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Urban Education: The New Civil Rights Movement

The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington has allowed us to pause and reflect upon the progress made or not made by the civil rights movement throughout the years.

In my opinion, it is clear that education remains the root of all positive change for the urban community. It is also clear the only way to really build up or tear down a community is to strengthen or weaken its educational delivery system.

Education is a science of the mind. The whole purpose of education is to shape students’ thinking and sense of identity. I believe the greatest travesty of the civil rights movement was its failure to galvanize its agenda around the educational imperative that was expressed in the desegregation efforts of the NAACP.

Most people today, particularly those we have deemed our leaders, have either forgotten or become complacent when it comes to the topic of education. They may shy away from education because they feel it is too big of a nut to crack. But steady is the turtle that takes its time to finish the race. Social change is not about the hare’s sprint to the finish line, but about those who commit to going the distance — as long as it takes.

The community can ill-afford leaders who continuously lose focus, get off task, take on new issues outside of their expertise and finish little. In this inconsistent approach, the fundamental issue — improved educational opportunity — languishes unaddressed in a growing sea of social apathy, while each succeeding generation belts out a resounding “SOS!” The root cause of most discrimination is ignorance that can best be addressed through improved education. It is not surprising that education, the world over, is considered the only true path to freedom and lasting change.

To me, the potential for our people to enjoy a better future depends upon the extent that our leaders can maintain a consistent focus on strengthening our educational system for our children. Collectively, we must be passionate about the belief that “when you learn better, you live better; and when you live better, you love better; and when you love better, our families and community benefit.”

We all have the innate ability and power to become the next Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B Du Bois or Fannie Lou Hamer of our generation. Every student deserves to be inspired through reading and learning about the great achievements and opinions of past and present true leaders.

As Malcolm X once said, “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.”

Let our leadership legacy be the deeds left for our future leaders to discover in their ongoing efforts to bring positive change to their communities.

This is imperative, because we know this mantra will not end with this generation. The world is too sinful for this to be true. However, we do know that darkness does not rule out darkness. Only light can do that. And through education, our students — like Du Bois, King and many other legends — are holding torches to ensure the presence of light will help future generations find their way in the dark.



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