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By Sabir Kasib Muhammad
(Photos by Nassar Madyun)

ATLANTA, Ga. – Since her appointment last year as Consulting Director for the Mohammed Schools of Atlanta, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir-Khan has spent countless hours examining the current school structure and its feeder system, which is the entire Islamic community of North America.

During this time, Sis. Zaheerah is even more convinced that our schools offer the absolute best opportunity for not only the survival of our community as a well-defined Islamic entity, but also the survival of our children in a world that is designed to do everything in its power to separate them from Islam as their religion.

Our great leader Imam W. Deen Mohammed was blessed not only with great spiritual insight into religion, but also with a unique insight into the future of our community and the need for us to preserve and persevere... Read Apr. 14, 2017's Issue Here.

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By Amatullah Umrani

Prophet Musa reminded his people to review their history as a reminder of past struggles, but also of the favors of Allah. (Quran 14:6)

The Hon. Elijah Muhammad taught, “Of all our studies, history is best qualified to reward our research.”
Research of the past usually involved examination of several sources from which one could draw conclusions, observations or thoughts.

Today, when we do an internet search, we find that many entries have originated from the same source. There is ease in getting information, but there is ease in false information being spread.

Being at the top of the Google search list or being on Wikipedia does not make it true. Early in life, you will begin finding that certain things presented as “facts” are not, and theories may be disproved... Read Mar. 10, 2017's Issue Here.

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Submitted by Imam Lyndon Bilal

In observance of African American / Black History Month, which in actuality should be commemorated and celebrated 365 days a year, this week’s MAVA Speaks article explores the intriguingly fascinating life story of Captain Robert Smalls (1839 – 1915).

Robert Smalls was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, in 1839, a slave of John Mckee, and he lived to serve as a Union naval officer; a major general in the South Carolina militia during the reconstruction era, and a congressman of the United States.

Following the Confederate attack on Union held Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on a the early morning of April 12, 1861, Smalls was a pilot on a Confederate steamer, The Planter, used to transport guns and ammunition for the Confederate cause.

On the evening of May 12, 1862, while docked in the port of Charleston, the white Confederate officers of The Planter went ashore to attend a party, leaving the black crew alone to tend to chores... Read Feb. 24, 2017's Issue Here.

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Imam Talib M. Shareef, USAF-Retired

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Feb. 15, 2017, during African American History Month, was the chosen date for Howard University's Department of African Studies inaugural opening of The Sulayman Nyang Lecture Series on Islam in Africa.
This series was created to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Nyang in scholarship and understanding. The Nyang Lecture series is a part of the African Studies Palaver series, which is a program of the African Studies Department and the Center for African Studies.
The Palaver Series are year-long lectures, discussions related to Africa, bringing together prominent scholars and public servants, in collaboration with various institutions and university departments... Read Feb. 24, 2017's Issue Here.

With Dr. Nyang (seated) (front left to right) are Dr. Mohamed Camara, Dr. Mbye Cham – former Chair of Department of African Studies at Howard University, Ambassador Sheikh Omar Faye and Imam Talib Shareef.

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WCMC-Q Graduation - May 6, 2009 Photo credit: Weill Cornell Medical College

By Dr. Khalil Marcus Lambert

Photo credit: Weill Cornell Medical College
Photo credit: Weill Cornell Medical College

I recently had the pleasure of having an intimate conversation with Dr. Louis Wade Sullivan, Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George H. W. Bush and founding Dean of Morehouse School of Medicine. Dr. Sullivan shared some of his thoughts on the scarcity of minorities in medicine and science, which has arguably reached endemic proportions.

Black men, for example, seem to remain the most underrepresented in medicine, given their overall representation in the American population.  In fact, more black men entered medical school in the year 1978 than in 2014. Earning a Ph.D. in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) does not fare much better with less than 4% being awarded to African American men and less than 5% to African Americans in total.


Dr. Sullivan pointed out that there is a responsibility that we have as a larger society to remove the barriers, but there also is a personal responsibility that we have as individuals and family members to see that the environment our young people grow up in is supporting them and reaffirming them. This is what Islamic community life should be.


