Wayfinder Foundation Launches First Fellowship Cohort in Indianapolis and Los Angeles


Now more than ever, activists have a critical role to play in shaping the future of our country and its public policies. A new program, launched this week, is cultivating the next generation of voices in communities of color around the country. By doing so, the Wayfinder Foundation is creatively finding new ways to support activists through its Community Activist Fellowship.

Starting  June 1, fourteen fellows in Indianapolis, Indiana and Los Angeles, California will lead projects focused on various issue areas including parent engagement, education access, domestic abuse, immigration, women’s rights and the use of digital media for advocacy.

“The Community Activist Fellowship is providing a way for our activists to begin a year of  intense training and support to help them change the world in which we know it. By providing resources to marginalized communities, not only are we supporting their activism, we are freeing their voices to be heard, and strengthening their regard to continue to fight,” said Wayfinder’s chief program officer, Angela Jones Hackley.

Wayfinder will begin accepting applications for its second cohort in Washington, DC, Memphis, TN, and Oakland, CA, later this month.

“Wayfinder was founded in 2017 with the mission of putting resources behind activism through investing in mothers and mother-figures by using a two-generational approach – when you help the mother, you help the child,” said Chris Stewart, CEO, Wayfinder Foundation. “It is clear in this country we create systems that are designed to punish the mother – welfare systems that keep her poor, school systems that keep her and her child undereducated. These activists are saying no more! We will not be silenced. It is our duty to support them in their efforts.”

With a combined contribution of more than $100K in financial and expert resources, the Wayfinder Foundation launched this inaugural cohort as part of their “This is Activism” multimedia campaign, focused on highlighting acts of activism across the country.

“Our Fellows are excellent examples of what happens when you don’t give in to the status quo and you aren’t afraid to stand up to fight for yourself and others. It’s heroic,” said Stewart. More information on the CAF and a list of Fellows can be found on the Wayfinder Foundation website.




by Shamaya Bowen

There are a long list of fears and anxieties students suffer as they prepare to go off to college. I should know, I’ve experienced those feelings myself. First when entering my freshman year at The University of Hartford and again on my way to San Diego State after deciding to transfer. However, as a young black woman, there’s an additional list of anxieties that have never and will never cross the minds of my peers. In addition to anxious questions like: What if I don’t make any friends? and Am I prepared for my classes? I asked questions like, will I lose touch with my culture? & How inclusive is the student body?

Another question that plagued my mind: What if my roommate is racist?

The experience of Chennel “Jazzmin” Rowe solidified a fear that most people of color have as they enter university. Rowe, a student at my past school -The University of Hartford- was purposefully “poisoned” by her roommate who later boasted of the crimes in an Instagram post. After weeks of feeling unwanted, disrespected and “like a ghost in my own room,” Jazzmin decided to move out. 

In the process of moving her stuff, a neighbor brought to Jazzmin’s attention an Instagram post of her former roommate, Briana Brucho. It read:

“Finally did it yo girl got rid of her roommate!! After 1 1/2 month of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons oh [on] her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine and so much more I can finally say goodbye Jamaican Barbie.”

As I watched the Facebook Live video where Jazzmin detailed her experience I was horrified, infuriated even, but not surprised. College campuses across the country have seen an increase in the amount of hate crimes. More and more, those who were banished to soapboxes have seemingly found a stage on college campuses. But students are fighting back. At the University of Hartford, students took to social media to campaign on Jazzy’s behalf. Through their efforts, they informed the media and the world at large about her experience. They then organized to meet with the university president, chief of public safety and other school faculty, to address this incident as well as racially charged incidents where students of color felt unheard and unsafe.

As my former classmates live streamed these dialogues for me to see, it felt reminiscent of the various protests and sit-ins held by black students throughout the 60’s and 70’s.

After a day of rage, disgust, disappointment and confusion, I felt reassured. Something was being done, Brianna Brochu the perpetrator has been charged with criminal mischief, breach of peace and intimidation based on bigotry or bias and if found guilty could face up to five years in prison.


As black students who have left behind the safety and comfort of friends and family to chase our dreams, goals and ambitions on college campuses, our fears are not irrational or unfounded. That said, we can take comfort in knowing our situations are not without hope. In situations of adversity, we do what we historically, have always done: We become, organized whilst offended, inspired whilst infuriated and encouraged whilst enraged. This is the shared essence of being a black student on campus. And sadly, it’s as familiar to us now as it was nearly 60 years ago.

This article was first published at www.lappthebrand.com

Parents Boycotting School


In the wake of another school shooting that claimed the lives of 10 students at Santa Fe High School, former United States Secretary of Education suggested parents boycott school until gun laws change. Initially, this idea seemed a bit off, but when I sat and thought about it, it makes sense, and I think I could get behind it.

Parents should not have to worry about whether or not their children are safe when they send them off to school. They should go to the school to view their students' work not to identify their remains after another instance of senseless violence involving guns.

Each time this happens, we see the same playbook; the immediate outrage, thoughts and prayers, and inaction by lawmakers. Students walked out and held rallies in capital cities. Educators and parents supported the call for change and demanded school districts update their safety plans and conduct training. Still, nothing has changed, and we have had an average of one shooting per week in 2018.

Boycotts have had a tremendous impact on spurring change because of the immediate economic effects they have. So, in theory, if parents kept their students home until laws were passed to keep students safe in school, we would see change. Lawmakers at every level would feel the brunt of the economic impact resulting from students staying home and school districts losing out on ADA funding. As a parent, this is more than a political stunt or protest. Why should we send our students somewhere where they are not safe?


Art Education


Abbott Elementary School will expand its arts curriculum to include a 45-minute art lesson per week for all K-6 students and add harmonica classes for third-grade students as part of a partnership with Turnaround Arts: California, which will provide up to $10,000 in annual financial support to help ensure arts education for every Abbott student.

Turnaround Arts is a national program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, created in 2011 under the leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama. Turnaround Arts: California, co-founded by renowned architect Frank Gehry, is the regional administrator of the program and will provide teacher training, a regional coach to facilitate Abbott’s strategic arts plan and coordinated support for public arts events.

