Leadership That Restores Hope in Schools in the African American Community
By Dr . Clara Walters
ave you ever thought about what it would be like if African- American children from low income families were never told they are “ At- risk ” of failure , but instead they are “ Atpromise ” of greatness and treated that way ? Have you ever experienced , directly or indirectly , the impact of labels on attitude , behavior and outcomes and wondered why a deficient model is used to describe these schools and students and why hope seems to be eluding the young people who need it the most ? Well , as a long time educator , I have personal experience with both . I grew up in a segregated society prior to the “ At-risk ” label being applied to us , our families , schools and communities . Instead , we were expected to learn and do something positive with our lives . As a result , I did both , becoming an educator on a mission to restore hope in schools in the African American Community .
Research has documented a direct correlation between hope , academic achievement , social and emotional success . Historically , schools in African American communities delivered the hope of success and a better life if education was pursued . These institutions have been a key factor in the life of many Black successful individuals who overcame obstacles to become the first in their family to attend college and to become pioneers in their career fields because the language of hope emphasized what we could do , not what we couldn ’ t . It focused upon our potential , not our handicaps unlike the labels in schools in the African American community today . Language such as low-performing , marginalized , disadvantage , at-risk , vulnerable and under achievers , etc . is used instead of a language of empowerment . There is power in words . “ Life and death are in the power of the tongue !” Proverbs 18:21 . Every community , regardless of economic status , location , or ethnicity , deserves schools that are viewed as a “ Beacon of Hope ” where every student has the promise of greatness .
Leadership with the attributes and skills to inspire , motivate , educate , direct and correct is the key to tearing down stereotypes and building a culture and climate of hope . This is the key to success in any school .
Hope is necessary for anyone to look towards the future and prepare for it , but hope doesn ’ t happen by itself . In education , it should start in pre-school because the earlier children begin to develop the attitude , skills , and knowledge to succeed , the more they will aspire to better their chances of accomplishments . There is a direct correlation . Hope is what motivated slaves to learn to read and write . After becoming free , they had the tenacity to establish schools to educate their children .
Hope for something better is what inspired the push for equality through the desegregation of public schools . Hope was the shared vision that brought Blacks through many “ dangerous toils and snares ” to reach the level of today ’ s success , even though we have much farther to go to reach equality . We cannot continue to lose the attribute of hope in Black youth today if we expect to continue benefiting from this democracy . When hope diminishes , hopelessness rises , and we are experiencing the ills of that in today ’ s society .
In the Black community , we cannot wait until the schools are desegregated again as we watch hope slip away from generations of young people . Education in the Black community is “ Our fierce urgency of now ” ( Dr . Martin Luther King Jr .’ s I Have A Dream Speech 1963 ). Why the urgency one may ask ? It is because the majority of Black students attend segregated schools , and the more of them who get trapped in the cycle of hopelessness , the worse the community will become . Optimism keeps people finding a way out . Schools in the Black community can be viewed as “ A Beacon of Hope ” again with the revitalization of school climate and culture . A “ Beacon of Hope ” School is viewed by its students , parents and community as a positive place that has the keys to a successful future , and they are accessible to every student who attends . n
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58 IBA Success Magazine n VOL 8 , Issue 1