Inquire Within, Help Students of Color Cultivate Inner Wisdom #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“Politics and hypocrites is turning us all into lunatics.” — Marvin Gaye

The great author Ralph Ellison wrote, “I’m an invisible man, and it placed me in a hole—or showed me the hole I was in if you will—and I reluctantly accepted the fact.” He reminds us that there is more to creating spaces that are liberation focused than just knowing what’s right – you should also do what’s right. In his 1952 book, Invisible Man – a story of a young, college-educated black man struggling to survive and succeed in a racially divided society that refuses to see him as a human being – Ellison opens up a conversation about civics, education, and financial independence. This story points to how being our authentic selves can help us bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis.

Not long ago, I received a call from a Black Lives Matter activist asking me to be her Congressional campaign manager. We knew each other from past work and shared a close relationship through a civil rights leader that lived in the district. After talking with him and coordinating living arrangements, I traveled to the state, to be her campaign manager. 

My first day on the ground was a bit unusual; our every step was being filmed for a movie scheduled to air on Netflix, which meant our every conversation was public. It took a few weeks to build electoral momentum, but we soon hit our stride and took the lead in our Congressional bid. Soon after, we began receiving public criticism for our campaign theme #BeThe1st — asking voters to make her the first woman represent CD-1. We were ridiculed on social media for her “body type,” and it affected her confidence. She began to question if she “looked like” a Congress member and wanted to change her look. I advised her, “Inquire within, the answer to every question in any situation lives within you. The intelligence inside you has all the answers, so consult your inner wisdom. Don’t question, analyze, or doubt the first answer it gives you. Listen and obey, and we won’t go wrong.”

We doubled down and ran as our authentic selves. Later, we experienced a devastating car accident that forced us to decide to suspend the campaign for health reasons. She wanted to continue our rigorous schedule, but the doctors recommend “bed rest,” and I decided to put her health above the campaign. We did not win that race, but she ultimately won that congressional seat in the next election.

“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.

 After teaching in schools of color – schools with a significant student of color population, I’m reminded that “it takes good policies from good leaders to make a good change.” Leaders should not use “inappropriately” targeted messages and “hyper-partisan” mobilization campaigns to disrespect others. Using culturally insensitive terms or twisting offhand remarks about gender, race, or religion, sparks reactions, and unintended consequences. Underneath these micro-aggressions are subtle references to our values that feed a sense of cultural paranoia and or suspicion.

The use of shame and fear to motivate partisan supporters also triggers a downward spiral that adds to society’s dysfunction. We are in one of the toughest periods in American history. There is a campaign to suppress emotions through unhealthy activities while ignoring the looming financial crisis. What’s worse is that tactics like these produce anti-public education leaders. Our goal should be to acknowledge the current environment and work to fix the problems while addressing culturally relevant issues related to it. 

Back in the 2006 elections, extremists unleashed a harsh “cultural war” to get their base to vote. The political atmosphere is similar to that of today. However, there’s strong evidence that things may be different this time. 

  • We’ve had four years of new registrants, and many young voters plus voters of color (VOC) will vote for the first this year.
  • Political geography is surging in majority-minority cities like Norfolk; the population grew 3.4% to 242,803. 
  • This gives Norfolk more than 83,000 “key” Voters of Color. 
  • People of Color are over 26% of Virginia’s Citizen Voting Age Population — they were 24% of vote share in 2008 and about 23% in 2010.

It’s incredibly important for students of color to learn to address unique cultural concerns at an early age when the mind is most active. Studies show us that learning the appropriate way to heal, grow, and stand up for what they believe in during this cultural storm will stay with them. I like to compare helping students of color to address their unique concerns to self-advocacy and self-management – everyone needs to respect and set healthy boundaries.

As Ellison states in his prologue, “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.” Suppose a new coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, and Young Voters all demanded honest and trustworthy leaders. Our nation could quickly bounce back after this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. If we all are civically engaged, this turmoil we have today will give way to a full, coordinated community experience. Moreover, we should continue to develop transformational relationships that dramatically impact education, leadership, and civic engagement. If we unify, the entire nation will discover a renewed sense of civility. Students of color will develop a healthy self-confidence, see themselves as capable learners, and become authentic leaders. In turn, they will be the first generation to live free from the fear of poverty, violence, and premature death.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Dig Deeper to Help Students of Color Learn, Remember, and Perform #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

“Music is one of the closest link-ups with God that we can probably experience. I think it’s a common vibrating tone of the musical notes that holds all life together.” — Marvin Gaye

I have to admit; I love to teach in schools of color – schools with a significant student of color population. There is something about introducing impactful content with culturally relevant material and developing strategies for learning, memorizing, and applying academic theory. The best part of my day is helping students identify, design, and map a path towards educational, civic, and financial success. Additionally, I love creating opportunities for a “Cinderella” or “Underdog” to be successful. My Grandmother was my first pathfinder. “You can teach children anything if you dig into your heart to understand them more compassionately. Dig into your pocket to share more generously. Dig into your time to spread it more unselfishly.” Before every class, I remind myself that I’ve only scratched the surface, and it’s time to dig deeper.