“Abbott’s partnership with Turnaround Arts: California is a huge step forward for our visual and performing arts curriculum, allowing us to spread arts education evenly and equally across all grade levels while creating exciting new opportunities that will have a positive impact on classroom learning,” Abbott Principal Adolfo Herrera said.

Abbott’s commitment to the arts is exemplified by its annual student performances at the Lynwood Unified Winter Concert, coordinated by third-grade teacher Gwendolyn Spears. Despite a limited budget, Spears directs three stage performances a year, with considerable assistance from Abbott staff and community members.

Abbott’s arts curriculum provides introductory programs exploring art history, playwriting and dance through Meet the Masters, the BRIDGE Theatre Project and Conga Kids. District partnerships with The Music Center and P.S. ARTS provide arts support for kindergartners and second-graders. Additional art resources are provided by Abbott teachers and the Abbott PTA.

“Lynwood Unified recognizes that arts education is a critical element in developing students who are creative thinkers,” Lynwood Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “By joining the Turnaround Arts network, Abbott Elementary is providing its students a nurturing environment that will spark innovation and ingenuity.”

Turnaround Arts: California was created in 2014 with financial support from Berta and Frank Gehry and the California Arts Council. The program recently received a $2 million investment to expand its network to include 27 schools and more than 17,000 students across California, providing art resources, musical instruments, high-profile mentors and teacher training.

“Over the last 40 years, I’ve spent time with kids in the classroom using architecture and art to get engaged, focus their attention, and even introduce mathematics, civics, and other subjects that they might not have otherwise been receptive to,” Gehry said. “This inspired me to create the same opportunities for the California students who need it most through Turnaround Arts: California.”

Turnaround Arts partner schools have seen increases in English language arts and math proficiency, better student engagement for arts-integrated instruction, improved attendance, declining suspension rates and increased family participation in art events.


Los Angeles Chargers Donate CPR Kits


Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget kneeled beside a group of nearly 30 Lynwood High School student-athletes as they administered chest compressions to CPR manikins while the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive” blared in the background. 

Liuget visited Lynwood on April 18 to donate 10 CPR kits to Lynwood high schools as part of the American Heart Association’s CPR in Schools program. Sharing his personal story of respiratory issues within his family, Liuget discussed the importance of CPR while AHA representatives provided hands-on training to both Liuget and the students.

“Six years ago, my son was born with a heart defect, and it was only through his access to medicine and technology that he is now able to enjoy a healthy life,” Liuget said. “Today, doing CPR techniques is a good refresher for me. You never want to be in a situation where you don’t know how to save someone’s life.”

The LHS girls basketball team, which reached the CIF Southern Section Division 2AA final last month, and members of the LHS football team were among the attendees. The offices of U.S. Rep. Nanette Diaz-Barragán and state Sen. Ricardo Lara presented Liuget with a certificate of appreciation for his work with the AHA.

Led by an AHA representative, each student was guided through life-saving techniques with a CPR manikin that included: checking for breathing, calling 9-1-1 and providing chest compressions. The “Stayin’ Alive” tune helped the students find the ideal pace of the compressions, which is about 120 per minute.

 Lynwood High School students pose with Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget after receiving CPR training from the American Heart Association on April 18.

Lynwood High School students pose with Los Angeles Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget after receiving CPR training from the American Heart Association on April 18.

“It’s pretty cool to know that I can now save someone’s life,” LHS junior Aaron Olivares said. “It says a lot that Corey Liuget would come to our school and make this donation. I’m glad that I got to experience this.”

The training kits, valued at $10,000, will serve Lynwood, Firebaugh and Vista high schools.

“The training kits will solidify our dedication to the safety of our students,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “Of equal importance is the life-saving skills that our students learned today and can share with their peers and families.”

The donation stems from Liuget’s 2017 NFL Season Win/Sack Initiative, where he pledged to donate one CPR in Schools kit for every Chargers team win and every sack he recorded during this past season. Liuget totaled 1.5 sacks to go along with San Diego’s nine wins.

Lynwood Students Stage 100th Play


Lincoln Elementary School fourth- and fifth-grade students shared the emotions of losing a friend or family member during two plays performed on April 25 that were the 99th and 100th written and produced through the District’s Building Relationships and Inspiring Dialogue through Global Exchange (BRIDGE) Theatre Project.

The two plays – “Sad and Stuck, Without Tears” and “Facing Deportation” – were performed in front of fellow students and family members at the Lincoln Elementary library. The BRIDGE program productions gave Lynwood students the opportunity to address issues of great concern in their voice.

“We have some amazing minds at Lincoln Elementary,” BRIDGE Project teaching artist Tony Gatto said. “What BRIDGE does is give them the opportunity to share what’s going on in their hearts and their heads.”

Lincoln Elementary School students hold up certificates of completion on April 25 following the 99th and 100th performances by Lynwood Unified’s Building Relationships and Inspiring Dialogue through Global Exchange (BRIDGE) Theatre Project.

In “Sad and Stuck,” a girl has difficulty coping after the death of her best friend and efforts to console her are unsuccessful. The girl discovers a magic bracelet in her room and an angel in the form of her best friend appears. After a heart to heart, the girl realizes she has been in denial, unable to reveal her true emotions. Finally, she breaks down in tears.

“We are kids and we are tough. We know it’s always hard to deal with death. And it is new to us, because we are just beginning our lives,” Lincoln Elementary School’s Melanie Gonzalez said. “But we want you to know that communication is a good thing. We want to be able to share our feelings with you, and have you share yours with us.”

“Facing Deportation” used a mock trial to address the challenges immigrant families experience in the face of expulsion, calling on political leaders to seek compassion and understanding of cultures different than their own.

The plays were bookended by two cultural ensemble pieces performed by Lincoln students. “Dancing in the Streets” explored the Civil Rights era through dance and Motown music. “Imbabazzi” explored the creative spirit of Rwanda. After each play, audience members were asked to share their thoughts.

Through the BRIDGE Theatre Project, Lynwood Unified students in grades four through eight learn to write and perform short plays and study other cultures. The program provides 19 workshops for nearly 500 District students over eight weeks to teach students the basics of improvisation, character creation, writing conflict and dialogue.