Long before I decided to apply for a Ph.D. in biomedical science, I was being nurtured and supported inside the womb of my Islamic community.  At the age of 15, my parents enrolled me in W. D. Mohammed High School in Atlanta, Georgia—450 miles away from home. It was this environment that helped to forge inside me a responsibility to my community and a drive for making a larger contribution to society.


The move did not come without its own unique challenges. I boarded with four separate families while attending the school, leaving my aunt and uncle after an electrical fire and departing from another family after being robbed at gunpoint on my way home one night. My parents offered for me to return home, but I knew my soul needed the interconnectedness of community. I learned later that those misfortunes were a test of my resiliency, and I could always rely on my community to remind me of the importance of my mission and my ability to succeed.


In 2003, I graduated valedictorian and accepted a full scholarship to Howard University in Washington, DC. I majored in biology with hopes of entering medical school. By my junior year, I had received significant training in scientific research through various mentors and internships. In one experience, I joined researchers at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia seeking ways to reduce the prevalence of tuberculosis in dairy cattle on a governmental farm.


This opportunity gave me confidence in my ability to affect the lives of others through science and provided a glimpse into how I could use science to inform policy.  Not only did we advance the knowledge in our scientific field, we provided evidence to shape local governmental policy.  I discovered a clear relationship between scientific research and the lives of people that I sought to strengthen.


I went on to earn my Ph.D. in biomedical research at New York University School of Medicine and began teaching at New York City College of Technology in Brooklyn, NY. In 2014, I accepted a position as Director of Diversity and Student Services at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, where I seek to recruit and train the next generation of scientists.


There is a vital need to train more physicians and scientists from historically underrepresented racial and ethnic backgrounds to address the needs of minority populations. Those needs may come in the form of health disparities, minority patient interaction, or a better understanding of basic biological processes. African American Muslim communities must realize their potential for producing more doctors (including Ph.D.’s) and place a greater value on higher education.


Higher education doesn’t always mean enrolling in the conventional educational route, but it should lead the student to seek the best training wherever he or she may find it. The African American experience is rich with students of knowledge who mastered their field in order to bring great benefit to their people, community, and society. Muslims must uphold this tradition for the viability and overall health of our communities.


I want to see more nutritionists studying African American Muslim diets. I want to hear about more epidemiologists who are studying the patterns and ramifications of disease conditions in the African American community. Above all, I would like to see the African American Muslim community establish a reputation for producing scholars who are supported and reaffirmed by their own community.


In this vein, I am making myself available as a mentor for any who is interested in achieving a Ph.D. in STEM. For those who are interested in becoming a research scientist or physician, you should be spending your summers in a laboratory or clinical environment, respectively. Many colleges and universities host free and paid summer internships for college students to gain valuable research experience and/or clinical exposure. (Some host opportunities for high school students as well.) For example, the ACCESS Summer Research Program of Weill Cornell Graduate School, for which I am the director, hosts 10 or more students for 10 weeks. Each student receives free housing, meal vouchers, a stipend of $3,500 for the summer, and up to $500 to cover travel expenses to New York City. The deadline for most programs is January through early March.


For those who are interested in other fields, I encourage you to join the 100 Black Doctors Initiative. This initiative is designed to connect at least 100 black doctors (Ph.D., M.D. or D.O.) from the Muslim community in any field or discipline to mentor the next cohort of 100 black doctors. For those interested in becoming a mentor or receiving mentorship, please sign-up here.

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Gum MachineBy Baaqia Uqdah-Grey

I ventured off to my neighborhood Laundromat at approximately 7:00 a.m. this morning. By 8:00 a.m. a crowd had begun to form. By 8:30 it had become overcrowded.
Few environments bring forth the nobility or baseness of one’s inner personality like an overcrowded Laundromat. For example, you can determine if someone is quarrelsome or agreeable by whether or not they step aside to give you enough room to walk through a narrow space.
You can surmise someone’s lack of ability to share if they dominate a laundry cart for the duration of their stay. In spite of the fact that “all” of their clothes are in a washer or dryer (and all other carts are in use), they place their personal belongings inside the cart and stand firm on the toddler’s creed: “It’s mine!”
For anyone who has never heard it, the toddler’s creed is written by Dr. Burton L. White as follows:
“The Toddlers Creed”
If I want it,
If I give it to you and change my mind later,
If I can take it away from you,
If it's mine it will never belong to anybody else,
No matter what.
If we are building something together,
All the pieces are mine!
If it looks just like mine,
If it breaks or needs putting away,

