The Second Line Blog


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By Gwen Samuel

I am in a self-reflective mood this evening in need of God’s wisdom and guidance. Why? I’m in deep thought about parent rights, particularly Black parents and the erosion of their Constitutional rights and of Black children and the total dismissal of their educational rights and social emotional well-being.  

We, as Black parents are crying entirely too many tears of desperation in our daily struggle for educational justice. 

In addition, a dear friend of mine just passed away a few days ago, Lorraine Farrar-James from Bridgeport, Connecticut.  She was a black mom and social justice activist who was taught by and walked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I dedicate this blog to her lifelong fight for educational justice and the legacy she leaves behind. She knew that as a Black mother, her destiny was tied to all Black parents and children in their fierce fight for educational justice.

Parents- It’s Time to Move From the Sidelines into the Game of Education

We, as parents, find ourselves increasingly playing defense in the fight for our children’s future. It is time to go on the offense and change the rules of the status quo’s educational game that harms our children EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!     

Just last week, I attended a Black educators event and the statement “Black kids are the New Cotton” was made among the closing remarks.

I remember taking in a sharp breath, looking around the room for facial expressions to see if I misunderstood the statement.

The participants’ deer in headlights eyes affirmed I heard what I heard and the daily fears of this Black mom for the education, social and emotional wellbeing of our black children was validated. 

To be brutally honest, I felt a strong wave of hopelessness and helplessness at that very moment because hearing black children being referred to as cotton- a commodity for sale – through public education funding brought memories and stories of my grandparents and great grandparents who lived on a plantation as property to be bought and sold because the law said they were not human beings.

I had to ask myself, how far would the traditional public schools, that are totally run by teacher unions, go to maintain the status quo of keeping an unjust public education system unchanged and unchallenged?  

Nobody wants to say it, but teacher unions are not supposed to have total control of an entire educational system that has multiple stakeholders and interests, the most important constituent being the student! 

Charter founder Margaret Fortune doesn’t mince words on the subject: 

“We have to be in a situation as Black families to hold everybody accountable for the performance of Black kids. We can’t get into a situation where Black kids are the new cotton and we’re harvesting them for their public-school funding.”

Fortune is upfront about her fundamental belief that California’s traditional public schools have a failing record when it comes to Black kids. And she sees the California Teachers’ Associations constant fight against the existence of charter schools to really mean “we can’t teach Black kids and we will not let anybody else.” Please, say it again for the people in the back, my sister.

The Constitution Matters

The constitution of this country guarantees liberty and justice for all — and that must include educational freedom. We as parents have the right to raise our children according to our values, culture, and beliefs. 

As parents, we need to move from being just empowered to in power thus choosing the best educational option for our children. We deserve and demand the right to prioritize the safety and academic success of our children. Our babies deserve their God given right to be free to learn, thrive and grow. Our children deserve to be free from abuse and educational neglect from a public educational system that deems them inferior and not worth educating or respecting.   

In recent years, I have noticed changes in law and public policy that trample on parental choice in public education. These attacks on our freedom often come in the form of moratoriums  and caps being placed on high quality public charter schools—schools that are in high demand and serve majority Black and Hispanic children in many urban communities. 

Just this week marginalized communities from across the country felt the sting of anti- parental choice from the House Democrats when they released their spending bill—it includes a recommended $40 million reduction from the federal charter school grant program but an $18 million increase to magnet schools. Unlike most charters, most magnet schools are run by very traditional thinking school districts that value their teacher’s union and their multimillion-dollar perks more than their Black and Hispanic children and their right to a safe and just education. How do I know? I got receipts! 

In my state of Connecticut, magnet schools use racial quotas that deny access to Hartford’s eligible Black and Hispanic children on wait lists though they live in the neighborhoods of these magnets. Someone explain to me how is that putting children first? 

The Urgent Call To Action Because Our Kids Can’t Wait  

To all Black parents, we are faced with these questions:

  1. To what lengths will the teacher unions and the status quo, that allows them this monopoly over public education, go to maintain an educational system that views our Black children more like a commodity for sale than little human beings in need of a safe and quality education?
  2. How far are we, as parents, willing to go to protect our right as parents to choose the best educational option for our children thus ensuring their safety and academicsuccess? 

Let us be very clear, we are in a public education war. It is a teacher union-controlled monopoly over public education versus the constitutional rights of other people’s children in public education.

The first step is for us as parents to connect with allies, regardless of their political party, who will be honest with us about how overwhelming the fight can be against status quo protectors that work around the clock to keep our children trapped in public schools that they would never allow their own children to attend. But, let us not be fooled, just because someone says they work in parent engagement, does not mean that they are committed to informing parents of the very real threat to parent choice in public education. 

