[North Side Community Members meet with TPS on possible school relocation and Montessori concerns.]
By Executive Editor, Nehemiah D. Frank
An arduous journey remains the challenging task for Tulsa’s African-American community and their quest to obtain and supply quality education to black youth, their next generation.
The difficulty in closing the trust gap is predicated upon Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) administration’s ability to form authentic, meaningful relationships with local black community leaders, followed by the essential requirement in demonstrating tangible actions, which to some community members has yet to happen.
A public school meeting elevates the harsh existence of a divided Tulsa and the unfortunate, long-lasting tale — how two cities persist sixty-four years after Brown v. Board of Education (whereby, TPS integrated in the 1970s) and nearly ninety-seven years after the 1921 Tulsa Massacre.
A town remains, one black and one white but this time not separated by the Frisco railroad tracks but by highway 244.
Reconciliation appearing dim after years of empty, broken promises from the TPS institution, an institution that wanted nothing to do with black youth before 1970 and an educational system that seemingly miseducates and has a history of culturally depriving its youth of a curriculum that boasts black achieve and black excellence. Specifically, the history of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street has yet to reach every classroom in TPS.
People reasonably believe TPS is only holding on to students for financial purposes. And their reasons are valid when some north side schools don’t even have science labs.
[A Packed Tulsa School Board Meeting]
The elder community of educational advocates remember a time when their classrooms boasted an all black teaching staff and a school administration that was seemingly free of questionable motives; they were also black.
Back then, African-American pupils were afforded the privilege of taking their black pedagogues for granted.
Today, TPS’ African-American students perform academically below their white classmates, not because they are cognitively inferior but because — like their parents — they encounter bumps and roadblocks along the way in a society and system built upon racial inequality.
Theories of a Modern Day Slave
Apparently, this unpleasant game presents and continues as a reoccurring theme and somber journey that allows its ill-educated black scholars to pick up the few remaining crumbs leftover from a shattered American Dream. A false hope, promised by an integrated society that seemingly, intentionally, and intellectually restrains black youth for the purpose of psychologically molding them into the modern day negro slave.
“Some had the feeling that in proportion as the Negro received education, in the same proportion with his value decrease as an economic factor in the state. These [white] people feared the results of education would be that the Negroes would leave the farms and that it would be difficult to secure them for domestic service (Washington, p. 57).” — An excerpt from Book T. Washington’s Up From Slavery
Too ill-educated to read.
Too ill-educated to write.
Too idle to become creative.
Too docile to be easily controlled.
The perfect modern day slave, a low-wage worker or a private prison laborer.
Life’s unforeseeable obstacles suddenly and unfairly stacked against their entire community the day their caring black teachers were dismissed from their godly duties of educating the village’s future.
On the pulse of integrating Tulsa Public Schools to fulfill racial equality, the community, that once boasted the Blue Print of Black economic and scholarly success saw a decline in black progress in the city of Tulsa.
The irony should shake us all to our core.
Lingering questions remain for North Tulsa/Greenwood/Black Wall Street?
Where do we go from here?
Do we keep rowing or do we abandon-ship?
Do we work with an Administration that has a superintendent who has only been on the job for two years and humbly admits to making mistakes but visually has done more for TPS’ African-American students in the past two years than the previous superintendents combined?
Do we work with a superintendent and administration who has in the past two years has publicly addressed her commitment to fighting racial inequality?
Because if we do not, the reality remains the same; Northside students will still need a place to learn how to compete. They must have a place to become educated in an ever-growing globally competitive world.
So, do we advocate for more charters like Sankofa, Legacy, and Langston and form more partnership schools like Monroe and Greenwood Leadership Academy, which the new TPS’ administration boldly supports.
Further, do we get more involved with TPS and attend equity events and set up meetings with teachers, principals, and join parent advocacy groups? Do we start attending Parent-Teacher Association Meetings (PTA) and find a role and make our voices heard?
Do we become the first at enrollment day to sign our child up for the free Montessori program and demand that TPS hire more teachers that look like our kids?
Do we reclaim our north-side schools and make them epicenters of cultural empowerment and academic excellence?
Our Choices Are Heavily Weighted
The decisions we make today will affect the ethos of what Black Wall Street is to become tomorrow, next week, the following year, and one-hundred years into the future.
The decision does not rest solely in the hands of an institution to which our tax dollars are contributed.
The decision rests in the hands of parents, community leaders, education advocates, pastors, churches, and the students themselves.
We must work with this questionable yet changing and diversifying institution, or we must create a means of educating our own.
Our future and our legacy are currently on the line and will be determined by our own personal convictions and our greatest ambitions.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the Founder & Executive Editor of the Black Wall St. Times. Frank is also the Co-Executive Producer of the “Dominic Durant Sports Show.” Frank graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL in General Studies, and earned a 2nd degree in Political Science from Oklahoma State University. He is highly involved in community activism, a middle school teacher, a blogger for Education Post, and dedicates most of his time to empowering and uplifting his community. Frank is a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation Honoree and has been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People.