Saturday, May 17, 2014, marked the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education. This landmark Supreme Court decision determined that separate schools for Black and White students unconstitutional. As I reflect on this case and subsequent decision, attention must be paid to the “v.” or verses that connects an eight-year-old African American student, Linda Brown, to public education during that time. This detail serves to remind us of the oppositional history that existed for Black students because all kids are our kids, and equally important, why this history deserves constant consideration.
My commitment is to a Beloved CommUNITY where we work collectively to prevent even the hint of backsliding into beliefs, thinking, and practices reminiscent of life just 15 years before I was born. With this goal in mind, I offer these insights along with opportunities to remember Brown v. Board of Education and move onward together:
Remembering requires critical thinking
Each day I communicate with neighbors via email, telephone, and social media who share a commitment to Minneapolis Public Schools. Recently, I reached out to several constituents to gain their perspectives around the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015 Budget. In each conversation, there were questions raised around how we think about the budget and the vision that guides funding decisions. It became clear that the budget issue is not simply a lack of school funding. Rather the issue extends to the critical thinking necessary to determine budget priorities and incentives to engage in creative problem-solving and innovation conversations. “Vision, Passion and Imagination are kinfolk” and essential for every student to thrive at MPS (Chaun Webster, Curator of Literature at Ancestry Books and MPS parent).
OPPORTUNITY: Attend and participate in the Board Meeting, Tuesday, May 27th, 6p – 8p for the FY15 Budget presentation among other related topics.
Remembering requires a paradigm shift
We must not underestimate the beliefs, thinking, and practices that required a Supreme Court decision to change the faces of public education to reflect the demographics of the public. When we are committed to all students, we must ensure that we imagine all students along with their race, class, gender, ability, sexual orientation, religion, and language realities. Merely imagining who has the right to a quality education, extracurricular activities, advanced courses, Special Education, exposure to arts and culture, Support services, English as a Second Language services, travel locally & nationally, and leadership opportunities may require a paradigm shift if we truly believe all students deserve the right to thrive at MPS. This simply makes sense due to the lengthy United States history of violations through education (Boarding Schools for Native American students, Segregation of African American students, English-only movement, etc.). Still, I believe we have the will to shift!
In the state of Minnesota, we made a paradigm shift with the success of Bills such as the Dream Act, Same-Sex Marriage, Safe Schools, and Minimum Wage. The positive impact of these paradigm shifts on MPS students, families, teachers and staff is irrefutable. We must shift again and quickly when we remember what life was like for Black students prior to 1954 and especially, when we see any glimpse of similarities of that life in 2014.
I believe wholeheartedly, that we can welcome a paradigm shift that allows us to 1) think critically about the construction of race, 2) change the course of outcomes at our schools predicted by race (as well as the interlocking realities of class, gender, and ability), and 3) honor the dreams of every student with respect to the intentional and/or unintentional policies, practices, and procedures that may perpetuate racism.
OPPORTUNITY: MPS is now in the process of bringing a Strategic Plan draft out to the community for review, so that the Board of Education can vote on a final plan this summer. There are (3) ways to engage – 1) take the survey about the proposed plan, 2) send questions and/or comments to MPSStrategicPlan@mpls.k12.mn.us, and 3) attend and participate in the Strategic Plan 2020 community engagement session on Monday, June 9, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the MPS Davis Center.
Remembering requires action
After nearly a decade as a MPS teacher and rounding the corner of my second year on the MPS School Board, I am constantly reminded as George Santayana (1863 – 1952) contends, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
I agree that remembering the past can serve to prevent the same mistakes. That said, remembering requires critical thinking, and a paradigm shift if the intention is to do better. Once again this is not a suggestion that pits my district against another district or your student’s educational future against the educational future of your neighbor’s student across 35W or Hennepin Avenue. Rather, this is simply a reminder that “We all do better when we all do better” because we are MPS (Paul Wellstone,1944 – 2002).
OPPORTUNITY: Attend and participate in Regular Board Meetings – 2nd Tuesday of every month, 5:30p Public Comments, 6p Regular Meeting
Meeting Agenda, BoardBook Packet and Minutes (updated the Friday, 12p before the Tuesday Board Meeting)
Additionally, I invited a few MPS constituents and champions committed to building our MPS Beloved CommUNITY to share their visions and passions in our Newsletter. Enjoy!
Section 2: Sousada Chidthachack, MPS South High School graduate, U of MN Ph.D. Candidate and Mathematics teacher
Section 3: A Collective Approach from Barton families – Stephanie Malcy, Anjula Razdan, Fiona Pradhan, Keiko Veasey, and Sheila Eldred
Section 4: Local business owner and artist, Tammy Ortegon, shares her vibrant and creative prints that support the theme Beloved CommUNITY.
Section 5: I also included “Reflections on hopes and dream deferred after Brown v. Board of Education” from MinnPost blogger and MPS parent Beth Hawkins. This must-read piece includes Minneapolis perspectives from 30-year MPS Administrator Lucille Jones, Professor Emeritus Mahmoud El-Kati, Senator Jeff Hayden, Northwest Area Foundation Vice President Gary Cunningham, Professor of Law Nekima Levy-Pounds, and former MPS School Board Director T. Williams.