“Lynwood Unified’s partnership with BRIDGE empowers our students to think creatively and channel their passions into an art form that is an extension of the students themselves,” Lynwood Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “Over the course of four years and 100 plays, Lynwood students are speaking their minds while learning empathy and compassion for international culture.”


Lynwood High School Students Travel to South Korea


Lynwood High School students Andrea Gonzalez and Litzy Santoyo stood at the Third Tunnel of Aggression, located just outside of Seoul, staring through a window that separates a passageway between South Korea and North Korea. The two students relished how far they had journeyed from their homes, and how much of the world they have yet to experience.

Gonzalez and Santoyo indulged their curiosity of the world through the Project Bridge intercultural youth leadership program, which aims to cultivate community leaders with increased awareness of diverse cultures. The Lynwood duo was part of a group of 16 students who trekked to South Korea from March 28 through April 8.

“It was an amazing trip, and it gave me so much more appreciation for South Korean culture,” said Gonzalez, a junior at LHS. “To get to know a culture you really have to experience it and this makes me want to travel to other countries to gain a better understanding of the people there.”

Eight students apiece from high schools in New York and Los Angeles made the trip, which included visits to historical sites like the four Tunnels of Aggression, built to covertly move North Korean troops onto South Korea soil. The Project Bridge group also met with South Korean students to exchange experiences and learn commonalities.


“The way South Korean people treat elders is similar to the way we do in Mexican culture,” said Santoyo, a senior. “We both treat elders with a great deal of respect and address them with more formal language.”

The tour was based in Seoul, but also journeyed to Gyeongju and the North Jeolla Province. Students were surprised to learn that South Korean students attend school during the day and night, and were fascinated to discover how much the culture covets beauty – often framing faces during photos.

Lynwood High junior Andrea Gonzalez posed with a South Korean student during her trip abroad from March 28 through April 8 as part of the Project Bridge leadership program.

The trip also exposed the American students to South Korean government and industry with visits to the National Assembly and the Hyundai Motor Co. headquarters. The group enjoyed authentic kimchi at restaurants during leisure time and ziplined over the Yellow Sea.

“To have two of our students leave the familiarity of their environment to experience a new world was a life-changing experience for them,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite. “This will open their eyes to the possibilities that exist beyond what they know and allow them to continue aspiring to new heights.”

Project Bridge was created in response to the 1992 Los Angeles riots to improve intercultural relations. Gonzalez and Santoyo met with fellow students of the program every two weeks, exploring Korean culture through workshops and articles.

Participants in the program must demonstrate active involvement in their community and school and receive two recommendations. The 16 Project Bridge Youth Ambassadors were selected from more than 150 applicants.

Santoyo said she first became interested in the culture after discovering Korean pop music, or, K-pop, on YouTube. She helped start a Korean club at Lynwood High to spread cultural acceptance to her peers.

Gonzalez had only traveled out of the country on family trips to Jalisco and Guadalajara in Mexico before Project Bridge, recommended to her by an LHS counselor. Now, Gonzalez is determined to experience life in new countries.


LA School Report to Partner With California Children’s Organizations for May 15 Gubernatorial Forum on Education, Equity, Juvenile Justice


This article was first published on the74million.org

On May 15, California gubernatorial candidates including Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang, and Delaine Eastin will discuss the most critical issues facing the state’s 9.1 million children at a forum hosted by three Los Angeles–based nonprofit organizations in partnership with LA School Report, which is powered by The 74.

The Chronicle of Social Change, the Children’s Defense Fund–California, and The Children’s Partnership are co-hosting the nonpartisan community forum in partnership with LA School Report and The Los Angeles Daily News. 

Titled “Building Our Future: A Forum on Children With California’s Gubernatorial Candidates,” the May 15 forum will be held at Los Angeles Trade Technical College from 6 to 8 p.m. and is open to the public.

The evening’s discussion will focus on educational equity, child welfare, juvenile justice, health care, poverty, and access to technology for California children and youth. It comes three weeks before voters go to the polls for the June 5 primary, which will determine the top two candidates vying for the governor’s seat in November.

In addition to Villaraigosa, Chiang, and Eastin, who have already confirmed their participation, both State Assemblyman Travis Allen and businessman John Cox have indicated they are likely to appear. Additional candidates will be confirmed closer to the 15th.

(Related — California Preview: How Education Could Shape the Governor’s Race in California … Funding, Accountability, Charter Schools)

The eventual winner will replace Jerry Brown, who cannot run again due to term limits. During one of the most successful political careers in state history, Brown guided California out of a recession and promoted several reforms affecting children, youth, and families.

For the first time in years, candidates will have an opportunity to offer big-picture education solutions that aren’t tied to a funding crisis. Brown has presided over a series of spending improvements, including boosts to improve student equity and a localized funding formula.

More is needed: California continues to score poorly in an annual evaluation of school financing systems, ranking 39th among the states. Student academic performance in reading and math is also below most of the nation, according to the 2017 results on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, though California did make some gains in reading.

Early indications suggest education will be an important issue in the race. In a statewide survey released this month by the the Public Policy Institute of California, “Californians & Education,” nearly two-thirds — 64 percent — of likely-voter respondents said education was “very important” in the race for governor, an increase from 58 percent four years ago when the same question was asked. A full 90 percent said candidates’ positions on education are important to them.

Six million children under the age of 18 attend California public schools — including 600,000 in charter schools — while nearly 3 million students are enrolled in the state’s higher education system.

If you would like to attend the forum, please register HERE. There will also be a livestream available on the day of the event.

#EDlection2018: See The 74’s preview coverage of key education races to follow through 2018 — visit The74Million.org/Election. 

Teacher Appreciation Week 2018

By David McGuire


Monday, May 7 kicked off Teacher Appreciation Week. What are you doing to recognize staff members at your school during Teacher Appreciation Week? During this week, principals, students, and parents have an opportunity to celebrate the hard work teachers do all year long.

