BY KATHY MCDONALD
My dear readers, the way I see it educating our community is the best and dare I say, the only way to empower our community. When I speak of educating ourselves I mean a comprehensive education not only scholastics but a cross-disciplinary knowledge and plain old common sense. Bureaucrats, financial institutions and the political powers that be will start to factor our community into the equation when they begin to see us as a powerful entity. Dr. Ann Lopes, a great “teacher activist” once gave an inspiring presentation about disrupting the system from within. She emphasizes the need to dispel the myths about our community and relentlessly pursue social justice. So after the cameras and headlines have subsided and our stories are no longer front page news it is imperative that we keep on trucking. Dr. Lopez spoke about educating for social change and the fact that we all need to contribute to create the change and shift the perceptions of our community. Dr. Lopez also discussed how one can disrupt a system from within. So members from our community that are part of institutions that are failing the community are often best poised to highlight the injustices and inequities and can become part of the solutions. Remember change is often a slow and sometimes frustrating process. However, we must never ever give up.
We have to have a major shift and get back to the good old days when the pursuit of a first class education was of utmost importance to most of our community members. Somewhere along the way too many of us have lost sight of the relentless pursuit of an education. I remember when parents would basically focus on educating their children to the point where they sacrificed everything, hair, nails and clothing. It was a no brainer. If there was a choice between a shoe or an educational tool the latter would win out. Style took a back seat to the quest of excellence. At the risk of pontificating: too many members of the Black and Caribbean community have their priorities all screwed up. We need to educate ourselves and create opportunities for ourselves. We need to take back our stories and change the narrative in the media, in the schools and in the workforce. Sometimes those of us that have achieved academic or financial success spend so much time “‘bigging’ up wi chess” and over indulging in material things that we forget that there is work to be done.
Parents, a lot of us that grew up in the Caribbean. We have to remember that we are now in a totally different cultural environment. Gone are the days when we could blindly place our trust in our teachers. We have to do our homework. Now don’t get me wrong, there are several wonderful and caring teachers working with one goal in mind, which is letting your child be the best that they can be. However, we cannot afford to risk your child’s future to a “bad apple”. Parents, it is of utmost importance that you go into the schools and be visible. Attend open houses and parent teacher interviews. Guide your children to make the best choices not the easiest choices. Parents do your homework. Visit the school and School Board websites. Make sure you understand the difference between academic and applied and the impact each pathway could have on your child’s academic future and career choices. Establish very early with your child’s teacher your expectations so that you are on the same page when it comes to the expectations for your child. Make sure you understand what “progressing well” means to you and what it means to your child’s teacher. It is imperative that the teacher’s expectations align with your expectations. Above all be realistic and honest and do not be afraid to ask for help and guidance. This is not a sign of weakness or an indication that you are inferior. On the contrary, it is a sign of strength and wisdom.
Be it racism, systemic biases or ignorance we cannot afford to let anything get in the way of our children’s education. We owe it to them and to the countless individuals that sacrificed and broke down barriers to make education accessible to Black and Caribbean children. An education is the only viable tool that we have to equalize the playing field, to empower our community and to enable upward mobility in the society. During a conversation with Dr. Carolyn Pinnock Jackson, the first female pediatric surgeon to graduate from the University of the West Indies and the founder of Tots to Teens, she made a statement that resonated with me and one I want to share; “Children don’t just need parents they need parenting”. Parents I beseech you, please get engaged in all aspects of your child’s educational journey.
So Walk Good. Belle Marché