policy priority: substitute private for public education. That has the virtue, from their perspective, of getting rid of experienced (aka “expensive”) teachers and their unions, utilizing the idealism of Teach for America and other short-term recruits, and—above all—providing opportunities for entrepreneurs to turn schools into profit centers. And it fits the Reaganist—and quite stupid—ideology that says government is always the problem and never the solution. One would like to be able to turn from that agenda to positive alternatives fostered by Democrats; instead of which we get Murphy, Cuomo, Rahm and Arnie.

"So, yes, good schools, schools as centers for learning and community, will have to be fought for locally and regionally. With the support of institutions like this blog, and other organizations. And, one would hope, eventually politicians who have detached themselves sufficiently from the past to create a future."

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Marie Corfield: My Review of the documentary 'Heal Our Schools' #EdBlogNet @idraedu

Marie Corfield: My Review of the documentary 'Heal Our Schools': Pick up a newspaper or turn on the television and reporters and other talking heads describe the grand experiment that is corporate educati...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Education, Inc. A documentary about how money and politics are changing our schools.

Education, Inc. A documentary about how money and politics are changing our schools.

ANNOUNCING Education Inc.
National Grass Roots Screening!
American public education is in controversy. As public schools across the country struggle for funding, complicated by the impact of poverty and politics, some question the future and effectiveness of public schools in the U.S.
For free-market reformers, private investors and large education corporations, this controversy spells opportunity in turning public schools over to private interests. Education, Inc. examines the free-market and for-profit interests that have been quietly and systematically privatizing America’s public education system under the banner of “school choice.”
Education, Inc. is told through the eyes of parent and filmmaker Brian Malone, as he travels cross-country in search of the answers and sources behind the privatizing of American public education, and what it means for his kids. With striking footage from school protests, raucous school board meetings and interviews with some of the most well known educators in the country, Malone zooms out to paint a clear picture of profit and politics that’s sweeping across the nation, right under our noses.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

making police departments accountable

making police departments accountable

A friend posted this on Facebook:

1. Independent evaluations of practice and procedure for every police dept that receives state or federal funding.

2. Daily report cards of how many people are stopped- disaggregrated by race. The technology is trivial to make that a reality.
The only way to fix this is to make police departments accountable. And the only way to do that is to find the places where police departments are profiling.