I've learned early on as a school leader that recognizing teachers is a critically important part of my job and affects the success of a school. Teaching can sometimes feel like unappreciated effort day in and day out. Many teachers can go an entire year without the appreciation they deserve for all they do for their students and their school. 

It is vital we recognize our teachers throughout the year, but there is nothing wrong with dedicating a special week to them each year. The idea began in 1980 when Congress declared Teacher Appreciation Day on March 7, 1980. The following year, the NEA and other affiliates continued to observe Teacher Appreciation Day the first Tuesday in March up until 1985. Then, they established Teacher Appreciation Week for the first full week of May. If you are short ideas on what to do for Teacher Appreciation Week here are some ideas:

"Thank You Breakfast" 

Student vs staff basketball game 

Personalized “Thank You” note 

Have the principal take over the teacher’s class to give them an extra break throughout the day 

Provide doughnuts in the morning -- for no special reason at all other than to say, "Thank you."

Take a teacher's duty as a reward for a special contribution.

Jeans day for staff

Raffle drawing for a “two-hour break” or “leave school early”

Plan a "Pamper Day." 

Have students make random shutouts to their teachers 

Staff lunch purchased by the administration


Here is how we are celebrating teachers at Tindley Summit:

Monday - Mini Bottles of Lotion with the saying, “I know our scholars are in great hands.”

Tuesday - Handheld fans with the saying, “We are your greatest fans”

Wednesday - Doughnut Day

Thursday - Goldfish Crackers with the saying, “You are offishly the best”

Friday - Staff Lunch 

I want to say to all the teachers that read this blog, thank you for your unselfish effort day in and day out to ensure your students receive the best education possible. You are the rock that holds each school day together and you may never see the fruits of your labor, but always remember you played a part. 


More than just a teacher

 Mr. Bey, Ethnic Studies Teacher, Madison Park Business & Art Academy, Oakland, CA   

Mr. Bey, Ethnic Studies Teacher, Madison Park Business & Art Academy, Oakland, CA


This article was first published on http://www.energyconvertors.org

By: Alondra Gonzales

This is Mr. Bey. I met him my first day of freshman year. I remember walking in through his classroom doors late because my schedule got messed up, you know, typical first day of school stuff.

When I saw his name, I didn’t recognize it. I finally found his classroom, and when I walked in I was greeted with a huge smile, “Good morning! How are you doing today?” was the first thing he said to me.

That day he basically ran us through how his class works. Right away, I knew he wasn’t like other teachers. His classroom even felt different. He made himself very clear “if you don’t want to be in my classroom, don’t come.” He teaches differently. He didn’t tell us what to do and what not to do. He set up his classroom in a way where the students are involved. It felt more like a family than the stale classrooms I’m used to. This is important because unfortunately not everybody has this in their life’s. He made the students connect with him and each other.

By the first month of school, everyone was in love with him. He’s dynamic. The way he cares about every single one of his students is amazing. It’s crazy because even the “bad” students go to his class and participate and are active. Why? Mr.Bey helps them connect with their inner intelligence. Not only that, but he teaches us, not makes us memorize. That’s crazy because not ONCE has he ever used those old textbooks; he teaches us in a way in which we interact.

Every single thing we have discussed in his class has stuck with me. People who go in his classroom see that dynamic he has with students. He’s upfront with us, he expresses himself and lets us communicate freely. He teaches us what matters and he does it in a way in which we remember it. I remember at one point the only reason I went to school was his class. He’s in his room until 5–6pm. There are REALLY students in there not because they are in trouble but because we enjoy the sense of safety and family he brings to us.

He delivers the curriculum in his own way, and surprisingly it has been more impactful to me than any other class. We need more teachers like him. He’s really teaching us; he’s found a way to help us learn and feel like family all while still establishing a strong sense of respect. You don’t cross him; he doesn’t cross you.

Mr. Bey is not the norm, he is not the common experience I’ve consistently had in schools. He stands out mostly because he’s great, but also because the majority of my teachers have been disappointing. He has not only earned our respect, but he’s deserving of our love.

Thank you, Mr. Bey.

Lynwood Signing Day


Firebaugh High School senior Mayra Ayala walked across a stage on April 27 and added her college destination of Cal State Long Beach to a poster as her peers cheered her announcement. Across town, Lynwood High senior Brian Charles reveled in cheers from his classmates as he revealed he would be attending Philander Smith College in Arkansas this fall.

The two students were among nearly 400 seniors from Lynwood and Firebaugh celebrated during Decision Day ceremonies at both schools on April 27. This is the third year Lynwood Unified has hosted Decision Day events, which encourage students to attend college and support those making their higher education plans.

“For me, this event shows that a small community like Lynwood can do big things,” Ayala said. “This is a huge step for us and shines a lot of light on our city.”

Lynwood Mayor José Luis Solache keynoted both events, sharing his experience as a high school senior working at McDonald’s. Solache said he had neglected to apply for a scholarship that would’ve earned him $1,000 as a McDonald’s employee. Encouraging students always to pursue opportunities, Solache challenged the seniors to correctly guess a number between 150 and 300 before rewarding the two who came closest with $300 a piece.

Lynwood High packed its gymnasium with underclassmen who cheered as the college-bound seniors announced their destinations over a microphone. During the lively celebrations, the cheerleading squad fired T-shirts and streamers into the crowd.

“To see all of my classmates taking the next step in their lives and going to college made the day special,” Charles said. “I’m one of the first in my family to go to college, so it’s a big deal to me. I’m excited to get out and experience a new world.”

Firebaugh held its ceremony in its courtyard, where the Falcon mascot congratulated the students as they announced a variety of college destinations – from UCLA and UC Riverside to Mount St. Mary’s University.

“We are proud of all of our students who are making their way to college and are confident they will continue the success they enjoyed at Lynwood Unified,” Superintendent Gudiel R. Crosthwaite said. “I am very impressed with the number of students who committed to colleges this year; it’s reflective of their desire to create a bright future.”


By Any Means Necessary


Erika Lopez, mother of two, has been homeless for two years.  Lopez is also very involved in the education of her children.  Lopez will not allow her circumstances to dictate their future.