By far, the most interesting person I’ve observed in this Laundromat was the 2-year-old male child who came in with his father this morning. To the left of the entrance are four bubblegum machines. Upon entering, the father’s attention was caught by a man who greeted him in a friendly tone and seemed happy to see him.
The toddler’s attention was drawn to the bubblegum machines. For the first few moments the toddler spied the brightly colored contents of the machines. He tapped on the machines with his hands several times. Then he repeatedly placed his slightly opened mouth on the machines and moved it away to look at the bubblegum.
One might get the impression he was disappointed because the bubblegum had not fallen into his mouth. Each time he moved his mouth away from the machine he uttered the sound, “Ba-bu. Ba-bu.”
After several attempts at what seemed to be an effort to take hold of the brightly colored bubblegum with his mouth, he turned his face in the direction of his father and said, “Dad-dy. Ba-bu. Dad-dy. Ba-bu.” His father did not respond, nor did he acknowledge the child’s attempts to communicate with him. The toddler then walked over to his father (an approximate distance of five feet) and tapped him on the leg.
When the father looked down to acknowledge him, the child pointed to the machines and said, “Dad-dy. Ba-bu. Ba-bu.” The father looked in the direction of the machines, turned his attention away from them, and continued to engage in conversation with the adult.
The toddler returned to the machines. Once more he tapped on the machine and then placed his slightly opened mouth on one of the machines.
After having gone back and forth four times, and each attempt being unsuccessful, the toddler, now standing next to the bubblegum machines, began to tear up. For a short time he called out to his father reiterating, “Dad-dy. Ba-bu.” All the while he was pointing to the machines.
Apparently realizing and accepting the certainty that his father was not going to acknowledge his persistent efforts to obtain the bubblegum, the toddler conceded, and moved onto another location in the Laundromat.
Amazing! Admirable! Enlightening! That was my response to the toddler’s behavior, and the father’s response to that behavior. For many years, in the capacity of early childhood educator, early childhood consultant, and parent, I’ve entered many battles in the zone of Toddler-dom.
In some battles, I could see that if I just stood my ground I could be victorious. In other battles, I learned to wave the white flag of surrender or truce from the onset. All the time knowing one thing is certain – you may win individual battles with a toddler, but you’ll never win the war.
Observing this father’s response to his son’s persistence was an “Ah Hah!” moment for me. It shed new light on the phrase “Ignore the behavior and it will go away.” Most of the time, as it relates to toddlers and tantrums, “the behavior” referred to is what transpires “after” the toddler has crossed the threshold of a tantrum.
That, and the adult’s previous practice of giving in to the toddler’s whimpers and whines (prelude to a full blown tantrum), present a bonafide recipe for disaster. Ignoring the behavior does not mean ignore the child. In this new light I must consider too that ignoring the behavior doesn’t mean ignoring the behavior “after” it has begun.
Instead, it may mean ignoring those actions that prompt the unwanted behavior. It is important to note redirecting the child’s attention remains a useful tool. But observing this child and his father impressed upon me that just as language skills, motor skills, cognitive skills and social skills are developed and therefore need to be supported as early in life as possible – so do disciplinary skills.
How wonderful a world we could live in if by the age of two we all learned to put forth our best effort, communicate, try and try again, compromise, clarify, and then concede and move on after putting forth our best efforts.
I witnessed all of that in those few minutes of observing this toddler and father. The child displayed an excellent example of emergent self-control (discipline), and the father displayed a good example of ignoring the prompts for undesirable behavior.
For the remainder of the time it took to remove my clothes from the dryers and fold them, I observed the toddler running with his father being ever watchful. I saw the father panic when his son had momentarily ventured too far to be seen, and I saw the father hug and cuddle his son as he offered him what appeared to be grape juice in a baby bottle.
These latter interactions were examples of love and forgiveness. Wonderful life lessons were displayed during their interactions. One such lesson is we’re never too old to learn.
I can’t say I learned these lessons by observing this child in the Laundromat. However, I can say what I witnessed today reinforced the life lessons that my mother taught me when I was a toddler.

