By Denisha Allen
In the heart of Baltimore, where history and hope intertwine, the songs of our ancestors echo with tales of triumph and tribulation. The NAACP has long been a part of this symphony, casting light on shadows of injustice and inequality. Yet today, as new needs have evolved and emerge, it’s time for the organization to keep fighting for Black futures.
As the founder of Black Minds Matter and a direct beneficiary of education freedom, I have experienced the challenges of limited educational opportunities. The raw memories of my early school days, filled with struggles and despair, are still vivid. I remember the painful sting of failing the third grade not once, but twice, simply because I couldn’t read. Given the precedents my mother, uncles, aunts, and many other family members had set, I was seemingly destined to become a teenage mother and drop out of school.
Yet my fate took a different turn. Thanks to the intervention of education freedom, I was granted a tax-credit scholarship in Florida. This pivotal moment allowed me to move from a school that was failing me – a place I had been placed in solely based on my residential address – to a nurturing, faith-based private school. As a result, I broke the cycle and became the first in my family to walk the graduation stage, not just for high school, but also for undergraduate and graduate studies.
There are hundreds of thousands of students across the country who are having transformative experiences thanks to education freedom. Our clarion call, born from the echoes of 2020 and the tragic case of George Floyd, is to imbue Black minds with a high-quality education. I want the children in Baltimore to have the same opportunity that I had.
Sadly, these opportunities are too often lacking in the Charm City. Baltimore houses schools that often fail their Black students again and again. Recently, news broke that in 13 Baltimore City Schools, there were zero students who tested proficient in math. Not even one. It is worth noting that roughly 80 percent of Baltimore City high school students are African American. In Baltimore, money is abundant, with a whopping $22,000 invested annually for every public school student. But more funds haven’t translated into better education. It’s clear we need more than money; we need choice.
This hope for better options is why I reached out to the NAACP as a fellow fighter for civil rights in our community. I’ve penned letters hoping for a meeting of minds, but heard nothing. Amid this symphonic hope, there’s a pause, a silent beat.
The deep-seated concerns within our community cannot be ignored any longer. Parents and educators are increasingly frustrated, and their dissatisfaction is evident. With parents even initiating lawsuits, it’s clear that trust has been broken.
In my work with Black Minds Matter, I hear conversations about forming new schools and a desperate search for alternatives in communities across the country. Baltimore is quickly becoming a symbol of just how far we have to go to support Black minds.
The growing calls for a ballot initiative showcase a community at its wits’ end, yearning for action, for answers that have long been promised but never delivered.
The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was more than just a legal ruling; it was a clarion call for equality, signaling that separate is inherently unequal. This was a pivotal moment in our nation’s history, tearing down the walls of legalized racial segregation in schools, but the work did not end in 1954.
As we reflect on this historical juncture, it becomes abundantly clear that our responsibility doesn’t end with integration; it extends to the continuous evaluation and re-imagination of how we can better serve Black students. Simply put, it’s not enough to merely open the doors of opportunity; we must ensure that every corridor our children walk through is paved with excellence and equity.
The path to uplifting marginalized communities is paved with the bricks of autonomy and empowerment. Granting parents the unbridled freedom to decide where their children receive their education is a pivotal step in this journey. This isn’t merely about choosing a school; it’s about choosing a future, an opportunity, and giving our communities the agency they’ve long been denied in molding the next generation.
So, I call on the NAACP to stop. Equity equals education freedom. Let’s make Baltimore a place of opportunity and hope.