“I am determined to break the pattern that I had, and that I learned from my own mom, of not showing up to any school meeting, parent conferences, open houses. I think we are not the only ones. It happens too often in my community, particularly among Latino parents. I want to make sure every parent can hear my experience and will decide to be involved in school because that’s the only way to improve the chances of our kids having a better life.”

Read more here

My Students Listen to Kanye West so He Needs to Be More Responsible


This blog was first published on indy.education

By Andrew Pillow

If you are a consumer of social media, by now you have likely heard Kanye West is back on twitter. Kanye West is no stranger to controversy, but it has been a while since he’s gone on a sustained twitter rant. The rants seem to occur bi-annually or every time he plans to release new music. Kanye like his new buddy, President Trump, is an expert at using the media to relay his controversial opinions to the masses to build publicity. We have become accustomed to this, but this time Kanye has gone to far. 

In a recent interview with TMZ, Kanye West went off the deep end and implied American slavery was somehow voluntary: 

"When you hear about slavery for 400 years ... For 400 years? That sounds like a choice.” He went on to add, “You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.”

This is, needless to say, a spectacularly bad take on one of America’s greatest sins. Slavery, by definition is not a “choice,” nor did people stay in bondage solely because they were in some kind of mental prison. This sounds like something a person would post on Facebook to come across as a deep intellectual…which to be fair is not too far off from what Kanye West is doing, but this leads me to the bigger issue at play here: Kanye West has too big of an audience to be doing what he’s doing.

Kanye West does not exist in a vacuum and he is too important of a cultural figure to say things this ridiculous. It’s one thing for some random person on twitter or Instagram to make such comments, but it’s more problematic when the person who can instantly reach 28 million people with his words, a fact which wasn’t lost on TMZ staffer, Van Lathan:

You’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but there is fact and real world, real life consequence behind everything you just said. And while you are making music and being an artist and living the life that you’ve earned by being a genius, the rest of us in society have to deal with these threats to our lives. We have to deal with the marginalization that has come from the 400 years of slavery that you said for our people was a choice.” Lathan ends with telling Kanye he has to be “responsible”.

Lathan’s words echo my sentiments. Kanye’s attention seeking rants have larger consequences than just extra twitter mentions for him. Consequences I see first hand every single day as a middle school teacher. My students listen and look up to Kanye West. They are not quite at the age where they can separate the musical talent of their idols from their nonsensical opinions. My students hear this nonsense and come straight to class with it.

My kids have enough silly ideas about slavery as it is:

“I couldn’t have been no slave Mr. Pillow.”

“They wouldn’t have me out there all day like that.”

“I would have been done took off.”

They say all of these things as if slavery was some kind of entry level job that you can just quit. You can’t blame kids that are 60 plus years removed from the civil rights movement for having these thoughts… but I can blame Kanye West for propagating them.

People who aren’t teachers, will probably question how much students really listen to celebrities or ramblings on the internet, but in my short seven years as a classroom teacher, I have had to:

Prove to my students that the world was not coming to an end in 2012.

Convince my students that Jay-Z and Beyoncé were in fact not members of the illuminati.

Reteach my middle schoolers that the Earth is round because Kyrie Irving told them it was flat. 

In a perfect world, words from celebrities wouldn’t have a negative impact on the rest of the world, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Unfortunately, you don’t take a cultural competency test before you are imbued with musical or athletic talent. We can’t magically make easily influenced middle and high schoolers critical thinkers and historians, but we can demand that Kanye West hold himself to a higher standard of discourse about critical issues.

Talking Education with 'Entertainment' Tonight Reporter Nischelle Turner


On January 13, 2017 I had the great pleasure of interviewing one of the hosts of Entertainment Tonight, Nischelle Turner. In the wake of ET's Fourth Emmy win I'd like to share it again in celebration of their big victory.

I visited Los Angeles last week and had the chance to sit down with Entertainment Tonight host Nischelle Turner. As we know, Los Angeles attracts people from all over the country and the world - which means we can learn a lot from the education experiences of others, if we’re willing to listen. Nischelle and I (Tracey Wiley) talked education, reminisced on teachers who make a difference, and explored Nischelle’s love for my native New Orleans.

Tracey Wiley: Hi, I’m here in beautiful Los Angeles, California standing in the kitchen of Entertainment Tonight host and CNN correspondent Nischelle Turner. Nischelle, can you tell us a little bit about yourself.

Nischelle Turner: Yeah! Like you said I’m one of the hosts at Entertainment Tonight, but I’m  also a contributor at CNN, which is more of an analyst role. So I can have a little bit more of an opinion. I live here in Los Angeles, and I have been in the television business for a little more than 20 years.

TW: So can you tell me your background? Where are you from?

NT:  I’m from a little town called Columbia, Missouri. Most people don’t know it. It’s in rural Missouri, the halfway point between St. Louis and Kansas City. You’ll miss it when you blink if you’re driving by. I call it everybody’s bathroom break when they’re driving from Kansas City to St. Louis.

I grew up on a farm on a gravel road. I’m a country girl at heart. I still am a country girl even though I live in the big city. I’m an only child, but I have a huge extended family - my mother has 8 brothers and 2 sisters and all of them live in Columbia.

Columbia’s a college town - University of Missouri is there, which is where I went to college and where I graduated from. They have the best journalism school in the nation!

TW: Did you attend public school back in Columbia?

NT: I’m a public school kid and I’m proud of it! I went to Rockbridge Elementary, Jefferson Junior High School and Rockbridge High School. I recently did a fundraiser for the Columbia public school system to give to the school foundation, because I believe in education for all. In lot of metropolitan areas and urban areas charter schools are a necessity for the under-served and underprivileged to get a good education, but I’m a firm believer in the public schools system.   

TW: So you grew up on a farm and went to public school. You graduated, went to college and journalism school. Did you always want to be a journalist?

NT: I always wanted to be a journalist. I knew early that it was what I wanted to do. I mean there’s only two things in life that I ever really thought about doing and that was either being an attorney or being a journalist.