This is an exciting time to work together and once again, THANK YOU for your partnership and commitment to MPS!
Tracine Asberry, Ed.D.
MPS Board of Education Director, District 6
Director Profile, Term 2013 – 2017
Section 2: Beloved CommUNITY Perspective: Sousada Chidthachack, MPS Graduate, South High School, U of MN Ph.D. Candidate and Mathematics teacher
Dear Students, Families and Leaders of Education for Team Tracine (aka Dr. Asberry):
Many people are surprised to learn that I was born in a Refugee camp in Thailand. My family made a courageous decision to leave their beloved country in search of better educational opportunities for women. Therefore, I am the second woman in my family to receive a high school diploma and a bachelor’s degree; but the first to have a graduate degree. However, my parents are most proud that I am a teacher and now a scholar-teacher. I have served as a Minnesota licensed teacher of mathematics for five years in inner-city schools. I embarked on a journey to pursue a Ph.D. with a supporting field in Mathematics since I understand that mathematics equals opportunities, especially for inner-city youth.
As a woman in mathematics in a male dominated field, I am reminded often the power of community—communities such as Women’s Philanthropic Leadership Circle Award (WPLC) serve as an encouragement to me, that I am not alone in my pursuit. The resilient students I serve also remind me of the value of community-engaged scholarship.
In a year, I will become a professor of mathematics education. My goal is to better prepare current and pre service teachers of mathematics to teach in underrepresented communities. A leader at one point meant muscles. Today it means working with people to educate, inform and uplift them to become productive citizens. My philosophy is to lead by inspiring others to do their best in academia and to share how education has transformed my life from poverty to world traveler and educator. I have studied at six continents while earning a bachelors and a master’s degree. My hope is for students to understand that education truly can uplift them from poverty into leadership roles. Inner-city students, especially students of color, need to see more teachers and scholars of color. I am proud to be able to do just that.
Thank you for reading this and thank you to leaders who build circles to support one another. More importantly, thank you for the courage to lead, the commitment to support and honor women teachers and leaders, and the positive impact on our community.
MPS Graduate, South High School
Minnesota Teaching License, Secondary Mathematics
University of Minnesota, College of Education & Human Development
Ph.D. Student in Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Education
Section 3: Beloved CommUNITY Perspective: Barton Open Families, Stephanie Malcy, Anjula Razdan, Fiona Pradhan, Keiko Veasey, and Sheila Eldred
Last fall, Barton Open School parents learned about a proposal to put a cell-phone tower on top of our children’s school. We were concerned about the negative health effects children could experience from prolonged, long-term exposure to the radiation that cell towers emit. So a group of us talked with our school principal as well as folks at the district to stop the cell tower from being placed on our school.
But, we haven’t stopped there. In the course of our activism, we learned that cell towers already existed on 18 other schools in the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) district. Motivated by the belief that each and every child in the district has a right to a safe and healthy environment in order to grow and flourish, we mobilized our community, met with elected officials, contacted experts, and created a petition. Simply put, public schools are no place for technologies that can potentially harm our children. In December, we testified before the Minneapolis School Board, resulting in the MPS superintendent calling a moratorium on any new cell tower contracts.
Since December, we have been doing our best to partner with MPS to develop a policy that keeps all children safe and clear from prolonged exposure to cell-tower radiation. We are also continuing to raise community awareness of the issue and inviting people to get involved. To learn more and to sign up for our email list, visit http://nocelltowersonschools.weebly.com.
We’re all in this together,
Section 4: Beloved CommUNITY Perspective: Tammy Ortegon
Local business owner and renowned artist
CLICK HERE for local inspiration paintings (via Facebook)
MinnPost “Must Read” by Beth Hawkins
“I think the Supreme Court’s call for ‘all deliberate speed’ still rings true to this day because there has been some progress but not enough and not soon enough. There has been a reticence to make sure that all children, regardless of their race or ethnicity, have access to a quality education.” – Nekima Levy-Pounds, A professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School
SAVE THE DATE
Why We Can’t Wait, A Three Part Relevant, Real and Rare Community Engagement Series Coming to YOU in 2014!
Part 2 of 3: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Theme: Beloved CommUNITY – Gather, Rally, MARCH, and Celebrate
10:30a, GATHER – Sabathani Community Center
310 E. 38th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55409
11a, RALLY and Speeches – Sabathani Community Center
12p, MARCH – Sabathani Community Center to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park
1p-4p CELEBRATE – Musical Entertainment, Food Vendors, and Kids Activities
Rev. Dr. King Park, 4055 Nicollet Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55409
“Beloved Community,” a phrase used by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe a place where the gifts and concerns of all people are woven together. We recognize all that has been torn apart, damaged, or unheard and we celebrate our capacity to engage and co-create through art, expression and love.
More details to follow!