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Proffessor Ali A. Mazrui

Ali A. Mazrui, Islam and the African American Experience?By Professor Sulayman S. Nyang
Ali A. Mazrui, the great African intellectual who travelled across oceans and deserts on the planet to project the voices of Africa, is gone from this earth.
Like all of us who are destined to have a rendezvous with God some day, he has joined the ranks of those he honored and celebrated in his own writings. Hence he has gone to what he called “After-Africa” – a term used in his review and appreciation of the late Nigerian poet, Christopher Okigbo
Not only was Ali communicating and cooperating with Black American Muslims, he also kept close and friendly contacts with famous and lesser known African Americans. Many African American boys and girls who entered the American academy 30 or 40 years ago benefitted from his viva voce or the reverberation of his words in the firmaments of Black political and cultural debates.
Truth be told, this author could testify to the fact that Ali and a number of us engaged Imam W.D. Mohammwd and Minister Louis Farrakhan after the successful conclusion of the Million Man March. The idea was brought about by Abdurahman Al-Amoudi, now serving a prison term because of  political complications between himself, his organization, the American Muslim Council (AMC), and the U.S. government.
He, Al-Amoudi, called upon the Muslims to take full advantage of Min. Farrakhan’s success. In his view, that moment in American history was the moment of destiny. If Muslims are going to be recognized by the leaders in America, through political activism, then it was imperative for them to seize the time and demonstrate their skills in learning and earning in American society.
Islam and the Creation of Global Consciousness:
In writing this brief review on Ali A. Mazrui and his consciousness about the impact of Islam in Muslim life in the United Stares of America, it would be helpful if the following points are  noted here. First of all, Mazrui had shown in his lifetime that he was courageous  and unflagging in highlighting what Africa was all about.
A large number of the African American people learned from and definitely profited from his book and video on the Africans. Truth be told once again, Ali Mazrui added a foot note to the long debate about Africa, the Middle East and political engineering in America.
His decision to project the triple heritage as his point of departure in the telling of our story as part and parcel of American civilization was deliberate. Unless and until his background and Afro-Arab identity were taken into account, he would not offer his services to the interested parties.
As a result, we now learned about Africa from three sources that provided  platforms for debates among interested parties. His Africans had a counter parallel in The Wonders of Africa, written by Dr. Henry Lewis Gates at Harvard University.
Though unintended, Ali who once served as an advisor to Gates at the beginning of the enterprise, eventually cross swords with his former protégé. Their rivalry and differing readings and interpretations of race, color and religion put them at loggerhead in the domain of American cultural approval.
In the words and images of this African American scholar at the W.E.B. Dubois Institute, much ought to be said about the confusion in the self-definition of certain people in Africa. For Gates, the persons he interviewed in Zanzibar were mistaken in calling themselves Afro-Shirazians. Rather than embracing a clear-cut black identity, as Gates expected, these individuals projected themselves differently.
That was why he told one of them that he looked more like Michael Tyson than an Iranian trapped in African pigmentation. Being born and grounded in that phenomena of cultural mixing and inter-civilization, by all encounters, Mazrui took issues with Gates.
That was the root cause of the verbal combat between Ali and his friends on the one hand and Gates and Wole Soyinka, the distinguished Nobel laureate from Nigeria, on the other.
There is much to be examined by scholars and writers on the Black Experience. Apart from Mazrui and Gates, who in the old lingo of W.E.B.Dubois were colored intellectuals at work, there was also a White English author of distinct and fame.
Known to many of us, Basil Davidson was a supporter of Africa with numerous books and scholarly articles to his credit. Thus, in concluding this narrative, we can say that Mazrui used his pen to generate words to serve as his errand boys, while simultaneously doing psychological judo to the purveyors of violence and mischief in Africa and beyond.
Ali Mazrui and his consciousness of the American Experience:
Regardless of what people say or write about the “Man from Mombassa,” the fact remains he is someone who went to his grave knowing fully well where America started and what lessons to be learned from that experience.
A Third Truth be told, Ali was seriously concerned about Blacks and their American experience. Three issues affected him in his lifetime: The battle for civil rights; the battle against global racism; and finally, the battle for climate change and progressive action against the humiliation and marginalization of violated and culturally deprived peoples.