NT: At about the age of 13 I started writing and I learned that I loved to write. When I was 15, I took a class in my 10th grade year called Media Communications, and I didn’t know what that was at the time. I just took it because I needed an elective and it was a radio class that was being taught by the former voice of the Missouri Tigers, a black man named Rod Kelly.

So for me seeing someone who looked like me in a medium that I didn’t know about was really a spark. He taught me the love of journalism. He taught me the love of broadcast and he taught me to fall in love with the medium. And I did. So by 15, I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

Then I saw a black woman on television in my hometown by the name of April Eaton. I have no idea where she is today but she solidified it for me because I had never seen a woman who looked like me on television until her. I didn’t know I could do that until I saw April. When I saw her I really said "oh my god". And THEN, I saw Oprah.

TW: Ah ha!

NT: And that was it!

TW: So thinking about the disadvantaged kids in my hometown of New Orleans. The kids who feel they don't have a chance because they don’t have access to all the things that the rich have access to…what would you tell them?

NT: Well education is what you make it. There is a disparity in how kids in less privileged areas are educated. There is some truth to that, but I am one of those kids. So I do also know that sometimes you just have to go the extra mile on your own. And it’s fine to do that. I learned about everything I could get my hands on. I made sure I knew a second language. That was essential and now it’s paid off in dividends for me to be conversational in Spanish.  

I also just never took no for an answer. I will tell you I even heard from inside my own family sometimes doubt about what I wanted to do. “What do you mean you want to be on television? Man, you from the country!” Some of my uncles would be like: “What we did for a living isn’t good enough? I worked for the city my whole life!” But I also had people that said “Don’t ever think that you’re dreams are too big.” You need to follow your dreams.” I also had a mother who sacrificed everything for education.

TW: Say more about her.

NT: She wasn’t college educated so she was bound and determined to make sure that I was. For people and women of color, society puts us in a box of what they think we’re supposed to be, how they think we’re supposed to act and where they think we’re supposed to go in life. I’m the first black woman to be hired at Entertainment Tonight in almost 30 years.

 And if I listened to society I never would have thought that I would be there. Because don’t get me wrong, I love where I work and I love the people I work with. But the nickname the show  had for a long time was “Entertainment Too White” because black people weren’t there. So if I would’ve listened to that I never would’ve gone after that job. I never would have thought I could fit there.  I never would’ve taken the step to do that.

TW: What helped you build that belief?

NT: It came from learning in a public school system where at every step I had someone that had my back.  My principal in elementary school, Mr. Mason, I remember him to this day. He always had my back. My guidance counselor in junior high school, Dr. Clinton Smith, always had my back. Rod Kelly, who was my teacher in high school, but then became the assistant principal at my high school, always had my back. Greely Kyle, Stacy Wolfel, Kate Collins, in college, professors of mine, always had my back. It’s been that way every step of the way. My first news director, Michael Valentine, in Evansville, Indiana, always had my back. My second news director, Keith Esperros, in New Orleans always had my back.  Y’know it’s…it’s just…it’s sometimes you gotta have a partner in this walk.

TW: Wow. Well, Nischelle, I’m gonna wrap this up. One last question.

NT: What was that?  How do you make biscuits?

TW: No, not how do you make biscuits! (ya'll, real talk. Nischelle makes some bomb biscuits!)  You have a strong connection to New Orleans.

NT: I do.  It’s my second home.

TW: Tell us…tell us your love.

NT: It’s hard to describe my love for New Orleans because it’s one of those things that’s palpable and I’m not really able to put it into words.  When I was offered the job in New Orleans I turned it down twice. I never…I didn’t even know anything about it.

TW: I didn’t even know that.

NT: I hadn’t been there.  My mother said “that place is crazy…no…no…I don’t want you to go there.” I turned the job down twice and Keith Esperros called me up personally and said to me, “Listen, just get on a plane. Just get on a plane and just come visit. It’s all I’m asking. Just get on a plane.” So I said okay fine. I’ll do it so this man will leave me alone.

I got on a plane and the minute I stepped off the plane something hit me.  And I knew I was home. I kid you not. Something hit me. Something stuck with me. The first meal I had was at Arnaud’s. I had trout almondine. I remember it to this day. Green beans. And I said I never want to leave this place. I tell people all the time, for me New Orleans is the most genuine place in the world that I’ve ever been. The people there are what stick with me. The greatest people in the world. The most welcoming people in the world. It’s where I fell in love with live music. I tell everyone it’s where I found my soul. It’s where I became a woman. I lived most of my 20’s in New Orleans.  

 It’s really where I became a woman and shaped who I am, my values, my social values. And New Orleans represents joy for me. It represents joy and it represents peace and I know people will talk about all the turmoil and everything that goes on in New Orleans, but there’s a calmness and there’s a heartbeat of love there and culture there that I had never experienced anywhere else. And that’s why I love New Orleans. That’s why I will always love New Orleans.




This article was first published at www.realtalkgwensamuel.com

By Gwen Samuel

Shirley Chisholm said  “There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price.”

Since losing my son in a fatal car accident last year, every day, my emotional capacity is tested; and every day, I make a vow to give up fighting this overwhelming battle for education justice. That’s because too many people, even people who look like me, are too quick to “sell out” our Black, brown, and poor babies for a price, such as a seat at the “status quo” table, a grant, or for some form of title and/or recognition.

However, as a mother, a Black woman and parent leader in the fight for equity in education, I see Shirley Chisholm moments come to life on every aspect of my advocacy journey. Thus, I continue to realize there is a price to pay when standing on the side of “doing right” by all children – not just a select few.

Many times, I am the only black person/parent at meetings about education where policies are being voted on that would disenfranchise our babies of color and the poor. Yet, because I will not negotiate when it comes to the safety, education, and overall wellbeing of our children, I have been talked about, alienated, and uninvited to certain tables, on every side of the education conversation.

Over the years, I have tried to be a team player for all sides of the education debate. But, I learned quickly that in the politics of education, it was expected that parents are supposed to choose a side–either the status quo or education reform–anything but the children! Now, the question is and will continue to be on the table for parents and guardians, especially parents of color and the poor–whose side are we really choosing – the “one size fits all” education politics in school districts, other people’s agenda in education reform or our children? And if we chose our children, then why are we sending them to schools that harm our babies?

