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Education, Still the Key to Success

-- Communities Must Partner Together

Black news from Pasadena - Commentary on education, the key to successThe Wednesday, January 11, 2011 New York Times published a front page story about a Black South African mother who was trampled to death waiting in line to get her child a seat in the state funded University. This was an opportunity to get a top quality education in one of the schools where Blacks were not allowed to attend during Apartheid. Thousands of Black South Africans waited in the lines before the break of day to try to get a seat. These South Africans understand that education is their ticket out of generational poverty, homelessness and joblessness.

The struggle to get an education is universally recognized as the key to progress and the road that leads out of poverty to better health, fewer unwanted pregnancies, less violence, less infant mortality, and fewer High School drop-outs. Of course, it leads to better employment and higher educational opportunities. This week I encountered a single, unemployed mother of three children at the courthouse. She has two of her children in the system and was trying to get the message to them that education, progressive friends, and not shortcuts or crime, was the best road to success. This mother should not be alone in her struggle to keep her children in school. We all need to find a way to help her and others like her.

In Memphis, Tennessee Mayor AC Wharton Jr., an African American, has initiated a number of programs to make education more desirable because the message is that education leads to prosperity. Wharton recognizes that an anti-poverty program that merely promises things is useless unless it reaches those in need of the help.

Through Wharton, the city of Memphis has initiated a Family Reward Program. The program gives families cash incentives to achieve certain educational milestones that ultimately lead to promised better educational and health opportunities. I note that these programs received a lot of criticism from those basically saying you shouldn't pay kids to get good grades and do better in school. Instead, they should do it because it is right.

Well, children don't know what is right or wrong unless their parents teach it. Wealthy and rich parents don't have a problem paying their children for good grades. But it's not good for our poor children; why is that? Young people know that if they practice their basketball or their rapping they may get a shot at a better life, and get paid. Why don't we teach them the same is true if they get good grades in science, English and math? So is that it? Should we only teach the Black kids they can prepare to entertain white rich folks on their sports field or on the stage, but not tell them that the rich folks get rich by getting better grades in math, science and Literature? No, we should teach them that they can go to Law school or go to Business school and get an MBA, or train to become teachers, go to Medical school to become doctors, attend schools of Architecture or Engineering and build things.

Barack Obama's daddy was absent. His mother, at some point, was on food stamps. Before she died of cancer at an early age, she taught him that he'd better apply himself, and if he did, he could be anything he wanted to be. Michele Obama's mother and her disease-crippled father taught her the same thing, by words and by example. Her father was sickly but provided his children, Greg and Michele, with positive role models. Greg and Michele did what they had to do, until they could do what they wanted to do, after they became successful in finishing their education and entered their careers. I have always loved to read so I was always looking for something to read, comic books, books or newspapers. When I was young I stopped reading sports and entertainment because I didn't see how either was going to help me reach any of my life's goals.

Back in Memphis, Mayor Wharton preaches that it is important to make Memphis a successful town. In order to do it he believes the whole city must engage in the program as partners in a great experiment. In that partnership, churches, neighborhood groups, restaurants and other businesses in racially diverse parts of the city must find ways to hire youth who, at the end of the day, must find outabout earning money, rather than looking for something free. It should be noted that Memphis felt so strongly about the benefits of education that in March 2011, they merged two different School Districts together. The voters in a referendum voted to join the Shelby County and Memphis City School Districts together to improve the educational system for their students.

The idea of improving communities and families through community educational partnerships is universal, whether it is Johannesburg, South Africa, Memphis, Tennessee, or Pasadena, California. Locally, the proposal by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino for Historically Black Colleges and Universities to partner with the University of California in certain graduate and undergraduate programs is taking shape. The programs are scheduled to begin this summer. A kickoff event will take place on Tuesday, January 24, 2012 at 11:30 a.m., at the site of the Robinson Memorial, on the corner of Garfield Ave. and Holly Street (across from Pasadena City Hall. The public is invited. In addition to Assemblyman Portantino, other speakers taking part in the kickoff program include Lawrence Pitts, University of California Provost; Dean Rich Lyons, UC Berkeley Haas School of Business; Robert Davidson, Chair of the Morehouse Board of Trustees; and Journal Publisher, Attorney Joe Hopkins. Come out and show your support.