We have fought too long and too hard to expand our educational choices and we will fight just as hard to protect them.

The days of Black folk picking cotton are over and the days of picking on our Black children are done.  You do not have to like Black parents, but you must respect our parental choice in education! 

We Need to Better Equip Our Children of Color With the Tools to Overcome Trauma and Toxic Stress

If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. -Daniel Goleman

Creating conditions that generate healthy and successful outcomes for our society will require meeting the social and emotional needs of the most vulnerable among us.

Children of color are particularly vulnerable to poor mental health outcomes because of social inequalities stemming from structural racism. Examples of such social inequalities are poverty, segregated neighborhoods resulting from this country’s history of racist housing practices, discrimination, unequal access to key educational resources, parental unemployment, violent neighborhoods, inadequate housing, and lack of transportation.

These inequalities coupled with a stigma around mental health discussions, misinformation about mental health and often exclusively relying on faith and spirituality rather than honest conversations and seeking help from mental health professionals, collectively contribute to poor mental health outcomes for children of color.

Data from the Institute of Women and Ethnic studies reveal youth of color in New Orleans suffer from PTSD four times the national average, that 53% have experienced the murder of someone close to them, and that 18% have actually witnessed a murder. Children of color and children living in poverty are more likely to have experienced three or more traumatic events referred to as adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s).

ACE’s can cause toxic stress which threatens the healthy development of the brains and bodies of children. Toxic stress can damage learning, behavior, and health across the lifespan. The effects of childhood trauma are so pervasive and enduring that it can result in reducing life expectancy by 20 years.

While it is important to acknowledge the severity of trauma and its impact on children, it is also important to note that the damage is not irreparable. Supportive, caring and emotionally responsive relationships between children and adults can serve as a buffer to the harmful effects of childhood trauma. However, for children of color, social inequalities often times disrupt a potential support system that could serve as a protective factor against the effects of childhood trauma and adverse childhood experiences.

In addition to social support, physical activity, therapy with a mental health practitioner, strengthening core life skills through social and emotional learning in schools and yoga/meditation/mindfulness are all ways to increase resilience in the face of childhood trauma.

Comprehensively addressing the social and emotional needs of children of color will require a concerted effort among policymakers, school-based mental health professionals, educators, parents/caretakers, and the community-at-large. As we continue to chart this emerging course towards trauma-informed cities, trauma-informed schools and general trauma-informed approaches, systemic integration of social and emotional learning in schools will be particularly important in effectively meeting the needs of children of color who live in poverty.

Social and emotional learning interventions show great promise in addressing inequities in education, created by a longstanding history of discriminatory practices, poverty, and social injustice. These conditions generate poor well-being in communities of color and create barriers to obtaining successful outcomes. Promoting the development of social and emotional skills has the potential to serve as a buffer to such barriers. Expanding the emotional intelligence of children in schools and the school staff they interact with daily, through social and emotional learning, will increase the ability of young people to manage their emotions in the face of adversity throughout their lives.

Not a good look for the New Beginnings Schools Foundation

Falsifying board records to justify a school bus contract, inflating students grades. What is really going with New Beginnings Schools Foundation.

“Specific allegations under review include: allegations of grade changing, allegations of retaliatory acts against an employee and allegations of open-meetings law violations,” 

Read more here

Opinion: Nola’s One App School Placement System Does Not Leave Parents Much Choice at All

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a full week since the EnrollNola One App school placements have been posted and yet there is no end to the parental anguish and anxiety in many households across the parish, perhaps even more so than during the month after month…after month of waiting. I am still flabbergasted at numerous times in the past few days alone that I have heard parents reacting to this process and their placement with, “We weren’t even placed,” “I got stuck with my very last choice,” or “Guess I’m forced to consider private school though I don’t know how I’m going to afford that,” and “How is this even legal??” 

Seriously, there has got to be a better way than playing roulette in a literal “luck of the draw” lottery placement system of the Orleans parish Charter schools.

As an Early childhood educator in Jefferson Parish public schools, and now as a mother, I have made painstaking efforts to instill a foundation of strong moral character, work ethic, and developmental skills in my daughter before I would even enter her into private pre-school at the age of three. I toured said school the year prior to her enrollment, and considered MANY factors before choosing a facility where she’d be nurtured, protected, and instructed to flourish in these similar ways. 

The feelings of angst and panic that have set in the closer she comes to spending her final days at the preschool that I CHOSE, that has exceeded my vote of confidence to enrich and educate her over the past year and a half, are largely due to the fact that this crucial decision in her education going forward won’t be up to me. Instead, it will be made by an algorithm that will be based largely on her sibling’s enrollment (which she doesn’t have), her current address, her previous enrollment in this system already (which is null and void since she’s starting Kindergarten), and her random lottery number. Is it just me or does that sound like a slap in the face?? 

