Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fair and Equitable Free and Public Education system for all students.

As I return from the Equal Justice Initiative's Peace and Justice Summit and grand opening of the Legacy Museum and the Peace and Justice Memorial, I am reflecting on the entire experience and I am full. I feel as if I am ready to birth a new movement, but it is not new-- more like revived, renewed, recycled. This movement is to champion educational justice through the lens of humanity and equity.  Although the physical journey through the museum and memorial was short in distance, it was a long journey in time, spanning back over 200 years. The journey shined light on how far we have come and how far we still need to go.

As I walked through the memorial and read the reasons men, women and children were lynched,  it became apparent the lynch mobs' goals were not merely to kill an individual, but,  instead,  to kill the seeds of equality, justice, fairness, prosperity and humanity.   Some of the reasons individuals were lynched ranged from refusing to vacate their own property, organizing sharecropers, writing a note, testifying against a white man,  registering Blacks to vote, and complaining about being discriminated against.    As I reflect on the past and present state of and experiences in many communities of color,  it could be argued, the mobs in part achieved their goals.   Today, in 2018, there still remains remnants of the terror that lynchings imparted on an entire race. The remnants of inequality, injustice, greed, and inhumanity are embedded in many of our institutions and structures.

As I walked through the museum,  I was overwhelmed by the lack of humanity reflected in photos of those who gathered to bear witness to lynchings and attacks, as if it were entertainment. There were men, women and even children in the crowds.   As I looked at the crowds, it became even more evident to me that passive observance is passive consent.  Sitting or standing in silence does not make us less guilty of the deplorable acts we witness.   Not directly participating is not innocence. 

Yes, lynchings are no more, but we continue to grapple with institutions and structures that achieve the same outcomes as lynchings,  including, but not limited to:  inequality, injustice, unfairness, and dramatically limiting access to education and financial prosperity for people of color.  The same agenda with different methods of attainment.  There continues to be work to be done!

As an educator, advocate, and social justice warrior, I attended the Equal Justice Initiative's Peace and Justice Summit, as well the museum and memorial grand openings to gain tools and insight to continue working to ensure all students, especially students of color,  have access to a high quality, fair and equitable free and public education system.  For me,  this means educational professional are supported and held accountable to professional standards; policies and practices are monitored to ensure fairness; success for all students is at the center of all decisions; elected officials are held accountable for desired outcomes for all students; best practices become memorialized in policies as the norm and expectation;  identified injustices and inequities are directly addressed and remedied; and lastly, the students with the greatest needs receive the appropriate levels of support and services.  To do this important work, leaders must be results driven, continuously challenge status quos and mental models,  master the critical and hard conversations, set professional expectations with accountability, advocate for resources and services, and invest in capacity building.

I am excited to continue this work with social justice advocates, near and far.  I highly recommend a visit to the Equal Justice Initiative's Legacy Museum and Peace and Justice Memorial.  For those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it!

Committed to the work,

ShaKenya Edison