A bibliography on Professor Mazrui would serve as a “Guide for the Perplexed” who embraced his vision. Those who are Muslim from any part of the planet, who treasured what we know as his Mazruiana Body of Knowledge, will join the struggle for justice and freedom.
These are people who will eternally remember the man from Mombassa through scholarships and fellowships in his name.  Ali's commitment to racial equality was evidence in his local and international activism.
Before Mandela came out of jail, Ali Mazrui and his friends and colleagues in town and gown participated in the dismantle of the stones of apartheid. When Abdulrahman Al-Amoudi ran the AMC, he championed the idea of mobilizing American Muslims against apartheid.
The late Professor Ali A. Mazrui was asked to give the keynote address at a Washington hotel. Historically speaking, the drama of that moment was significant in a variety of ways. Ali spoke well to connect the dots which created a line of meaning for those who aspired to bring down this shameful institution.
On that particular occasion, the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed and Imam Jamil Al-amin, before his imprisonment, shared space together with the leaders of the AMC and other Muslims sufficiently shaken by this pain in the “black neck.”?                The third issue of marginalization  and humiliation of the weak and vulnerable minorities played an important part in Ali's role as public intellectual. Ironically, Ali’s liberalism in support of victimized, humiliated and marginalized minorities put him at loggerhead with Salman Rushdie.
Much ink was expended during the controversy between Rushdie and his Western Liberal supporters, on the one part, and Mazrui and his supporters on the other hand.?               In concluding this side of the story about the man and his impact on American, African and world history, one must put Ali A. Mazrui into the Obama legacy. If he is not in the footnotes to Obama's post presidential narrations, chances are someone might well write at that moment history that the old man from Mombassa wrote profusely about President Obama, who was 5 years old when his Kenyan father shared the joy and glory of coming to America at that moment in history.
Ali  went to Columbia and Obama's father attended a university in the Hawaii. Interestingly enough, Ali's children will be identified with the legacies of the Kennedys and the great airlift, even though he was not a recruit of Tom Mboya.
It would be a clear case to make that America gave the gift of the American Dream to a wide range of Africans during the Cold War. At a final point in this conclusion, one could speculate about the wishes of the belated and now departed Ali A. Mazrui.
Certainly,  he would have asked the President to grant clemency to Jamil Al-Amin to please the African American pressing his claims because of his severe illness. Similarly, he most probably would have begged for Abdulrahman al-Amoudi, who worked with him during heydays of the AMC.
Ironically, the man with whom Ali A. Mazrui worked so hard to bring Mandela out of jail is now languishing without any indication of release. This is certainly mysterious and intriguing because Al-Amoudi was the first Muslim organizer to take the average group of Muslims to the White House, where First Lady Hillary Clinton gave Muslims their first Eid celebration in American history.
Ali A. Mazrui and his commentary on Islam and the African American Experience:
In writing this part of the Ali story, it is important to identity the manner in which African American came to know Mazrui in American society.
As I stated above, his personal encounter with Malcolm X was a moment that opened his eyes to American racism and its impact on countless African Americans. Like many Muslims who met and conversed with Malcolm, Ali certainly was not someone who would lend support to the “racist voice” of Malcolm X at the time. However, in retrospect, one could now argue here that, as a colonial subject in whose country the color bar remained effective, Ali's Sunni Islam understandably sympathized with the pangs of Malcolm X, the Nation of Islam, and the Black community.
Yet, in saying so, we should hasten to also argue  here that Ali was strong in asserting the legacies from his father and family. Those African Americans who took time out to read his works on culture and interracial relations worldwide will certainly see how he and his nephew Al-Amin together addressed the impact of language in the field of human communication.
Both of them challenged us in their book appropriately named as the biblically metaphor, the Tower of Babel. Ali is gone but his nephew should now pick up the baton  and much is expected from him.?               Again, in exploring Ali’s relations with the African American Muslims, another observation that deserves immediate attention revolves around Ali and the memories of multiple people who knew and made positive gestures of friendship and love.
There should be three types of people in this group: Those who knew him from the class room; those who learned about him through the media and Internet; and finally, those who are locally and globally engaged and definitely share their mental world with people from far and wide.
Ali Mazrui  was a cultural timber much in demand among young Muslims in search of inspiration.

