LaTeria Stokes, a 12-year-old from Sapulpa, Oklahoma is headed to Washington DC to attend the Junior National Young Leaders Conference (Jr.NYLC). She’s one of the few lucky students from across the US who will have the honor of attending this prestigious conference.
In an interview the other day, Florida’s Republican gubernatorial nominee, Ron DeSantis, threw two shots. First he called Andrew Gillum—his Black Democratic challenger —“articulate.” Then he followed up with, “The last thing we need to do is monkey this up,” referencing Gillum’s style of governing and its potential to interfere with Florida’s current progress.
What if Robert E. Lee Elementary School was named after Tulsa’s distinguished American historian, John Hope Franklin? It is not a far-fetched idea if you think about it. It is a thought that reinforces this need for reconciliation.
“If a principal or a teacher finds out that a certain child is undocumented, or his or her family members are undocumented, do you feel that the principal or teacher is responsible to call ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and to have that family reported?”
Her response? “Sir, I think that’s a school decision. That’s a local community decision. And again, I refer to the fact that we have laws and we also are compassionate.”
I pray that my students will be so lucky enough to arrive in a classroom with a culturally competent teacher who looks like them and is passionately and unapologetically black. And should they not land in a class with a teacher who does not share the same racial ancestry, my next prayer is that they will encounter a benevolent teacher who will love and celebrate them as I have done. I pray they will gain a wonderful pedagogue or role model who will tell them that the sky is the limit for them and that they can be whatever their heart so desires.
A lingering cultural construct that brands Black boys as “bad dudes” and Black girls as young “angry Black women” stems from the same dark ignorance that caused the 1921 Tulsa Massacre and decades of racist policies passed by state legislators and policy makers. The truth is, they were the architects for what are now today’s educational equality gaps
Their essays were symptomatic of my lowered expectations for my students of color.