Most of us believe academics and sports are two subjects that contrast one another. The first is about reading, writing, and achromatic, whereas the latter is about strategy, agility, and grit — this belief typical. However, after we analyze both, we realize these two disciplines are more similar than not. The arenas are different, but you’ll find a bridge for learning, memory, and performance if you dig deeper. What tools will we give students of color to build that bridge, and what is the most effective strategy for facilitating their learning, memory, and performance?

We all know that a key to doing well in any sport starts with high aspirations and a winning mindset. The truth is that many athletes are trying to win championships that don’t. Therefore, any athlete who does not at least aspire to be a champion has less chance of doing so. In turn, any student of color who does not have high expectations for themselves has less chance of doing well. Moreover, studies indicate that high expectations also help students achieve academic confidence. When students of color are asked to learn high-level material, they dig deep to access data in their minds. While doing so, they push themselves to memorize information. When tested, they score well and have faith they can do it again.

With this in mind, we should develop lesson plans connecting culturally competent material, unique tools for learning, and high aspirations. For example, we should ask students of color to use online tools for committing vocabulary to memory. We should instruct them on how to teach scientific concepts to family, friends, or teammates and ask each other for feedback – you learn best what you teach others. It also helps to do weekly revisions of class notes in the form of a journal – paying attention to names, dates, and ideas. Lastly, we should ask them to retrace these steps by memory. Remember, “active retrieval” forces a student to set high expectations on themself. So studying may seem challenging to achieve, but successful testing will increase their academic confidence.  

“We must give them more opportunities to impact the world in an authentically irreversible way.”

We see examples of this momentum, and it creating confidence in the U.S. economy. In 2007 we lost over 2.6 million jobs in the great recession. Through President Obama’s fantastic leadership, we turn that around, and in 2011 the U.S. manufacturing industry became a “Cinderella” story. Toledo added about 1,800 manufacturing jobs in 2011, and General Motors and Chrysler hired over 1,600 people by 2013. Correspondingly, unemployment dropped to 7.9% and manufacturing comprised 18.3 percent of Ohio’s economy.

This winning mindset was driven by a version of Franklin Roosevelt’s “Lunch Pail, Hard Hat Coalition.” This “Underdog” coalition was held together by influential public education leaders, administrators, and teachers in many communities — Latino, African American, Asian American, Native American, Student, and Women. Before the great recession, they began digging deep civically. As a result, governorships and Senate seats flipped in Ohio, Colorado, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri in 2006.

Voters of Color (VOC) were a significant piece of this coalition. Their presence was felt in places like Ohio’s Cuyahoga County — 12% of the vote share, and VOC were 14% of the electorate. What’s more, Ohio voters are historically leading-edge – electing pro-public education African American mayors in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Toledo, Dayton, Youngstown, and Mansfield.

  • Census 2010 — Columbus grew by 10.6% to 787,033. Giving Columbus more than 145,000 “key” Voters of Color.
  • Ohio’s 3rd Congressional District had the second-largest VOC voting block of Ohio’s sixteen congressional districts. 
  • CD-3 includes high performing VOC precincts on the Southside, Northeast, and Eastside (Precincts 35-B, 17-F, and 28-E).
  • Economic bounce back — Ohio increased its manufacturing jobs by about 4 percent a few years after 2009 with more than 24,600 jobs for working families.

What does this teach us? Our nation can bounce back after this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. It will take strategy, agility, and grit, but we must innovate how we teach reading, writing, and achromatic to succeed in the long run. 

We must be intentional about applying culturally relevant research on learning, memory, and performance in our schoolrooms. Additionally, we must use culturally competent material to help students of color learn diverse approaches to memorize and retrieve information. Remember, they may not choose to become professional athletes or scientists, but we aspire to help them dig deeper. How do combat systemic racism? Teach our children to dig into their hearts to understand more compassionately. Dig into their pocket to share more generously. Dig into their time to spread it more unselfishly. We must give them more opportunities to impact the world in an authentically irreversible way. We must nurture their big ideas — we’ve only scratched the surface, and it’s time to dig deeper.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Learn to Have An Inquiring Mind, Help Students of Color Do the Same #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

 “If you cannot find peace within yourself, you will never find it anywhere else.” — Marvin Gaye

Growing up in the Midwest, I can remember traveling to visit my grandmother in Washington, DC, on Labor Day. That was our last trip before summer break ended, and the school season began. I looked forward to the journey because she would take us to see an NFL game before our vacation ended. I enjoyed the games, but I always questioned the team’s name. I remember asking her why the team had such a weird name, and I would point out that it seemed cruel. My father reprimanded me for “sassing” my elder. She supported me and told him, “It’s okay, we should teach children to have an inquiring mind. Regardless of their race, religion, or social affiliation, children should never hesitate to question those in authority.”

