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By Nehemiah D. Frank, Founder and Editor-in-Chief
Last spring, I had the honor and privilege of giving a TED Talk at the University of Tulsa. It was one of the most exciting and terrifying experiences of my life. I used my 7-minute platform to spotlight the importance of literacy.
Despite having been afraid of public speaking since grade school, where my phobia of reading publicly to my teachers and classmates often got the best of my nerves — through my founding of the Black Wall Street Times, I frequently am now called to speak publicly. I, therefore, have become more comfortable with this activity.
I’ve since accepted the responsibility that comes with having such a bold and fiery spirit that publicly rejects the status quo which distinguishes White hegemony as being the only recognizable propensity; thanks in part to my mother’s stalwartness in teaching me about Black History — after school and on the weekends.
Today, I see America as seemingly hungering for righteousness but remains standing in quicksand, trudging as a socially fragile and bruised nation that is unconscious and unaware of its injury.
The lingering and self-inflicted damage points to the fact that America has yet to deal with the racial disunity that continues festering within itself, a single social conflict that traces its origins to institutional chattel slavery.
As a result of that great evil, systemic racism is the disastrous cancer that festers, agitates, and prevents progress within our country, due to centuries of anti-Black governmental policies passed at the local, state, and federal levels.
Although we repealed many of those unjust laws, the social-psychological trauma coupled with the economic suffering from those anti-Black policies has left Black America nearly discombobulated.
Furthermore, institutional racism became a normalized practice, and when displaying public racism grew unpopular, white supremacist practices became less overt but more cryptic.
For instance, segregated and unequal schools replaced the anti-literacy laws that thrived during ‘legal’ institutionalized chattel slavery. When Brown v. Board of Education ruled ‘segregation’ unconstitutional, academic-intellectual segregation replaced Jim Crow.
The ideology of White supremacy thoroughly understands that to be literate is to be free.
To be thoroughly literate is to have some form of power.
According to the Rand Report on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education, “75-percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate.” Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate for Black men in the nation, incarcerating twice the national average.
58-percent of Black Oklahoma residents read below proficiency, 31-percent are proficient, and only 2-percent read at the advanced level. Black children in the state’s public schools consistently are performing below proficient in Reading year after year, decade after decade.
Hence, the cycle of illiteracy is a major social-economic injury to the state’s Black inhabitants, and no one is talking about the pandemic of the cycle of illiteracy plaguing Black Oklahomans.
The cycle of illiteracy contributes to the high poverty and mass incarceration of Black Oklahomans.
Perhaps, it’s intentionally; maybe, it’s another social problem that’s seemingly overlooked and ignored.
Pointedly, the crypticness in how systemic racism operates within Oklahoma’s public school systems, and its direct correlation with the mass incarceration of its black inhabitants coincidentally mirrors and perpetuates an intentional order of White supremacy in the state.
Nehemiah D. Frank is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Black Wall Street Times. He graduated from Harold Washington College in Chicago, IL, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Oklahoma State University. A rising voice in America for the school choice movement. He’s a blogger for EdPost and a CAB Editorial Member at the Tulsa World. He’s been featured on NBC, Blavity, and Tulsa People. Nehemiah is also a school administrator and teacher at Sankofa School of Creative and Performing Arts in Tulsa, OK, a 2017 Terence Crutcher Foundation honoree, a recipient of the 2017 METCares Foundation Community Impact Award, and a 2018 Oluko Fellow. He gave a TED Talk at The University of Tulsa in spring of 2018.