But don’t worry, it gets worse…

If you visit the EnrollNola website to further educate yourself, which I highly suggest you do, you can view a short animated informational video narrated by what sounds like a warm and jolly “Black Santa” describing this no muss, no fuss, we pick and they simply assign the gift of school placement, rather than the nightmare it truly is. The video states that your child will be placed using YOUR “preferences, priorities, and a simple lotto number” when in reality it is enforced in the exact opposite way of a random lotto number within their specific priority group, and the absolute last thing that is considered is your list of chosen preferences. 

The highest preference is given first and foremost to returning students whose enrollment naturally rolls over. The next set of spots are available, up to a certain percentage at given schools, to lower social economic students. Then, priority groups go from those with siblings in the geographic area to those without siblings in the geographical area, to those who have neither siblings, nor are they returning, and may or may not be in the geographical area. Once they are put into these priority groups they are then assigned that lovely lottery number.  

Feeling like a winner yet??

Of course not!! And here are a few reasons why this matters SO much, especially as an educator and mother of a first time Kindergartener to this system. In case you haven’t heard, today’s Kindergarten is what our school day’s First grade used to be. In many schools at this level there is NO nap, limited to NO unstructured play (recess), progress monitoring throughout the year, and or district testing included that of a reading level. Children with insufficient foundations for reading by the end of their Kindergarten year SHOULD BE kept back. This is because, their First grade class will undoubtedly contain a larger number of students to one teacher, an increasingly rigorous curriculum with increasingly rigorous testing, and a struggling student in this grade can and will fall through the cracks, pull far too much away from whole class attention, and probably develop feelings of inadequacy and negativity towards their education in general.

This student does NOT simply “catch up.” Each year the deficiency in what they can and can’t do only grows. By second and third grade, their curriculum no longer teaches them to read, they are simply expected to read in order to learn and to pass state tests by doing so. Parents have the right to consider the critical factors of a school’s population (division of race, gender, class size) quality of staff (personal education, experience, teaching philosophy and temperament), discipline versus emotional facilitation (counseling, parent involvement, preparedness for the world at large), and test scores (which is largely about funding) versus schools that believe in actually educating to grow the student. In this system, we can research all of this and more, but still end up with the “throw away school” we listed as number seven simply to round out and complete our form, or worse NO PLACEMENT at all which leads you back to the waiting game in many cases. 

Here’s the moral of the story folks: in this system, maybe you hit the jackpot, maybe you crap out on something much too important that you may never get back, and the only ones who lose are our kids. Good luck out there!

Howard Alumna: Dear White People, Get off My Lawn!

Over the past 10 to 15 years, the news that the neighborhood surrounding my Alma Mater, Howard University in Washington, DC was “changing” to a more affluent one was never surprising to me because the EXACT same thing has been happening in my hometown of New Orleans. Both cities are plagued with gentrification. It’s hurtful, but I am dealing with it. 

However, when I read that Howard’s Yard has become a site for dog walking and yoga classes for local residents, I. FLIPPED. OUT. And to add insult to injury, when a colonizer, excuse me, local resident, Sean Grubbs-Robishaw, a 30-something-looking, bearded white male, and a self-proclaimed neighbor to Howard for over 15 years stated that our campus should move, well I flat out lost it! The first thing that came to mind: does this guy know ANYTHING about Howard? Our rich history? Our ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-TWO YEARS of residence in that community? What, he’s lived there 5 minutes compared to us? This guy CANNOT be serious! Does he even know the EXCELLENCE that has come from our campus over the last ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY TWO YEARS? It’s so many people: Allain Locke, Toni Morrison, Thurgood Marshall, Debbie Allen, Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, and countless others.  

The second thing that came to mind: These gentrifiers are doing WHAT on our Yard? (Yes, it’s capitalized for a reason) The Yard at Howard, like many other Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a sacred place. It is where we all headed on Fridays (in the late nineties, especially the first warm Friday in Spring) to meet up with our friends from different dorms, parts of campus, and majors to just hang out. We all looked forward to it. Even if you were a nerd, like me, that was stuck in the Valley for most of the time, you headed to the Yard to people watch. This is where the probate shows took place. You had to be there to see your homegirl or homeboy FINALLY cross the burning sands. It was a MUST. 

Why are you people doing yoga in our sacred spaces? I get that Howard has always opened its arms to its surrounding community but we are a PRIVATE university, lines have to be drawn. Doesn’t DC’s district 1, with all of its affluence, have plenty of green space for Becky and ‘em to do yoga and play fetch? Of course they do! So, with that being said, Dear White People: GET OFF MY LAWN!!