What she was teaching my father was that it’s good for children to have an inquiring mind. For a child to learn, they first must know how they learn best, and asking questions is one way of doing that. 

For years the education community has focused on metacognition as a base for learning. While this model has been mulled over and taught in universities for decades, it is not effectively implemented in schools of color – schools with a significant student of color population. Metacognition relates to a student’s capability to contemplate their learning method. The idea is that students of color will become aware of the approach their psyche uses when learning new material via metacognitive actions. Also, they become more confident learners because they realize they are capable of learning anything. Therefore, students of color will begin to come up with tactics to strengthen their education.

One way of looking at this is when a high school sports team wins a city championship and advances to the state tournament. The effect it has on the neighborhood is tremendous. It energizes and gives the families living in that town a sense of achievement. It unites everyone and makes the youth feel that they are capable of significant accomplishments. In turn, they begin sharping their skills and increasing their capacity to achieve even more.

That’s how metacognition advances in the classroom; students of color are encouraged to reflect on how they best learn. In doing this self-analysis, they determine their learning style and cultivate a culturally customized approach to studying and testing. After significant achievements, their “scholastic” victories are bracketed by their strengths and reinforce the student’s capabilities. These victories strengthen a student’s social perspective and give them a more accurate assessment of their abilities and lead to greater self-advocacy and self-management in and out of the classroom.

This is how our nation bounces back after a global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis. It will take hard work and tough decisions, but we can bounce back. Growing up in my neighborhood, I learned that a victory for my block was a victory for our city, and a victory for our city would lift us all. Therefore, we always cheered for the righteous and rooted for the trustworthy “squad” to win.  We applauded education, economic, social advocacy as well as sports champions.

In the ’90s, I worked with several progressive partners to defeat a regressive ballot initiative in Colorado. I remember how challenging it was to excite People of Color (POC) about an issue they didn’t support. Our campaign started down 20 points, but after an aggressive public education effort, we won by 12 points.

How did we do it? First, we went to Denver’s oldest African American neighborhoods, the historic Five Points community, and learned how they learned about cultural issues. Community leaders taught us about the Buffalo soldiers, early Hispanic settlers, and the hundreds of activists who helped women gain more political and economic equality. I asked them about the contours of Colorado’s electorate. They told me about ex-Gov Owens and how Colorado had become a pro-public education state. They reminded me that even in 2004, when President Bush was re-elected and his party picked up seats, the public education advocates in Colorado took control of both houses in the Legislature and won a U.S. Senate seat. Moreover, in 2006 they elected a pro-public education governor.

We will bounce back from this crisis because we believed in our issues’ righteousness. We will analyze how to communicate our interests, and we will encourage people to work together as a team to bounce back, and then we will accelerate social change. Example, Colorado underwent a political, geographical transformation:

  • President Obama won by 9%, his party added another U.S. Senator, and they took five of the seven congressional seats. Moreover, people of color (POC) were 14% of the state’s vote share in 2008.
  • We saw more evidence of this in 2010 when Colorado’s POC voters increased to 19% of the vote share and pushed “pro-public education” statewide candidates over the top.

The truth is that the Denver population grew by 8.2% to 600,158 people, and it currently has over 130,000 key POC voters. But it took the cultural inspiration that the POC communities felt to spark so many to participate in the electoral process.

Our community’s optimism creates opportunities for all children to demonstrate their talents, skills, and values. The key is to help students of color see that learning is a daily goal for every school they attend. We must ensure that educators explicitly replicate their social motivations. We must understand that we impact our student’s experiences by planning culturally competent tasks, having courageous conversations, and showing them how metacognitive behavior affects their learning and daily lives. Our goal should be to help them expand their institutional capacity while building on the cultural intelligence they come to school with. Then as independent learners, they will be successful — educationally, civically, and financially.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Smile At Your Future – A Student’s Talent, Intelligence and Community #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

By Kirk Clay

“Every chance you get, you seem to hurt me more and more, but each hurt makes my love stronger than before.” — Marvin Gaye

My grandmother was an amazing woman. She was a strong independent woman at a time when society didn’t welcome those traits. As a government employee during World War II and a self-taught businesswoman, she moved from Ohio to the Washington, D.C. area. She lived close to a century and provided grandchildren and great-grandchildren with inspiration that promoted positive change in our daily lives. She taught us that we all have the power in our interactions to choose peace, joy, forgiveness, tolerance, success, and many more valuable traits. She encouraged me to make choices that would empower my family and our community to be successful — educationally, civically, and financially independent. She believed that we all can live free of the fear of poverty, violence, and death and that the roles I play in my family, community, and organizations are vital to that freedom. A year after her passing, her teaching continues to serve as a reminder for us to stay enlightened, encouraged, and empowered. 