It's not sexy but it's tangible.​

Monday, July 20, 2015

From the Cradle to the Grave The Delusion By Rodolfo F. Acuña

From the Cradle to the Grave
The Delusion
Rodolfo F. Acuña
I have read and reread 17th century Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s La vida es sueño countless times to remind me that my life is an illusion, and that false dreams prevent my waking up -- so much so that my illusions become delusions.
            The United States is not the greatest nation in the world. This is a dream that prevents change. Americans believe, for example, that they have the best medical care in the world, which is true only if you have money or the standard is the worse.  
            Our bodies are chemistry labs, and we ignore patterns that are dangerous to society’s health. Everything is cured as long as there is a pill that will cover up or “aleve” the symptom. In the past 50 years, I have seen an increasing number of my students suffering from anxiety and depression. Everyone knows it, but Americans remain ignorant of mental health to the point that I have I heard explanations such as “It’s All a State of Mind.” True but what is causing the pain? Why won’t it go away?
            In 2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that there were 41,149 suicides in this country, the 10th leading cause of death for Americans. Someone died by suicide every 12.8 minutes. Most were not high profile suicides such as that of Robin Williams, and went unnoticed. TPublic awareness of the risk of suicide poses is similar to some Americans who have a gay child and rationalize it is all a state of mind.
            Middle-class Americans live under the illusion that their Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) provider will take care of the pain. They never awaken to the reality that health care in the United States is based on profit, the maintenance or the management of illness, and not the cure.   
            As I have mentioned the number of my students suffering from depression and anxiety has grown. We know that "Both depression and anxiety carry a high risk of suicide." Mark Pollack, MD, ADAA President and a Grainger Professor and Chairman, Department of Psychiatry at Rush University Medical Center, says that "More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable illness such as clinical depression …. often in combination with anxiety or substance use disorders and other treatable mental disorders."
            At CSUN we have a good counseling center that is overwhelmed. Dr. Jose Montes reaches out to students, but a limited staff prevents adequate care for thousands of Latino students lacking insurance. Resources are diverted to programs that benefit the few.
            Suicide affects all age groups.  The Centers for Disease Control reports that more people die from suicide than from automobile accidents. The problem is that it is only the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and Americans seem to be waiting for it to reach the top three for it to become important. The tragedy is that few diseases are as preventable; more than 40,000 deaths a year is not just a state of mind.
            I was under the illusion that my family was getting good health care. Over the years I have been a member of Ross Loos, Cigna, Blue Shield and the granddaddy of the HMOs Kaiser Permanente. They all manage health care and do just enough to keep you alive; however, for the most part they are not in the business of curing you. Even prescription drugs are dispensed according to the profit margin with generics used even when ineffective.
            At Kaiser the response to mental illness is to try to manage it.  In a recent case, a patient sought help on four separate occasions: he committed himself, pleading with the provider that he needed help, fearing that he would commit suicide. In each instance he was sent to a mental health care facility, kept for three days and released.  They told him to go to a Kaiser Outpatient facility where he would receive care. In each case he went and asked for a psychiatrist. He initially saw one but only to get meds.  He was then assigned to a psychiatric nurse who led classes and group sessions. He was not given individual therapy, although he requested it as did his father.  
            The patient became discouraged, his cries were ignored and he ceased attending. Meanwhile, his family waited for the next relapse. There was no follow up by Kaiser. Totally discouraged he drifted between his parents’ homes. Kaiser did not respond to complaints and the pain grew intolerable and the young patient jumped off a bridge.
            Kaiser is not the only failure. The patient had a brilliant mind. He was a talkative and a happy child until middle school when he grew quiet. The schools did not challenge him; they did not stop bullying although his father complained nothing was done. The failure was the failure to communicate – it was not a state of mind – pain never is. “People do not die from Suicide. They die due to sadness or hurt”
            But death does not end the pain for loved ones. Death was very important to Mexican workers and their families.  The principal reasons they joined mutualistas (mutual aid societies) was a burial insurance that insured the socio would not be buried in a potter’s field and that his family would be sent back to Mexico.
            Driving along a Southwestern or Mexico highway, you often see makeshift graves marked by crosses and flowers indicating where life had ended. Often people do not have enough money to even cremate the deceased. Today a burial on consecrated ground (a Catholic cemetery) is to too expensive for the average worker. Death has been privatized.  
            In 2013, the Los Angeles Times wrote “Los Angeles Archdiocese Gutted Cemetery Fund to Pay Sex Abuse Settlements.”  (Feb 11, 2013). Allegedly the Los Angeles Archdiocese gutted cemetery fund to pay sex abuse settlements.  Since at least the 1990s Catholic cemeteries in Los Angeles have leased out mortuary services, and they have been converted into fast food-like franchises.  Just to buy in, it costs $7000 depending on where your new barrio is located. Then the incidentals are tacked on --- th total $12,000 or more.
            The illusion of a premier or even adequate health system is exposed as a delusion. When medical establishments cannot recognize simple symptoms like a patient losing interest in things he/she used to care about, makes comments “about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless, talks about suicide”, and the system’s response is routine with the psychiatrist prescribing pills, assigning him/her to a class, and has him attend group therapy instead of talking about the causes of the pain then the nightmare begins – and if we can afford it, we move to a new barrio in a green cemetery.  The more you pay, the better the neighborhood.
            We are unequal even in death. The only equality is in our dreams.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

How to Keep Our Black Boys Alive: Channeling the Rage - Child Watch - Marian Wright Edelman

Mrs. Edelman's Child Watch Column also appears each week on The Huffington Post.

