A Closer Look at Michelle Obama’s Speech

When Black Kids Want to Learn and the World Tells Them NO – Published on AlterNet/Education (first on The Nation), by Mychal Denzel Smith, May 29, 2013.

Black kids grow up in a society that doesn’t value educating black children and is hellbent on doing everything it can to stop them from learning.

In light of the  recent news out of Chicago, I think we should take another look at first lady Michelle Obama’s remarks from her  commencement address at Bowie State University. Particularly this part: 

But today, more than 150 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, more than 50 years after the end of “separate but equal,” when it comes to getting an education, too many of our young people just can’t be bothered. Today, instead of walking miles every day to school, they’re sitting on couches for hours playing video games, watching TV. Instead of dreaming of being a teacher or a lawyer or a business leader, they’re fantasizing about being a baller or a rapper
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I hope the first lady has seen  this video of 9-year-old Asean Johnson, on the eve of Chicago’s Board of Education vote to close fifty schools, telling a crowd of protesters, “You should be investing in these schools, not closing them. You should be supporting these schools, not closing them.” He wasn’t alone and this wasn’t the first demonstration. Young black people were out in the streets fighting for their right to an education and they were ignored.

The situation is similar in Philadelphia. Twenty-three schools in that city are slated to close, and on the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the one that was supposed to end “separate but equal,” students organized a  walkout to protest budget cuts that would further decimate their schools, eliminating libraries, extracurricular activities and, yes, sports. I hope the first lady has read the  statement issued by these students where they said: “We are willing to break the stereotypes and expectations of urban youth, and are taking this opportunity to tell the world that urban school districts deserve funding, and it is your responsibility under the Commonwealth Charter to provide us with more than a ‘bare bones education.” They want more. They want the resources for an education that will become the foundation of their future. Their government is  building prisons instead … //

… The situation is similar in Philadelphia. Twenty-three schools in that city are slated to close, and on the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, the one that was supposed to end “separate but equal,” students organized a  walkout to protest budget cuts that would further decimate their schools, eliminating libraries, extracurricular activities and, yes, sports. I hope the first lady has read the  statement issued by these students where they said: “We are willing to break the stereotypes and expectations of urban youth, and are taking this opportunity to tell the world that urban school districts deserve funding, and it is your responsibility under the Commonwealth Charter to provide us with more than a ‘bare bones education.” They want more. They want the resources for an education that will become the foundation of their future. Their government is  building prisons instead.
(full text).

(Mychal Denzel Smith is a blogger at TheNation.com and a Knobler Fellow at the Nation Institute. He is also a freelance writer and social commentator. His work on race, politics, social justice, pop culture, hip hop, mental health, feminism and black male identity has appeared in various publications, including The Guardian, Ebony, theGrio, the Root, Huffington Post and GOOD).

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