Let me share some of my experiences on my journey as a parent leader. First, I tried to work with the status quo. This Black mom has met and broke bread with the two most powerful teacher union leaders in the country; Randi Weingarten, President of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and Lily Eskelsen García, President of the 3 million-member National Education Association (NEA). One thing became evident – really quick—teacher union presidents do one thing very well, they protect the rights of their members, regardless of their performance in public schools. This includes “their silence” when a 2010 and 2017 Connecticut’s Attorney General and Office of the Child Advocate reported that their own Connecticut teacher union members were seeing abuse of children in schools, at the hands of school employees, and saying nothing – even though they are mandated reporters by law. For this Black mom it is clear, if you are silent about oppression and child abuse, you are also my oppressor. The bottom line, teacher unions are willing to pay any price and sacrifice children too, especially the poor and children of color, to keep this power!

For the record, I have met and provided workshops for many effective educators and administrators, of all races, across the country. I learned that sometimes their own teacher union leaders ignore their voices too!

In addition, I have also met and broke bread with powerful so-called education reform leaders who say they value communities of color and the poor, yet they come into our community with their “savior mentality” agendas. Some so-called education reformers only include the voice of parents, students, and community leaders after they have set their own agendas for us. They believe true organizing means giving low income and communities of color matching tee shirts and catchy slogans. Furthermore, some so-called education reformers believe that parents of color and the poor are so desperate to ensure our children are justly educated that we will continue to tolerate being stripped of our dignity and disrespected for the sake of “school choice”!  If you haven’t turned water into wine or walked on water yet- stop saying you coming to save our Black, brown and poor babies. By the way, “respect” is a non-negotiable!   And for this mom, it is not about school choice only. It’s about the parents right to choose the best educational options for their babies!

Please note, this savior mentality was challenged when New Haven Black and Brown students boycotted at Achievement First Amistad High School,which is ranked the third-best school in Connecticut by U.S. News & World Report. These students boycotted, not because it wasn’t a quality school, but because they wanted diverse educators and they wanted to be treated with dignity and respect because they are more than ABC’s, 123’s and college acceptance rates. Yet, despite the protest, the students’ demands go unmet and some education reformers are still willing to pay any price to protect their “savior mentality” narrative.

Teacher unions have taken a side – they choose to only protect their member’s rights.

Various so-called education reformers have taken a side – they choose to fight to protect their own agendas as well.

So now, we as parents, must stand up and choose a side – either we choose to fight with and for our babies, whatever the price, to ensure they have equitable access to educational and life opportunities or we can sit on the sidelines, day in and day out, while continuing to allow discriminatory educational practices in schools to harm our babies. They do to OUR babies what we allow them to do! They are OUR children so it is OUR Choice!

Parents and guardians, to be clear, this fight for equity in education, for me, still can be intimidating, cause anxiety and the fear of retaliation is real.

I still feel the void left from losing my son, but our children really need us to step up and protect them.

I listen to parents and students crying as a result of the severe bullying happening in schools, and classrooms full of low expectations- for certain children.

Our babies, as young as pre-school are suspended and expelled because we have different cultures and values or they dare to dream.

Every day, I think about all the children that look in their parent’s or guardian’s eyes, trusting that when we send them to school, we are not putting them in harm’s way.

Yet, the sad and harsh reality is, we are sending our babies of color and the poor into harm’s way because many schools across America are unsafe; and many cannot, and in some cases, will not, equitably educate our babies.

As a result, I unapologetically say to parents again, especially of color and the poor, that we must make a choice to be unbossed, unbought and independent thinkers while building collective power.

Parents, our children lives depend on us to no longer blindly trust education systems to treat our babies fair. We must make a choice to rise, act, vote and be prepared to pay the “price” of being an unapologetic parent leader to ensure our babies have equitable access to educational opportunities in school and in life. Why? Because we have cried many tears, marched, and sang “we shall overcome” and they still harm our babies in public schools. History has shown us that Unapologetic, Unbossed and Unbought parents change the rules of the game because the lives of our babies are priceless!


What You Never Realized You Were Teaching Your Child About Grit & Resilience: MIT Study Captures Techniques That Work for Babies as Young as 13 Months


This article was first posted on the 74million.org

By Kate Stringer

Even at MIT, no one’s been able to create a computer as powerful as the brain of a baby.

“They’re better at doing this fast learning from one or two examples than any computer algorithm we have right now,” MIT graduate student Julia Leonard said. “That’s a big interest here — everyone’s like, ‘We want a computer to learn like a baby.’ ”

Leonard was curious about how babies learn too, so she gathered up more than 200 to analyze their genius brains. Specifically, she was interested in studying how babies learn skills like grit and growth mindset from adults, especially as schools are placing more emphasis on developing student character and social-emotional competencies.

In a study Leonard published in Science, she found that babies were able to persist in a difficult task if they first saw an adult struggle to succeed, suggesting that grit and perseverance can be taught by example to the powerfully observational young baby brain.

Leonard conducted her research on babies 13 to 18 months old. She had one set of babies watch an adult struggle for 30 seconds to retrieve a toy from a tomato container and succeed, and then repeat the process to try to remove a key chain from a carabiner. Another group of babies watched an adult successfully complete these tasks without any struggle.

Then the babies were shown a toy that played music, but only the researchers knew how to activate the sound. The babies were given the toy, and the researchers noticed that the ones who had watched an adult struggle beforehand made more attempts at pushing a button on the toy to try to get it to play music. The babies who had watched the adult who didn’t struggle exerted less effort and pushed the button fewer times than their toddler peers.

The experiment showed that the babies’ actions were not mere imitation, Leonard said, because the children were given an entirely different toy than the ones they saw the adults struggling with.

For Leonard, these results revealed that after just a few brief moments of observation, babies’ brains are able to learn the value of effort and persistence.

“This study suggests that we’re not born necessarily with a certain amount of grit that can’t change,” Leonard said. “It’s not a stable character trait. It can be learned and influenced by social context.”