How to Keep Our Black Boys Alive: Channeling the Rage 

The recent spotlight on systematic racial profiling and police brutality against Black boys and men has exposed a painful truth long known in the Black community: just about every Black youth and man seems to have a story about being stopped by the police, and all live daily with the understanding it can happen to any of them at any time.
Dr. Terrell Strayhorn is Director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at The Ohio State University and a Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Studies in the College of Education and Human Ecology. He also has faculty appointments in the Ohio State John Glenn College of Public Affairs, Department of African American and African Studies, and Education Policy, Engineering Education, and Sexuality Studies programs. But none of these credentials mattered one bit when Dr. Strayhorn was pulled over by a White police officer a week before he spoke at the June Children’s Defense Fund training for college-age students preparing to teach at CDF Freedom Schools® sites across the country this summer. He shared this story with the 2,000 young mostly non-White leaders because it was an integral part of his message for the young teachers in training: “How to Keep Our Black Boys Alive.”
tarrell newsletter.jpg
He’d just bought a beautiful new car. “So I’m driving my really nice car because that’s what you can do in this country, right? You can work hard and you can make good money, and then you can use your money to buy a car…So I’m in my car, in my good hard-earned money car, and then comes a blue light in my rearview mirror.” The promise of the American Dream was gone in an instant. Instead he wasn’t even sure whether he would “live the next couple of minutes”—“because my nice car, and my nice degree, and my nice money, and my nice bracelet, and my nice looks, and my nice feel, my nice shoes—none of it, none of it, none of it, none of it, none of it is a panacea for the problems that we have in this country. And I watched an officer who does not know me come up to my window and say, ‘Mister, I need to see your license and registration.’ And I got ready to reach for it, and he reached for his gun—and I said, ‘Oh, my God. I know how this ends.’”
Dr. Strayhorn had to make an immediate decision about how he would respond. “I put my hands back and I said, ‘Do I have permission to do what you just asked me to do?’ And the cop said, ‘Yes, you can now move.’” Only then did Dr. Strayhorn go ahead and pull out his registration and license, along with his university identification card, though the officer didn’t seem to care. “He said, ‘Do you know why I stopped you?’  I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Because you don’t look old enough to drive this car.’ It sounded like a compliment, but then I had to remind him—in my head, not out loud—that in this country actually, [when] you get a driver’s license, you’re free to drive any car.”
Dr. Strayhorn knew he’d been stopped for no legitimate reason—a version of the “show your papers” demands Black men have faced since slavery—and he was furious. But he also knew that in that minute he couldn’t show it. That was part of the lesson he wanted to share with our young leaders: “When you are mistreated, deemed guilty before you are innocent, and oppressed by that form of unbridled, misused power and authority, it is infuriating. It is offensive. It is enraging…The rage just started in my pinky toe and it climbed all up my body. But, thank God, I had what I’m going to say is the number-one thing: if you’re going to teach [our children] anything—teach them literacy, teach them numeracy, teach them vocabulary, teach them history, teach them political science, but listen—teach them how to control their rage.”
He explained what he meant: “Don’t deny the rage …but teach them how to control it. How do I control it? How do I channel it? How do I redirect it? Because the word ‘rage’ means violently angry. But I love the second definition of the word ‘rage.’ The second definition of the word ‘rage’ is impassioned enthusiasm. You’ve got to teach them that there is ‘something inside so strong’ [the Freedom Schools theme song]. Tell them, ‘I know you can make it. I know. I know it’s rough sometimes. I know. I know, I know, I know, I know it’s unfair how police officers treat you, how some teachers treat you, but control and redirect that rage.”
He went on: “We’ve got to remember that while we’re teaching them how to control their rage, giving them the language to have that conversation, they need words for that encounter with the police officer, that encounter with the neighbor. The reason why people fight is because words are not present for them to have the conversation. Give them the literacy tools so they can have the conversation. Teach them rage is natural; rage against this thing; rage against inequality—but control it in the face of authority that can take your life, because the end of the thing is we want them to live.”
Self-control over rage at the right moment might help save a Black boy’s life, though even that has certainly never been a guarantee. But no matter what, the critical next step still has to be channeling rage at deeply embedded structural racism and blatant injustice into “impassioned enthusiasm” for the larger fight. That larger fight can and must start with all of us by getting ourselves organized and providing our children positive alternatives to the miseducation in so many schools and the dangers on the street from law enforcement agents. Dr. Strayhorn said: “What allows a young man to [have enough control to] sit there and say ‘hands up’ is that he knows that while his hands are up, someone else’s hands are on the job. I’m willing to put my hands up if I know your hands are on something, right? So I’ll put my hands up if your hands are on the educational problems in this country. I’ll put my hands up so long as your hands are on the problem of inequality in neighborhoods. I’m willing to put my hands up so long as my Black sisters and my White brothers and my Native American brothers and my Latino sisters and brothers are also putting their hands on the problem of racism … We fight for their freedom, and if they know that we are fighting for their freedom, they are more willing, they are more capable, they are more empowered to go through what they have to go through.” 
And, Dr. Strayhorn concluded, this all-hands-on-deck call to rage against injustice and fight for freedom is for everyone: “We’ve got to pursue freedom and justice not just for Black people, but pursue freedom and justice for Latino folks, pursue freedom and justice for Native American people, pursue freedom and justice for gay people, for LGBT, for poor people, for rich people, for tall people, for short people, for people who don’t have anything at all, for first-generation people, for welfare mothers, for everybody. Freedom and justice for all.” 
That’s the message every child of every color who is “different” must internalize to break the vicious cycle of deeply embedded cultural and structural racism that pervades so many American institutions including those too prevalent in the criminal justice system that too often takes rather than protects lives.

Click here to share your comments and find out what others are saying.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children's Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information go to