I remember how my wife and I would take our children to see her after our weekly violin class. I enjoyed watching them show her the fundamentals they had learned that day. She would laugh with delight as they demonstrated the proper way to stand, hold the violin, and “fingering.” She would watch them go over the same routine countless times. She would encourage them to “keep it up,” so they would be prepared to perform when needed. As their dad and her grandson, I would ask for advice on extracurricular activities and educational opportunities. She would tell me, “every person is blessed with exceptional talent. My talent was business and finance, but they should take time to learn, identify, and expand their gift. They are African American boys, so be careful to teach them how to love, live free, and don’t let them settle for a life of untapped talent stuck on the inside.”

Those conversations after the violin lessons taught my family and me a lot. Later, I learned that playing music itself provides profound cognitive advantages in not just learning an instrument but every aspect of student learning. Each lesson helps students hear what they see, process the language of music, and find written patterns while understanding structure to access musically memory – much like studying for a mathematical exam. Moreover, learning to read music with numbers, letter names, and written notation is acoustic feedback, so it’s naturally engaging in a learning environment. Music helps to connect the eyes, ears, and brain during the educational process.

This strategy can be beneficial while teaching students of color during such a time as this. We need to use every educational tool we have to help our children learn through these trauma-inducing times. As educators, we have to employ culturally competent strategies like these to address the traumatic feelings, experience, teach critical psychological and emotional coping skills, and discuss today’s global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights issues. Generally, teachers have made many past attempts to implement health and racially proficient lesson plans in the past, and some were successful. However, as this time in history thrusts us into the future, we must begin to contemplate the best ways to support our children. At the same time, we have to help them as they learn and give them the information they need to be successful academically.

For instance, when a student writes an essay on the history of education reform, we have to make sure they truly understand the depth of the firestorm that current “anti-public education” rhetoric is fueling. They must know that when politicians threatened to vote against education reform bills and expressed full-throated support of regressive anti-education style laws, and when they are noticeably silent during “generationally traumatic” driven events, it matters. Students must then ask and answer the question of their neighbor’s awareness of the impact that these positions will have on People of Color. They must find ways to convey the extent that these actions indicate a pull away from a commitment to healthcare, economic, civil, and human rights. They must understand that these principles were used by Fredrick Douglas to sway his neighbors to get on the bandwagon for creating a “more perfect” union. 

Just like learning a new song, we as teachers have to admit that ignoring the power that young people of color bring to civic engagement is wrong. We must stop hoping, and gambling that the past is prologue — where they haven’t had significant impact civically may not be the case this time. They may have an overrepresented influence from now on. Maybe we start acknowledging that legislation cannot be written independently of “real” healthcare, economic, civil, and human rights solutions because it cannot pass without enough votes from people of color. 

So, we must articulate how policies toward people of color are impacting and turning states like Arizona into a swing state due to significant population shifts. Remember that according to the census, Arizona’s population increased significantly in the last twenty years. They gained a new congressional seat last reapportionment plus an extra Electoral College vote. My advice is for us to teach students not to underestimate the power of protest, civic engagement, and music. 

For example, 

  • People of color in Arizona make up 24% of the voting-age population, and in 2008, an impressive 74% of those registered to vote went to the polls. 
  • Voters of color made up 18% of the vote share in the general election.
  • This number increased to 20% in 2010. 

Think about what could happen in 2020 if every eligible student of color is energized? The change we need will occur. This is particularly true in cities like Phoenix, where the population grew by 9.4% to 1,445,632, which included more than 280,000 “Key” Voters of Color. Keep this in mind– the entire Electoral College math could shift if significant mobilization efforts are made to register, educate, and turn out voters of color in Arizona. If this happens and Arizona becomes a swing state, good education, healthcare, and economic policy will be supported, and change will happen.

