Educators sometimes wear different hats. Those hats represent the different roles we play. We wear the hat of educator, which serves as the first hat. Then, we wear the hat of advocate. We must fight for the rights of students and ensure their voice is heard. We wear the hat of caretaker. Many students come from backgrounds and upbringings that require us to do more to support them.
Education in Indianapolis, particularly in the black community, is one of the most important topics. The landscape of education for black children is shaped by the expansion of charter schools and what many believe is the destruction of the Indianapolis Public Schools, which serves some of the black students in the city. There is a need to hear from some prominent voices in our black community on education. Regardless of their stance, we need them to speak more and speak louder on the current landscape. Here are four black voices we need to hear talking about education in Indianapolis.
Congressman Andre Carson – He is arguably the most popular black politician in the state. He is the grandson of the late Julia Carson, and he took over her seat in Congress. Andre Carson has a strong backing in the state and the city of Indianapolis. When Andre speaks, people listen. He is such a prominent figure that he often goes unopposed for his seat in the Democratic party. As notable as his voice is, I do not hear him speak about education. Carson is a graduate of the Indianapolis Public School, but with all that is going on, he has remained relatively silent on many hot-button topics in regards to education in the city. He did not speak up about the closing of Indianapolis Public Schools; he has not spoken about the charter movement that is sweeping the city. As a prominent figure in our state, it is imperative that he speaks.
Maggie Lewis – She was a black woman who formerly ed the City-County Council in Indianapolis. She has been a prominent figure in the Indianapolis community. Despite not being the president, she is still a prominent figure on the City-County Council. She currently is the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club. As a school Principal, I know the impact of the Boys and Girls Club has on my scholars. They provide after-school programs to support schools like mine that do not have busses, and they support parents many like I have who cannot pick their children up from school. Maggie Lewis’s voice carries a lot of weight in our city and specifically in the black community. How does she feel about what is happening in our city regarding the charter movement? How does she feel about teacher shortage that is facing our city? I am sure she can use her influence in the City-County Council to make an impact? Back in 2013, she partnered with Businessman Al Hubbard to try and expand preschool in Indianapolis. What happened to that initiative? I have the utmost respect for Maggie Lewis especially after hearing her speak to the students at Howe when I worked there. I know she is beating the drum for quality education in Indianapolis, I want the beat to be louder.
David Hampton – He is the pastor of one of the most prominent churches in the city. His church, Light of the World Christian Church, has been a pillar in the community for many years. He is also the Deputy Mayor of Neighborhood Engagement. Pastor David Hampton’s profile is growing quickly. What is his stance on education? I know his appointment in the Mayor Hogsett’s administration is focused, but the community would like to hear how he feels about the move to innovation or the wave of charter sweeping the city. Again, another black leader in our community that could have a louder voice in ensuring the quality of education specifically for the black students continues to improve. I am sure when he looks out in the pulpit on Sunday he sees the faces of black children who currently attend schools that are underperforming. The fight for quality education is one that must be shared with those who share leadership in our community. Dr. Hampton is the Mayor’s right-hand man, and his position in the mayor’s office could impact education. Neighborhood engagement in some of these areas where schools are underperforming would go a long way. In many of these schools, they need to the neighborhood to be engaged in what is happening inside the school walls. Dr. Hampton your voice is loud enough to help improve the quality of education; let’s hear it.
Jeffery Johnson – He leads the largest and most prominent church in the city and possibly the state. Pastor Johnson is well respected in the black community not just because of the church he leads, but more recently the past few years his focus on improving the community. Pastor Johnson not only preaches the word of the gospel, but his generosity is one that has stretched across the city, across the state, across the country, and even across the world. The ROCK Initiative has now built homes, an apartment complex, and a grocery store. The church has also taken a keen interest in a school near the church. The church has done more than just donated the money; they have sent volunteers from the church. Pastor Johnson has pledged his church will donate roughly $200,000 to the school. Pastor Johnson recently wrote in a piece in the Indianapolis Recorder where he emphasized the importance of communities wrapping their arms around their school. Pastor Johnson is correct; there is significant value in the school and community partnership. His voice carries weight and carries momentum. Pastor Johnson has stepped to the forefront not just with the ROCK Initiative supporting the school near the church, but now with his voice. I look forward to hearing more on how our city can use the ROCK Initiative as a model to support other schools in other low-income neighborhoods.
I am writing this only a suggestion. It is not intended to take away from the tremendous work each of these four black leaders has done in our city and specifically for the black community. What I am asking is that they speak a little louder. The speak a little more. Speak about the lack of quality education in our city. I believe when they speak people listen, the right people listen.