“The first step on the road to justice is to provide the oppressed with a voice to tell their story.”
—Adrienne Dixson and Celia Rousseau, Critical Race Theory in Education
The argument the above quote presents is that lack of opportunity to voice our concerns as blacks especially when it regards education. Is that quote still applicable today? Well, absolutely.
There are not many platforms for the black voice to be heard; however, on the platforms that are available for blacks, why are we so silent?
I will ask the questions that many have not asked. Where are all the black voices in education in Indiana? As I look at the legislation, school boards, education policy programs I cannot help but see the lack of blacks. I know there are black educators, but many are silent on the issues for the masses. They speak on the issues that involve their district, but what about the collective? What about the mentality that has hampered us as a people since the time we came over here as slaves?
I will discuss three entities through which blacks can have voices and can speak a little louder and have more of a voice.
First, I look at the current policy fellowship that I am a part of at Teach Plus. Teach Plus is a national organization with a mission to empower excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their student’s success. Teach Plus is the perfect platform for black educators to have a voice. It provides training and guidance on how to positively use your voice to make systemic change in education to greatly impact schools, students, and teachers.
Of the 46 current policy fellows that make up the Indianapolis and Indiana cohorts, only six are black. I am the only male. Are we the only six who have a voice in policy? How can six individuals have a voice loud enough to speak on the plight of education that affects black students in our state? It is frustrating. I am calling on other black educators—if you truly care about your students, then I urge you to get involved with Teach Plus.
Second, the Indiana State Board of Education is an eight-member board lead by the Indiana State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The board has zero Blacks serving. Let that sink in for a minute. A board that discusses and makes a decision that affects the schools in Indiana and oftentime affects schools that have a high number of black students has no one on the board that is black. The Indiana State Board of Education is probably one of the largest platforms for a voice in education and we have no voice there. Now the seats on the board are seats that are appointed by government officials like the house speaker and Governor. Do they not see the value in having a black voice on the board or do they not know where the black voices are? It is an honest, twofold question: They may not be looking for a voice, or they may honestly feel there isn’t a powerful enough black voice out there to sit on the board.
Finally, Indianapolis Public Schools, Wayne, Pike, Warren, Lawrence, and Washington are six school districts located in Indianapolis. The six school districts have 36 combined members on their school board, serving roughly 44,000 black students. There are a combined 11 black members on those six school boards. That means 30 percent of the voices on those boards are black voices when over 50 percent of the students in those six districts are black.
This is yet another example where the black voice is being silenced. We need our school boards to reflect the students that they serve in those districts.
If they don’t hear our voice then they won’t know that we have a voice.