Like a beautiful song that “Black Violin” would play, we will go through a lot of exciting changes in the years to come. Whether or not this is the year that Arizona becomes a swing state is unclear. The political geography and demographic numbers are there. All that’s needed is the level of support required to build the civic engagement vehicle to get the best performance from the emerging electorate. I believe that the time has come for another “great generation” like my grandmother’s generation to go to the stage.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Grooming A Child’s Mind for Education, It’s A Different World – #2R1WM

By Kirk Clay

“Mercy, mercy me, things ain’t what they used to be.”— Marvin Gaye

Can you believe this past school year ended before June? All it took was a global pandemic and boom. Then protests around the world ignited a movement and has made this summer vacation a teachable moment. I guess the fact that the economy is in lousy shape adds to the dynamics and may prove to be far more significant than we know. These events make this the most momentous summer in recent history and lead parents, teachers, and administrators around the world to consider reevaluating their summer teaching plans.

As this summer kicks into full swing, it is clear that there are several important events that we, as educators, will need to address with students next school year. We may never witness another summer like this again, but this summer will always be with us, and we have to help children make sense of their new world. Remember, emotions, trauma, and memory, like all brain functions, are not isolated to one region of the brain. This function is what makes learning possible, but it can also negatively affect a child’s life experiences if not handled appropriately.

First, we must introduce the concept of “systems change.” Cross-cultural experts often portray people of color as incidental as they relate to the broader “world” sphere of human rights. Moreover, some people seem to find it challenging to connect the size of these peaceful protests to evidence-based inequality and demographic trends. Sure, it’s easy for an adult to recognize that there is a specific cultural relevance to what’s happening, but children need us to acknowledge and unpack the broader cultural dynamics. We must help young students understand how massive protests and their intensity levels are connected to a lack of resources and social investment in our communities.

More specifically, this generation grew up in a different world than we have now. There is astounding duplicity of national conscience with those that believe the first African American president’s election was both a post-racial and economic inequality high watermark. The fact is that years ago, in places like South Carolina, their parents lit the torch that led an African American candidate to the Presidency. But this didn’t just happen on a wing and a prayer. These communities began to connect the dots in early 2006. Moreover, these communities did not follow the “manufactured” models for civic engagement, and they authentically invested their hearts in what they believed.

We must help our students understand how the heart and the head are connected to education. Our classrooms are where they learn about the world around them and share big ideas. We must intentionally educate them about social advocacy and social distancing in our classroom teaching. Also, we have to share strategies to decuple traumatic experiences from their learning memory so they can retrieve information more successfully. Remember how the mind works, creating pegs in our brains on which we hang specific pieces of information that we witness, read, or discover. The trick is to facilitate them learning social advocacy, observing current health events, reflecting on what works, and encouraging them to take action.

In particular, we should help them understand how significant social and healthcare investment in engaging their communities will impact change throughout the world. We know that “hope” and “change” won’t have a chance if we don’t expand democracy to all Americans. The truth is that we need actual systems change, and many of these students live in neighborhoods that could be the difference if given a chance.

For example, POC in Florida make up 29.5% of the Citizen Voting Age Population and 69% are registered to vote. 

  • In 2008, POC made up 28.9% of the vote share in the general election, although more than a third did not vote (37.7%). 
  • Imagine what could happen in 2020 if we energize and turn out every eligible voter? Especially in places like Jacksonville, FL, where there are over 200,000 “Key” POC voters. 

We all have benefited from a good education and gained valuable tools from our parents, teachers, and neighborhood schools. There is no doubt that today’s students are more than capable of successfully navigating their feelings through this moment. That’s what keeps me hopeful. Their interests represent our shared guiding principles. Once in classrooms, students will have the opportunity to work towards creating social, cultural, and economical solutions that will heal our world. At the same time, they will benefit from the collective social, civic, and economic advancements we have made over the years. Our job is to give them the support they need to advocate for themselves and teach them how to manage themselves in this new environment. If we invest our educational resources in our children, we will most likely have a positive return on that investment, and we all will capitalize on new opportunities with communities that share our interests.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

The Digital Use Divide, Leave No One Behind – Lessons from Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery Part 2 #2R1WM

By Kirk Clay

“To share is precious, pure, and fair. Don’t play with something you should cherish for life. Don’t you wanna care, ain’t it lonely out there?” — Marvin Gaye

Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery would say, “we in the movement promised never to leave anyone behind, and everyone is important to the movement, so just leave no one behind, then we’ll be alright.” The truth is that too many schools in low-income communities and communities of color are left behind. They do not have access to technology, technical support, and high-speed internet services needed to close the digital divide.

Many school technical support staff are among the group of workers negatively impacted by the Covid-19 – few of whom have meaningful work now. If their schools close, some will be tasked with new duties, such as copying “distance learning” packets for families to pick up weekly. Copying is not an appropriate use of their skills, not to mention they will not be focusing their talent on closing the digital divide. Moreover, this may contribute to the digital divide, especially when many school systems across the country are already considering closing for the rest of the school year and already have insufficient technological capabilities.

