In times past when Black Americans were just getting out of bondage and trying to find their way in the world, schools were created to light the way. When the doors of public education were shut to Black students, the Black churches created schools and colleges. In a throwback to those years of deprivation, a group in Memphis, Tennessee has created a group called, Tennessee Clergy for Educational Choice.
The organization, according to a half page advertisement in the Tri-State Defender newspaper out of Memphis, appears dedicated to gaining scholarships for Black students. The group cites the alleged facts that in Tennessee the statewide graduation rate for Black students is only 62 percent. They seem to be dedicated to equalizing the educational score by providing scholarships for Black students.
The advertisement is signed by 29 ministers from Shelby County Tennessee and includes leaders of a few church associations, called The Opportunity Scholarship Program.
Since I don’t live in Tennessee, I won’t comment on the organization except to applaud its apparent goal of making education available to more Black students. I support that, but I do wish more of our churches would be dedicated to educating more of our children.
It is heart breaking to see much of the money dedicated to the purpose of the church wasted on frivolous things like mini-mansions for pastors when the children are in need. Ironically, when I bring up the subject, the amen corner is too often silent.
A prime example of missed opportunity in Pasadena is the Pasadena Youth Christian Center built by Ed Bryant before he passed some years ago. And yet there it sits on North Raymond Avenue, and none of our churches have shown any interest in reopening its doors to our children, not even the church next door to it. We need to support the children. They truly are our future. We don’t need to keep starting over. We know that education is the answer. I have often said every church that doesn’t have a children’s ministry leader dedicated to lifting up our children, needs to get one.
Pasadena is a community with more private schools per available student population than most cities. Where are the private Black schools? I know of just one, and I haven’t visited that one lately so I don’t know if it still exists.
If education is the key, I subscribe to Robert Franklin’s prescription for solving the problem. First, I want to say that I prescribe to public education, but these days, that position needs to be tackled with a sense of being at war with those who have been trying to destroy it since Brown vs. Board of Education said educational equality has to be based on equality as a goal.
Robert M. Franklin, former Morehouse president, sets out in his book, “Crisis in the Village” (Restoring Hope in African American Communities), the following six-step strategy for solving problems: (1) Enlist specific institutions; (2) Assign specific roles to the institutions; (3) Elaborates an accountable framework; (4) Incorporate a developmental approach to action mobilization; 5) Appeal for broad public support; and, (6) mobilize every willing and able person to tackle the problems that now threaten our families, our communities, our democracy.
These steps can work for solving the problem of equalizing educational opportunity for all African American students if we can pick up where we are and find committed people to solve the problem.