‘Take Em Down Nola’ is Ed Reform at its Finest
If you think “Take Em Down Nola” is just about monuments, then allow me to broaden your thoughts on the importance of the history that was just made. It is not a coincidence that the movement was spearheaded by a group of dedicated and creative educators who have succeeded in fulfilling one of the greatest acts in education ever. The collaboration of ‘K-16’ educators is something that is dreamed of by organizations throughout the nation who call for increased alignment with policies and strategies in regards to the move from K-12 to postsecondary education. From Malcolm Suber, an adjunct professor and long time activist in New Orleans to Michael “Quess?” Moore, a colorful, vivid and visionary librarian and teacher along with Angela Kinlaw the powerful, dedicated and vocal K-8 principal, the role of educator is looking great marching toward the future while simultaneously absorbing the strength and social fortitude of educators of a distinguished past. The Take Em Down Nola movement should be used as a catalyst in education throughout the world.
I always push the mantra of controlling the narrative through conversation, dialogue and actions. In my humble opinion, the removal of these monuments has shifted the narrative to focus on a part of history that was never told. Take Em Down Nola has begun to literally change history and history books for the betterment of all of our education.
Deeper than a symbolic act of a removal is giving hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children of African descent a voice and the opportunity for their story to be told. The movement can be used by people of various ethnic backgrounds and cultures to insert their coveted and sacred narratives into places that have historically been according to white men and whatever versions of stories that they wanted the world to know and learn.
The movement also embraces the notion of parent and stakeholder engagement that Ed Reform and charter schools advocates speak of so dearly. Take Em Down Nola has also worked alongside a vast group of community organizations and activists as well as supporting other the campaigns of other civics groups. They have also engaged their students about the true, and untold history that lie beneath every story, monument, plaque situated amongst the unheard slave voices of the many plantations previously aligned along Louisiana’s waterways. In a classroom chat with his students, Michael “Quess?” Moore delves into the mind of our young people about their feelings on the monuments:
“I showed the news footage to my third graders. I asked them if they could make a connection between the man in the statue and the discussions that we had been having all year. “Yeah, that’s them people who wanted to keep slavery,” they said. “That’s right,” I told them. “And what do you think our city is trying to tell us when they make people like that monuments and put ’em way up in the sky?” “That they over us, like our parents,” said one student. “That they have power,” said another. Ahh…the mouths of babes. I told them that they’d just spoken a truth that even their great-grandparents may have not been able to freely articulate”.
The city of New Orleans removal of monuments erected to honor men who fought against our country and who desperately wanted to continue taking advantage of the free labor that made many of their families rich goes further than just symbolism. The work done by this group of educators can be used as a catalyst for classroom topics and discussions by other educators locally, nationally and worldwide. This is a chance to reinvent the narrative around what really happened during the time of these abominable men’s lives. The Take Em Down Nola movement offers an installation of stories to be shared throughout cultures and heritages. What a great time to be an educator or student with so many possibilities that lie ahead. This moment should be just the beginning.