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Islah Academy

By Marcus “Ishma’il” Allgood
LOS ANGELES, Calif. – I recently attended the Islah L.A. Campus for an event for their new school [Islah Academy located in South Los Angeles].
The word “Islah” actually means Revive, Restore, and Renew in Arabic. This is the goal of the Muslim school in the heart of Los Angeles’ urban environment: To “Revive, Restore, and Renew” our children.
I heard their young Imam, Jihad Saafir, say, “We need to make a paradigm shift in Los Angeles, because we have lost two generations of youth.…”
I began to wonder what that meant. I recall seeing Facebook profiles with people having so-called “Muslim” or Arabic names, but they were holding liquor bottles and many were half naked with their hair uncovered.  Is this what Imam Jihad was referring to?
When you visit the prison systems, you see just as many Muslims as you would see of any other faith. I’ve always thought of Islam as a force of change, transforming lives; at least that is what it did for me.
I remember thinking several years ago that I may not make it to age 18, because of the violence and decadence in my drug saturated neighborhood. But Islam saved me. So what happened to these young Muslim men and women in jail that Islam did not have such a transformative experience?
Maybe I am being too presumptuous.  Because when I go to the masjid (Muslim place of worship), I see practicing devout Muslims in their 30s and 40s who went to Clara Muhammad Schools in L.A. How did they “Keep the faith”?

So I asked Kenyatta Bakeer, professor at West L.A. College Child Development department, how did she keep the faith – being that she is visibly Muslim with her beautiful head scarfs (called Hijab or Khimar) and modest dress, while she teaches students on how to be teachers.
She states; “After the Sister Clara Muhammad School closed (in Los Angeles), I was afraid of the unknown and once going to (public) school it was a culture shock.  I felt I had to always explain what a Muslim was and wanting not to feel like an outsider.
“There was always this pull-and-tug of who I was at home and who I was at school. Through age and maturity, I evolved to the woman I am today, fully practicing Islam.
“Had I continued in a Muslim School, I believe my life would’ve been a lot different and better. I would’ve felt supported. But after leaving Muslim school, it was like being thrown to the wolves.”
I also talked to a Muslim parent, former teacher, and principal of Clara Muhammad schools - Sharyn Muhammad (now a Quality Support Supervisor at a non-profit, who has a Master’s in Child Development). I asked her what she thinks about what happened to our Muslim children who left Muslim schools and entered public schools.
She stated, “One of the things that they kept was their (Islamic) foundation. I don’t expect that piece to be lost. But when they go out and are exposed to other cultures, styles, and social gatherings – and being that our young children are so impressionable, it has had an adverse effect on their religious practice.
“If the household is practicing, they can keep a level of their faith.  But when they go away from home, they begin to lose some of their practice. Maybe not their entire faith, but the home sets the tone. Having Islam practiced at home and school has the greatest affect.”
I appreciated the feedback from these leaders in our community, both in their religious circles, and in their field. But it made me think, should we only be “Reviving, Restoring, and Renewing” Muslim lives?
Of course we all need a revival.  That term is funny to me because it reminded me of my old Bible thumbing days where we would have “Revivals” at church. But this revival is not just about saving souls, but about saving lives from these streets.
“Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats forever.” Allah has promised us this world’s life AND the Hereafter for the believers.  Islam is a complete way of life (called Deen in Arabic), not just another religion.
Hence embracing it’s tenets of faith, hygiene, character, social justice and inter-personal relationship is a total self-makeover, a “Revival” of a sorts. Our kids need these values to be reinforced at school as well as at home.
Thus Imam Jihad needs your support in his initiative to revive, restore and renew our community.  We need your help to establish a fully Islamic school in South Los Angeles again (after the legacy of Sis. Clara Muhammad’s School.)
We need teachers, students, and most importantly …we need your financial support.  We are now accepting teacher applications at the Islah Campus on Slauson Avenue or online at
The school opened Sept. 1, 2014. Please send your donations or sponsor a child. Make your checks payable to “Islah Academy” and mail it to 2900 W Slauson Ave., Los Angeles, Calif. Please call 323-487-0933.

