Tuesday, May 02, 2006

what the hell are we gonna do with these kids?

hey all! it's quite the pleasure to be a guest on blackatmichigan, a blog that has offered dumi and fellow scholars the opportunity to voice their much needed opinion regarding pertinent issues. i am no writer, but i do talk up a storm, so if this reads more like my diary than a professional piece, it's probably because it is.

my thoughts...
this title was meant to address the urban youth of today, specifically drawn from the panel of students that i (along with fellow peers) hosted last week. i pondered this very question when i saw that, of the hour long panel [comprised of seven students: 3 athletes, one frat member, one law school student, one politically active student, and one "general" student] approximately 57 1/2 minutes were dedicated to the athletes. my blood boiled at the thought that this group of 7th and 8th graders from detroit would be so concerned NOT with what law firm the 3L law student is looking into, but with what league the football players played for in middle school. understandably, the media has a tremendous monopoly on our babies, with such focus being on entertainment, specifically, music and sports. we all know the drawn out story of the inner-city dreams of quick cash and immediate gratification - hell - with our generation being called "generation me", there's no question that we could care less about the welfare of all people, as long as "i get mine". but i can't be told that there's no stop to this cycle. there HAS to be a way to end the drug-selling, basketball-shooting, rhyme-spitting imagery that encapsulates the thoughts of the children from my hood.

see? that right there. my hood. i'm not saying that i came from the most shoot-em-up run-for-your-God-forsaken-lives type of place, but the fact remains that i am the only one from my neighborhood that left out of the neighborhood for college, that doesn't have kids, that has never had, dealt, or been shot over drugs, and will be leaving. yes, i'm abandoning my neighborhood, of which i am fully aware of the problematic middle-class exodus - no need to remind me. don't judge me too quickly though: i am not only headed to another inner-city to 'do my part' there (atlanta), but i'll be back someday/somehow/someway to work with detroit. back to the point, the old adage states, "if i can do it, so can you." what was the main factor that separated me from my peers? well, this little exam that i took in the second grade allowed me to be placed on a track that veered right of my neighbors. this gifted and talented program that i was accepted into put me on the path of academic success. this alone, however, would not be adequate enough to get me through. had my mother not specifically given me the encouragement by normalizing the pathway to higher education, my dreams may have ended in high school. fortunately, college was not a question in my home, so making sure that grades, extracurriculars, and personal pursuits were in-line with this ideology was not hard at all.

so, what am i suggesting? that we take an entire group of parents, force-feed them with statistics and pamphlets that suggest it is all their faults that their children are suffering? that we level the "playing field" for k-12 schools so that everyone has the opportunity to succeed? that we, as college students, do a better job in mentoring and show students alternate routes and definitions to what success truly is and how to acquire such paths? you're darned skippy.

we, as a society, do have a right and responsibility to make sure that our community is making it. too often we hear "it's not my problem" or "maybe later", but the time is now and the urgency is extreme. a statistic reports that only 11% of the population of detroit has a bachelors degree. 11%. it blows my mind that i just received mine on saturday, yet the vast majority of my fellow residents cannot say the same. how can the children know which way to turn if their maps are only limited to their parents experiences? we must provide outlets and information that better equip our children for their potential. affirmative action is no longer cutting it. vouchers is not going to cut it. and testing our children for the "no child left behind" bull will not give them the know-how for the remedy to this systemic problem. neighbors must demand more and better use of funding for schools from the state, and we must encourage our children to explore various routes to economic stability, not acquisition. rightfully so, i am an optimist, and i do believe in the power of mentorship, communication, and community upliftment. do i have specific plans? not now - i don't think God has given me the blueprint yet. but i do know that the middle class and those with the education can no longer sit around and wait for those without the resources to help their children. we must take a stand and get our hands dirty, because if we don't, who the hell will?

...///tomorrow///what the hell are we gonna do with these kids part 2: invisible children and international woes


Garlin II said...

Welcome to the site Riana, and congratulations on becoming a fellow alum.

Having a left-leaning political perspective gives preference to broad programs that will help those who will not or cannot help themselves, I do struggle with the issue of parenting. I feel that this job is too important to delegate. The goal of broad programs would be to provide services so that a parent could worry about parenting and not other things (e.g. paying for health care).

Getting parents to stress education even when they are not educated themselves appears to be a bit of a lost art. My grandparents on my mother's side gave my mother and her sister no choice but to go to college. Now my grandaddy finished the 10th grade and my grandmother finished the 5th. Why is it that they valued education for their children more than parents of more recent generations? Are the benefits of education less visible today than they were yesterday. Last I checked, drug dealers, basketball players, and pimps existed and made money in the 60s just like they do today.

Things like the DAPCEP's Parent Advisory Committee, their Little Engineer that Could Program (which has the dual purpose of exposing K-3 students to engineering AND MORE IMPORTANTLY training parents on how to set their kids up for academic success). Programs like these can be models for success going forward in increasing parental accountability in creating positive educational foundations for their kids.

l. renaissance said...

damn girl, u speak to the exact point ive been contemplating, working with inner city cambodian american youth in Oakland. i feel u--i dont come from a place that's duck and hide whereever you go, and neither do most of these kids. but when i look at them, i see kids who don't want to go anywhere and have no intentions/support of going "higher". so i ask myself--"do they wanna go 'higher?'" do they wanna move "up"? because if they didn't, then how can i step in, yes, as their mentor for a grassroots political organization, and encourage them that cigarettes, drinking friday-sunday, etc., and kickin it on the street is not 'right' for them? i didn't come from their 'same' context--i came from a family that college-bounded me since day one, and i veered in that direction since i can remember.

so what do i say when i see my world from this "upper track" perspective and i see them totally different from my mind, thinking, 'they could be better if they lived/went to college/got support like me.' and i remind myself--who am i to think they should be 'better'? it's the guiltiest feeling ever. and though i believe they have more to say, more they can do, GIRL, the process is long, and difficult. mentorship--real mentorship--is not a 12-week program, it's a lifetime of presenting challenges and asking critical questions to the learner. however, can we do that if their playing field is not leveled to begin with and working from this point means a revisitation and deconstruction of what they knew to begin with and now they have to re-work where they've 'fallen behind' in their lives?

i think the activity of mentoring youth who are 15-18 who've fallen behind since 5th grade is a question of choices and what they will follow when you say: there's college, junior college, oh yea, umm... trade college and the military are OK too--just as long as you know what you're doing. we can't say everyone will, but my question is, how can we 'save' everyone into going into school--higher ed's already limited anyway. i get discouraged when i work with them sometimes, knowing that if i invested hard enough into believing in them i would get attached. i just read my professor's blog (www.activeeducation.blogspot.com), where he wrote about professors not getting tenured because they work in the community or not getting support from their advisors. and reading it told me that as we get deeper into the system of higher ed and academia, we get sucked in, re-oriented, still, in the view of the oppressor. so i question myself and the intention of my work--why do i believe in getting them to work harder in school? where is the alternative structure where they can learn under a critical consciousness pedagogy and the classroom is not behind institutionalized walls? otherwise, they're going to get to further distanced from the community, just like me.

those are the running questions through my mind because i hear everything you're saying and in my thought-process, i take it a little further. where are we learning towards? because im getting deeper in this academia process and i know this place is only going to make me feel as though i'm "smarter", more "sophisticated", "better" and distanced from everyone else in my community. and that's not the right feeling in working with the community.

anyhow, thank you for posting this. CLASS OF 2006, wat it do? congratulations on your BA, i just got mine too. yadammeen?

l. renaissance said...

PS were the kids more deferential to the athletes? :)