Plan

When students of color gain access to quality technology, it helps them thrive in education by allowing them to connect, keep up, and learn from their teachers as well as their peers. But most students in need of technology have trouble obtaining, gaining access to it, and acquiring appropriate materials. A digital divide is a gap between students who have access to the Internet and devices at school and home, and those who do not. 

 Additionally, with many school buildings closed due to Covid-19, there is a “digital use” divide as well — the gap between students taught to use technology in an appropriate, active, and creative way to support their learning and those who are not. Note that some students mainly use technology for passive content consumption. These students may be found on their bed with headphones plugged in “multitasking” and listening to music while completing their assignments. The truth is — despite what students may think, research tells us that there is no such thing as successfully multitasking while studying. On the contrary, the mind switches back and forth between tasks, and that decreases learning. So listening to music may help with anxiety but do so while performing memory recall tasks weakens scores. 

 Get Active

Given that many students of color attend schools that do not yet have access to or are not using technology in ways that can improve learning for all, we must elect policymakers that will support our interests to fix this problem. What’s more, many homes in rural communities do not have the necessary technology or access to high-speed internet service either, and there are enough voters in those areas to change this dynamic.

This political landscape resembles that of November 3, 1998, in Georgia, where the hyper-partisan nature of politicians motivated communities of color to demonstrate their concerns through the power of the vote. In 1998 Voters of Color were 30% of the vote share. Pro-education candidates won the governorship, retained control of both houses of the legislature, and candidates of color made significant gains.

  • Although 2010 census data showed that Atlanta only grew 0.8% to 420,003, neighboring Athens-Clark County grew by 15% to 116,714. That significant growth helped to give Georgia a new congressional seat plus an extra Electoral College vote.
  • People of color in Georgia make up close to 35% of the citizen voting-age population, and most of those registered and voted in 2008. 
  • POC made up 34% of the vote share in the 2008 general election. This number increased to 35% in 2010. 
  • The potential impact would be significant in 2020 if every eligible person of color voted. Especially in cities like Atlanta and Athens-Clark County, where there are over 230,000 “Key” Voters of Color combined.

Here’s what change looks like

1. Address the Gap in Technology and Internet Access for students of color by expanding broadband access across the country, with particular investments in rural and low-income communities, to ensure a national standard of internet access, quality, and affordability.

2. Invest in closing the digital use divide for students of color by providing targeted resources to communities of need that provide technical support, materials, and training for students of color to use technology in an appropriate, active, and creative way to support their learning.

 Will this be as easy as it sounds? Not at all, just as it took time for me to adjust to the civil rights principles during the “Mississippi Voter Whistle Stop Tour” – we can’t expect our children to adjust to distance learning overnight. Students of color have to be encouraged to be independent learners, and we must remain patient as they find their way through the system. Just as Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery was patient with me on that day, the entire educational community must remain patient, vigilant, and put forth an effort to enact policies that will close the digital divide.  

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

The Digital Divide, Learning Happens Best When We Leave No One Behind – Lessons from Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery Part 1 #2R1WM

By Kirk Clay

“Ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough, ain’t no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you.” — Marvin Gaye

Reflection

I remember my first trip to Atlanta, Dr. Joseph Lowery — a civil rights leader who helped to found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) — recruited me to help him on a project. He asked that I help to manage a “Mississippi Voter Whistle Stop Tour” through the Deep South and wanted me to join the caravan in Atlanta for the launch of this effort. This project was an experience of a lifetime for me and my first multi-state civic engagement bus tour. Being a twenty-something organizer from Toledo, I knew not many politicos from my generation and background would have this opportunity. I felt lucky to get his attention so early in my career and often wondered what caused him to “like” me and take me and become my mentor.

The flight was delayed in Washington, DC, by six hours. I will never forget how nervous I was running through the Atlanta airport, having arrived close to midnight. My flight was delayed because of the weather, and in those days, I had no way to get word to the team that I would be arriving close to midnight. To my surprise, friendly law enforcement officials were waiting for me to land and whisked me through the airport to the ground transportation area. When I got there, I was surprised to see five black Chevrolet SUVs sitting in the airport driveway.

 With the doors open and his feet on the dashboard, he sputtered, “don’t just stand there, get in. We have to make it to the Mississippi Delta by sunrise.” Of course, that’s what I did. We traveled all night to make up for the lost time. We only stopped for gas, snacks, and a hot meal. His amazing network of restaurants and gas stations opened their kitchens along the way.