However, it is unclear from the study how long these effects last, or whether these effects apply as well at home as in a laboratory. But if parents do want to try modeling grit, the best way is to make sure the adult is engaging the child with eye contact and saying the child’s name while demonstrating overcoming a difficult task. Leonard’s study found that adults who used these cues when struggling with the toys in the study had a greater effect on the children’s perseverance than the adults who purposely didn’t engage with the children but solely modeled the effort-filled behavior.

Character traits like grit and perseverance are teachable, according to researcher Angela Duckworth, author of the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. “The parenting style that is good for grit is also the parenting style good for most other things: Be really, really demanding, and be very, very supportive,” she said in an interview with The New York Times.

But, Duckworth added, “you cannot will yourself to be interested in something you’re not interested in,” and grit is best developed in areas where people already have passion.

Journalist Paul Tough, author of How Children Succeed, wrote in an article for The Atlantic that learning these skills isn’t something that can simply be written into a curriculum. “What is emerging,” he said, “is a new idea: that qualities like grit and resilience are not formed through the traditional mechanics of ‘teaching’ ” but rather through a child’s environment.

When it comes to the classroom, researcher Carol Dweck has documented the importance of praising children for effort rather than success in order to develop a growth mindset. A series of studies found that children who were praised for intelligence were less likely to persist after they failed, compared with those who were praised for their hard work. A study of middle schoolers in New York City found that students who believed that their intelligence was malleable rather than predetermined were able to do better in math class over time.

The next step for Leonard is trying to determine how long the effects she saw in the lab might last with young children.

“Even in infancy, babies are paying attention to what adults are doing and using that information to guide their persistence,” she said. “I think that’s an interesting message for educators to think about how they’re modeling behavior.”

Benefits of Yoga for Kids


By Natasha Coleman

When I was a teacher, I used to do yoga with my students and boy did they love it. We would do yoga right after recess and lunch and the kids always came back to class with a ton of energy. By doing yoga, the students were calm and ready to finish the rest of the day. There have been many proven benefits for children participating in yoga.

Yoga helps students build concentration skills. They are forced to focus their mind on the movement of their body, forced to relax, and clear their minds. Yoga helps develop body awareness. They learn how their bodies move, what balance is and develop body awareness. Yoga can help students who have a hard time with self-regulation.

Yoga can help relieve stress in students. We never know what students are dealing with outside of school and how school makes them feels, so it is great we give them a safe outlet to relieve that stress. Yoga can allow students to meditate and focus on their breathing. Lastly, yoga helps build strength, awareness, and focus. Yoga can be done in the classroom, at home, or at your nearest gym/yoga studio.


Shocked?! Why would I be?


This blog was first published on  http://www.memphisk12.education

By LaShundra Richmond

I am not even shocked anymore at the latest news of racist acts throughout my own city, state, and even country. Seemingly, it has become the new norm amongst individuals to casually open fire in public places and kill those who are of a different ethnic descent. Words fail me continuously as I wrestle with my own emotions and thoughts and try to wrap my head around what’s really happening in the streets and communities of this country where we’ve been taught to sing, “home of the brave, land of the free.” I don’t even know where to begin. I guess it could make sense to start with the recent shooting in the Antioch neighborhood of Nashville, TN (less than 3 hours/230 miles) away from my city  or let’g go to Florida where a teen used a sign with these words, “If I was a black, I’d be picking cotton, but I’m white so I’m picking u 4 prom,” invoking a racial stereotype. Either tragedy, in my opinion, is centered again around the notion that somehow racial discriminatory practices and heinous acts against people have become the norm in this country, where even lawmakers and government officials, in some cases, uphold this foolery.

In the case of the teenager from Florida, he offered a generic apology saying that his actions was merely joke; however, in the case of the 4 victims in Antioch, we can’t say the same. Families are hurting and communities are grieving. As a race, we are consistently outraged and as a young person who has spent many nights out with friends in a Waffle House establishment, the thought of someone coming in with such hatred and an armed weapon to intentionally do harm would of never crossed my mind. But in 2018, the thought indeed has to cross my mind because whereas my intentions of sitting in a public place just enjoying life is my only intention, others lurking in this country might not feel the same. Something is terribly wrong with a society when such acts has become a norm and a recurring breaking news story on all media outlets. It doesn’t have to hit close to home to be a reality and sting just the same.

What can one say to it all? Again, I’ve yet to find the perfect response. I think I am growing numb to it all; I don’t know if this is good or bad. Either way, I am highly disturbed and my prayers are simple:


Continue to cover us all, your people. Cover our minds and hearts and help us all to reconcile what is seemingly becoming all of our realities. Help us to remember that you have not given us a spirit of fear, but a sound mind. Dear Lord, I pray for all of those affected by the tragic acts of this past weekend, over the course of the last few months and years and years of turmoil, hatred and strife. I pray that we, your people, can continuously look to the hills from whence cometh our help. I pray our hearts are not hardened and we continue to seek you for peace, comfort and guidance. I pray for the aggressors, those that have decided in their hearts and minds to join the enemy’s plot to kill, steal, and destroy and pray fervently that the days of the wicked will indeed be few in number. I pray I live to see true freedom ring and our dreams for us to walk in brotherly love, unity and peace come true. I pray for this country, its leaders, and the lives of those impacted. I pray for our children that they are able to grow up with the belief in a “better country” despite the one that’s evident now and still know you’ve called them to be change agents, world leaders, and if nothing else, dreamers. I thank you for another day of life and allowing me to somehow do my part, with the grace and strength you’ve gifted me. I thank you for a right state of mind and being able to love people as you love us endlessly. Now God, grant us your continued grace and mercy. Give us divine wisdom on how to handle what is and what could be next and allow us, as people, to seek you for understanding and instruction. Help us with what we don’t understand, so at least we’ll have peace and when we can’t seem to figure it all out, show us what next to do. Help us to keep the legacies of those lost lifted and never forgotten as reminders of the continued struggle and the continued journey towards victory that’s already been promised to us in your word. I thank you for a moment to just come to you, as humbly as I know how. Praying for answers, praying for a resolve, praying for understanding, praying for comfort, and praying for peace.

In Jesus name, I submit this request.