A Howard Alumna

Black Women Have to do “Self-Care” Differently

By Mariah Williams

If you’re reading this, it’s too late. Or it might be.

Though I hate to be as melodramatic as Drake in naming his album, this topic certainly warrants the exaggerated introduction. If you are a black woman in the U.S., at the point that you might start genuinely considering the benefits of self-care and taking the time to read an article like this, you have probably endured more to harm your health than any other demographic of people in this country. And as resilient as black women are, we are not superheroes. Our health is of the utmost importance, especially considering that we often ensure the health of the people in our households as well. Considering this, black women and girls must take intentional, uniquely positioned steps toward self-care in ways that others may not need.

Research continues to show that black women face health disparities in morbidity rates associated with heart diseasecancerpre-term births, and other illnesses. What research is also beginning to notice is that these worse off health outcomes can no longer be altogether attributed to different behavior choices or to genetics. Particularly in a study of infant mortality, similarly positioned black women seemed to have worse outcomes than their Hispanic and White counterparts and, while science had not been able to provide a total answer for such disparities, recent research suggests that black women endure greater threats to their health because of stress associated with racism.

This new theory, coined “weathering”, is the idea that black women become more susceptible to health challenges as they are confronted with persistent stress caused by social and environmental circumstances, such as discrimination in housing, education, and job attainment. That stress, which begins at an early age, “weathers” or ages a person so that a black woman in her 20’s faces greater difficulties in her pregnancy than a black girl in her teens, for instance.

Contrary to the opening line it is, indeed, too much of an exaggeration to indicate that it is too late for anyone reading this to be healthy. However, black women must care for themselves differently and earlier than others. Black women and girls should be aware of the pressures that affect our health, the stressors that show up physically in our bodies, and the options we have for addressing them. Self-care becomes something altogether different when one is equipped with the facts about health disparities and the ways chronic stress – in response to discrimination – presents itself.

Every woman will respond to her environment and to stress differently but bubble baths and candles may not be enough for your self-care regime. More intense work like seeing a therapist and utilizing health care services may need to be standard practice for every woman who has the luxury of accessing these services. For those who do not have access, practices such as meditation or prayer, daily exercise, and finding affinity groups with like-minded people can be key to confronting the experiences that age our bodies. Nothing is out of reach for black women when we’re equipped with proper knowledge and tools to help us succeed. Optimal health can be within our reach.

Mariah Williams is an advocate for social justice and cares deeply about equitable policies that address the underlying causes of racial and ethnic disparities in health and economic status. She showcases her poetry and other musings on her blog,

Students Suspended, Barred From Walking at Graduation Following ‘Senior Prank’

Many high school students look forward to the festivities of their senior year. Events such as prom, graduation, socials, and senior pranks are anticipated and cherished. Recently, students at Sophie B. Wright High School in New Orleans participated in a senior prank that has resulted in them being barred from engaging in fourth-year traditions. The prank apparently consisted of water-guns, eggs, vinegar, mustard, and water balloons being tossed at students and unfortunately faculty members.

Before engaging in the prank, the students were apparently warned several times of the consequences that would follow, including a final warning 30 minutes before the spectacle. As a result of the prank, three people were reportedly injured. The repercussions that followed varied, including students being suspended, or even expelled, and informed that they can no longer look forward to participating in prom and graduation. Shockingly, the charter board president shared with the public that the students may even face criminal and civil actions for the disruption. In this case, I feel that the authorities are being unnecessarily harsh.

For a moment, the board of Sophie B. Wright High School must remember the age of these students. They were just attempting to come together and make memories to conclude and celebrate their senior year. Many students see this as their opportunity to leave their mark at their soon to be alma mater. Instead of punishing them, officials should collaborate with students to ensure that events can take place that bring joy to the student body and allow them to reflect on their high school experience. Expulsions and suspensions will not only serve to reprimand them but will scar these young people and leave them with nothing but negative recollections of senior year.

In life, graduation is a major achievement that requires hard work and dedication. Not only are the students graduating, but their families in the crowd anticipating their name being called are as well. To remove their right to walk across the stage is far too harsh of a punishment. The students should be forced to do community service or something else that provides a lesson while benefiting them. Moving forward, the graduating class of 2019 at Sophie B. Wright High School deserves a chance to apologize and hopefully be endowed their right to participate in senior year activities.

Silence is Compliance

April is Sexual Abuse Awareness Month & Award Winning Local Director – Dominique McClellan is screening a very powerful and timely film called “Silence is Compliance”. Dillard University is hosting a screening on Saturday, April 13th that is complimentary to the public and will include a panel discussion with local leaders and organizations around the #MeToo #TimesUp movement. This event is in collaboration with the New Orleans Family Justice Center & United Way. And the film features an ALL Black Cast & Crew with all production dollars spent in the local community!