The NAACP is a civil rights organization. It always has been and always will be the nation’s oldest and boldest fighter for freedom and justice the “American way,” or so they say.
How many of us really believe and understand that education is a civil right? How many of us know that a quality education is not something that is allotted to a select few, but is the right of all students? We all know that we live in a society that has come too far from Little Rock, Brown vs. the Board of Education, segregated schools, busing and all the other horror stories we were involved in while simply seeking a quality education to be turned back now. We didn’t demand to be treated differently from anyone else. We just wanted to be treated equal and be afforded the same educational opportunities as everyone else. However, in 2010, we find that we are, once again, faced with a crisis in our schools. Our educational system is flawed when it comes to fair treatment for our children.
At our 2009 annual convention, our national president, Benjamin T. Jealous, mandated that all NAACP units across this nation make education a top priority. Our children are being under-educated, mis-educated and are throwing “rocks at the prisons.”
How many of us reading this column can explain the Keystone or Exit Exam as it is commonly called? How many of us reading this article has ever heard of the Keystone Exam? The members of the Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors know about it, and how it’s going to affect your children and grandchildren, and shame on you if you don’t know about it.
Just as Joshua marched around the walls of Jericho seven times, the Pittsburgh Branch NAACP officers, and some faithful members, marched around the Board of Education building seven times for seven weeks in protest to the blatant issues that are taking place within our school system. Our last march was on Dec. 28, it was very cold, but we came out and marched anyway. After our seventh time around the building, we sounded a trumpet and said a prayer asking that our efforts be favorable in His sight.
But that is not the end of the story. We are going to keep on trying to bring these injustices to light until someone gets mad enough to do something to ensure that our children are getting a quality education.
The Pittsburgh Branch NAACP recently hosted an education forum entitled Challenging the “School to Jail Pipeline,” and we intend to agitate, educate and inform. A few of the important issues that were discussed included (1) The kind of institutional practices that support some student and deters others; (2) The Keystone Exam wherein all students will be required to pass a series of exams in order to receive a diploma; (3) How the loss of the African-American history course will negatively impact the development of our children, (4) The need to establish schools that are independent from those controlled by the public school system, and (5) The importance of knowing the difference between AYP and proficiency. Moderator for this event was Jonas Chaney, WPXI Channel 11, and panelists were Dr. Joan Flynn, Pennsylvania State NAACP education chairperson; Dr. John Wallace, University of Pittsburgh; Mark Brentley, Pittsburgh Public Schools board of directors; and Dr. Marilyn Barnett, Pittsburgh NAACP education chairperson. Our president, M. Gayle Moss, First Vice President Constance Parker and Barnett worked diligently to put this event together so that you would be informed.
Still in the struggle.
(Marcella Lee is second vice president of the Pittsburgh NAACP.)