POSTED NOV. 22, 2019 IN SCHOOL CHOICE
Gather ‘round, peeps, and let me tell y’all a true tale of hope and outrage.
Once upon a time, not long ago—September of this year in Houston, Texas, to be exact—the day after an invigorating and empowering rally that gathered hundreds of parents, students and education advocates in MacGregor Park to gear up for a campaign in response to an ongoing attack on school choice. A group of us diehard activists and education leaders met to discuss where we’d go from there.
The crowd has gathered at the #SaveOurCharterSchools rally in Houston! We have to let people know that we will not back down! pic.twitter.com/TFootrYhXs
— Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (@SaveCharters) September 11, 2019
The immediate plan was to protest the 2020 Democratic debates being held that evening at Texas Southern University (TSU)—because there was this trend of holding the debates at HBCUs (go figure)— to confront Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren about their anti-charter positions.
Early in our meeting, Dr. Howard Fuller—one of the main organizers of the effort—had gotten word that other groups were already staking out at the university’s main entrance with more en route. He immediately left our war-room and made his way up to TSU to ensure our group would have a spot front and center.
Shortly after Dr. Fuller left, a group of us made a two-mile trek to Texas Southern University to join Dr. Fuller on the picket line.
The walk could’ve killed us. It was hot as hell—like, the heat was unnecessarily rude.
Anyway, we got there and our energy was on 100. Behind us was a music band that looked like they’d just finished taping an episode of Jerry Springer. They were playing tributes to Donald Trump and sounded like stray cats crying and fighting over food. Across the street from us was an army of pro-life people who had directed their hostility towards us for some odd reason.
#SaveOurCharterSchools Squad holding it down at the #DemDebateTSU. These candidates better start acknowledging & respecting parent choice & voice or else we’ll show in every city they’re in 🤷🏿♀️✊🏾✊🏽✊🏼 #BlackandBrown @SaveCharters @edu_post @TCSAnews @mychildmyvoice @LaComadreEdu pic.twitter.com/IZUB9sdx12
— Sis. Peeples Servin’ Real Talk 🗣🙌🏾 (@PeeplesChoice85) September 12, 2019
We waited outside the university in that heat, with those assaults on our ears, fighting being cocooned by people in the Yang Gang for hours—chanting, waving our signs and telling our advocacy stories to media and others until the candidates slowly made their way to the debate stage.
The message is clear: Charter schools = Self determination. @edu_post @SaveCharters#SaveOurCharterSchools #DemDebate #DemDebates #schoolchoicematters #parentvoicematters pic.twitter.com/s07Nt5bIJb
— Sis. Peeples Servin’ Real Talk 🗣🙌🏾 (@PeeplesChoice85) September 12, 2019
After 10 hours of planning and protest, our group of about 15 made our way to our hotels to pass the hell out.
The candidates didn’t seem to be moved by our actions in Houston, but the fight wasn’t over. The next stop was the fourth set of debates in Westerville, Ohio. But even then, there was still no word Bernie from Elizabeth.
.@HowardLFuller is in Ohio at the #DemDebate and has a message for all parent choice and #SchoolChoice supporters. It’s time to show up for our students and families! It’s time to #SaveOurChartersSchools pic.twitter.com/B5aLKkW6BD
— Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (@SaveCharters) October 15, 2019
OK—on to the next debates in Atlanta, then.
In the midst of Elizabeth picking up steam from her newly released education plan and her pandering to teachers unions, she’d pissed off a lot of parents of color—parents who were already fighting for access to and more high-quality school options.
The Powerful Parent Network—comprised of parents from Memphis, Oakland, Nashville, Camden, all over—started a GoFundMe to go to Georgia and join forces with Dr. Fuller
PETITION: Warren and Sanders, Support Quality Charter Schools
The coalition pulled up in Atlanta and was on the candidates’ heels the minute they stepped off the buses. In the video below, Dr. Howard Fuller straight up told Bernie and Elizabeth that they needed to step back because when they come for charter schools and our self-determination, we’re coming for them.
Just in case you didn’t hear us the first time @ewarren BACK DOWN! Charter Schools are OUR choice, not yours. #saveourcharterschools #DemDebate pic.twitter.com/gz2uGWDEDu
— Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools (@SaveCharters) November 21, 2019
And sure enough, they came for Elizabeth Warren at her own rally—a rally about Black women where Black women were asked to be quiet. Chile, the audacity!
this is how you disrupt. We got a meeting but lets see with who. Aint no power like a POWERFUL PARENT @nishad901 @vesiahawkins @RealTalkGwenS @Sonyathemom @hatersbejocking @TeresenaW @BlingbyMeadows @Mebutke @Politico_Little @HowardLFuller #PowerfulParentNetwork #Choice4Enot4me pic.twitter.com/eiNJ2W1CbM
— TheRealNishaD (@nishad901) November 22, 2019
And Ayanna Pressley cosigned them being silenced! I’ll talk about that violation in a later H+O.
We Don’t Need More Black or Brown Faces Who Don’t Represent Our Voices, Especially in Education
At that point, Elizabeth had no choice but to face the coalition.
#HappeningNow @HowardLFuller talks school choice with @ewarren #PowerfulParentNetwork pic.twitter.com/O3B3ImmqkQ
— Vesia (@VesiaHawkins) November 22, 2019
Sarah Carpenter—parent advocate from Memphis—let her and the media have it. And the coalition’s mission to tell Warren her plan was trash was accomplished.
The face @LadyTenn gives when she realizes everyone wants to talk about the kids but no one wants to do the real work around educating our kids. Smh. #PowerfulParentNetwork pic.twitter.com/urTdH8dAjs
— John Little, III (@Politico_Little) November 22, 2019
So that, my friends, is how it ends—for now.
Some probably think it’s ridiculous for people to travel the country demonstrating against candidates who aren’t trying to hear what they’re saying. Looking at his tweet, Ryan Grim clearly does.
A group funded by some of the richest people in the world, the Waltons, just disrupted an @ewarren speech on the 1881 Atlanta washerwomen strike. Can’t make this stuff up. https://t.co/1x6brZv9tt
— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) November 22, 2019
But guess what? We don’t care what they think. Because these are the people who seek to silence the voices of Black and Brown parents and students and keep the traditions of subservience and oppression alive.
Meanwhile, through the attacks, dismissals, accusations of being bought by billionaires with supposed privatization agendas and struggles we endure personally, we still find the strength to fight because our kids’ lives are what we have to lose if we don’t.
And when parents and advocates show us that we do have power and collectively our communities are unstoppable, that should let us know that change is possible and the fight is worth it.
The power of parents is real. The power of community is real. BELIEVE IN IT!!! Let’s go, SQUAD!!!! #PowerfulParentNetwork
— Sis. Peeples Servin’ Real Talk 🗣🙌🏾 (@PeeplesChoice85) November 22, 2019
This is the essence and history of hope and outrage.
Powerful Parent Network and Freedom Coalition for Charter Schools, thank you.
Community, we are capable and deserving.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.