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Marian Wright Edelman

By Marian Wright Edelman

NNPA Columnist

Terrell Strayhorn, a brilliant black Ohio State University professor, recently opened the Educational Testing Service and Children’s Defense Fund co-sponsored symposium on ‘Advancing Success for Black Men in College’ by sharing questions his 14-year-old son asked him:

“Why did he get in trouble for speaking out of turn when he jumped in to answer his teacher’s question? Why when his white friend did the same thing, she was praised for being excited about learning?”

Strayhorn noted that many parents and grandparents and educators and policy experts are concerned about the same question:

“There are lots of black and brown boys who are often penalized for committing the same exact act that non-black and non-brown, usually white kids, commit in school - and some students are praised for certain behaviors that other kids are penalized for.

“It sends a very mixed message, because my son is confused: ‘So what should I do? Not be excited about learning? What if you just can’t wait for the question? How do I signal to the teacher I’m not a rule-breaker?’”

Strayhorn said these questions are something we’ve got to think about.

He highlighted a number of other roadblocks we must all be sensitive to and overcome to get all our children on a path of healthy development, confidence, and success.

The disparate treatment of black children in the classroom from the earliest years, especially black boys, often discourages and knocks many off the path to high school graduation and college.

The cumulative and convergent toll of subtle but discouraging adult actions in schools and other child serving systems they come into contact with too often impedes the success of children of color, especially those who are poor, and burdens them with an emotional toll they don’t deserve.

I used to sing loudly with my children and Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” I can only imagine the number of black children and adults who sing inside daily “It’s Not Easy Being Black.”

I’m sure that black youths seeing what happened to Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown and others who lost their lives for walking while black and those who are stopped and frisked and arrested and victimized by excessive police force carry these burdens inside every day.

Even the youngest black boys, ages 4 and 5, who are put out of school and even preschool for nonviolent disciplinary charges for which White children would never be
Strayhorn spelled out another way black children are harmed: through disparate resources in the classroom, including textbooks, that hold black, brown, and poor students back.

He described an experience he had while a professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville working with a Knoxville high school that was 97 percent black:

“I found that in this high school these students were learning from textbooks that were at least 10 years old… What exactly are the implications of learning from a textbook that’s 10 years old?

“Well, I’ll tell you this: that if you don’t catch up too quickly, especially in terms of science, there are certain technological revolutions that have happened at such a fast pace that they’re not even mentioned in the books from which they’ll learn - but will certainly be part of the test that they’ll take to demonstrate competency to go on to college.”

As he covered what does work in building a pathway to success, Strayhorn emphasized the need for positive interventions based on proven designs - because in his program evaluation experience, he’s seen far too many well-intentioned efforts that lacked a measurable impact because good ideas weren’t well implemented.

He said as an example, mentoring programs are especially popular, but many don’t provide adequate training: “If I ask everyone at this table, ‘Will you be a mentor?,’ and you all say yes, and I say, ‘Now, go out and mentor.’ But I never tell you what a mentor is supposed to do, I never tell you how important it is to get to know your mentee.”

We need to watch out for the subtle as well as the overt ways in which we treat non-white and white children and those who are poor differently.

And we need much more diversity in children’s literature so that white, black, Latino, Native American, Asian American, and all children can be exposed to the rich mosaic of America’s melting pot to help them see themselves and what they can be.

(Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities. For more information, go to


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By Nusayba Hammad, Communications Director, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights ( WASHINGTON, D.C. – In an act unprecedented in recent history, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand...