Black History Today: Caine Lowery, authentic teacher and humble learner

Black History Today: Caine Lowery, authentic teacher and humble learner

“What a teacher is, is more important than what he teaches.”

Many have said that it’s the respect from your peers, no matter the profession, that matters the most.

When I think about men who teach not just from the book but from who they are, full in their authenticity and growth, and inspire students, families and staff, Caine Lowery is one of the first that comes to mind.

Read More

Black History Today: Phil Jerrod Heath, 'The Gift' who keeps on giving

Black History Today: Phil Jerrod Heath, 'The Gift' who keeps on giving

Jesse Owens famously stated, “We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline and effort.”

When I think about determination, dedication, self discipline and effort, few spring to the forefront of my mind faster than Phil Jerrod Heath, a South Seattle product and one of the most hungry yet humble people you’ll ever meet.

Phil is a seven-time Mr. Olympia competition champion, amongst numerous other accolades. Five years ago (and every year since) I decided to go to Las Vegas to go support a childhood friend. Little did I know that in his world, he’s a megastar.

Read More

Black History Today: Anthony Rose, inspiring artist and visionary dream-chaser

This post is part of an ongoing Black History Month series written by Marcus Harden, a pillar of the South Seattle community and a truly unsung hero, as he honors the living legacy of Black history in his neighborhood and beyond, and recognizes the people who are shaping the future.

anthony rose.jpg

By Marcus Harden

#BlackHistoryToday7

As kids, we are often told to follow our dreams. As parents, we often tell our children to chase their dreams. Somewhere in between, though, we begin preaching practicality and reality and a part of us dies.

One person who lives his dreams in a way that is unapologetic and to his own beat is Anthony Rose. Anthony embodies the notion that only those whom dare to chase their dreams are bold enough to catch them.

How so? By moving to Los Angeles and stepping out on faith. Being unrelenting in living by his values of honesty, presenting his culture in a meaningful way and holding true to the arts of photography, film, poetry and the other mediums he brilliantly manages.

Meaning often times being questioned on his path or his method. People taking advantage of his heart and passion for other people. Yet never allowing those things to turn his mind or heart cold.

His vision not only as an artist, but as a community advocate and friend, are equally incredible attributes. He is truly the person who will give you the shirt off of his back. If you need a couch to sleep on, if it means he has to be overdrawn for you to share his last $20, he does it without blinking an eye.

As “success” begins to find him, his fingerprints on recent film releases, red carpet parties and the very companies that turned him down are now asking to work with him. Fame or Hollywood won’t change him, but he will undoubtedly continue to change them.

He takes incredible joy in making sure that when he climbs, everyone else climbs with him. His selflessness, compassion and vision — not only for himself, but for others — are why I’m honored to call him Brother and friend, and why “Ant Rose” is Black history, today.


Black History Today: Rev. David Hardy, Sr., an everyday neighborhood hero

Black History Today: Rev. David Hardy, Sr., an everyday neighborhood hero

I deeply believe that your life has to be a reflection of your values and beliefs. That’s truly the only “legacy” we have. It's what living every day is about.

One of the idols who exemplified and taught me that powerful lesson was Rev. David Hardy, Sr.

Read More

Black History Today: Cornelius Minor, passionate educator teaching reading as a pathway to liberation

Black History Today: Cornelius Minor, passionate educator teaching reading as a pathway to liberation

If you’ve been fortunate enough to be successful in spaces, you know for people of color, especially Black men, the higher up you climb the lonelier it tends to get.

Ten years ago I was told I had to meet Cornelius Minor. I knew immediately we were being put on a Black professional “play date” 😂. While I respected the thought, I wasn’t that enthused.

I’ve never been more proud to be wrong.

Read More

Do we have any reason to believe the Seattle School Board has the skills needed to choose a superintendent who can close our opportunity gaps?

Do we have any reason to believe the Seattle School Board has the skills needed to choose a superintendent who can close our opportunity gaps?

The Seattle School Board is in the beginning stages of finding a new superintendent to lead Seattle Public Schools. Also, they're apparently near the finish line.

Despite the fact that the application materials still aren’t available online, Ray and Associates, the firm chosen to conduct the search, still lists Feb. 28 as the deadline to apply. The board, meanwhile, after opening their ears to a brief moment of community input, has apparently decided to stay the course and still plans to hire the new superintendent before the end of March.

That doesn't give us much time.

First off, here's what the board says they're looking for in a candidate...

Read More

Columbia City's anti-bias, community-focused preschool is having an open house on Friday

Columbia City's anti-bias, community-focused preschool is having an open house on Friday

We’ve been navigating the ins and outs of assimilation and inequitable public schooling for our whole lives — and as parents for several years now with Julian. We’re being as conscious as we can be and going a day or a school year at a time, but I’m confused most of the time and not at all sure that we’re doing the right thing. The idea of now voluntarily giving our three-year-old over to the same system — of willingly starting this whole process anew, even knowing what I know — caused me such momentary near-panic that I wasn’t sure I would find a school for him that I could stomach.

Then one day last summer we stumbled onto a brand new preschool that was about to open in the south end of Seattle. Columbia City Preschool of Arts & Culture, we learned, would be centered around an anti-bias, anti-racist curriculum, with a focus on loving service to the community. And play, of course.

"We're looking to create the confidence that when these kids go into predominantly white schools that they can bring counter narratives to the school," Benjamin Gore, one of the preschool’s teachers and founders, told KING5 News last year.

If we’re being honest, that alone addressed most of my concerns.

Read More

Wait, you mean you're not crazy? You must not be paying attention.

Wait, you mean you're not crazy? You must not be paying attention.

Good day, friends.

I’m just writing to give you a heads-up that I’m crazy now.

I had been hovering right on the edge for quite a while, obviously, but I think Neal Morton's recent Seattle Times article officially pushed me off the deep end. He pointed out that we’ve been talking about the opportunity gaps along racial and socioeconomic lines in Seattle Public Schools since the ‘50s — and that today, they’re worse than ever.

In other words, we’ve been acknowledging that things need to change for 70 years now without actually making any changes.

Tell me that’s not enough to drive you crazy.

Read More

Am I crazy? Or are things actually much worse than they seem?

Am I crazy? Or are things actually much worse than they seem?

Our schools are inequitable. That much I knew coming in. Students of color are disciplined more frequently and harshly than white students, even for the same basic behaviors. The are typically viewed and treated differently based on their teachers’ implicit biases. These and other factors combine to produce opportunity gaps along racial and socioeconomic lines.

In other words, students of color and low-income students have access to fewer, different and inequitable opportunities than their more affluent white peers. This creates what is often referred to as “achievement gaps,” which refers to the discrepancy in academic outcomes based on these same factors of race, gender identity and family income.

But the more I wrote, the more I found I had to learn, and as I learned about the theories and realities that have created our current inequities, I also started to live first-hand the experience of inequity in education. I experienced the failures of our public school system at Emerson Elementary School, the neighborhood public school where we send our son, and I realized — vividly, painfully — that every year we fail to close the gap or to improve a struggling school represents at best a year lost for thousands of kids and families in Seattle. At worst, it represents a year of continued trauma.

I tried to figure out what to do. I began to surprise myself by wondering, at what point is it irresponsible to send my biracial son through these doors every day?

Read More

I may be crazy now, but at least my eyes are open

I may be crazy now, but at least my eyes are open

I rode out to Ferguson from St. Louis with DeRay Mckesson on the night after the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s murder. We parked on a side street and walked a few blocks to the intersection of Florissant Ave. and Canfield Dr.

From there, we walked into a buzz of people and activity.

Read More

Am I just acting like a sad-sack Vikings fan by not yanking my kids out of Seattle Public Schools?

Am I just acting like a sad-sack Vikings fan by not yanking my kids out of Seattle Public Schools?

This isn’t easy to admit right now, so I’m just going to come out and say it:

I’m a Vikings fan.

It’s true.

I’ve loved the Vikings all my life. When I was in 8th grade, I wore a Cris Carter jersey to school every Monday and Thursday pretty much all year long. I would have worn it even more if I wasn’t so sure that the wrong people would notice and harass me for wearing the same shirt every day.

I found that purple No. 80 jersey in a box in my parents’ basement in Iowa when we visited after Christmas a few weeks back, and I brought it home to Seattle along with my “lucky” purple Vikings socks. I was wearing the full ensemble yesterday for the first time in almost 20 years as I watched the Vikes get blown out by the Eagles 38-7 in the NFC Championship Game.

It was a genuine heartbreaker.

Read More

Guest Post: Five Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Guest Post: Five Lessons from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day we celebrate the life of a Civil Rights hero who believed in ordinary people’s ability to do extraordinary things. It’s an important day to reflect on his legacy, but too often Martin Luther King Jr. Day is tokenized schools. When we fail to engage students in meaningful conversations about Dr. King’s legacy and the Civil Rights Movement, we fail to help students understand their own place in the ongoing struggle for racial justice.

Last week I gave a talk at Lakota Middle School’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly, and I asked students to consider five lessons from Dr. King. I also asked students to share their own ideas about how to bring people together to fight for racial justice, both in the world and in their own middle school.

Here are the five lessons from Dr. King that I asked students to consider.

Read More

The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

The Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards: Honoring a Handful of 2017's Local Heroes

Welcome one and all to the first semi-annual, fully manual Rise Up and Be Recognized Awards. Thank you for being here, wherever that may be.

These awards were created by me as a way to recognize a handful of Washingtonians who deserve a few extra hand-claps for the way their work and their way of life contributed to positive change in 2017.

The judging process was stringent and unscientific. I created the categories to suit my fancies, and I’ve awarded fake awards to whatever number of people I please. By the end, I’ll have failed to mention just about everyone, so if you find you've been omitted, don’t despair. The pool of nominees was limited to people I know about and managed to think of while writing this, and as a periodic shut-in, that’s not as long a list of names as you might think. For instance, I only finally discovered a few months ago that Chance the Rapper is amazing, if that gives you some idea. So, if you or someone you know has been egregiously overlooked, please get in touch with me and I’m sure I’d be happy to make up some new awards in the near future.

Read More

Seven decades of lip service is more than enough. When will Seattle Public Schools actually do something about closing racial opportunity gaps?

Have you read Neal Morton’s article in the Seattle Times about racial inequity in Seattle Public Schools? I’ve got plenty of thoughts, but honestly, the facts laid out in the article speak for themselves.

In fact, the headline alone speaks for itself:

Racial equity in Seattle schools has a long, frustrating history — and it’s getting worse

Just to drive the point home, here’s the sub-headline:

“For at least seven decades, Seattle Public Schools has pledged to eliminate the gaps in achievement between students of color and their white peers. But even as district leaders swear their latest efforts are more than just another round of rhetoric, the gaps continue to grow.”

Seven decades!

Think about that. This conversation about racial inequity in Seattle Public Schools is older than most current students' grandparents. There can’t possibly be anything new to add, anything worth saying that hasn't already been said and ignored.

It really gives a sense of how endlessly we are able to confuse well-intentioned spinning wheels for progress.

Seattle Public Schools have always produced wide opportunity gaps. This institutional racism continues to produce wide, unacceptable opportunity gaps. If that’s not a clear and accepted truth by now, then it might never be.

There is no time left to debate this truth. The gaps exist. We know that. Next.

We have long since moved past the time when simply acknowledging our inequity was enough, if such a time ever existed. Measuring the gaps, describing them as appalling, and continuing to go about your business as usual is not enough.

Words are not enough unless they are backed up by action. Believing the opportunity gaps are unacceptable is not enough until we stop accepting them.

Our thoughts about these gaps exist only in our own minds unless we are very conscious about living out our ideas. Your set of beliefs and values about what’s right and wrong are not enough unless they are given life by your actions.

To everyone working in our schools: if you’re not here to do something about these gaps — and if you're not prepared to be accountable for what you do and what you leave undone — then your time is past.

Seattle families have been banging their heads against the same wall for seventy years now. We’ve been perpetuating racism through our acceptance of an intolerable status quo for that entire time as well.

It’s awfully hard to convince myself it's a good idea to wake up Tuesday morning and send my son, who is not white, back to Emerson Elementary, our long-neglected neighborhood school in the Seattle district. In what way have Seattle Public Schools earned my son’s presence? We know, based on 70 years of meaningful inaction, that they cannot promise to treat my son the same as they’ll treat the white kids. We know, based on 70 years of failure to change, that all of our current advocacy efforts will not work in time to make a difference for my son.

We know that talk is cheap and that timid, tepid plans are not going to lead us where we need to go. I’ll say it again: Believing the opportunity gaps in Seattle’s schools are unacceptable is not enough until we stop accepting them.

I’m determined to do more than talk, to do more than just complain about the status quo while supporting it with my actions and inactions.

So, how do we move beyond words and take action to truly disrupt a system that has been openly racist for 70 years?

For me, as a parent writing about inequity in Seattle schools while raising kids of color, at what point does that look like pulling my kids out of public school? At what point does it look like students and families boycotting an institution with a documented history of racism stretching as far back into the past as we can see? When do we stop voluntarily participating in this form of oppression?

 

James 2:14-17

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

On Whose Land Do You Stand? A Letter from Chief Seathl (Seattle) of the Suwamish Tribe to then-POTUS Franklin Pierce, 1854

My partner gave me this book, "Mother Earth Spirituality" by Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, for Christmas this year. I've been devouring books along these lines for the better part of a year now. (I'd be happy to share a longer list of what I've read, enjoyed and learned from recently — leave a comment or send a message if you're interested or, even better, if you have a recommendation of your own).

Read More

Four Things That Must Stay in 2017 and the Boss Behavior Required for 2018

Four Things That Must Stay in 2017 and the Boss Behavior Required for 2018

By Vesia Hawkins

Ayyyyyyeeeee!

As 2017’s time on this earth fades to black, 2018 is waiting to take its place in the sun. As I mined through the events of 2017 — from national disgraces to local blemishes, there are many themes at a macro level that I believe will forever be attached to the year 2017: sexual assault, overt racism, and youth suicides.

Many events grabbed my attention throughout the year, but the themes that bore down and pierced my core derive from behaviors that I’d like to leave in 2017. For instance, America’s fleeting appreciation of Black women, the stance against charter schools and the families who choose them by the “oldest and boldest” civil rights organization in America, and the complicity of those witnessing egregious acts without saying a word.

 

Read More

Seattle needs a superintendent in the Bob Ferguson mold — someone who knows right from wrong and won't take any shit

Seattle needs a superintendent in the Bob Ferguson mold — someone who knows right from wrong and won't take any shit

By the time we reached the first floor and the elevator doors slid open, I was pretty sure I was standing next to Bob Ferguson, Washington State's attorney general. So, I asked him.

"Excuse me," I said. "Are you Bob Ferguson?"

"Yes, I am," he said.

Okay. Mystery solved. I told him my name and shook his hand.

What now?

"Thanks for doing what you're doing," I said. "You've made me feel proud to live in Seattle."

Read More

Guest Post: What message are we sending to black children when we tell them only integration will save them?

Guest Post: What message are we sending to black children when we tell them only integration will save them?

By Chris Stewart

A story ran last week from the Associated Press about segregation in charter schools, and, right on cue a lot of my reform-loving friends rushed to their keyboards to bang out rebuttals and register complaints.

While I think most of the article was a wandering fiat against data and common sense, there is one important takeaway to seize.

Please excuse me while I now turn my attention to black parents for a moment. Black folks, it’s time you had the talk with your children.

Read More