 We didn’t have a heart-to-heart talk about the fact that he held up the entire movement for me that night. Later, I eventually mustered up enough courage to apologize, saying, “I’m sorry for causing such a mess at the airport. What can I do to make things, right?” He took a deep breath: “Well,” he said decisively, “we in the movement promised never to leave anyone behind, and everyone is important to the movement so just leave no one behind, then we’ll be alright.”

Discovery

The question is, “how will the digital divide affect learning for students of color as the education community moves toward distance learning?”

One thing is clear; Covid-19 has exposed how important having access to quality education is. Also, this pandemic has highlighted the racial and economic inequalities that exist as it relates to technology in our school system. Sure, there are many great teachers, schools, and curriculum — remnants of from past “good” educational policies from eight years ago, but there is a clear technological divide as well. Resources that focus on parental support, teacher pay, and student-centered learning are still needed, but that’s not all. We must be acutely conscious of the effect that recent policies have had on the nation’s educational system, especially as it relates to students of color and communities of need.

This effect will be made worse by the coronavirus, mainly as we struggle to identify appropriate curricula, responsive, interactive learning models, and help students in need find a decent meal. These problems emphasize a pressing and terrible truth that we, as a country, still have a lot of work to do to level the playing field for students of color.

The choice is clear if we must choose one area of focus for immediate impact — its technology. That will be the most substantial determining factor for students of color. For students to be successful during this time of distance learning, they must have access to quality education, equipment, and technology — including broadband. Think about Rev. Dr. Lowery’s philosophy, but instead of traveling to the Mississippi Delta for civic engagement, this journey is for the future of lifelong learners of color. We must account for the fact that these students will one day end this journey with a cumulative amount of discrimination, microaggressions, racial stress, and trauma. Therefore, we must help them find ways to take care of their educational needs and mental health throughout this journey.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Learning: Relax, just relax. It’s all going to be all right #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

By Kirk Clay

“I’d been studying the microphone for a dozen years, and I suddenly saw what I’d been doing wrong. I’d been singing too loud. One night I was listening to a record by Lester Young, the horn player, and it came to me. Relax, just relax. It’s all going to be all right.”

– Marvin Gaye –

Not long ago, we were in a public school to speak on strategies for training students in leadership development. While there, we visited old friends that work in the education community. We began to talk about students of color and their unique mental health concerns as it relates to self-advocacy and self-management. We discussed the importance and implications of self-care and learning to respect and set healthy boundaries. Lastly, we shared with them our goal to work with institutions to create spaces that are liberation focused. We shared our belief that with adequate resources and a cooperative spirit, students of color have the potential to change the future of education in America while improving their opportunities.

Some of our friends were not convinced. They countered with stories of unexpected political events from the past few years. Their point was that “it takes good policies from good leaders to make good change.” They fear that politicians will continue to use “inappropriate” targeted messages and “hyper-partisan” mobilization campaigns to drown out any policy that would genuinely improve America’s education system. Our friends are afraid that students of color may not have the resources to heal, grow, and stand up during this cultural storm.

We do not believe this to be true. First, we can teach our children to recognize and connect with others that are experiencing similar issues. Sure, it may take some work for them to identify communities that share their interests — remember that most of us alter our outward appearances for the “public eye,” but micro-aggressions will still show up as a telltale sign. Second, they must learn that it is okay to feel a healthy sense of cultural paranoia and or suspicion as you “stand up” for what you believe. Just remember to be aware of what is going on in the world and do not allow it to stultify progress. Lastly, we must remind them of the dangers of suppressing emotions through unhealthy activities – this may lead to bad habits as an adult. The key is to acknowledge the current environment while addressing the shame and fear related to it. Then normalize it while helping them to identify tools to help them stay grounded when they are in school.

We must train our students on the importance of boundaries and self-care. As you know, students of color are consistently navigating the “rigorous pulse” of school life while dealing with their own experiences and family challenges. They struggle to find alignment with being a dedicated student and honoring themselves. Many of the students I talk with have experienced tragedy at home. The only way for them to heal is to share their vulnerabilities with others. We must help students of color label the pain they experienced so that they can address this trauma from a place of health. Everything may seem amplified, but they must learn:

  1. As a person of color, they “are enough” and worthy of taking a break every once in a while.
  2. It is essential to set boundaries, use grounding techniques, and schedule time for themselves to detox.

We must always remember that everyone is affected by race, and we all have work to do — no matter race, religion, or gender. Even from a policy point of view, there is clear evidence that increased civic participation by communities of color can offset any conceivable lag in voter turnout. This has always been the case, according to a recent study, the African American share of the total vote in Illinois increased from 10 percent in 2006 to 19 percent in 2010. Due to this strong turnout, a candidate who embraced pro-education policy became governor, with only one-third of the vote from others.

