|Rev. Gregory Edwards|
He is first and foremost a preacher. So what you see below is exactly what you might hear at what he calls an "After Meetin' Eatin'" Church, known to people like me as AME.
Words on a computer screen are no replacement for listening to what really is a show, but let me give you the rest of his address to the Elks on Monday. It struck a chord in me, and pissed many of you off, and that's a good thing. .
When we look at the outcomes academically, and we go to Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia and Allentown, we ought to be outraged that our young black and Latino men, in particular, score single digit level proficiency in math and science and reading. So we got churches that can name it and claim it, but can't spell it. Shoutin' and not sproutin'. So somehow, we have to reawaken ourselves that if in fact public education is a guaranteed right of every citizen native to the soil, that has got to be a front on which we need to stand. We've got to begin to organize locally and we've got to begin to reclaim our children's history when it comes to public education.
If our children cannot read by third grade, you know what happens academically. From Kindergarten to third grade, children are learning to read. After third grade, they are reading to learn. California already begins to forecast how many prisons they build by the reading scores of third graders.
In my social context, in Allentown, nearly 70% of our third graders are not at third grade reading levels. So now, Ray Ray and Pookie can't read. Then what happens is our children go into middle school. What happens in middle school, those transition years? They go through puberty. Some of y'all remember that, right? You survived it, they'll survive it, too. But their bodies begin to change. Their voices begin to deepen. But at the end of the day, they're our babies, our children. But they are placed in the hands of people who have some level of cultural dissonance and don't understand that just because a child is different doesn't mean he's deficient.
Now because our children have struggled - can't read - they begin to see some behavioral issues. They no longer become cute. Now they're in crisis and they begin to be labeled. But the state gives every school district extra funding for special education, which is therefore why our children end up in special education.
We are funding what I call educational apartheid in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
It is not required for a child to go to kindergarten. So you can have a 7 year old show up for school, never having been around children his or her age which means they have not been socialized to the learning environment. If we cannot socialize to the learning environment, your behavior begins to be different. But because our teachers in large part don't look like our students, there is empirical categorizing and there is the evolution of a slow, slow, slow, slow, slow, slow change.
Our children think they are dumb. I have never encountered a child who can not learn. I've encountered a whole lot of folk who can't teach, bt i have never encountered a young person who is not creative, who does not have some level of artistry residing in him, who does not want to be listened to or heard. But I have run into some incompetent people who call themselves teachers.
In his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire says that education is not just a way out of poverty, but a way to end it. If you're really educated and you have your credentials and your pedigree, you know that you didn;t get there by yourself.
Folk in public education teach head, but they very rarely touch heart. Education that is valuable and first class touches head and heart. If you educate someone's head, but you never touch their heart, that's why we have public policy looking the way it looks. That's why we have the folks running for office who are running for office. Information is not the same thing as intelligence.
One of my heroes, Marian Wright Edelman, was the president of the Children's Defense Fund and was also a Freedom Rider in 1964, took some students to Mississippi in what is called the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Mississippi was the last state to allow blacks to vote. They began to take responsibility for what public schools wouldn't do. They met in the basements of churches. They met under poplar trees. They met on the lawn. And they taught children of color, not only how to read, not only how to write, but how to think for themselves. They taught them about the Constitution. They taught them about civic engagement. They taught them that one can't truly participate in their own humanity of they're not educated. We will always be on the receiving end of someone else's wind.
We cannot send our children to school and think that's enough. There used to be a time when they were in school for a season, but the rel learning happened at home and in the church, at the park, around the corner in Big Momma's house.
We've gotta' reclaim our sense of family so that it truly does take a village. We cannot say, "Those are somebody else's children." They are either all of our children or none of our children.
I'm so glad that somebody along my way spoke to me and encouraged me when my 8th grade guidance counselor said, "You ought not to go to college. You're not college material."
I shouted all the way across the stage when I got my bachelor's degree. I danced all across the stage when i got my master's degree. And then I said "Thank Ya'" when I got my Doctoral degree. i didn't go back and curse her. i thanked her becaue she gave me a sea of resiliency and "STILL I RISE" and "STILL I RISE" and "STILL I RISE."
We've got to give that to our children who ARE SOMEBODY, STILL YOU RISE. YOU ARE OUR CHILDREN. YOU COME FROM GREATNESS.
Langston Hughes asks,
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Our children are brilliant! Brilliant! We have to reclaim out children.
So what am I asking you to do?
I'm asking us to be free, free to show up at the next school board meeting, and even if you don't like public speaking, write down that question. Go get yourself in some good trouble.