Celebrate Black History Month

February 26, 2013 posted by Jermaine Reed

(Councilman Jermaine Reed serves the Third District in the City of Kansas City, Missouri)

"Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history," spoke President Gerald Ford while promoting the expansion of Black History Week to Black History Month in 1976. These magnificent words of President Ford affirmed the African American narrative as too vast for a single week's lesson, but not yet embedded deeply enough in our schools' curriculum to celebrate Carter G. Woodson's dream of having Black History so rooted American History that special recognition is unnecessary.

Black History Month

"Find a way to get it done..."
"I remember it clearly..."
"Education is truly a civil rights issue"

I have the special honor and privilege of serving on the City Council in Kansas City, Missouri. And it does not escape me that I am able to hold office because of Tubman's nineteen trips north, Douglas' unmatched orations, Du Bois' gift for discovering social truth, King's dream, and countless other historical contributions by African American men and women before me. Their life's work and sacrifices, built on the tremendous hard work of others, form a staircase for future generation's access to a world-class education -- regardless of their race.

I was raised by a single mother of five children in the poorest part of town. But as a child, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by people who understood, and instilled in me, the importance of a quality education to enhance self-respect, confidence, and opportunities in life. This education was a great source of pride as an African American male; others expected more of me and I expected more of myself.

I am, however, deeply concerned that similar opportunities for children to improve themselves with a quality public education, are lacking. Our nation's public schools are under performing and my home, Kansas City, is no exception. Schools are not adequately preparing our children, especially in the urban core, to compete in a highly globalized economy.

It is absolutely disheartening to know that a kid's zip code is the best statistical indicator of his or her chance of being successful in life. A poor Black or Latino family's zip code usually forces them into under performing schools without the ability to explore other options for their kids.

We've reached the point as a nation that little disagreement exists with the idea that education reform is long overdue and parents should be given greater flexibility in their child's education. Because, let’s be honest, forcing a family to choose giving up their current residence to buy another home in an affluent neighborhood isn't a choice. I strongly believe empowerment comes from an education, which is a necessary prerequisite for meaningful civic reform and progress. I believe it's time for us to discuss education as the civil rights issue of our time, and get serious about the changes necessary to put our students first. The lack of better school choices for many families throughout the nation demonstrates that we still have a lot of work to do. Equal educational opportunity is an important part of the continuing civil rights movement. With the lack of equal access to a high quality education disproportionately hindering black youth, there is no better time than in Black History Month to remember the sacrifices of those who came before us and to continue to fight for policies that gives every child in this country the very best shot at success.

Topics: School Choice