Moreover, we believe that with proper education and policy momentum, people of color can impact voter turnout rates across this nation. If we close the gaps between the populations that are eligible and likely voters, we will have a better chance of regaining our voice and enacting pro-education policies:

  • Pro-education policy candidates could win Georgia with just 41% of the vote from others and Arizona with just 37%.
  • In Nevada, where Latinos represent 16% of the vote share, 69% voted for the “pro-education policy” Senate candidate. This was an increase of 4% over the 2006 turnout.
  • In Colorado, Latinos were an impressive 12% of the vote share and pushed the “pro-education policy” candidate over the top.

We finished our conversation, concluding that educators and policymakers must become familiar with theories of liberation psychology and ways to apply those strategies in their work. The truth is that students of color are most influenced by authentic educators that experience things similarly in terms of history and culture. We have and can continue to come together to develop transformational relationships that dramatically impact education, leadership, and civic engagement. We agreed that by embracing commonalities and addressing differences, we could seize the moment to build a bridge of promise for education in America. Communities of color and their expanding share of America’s educational system should not create anxiety; instead, it should reinforce America’s steadfastness for a new all-inclusive brand of education.

To be continued …

Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.

Back to School: Something Greater Than What We See #2R1WM #MoreThanAvote

By Kirk Clay

“An artist, if he is truly an artist, is only interested in one thing and that is to wake up the minds of men, to have mankind and womankind realize that there is something greater than what we see on the surface.”

– Marvin Gaye –

If you read the most popular headlines today, you would think that this is unequivocally the worst time to be a young student. As usual for most adolescents, just figuring out who you are in your development is tough enough. You are often battling feelings of acceptance, relationships, and growing academic expectations. Your identity is being developed amid the backdrop of who your family says you are, the holidays you celebrate, religious events you attend, and other cultural experiences with your friends.

As I pointed out in my last blog, this summer, we have a little more to reflect on than usual. As the education community begins to make plans for the upcoming year, there are a few questions that we must address to heal the whole school community. First, how does racism impact the mental health of people of color (POC) students? Second, in what way does “race-related” stress show up in young people? Lastly, how can students mitigate the impact of racism, learn from their experiences, and heal while living a productive life?

The two most significant areas of concern are:

·           Racial Identity Development – How we perceive, learn, and come to know who we are to ourselves, within groups, and to others in our environment.

·           Cultural Trauma – a dramatic loss of identity and meaning, a tear in the social fabric, affecting a group of people that have achieved some degree of cohesion.

For students like my neighbor, who attends Ron Brown College Preparatory High School, this begins their final year as RBHS’s first cohort of graduating seniors. Before these scholars walk across the stage and enter the adult world, there are a few “POC” student-centered issues to address. For example, they need to be prepared for the possibility of living in an environment where they will experience race-related micro-aggressions. Moreover, they may be exposed to a racially charged domestic terrorist activity and feel shocked as they learn how expendable some people view POC lives are. These experiences could cause feelings of anxiety, anger, and or depression then lead to a physical manifestation of “stress” in the form of stomachaches, headaches, and even “post-traumatic slavery syndrome.”

The 400th anniversary of Africans arrival in America is this year. The seeds of post-traumatic slavery syndrome were planted at the beginning of our union, and the legacy through past actions of prejudice, discrimination, racism, and microaggressions exist today. For example, the U.S. Constitution states that America will count every person every decade and use the results of that count to apportion seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, this originally had profound injustice embedded in it by stipulating that slaves held in bondage were counted as three-fifths of a person. In 1868, Congress ratified the 14thamendment, allowing former slaves to be counted as full-individuals, one result of the costly, bloody struggle of the Civil War.

Immediately following the Civil War, during Reconstruction, over 600 African Americans occupied various elected offices across the nation. With the end of that era came an almost century-long period of despair, which began when African Americans were habitually disenfranchised through Jim Crow practices, lynching, segregation, institutionalized racism, and incarceration discrepancies, to name a few. By 1965, only 300 African Americans occupied elected offices. This type of social injustice has had a lingering impact, and can only be accounted for through reparations and addressed through appropriate policies.

Our children see the effects of this injustice daily. When our young students feel upset by the things they read or see on social media and don’t have a clear reference point to connect their emotions and behaviors, they stop trusting their neighbors. We have to give them confirmation that we have been here before. They must know that it’s okay to “feel the feelings.” Let’s acknowledge that these issues were previously swept under the rug but not anymore. We must inform them that their feelings are appropriate and will be affirmed and supported. We should teach them to recognize what triggers them and show them the necessary coping skills. They should always protect themselves and maintain personal safety but be sure to live their truth.

To be continued …

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Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.