That’s exactly what happened today at MacKenzie High School, (a Detroit Public School) when reportedly 200 students “marched up and down Wyoming, many chanting “No books, no school.” The students complained they have to share books in the classroom and can’t take them home. They also were upset about a new uniform policy implemented last fall and said bathrooms have toilets overflowing with feces and some students urinate in hallways.”
I’m not sure if you can sense it but there is a rumbling going on that is slowly making its presence felt. Young people are protesting in France, the Palestinians voted Hamas into power, Latinos are mobilizing like wild fire over the current immigration reform bills before Congress, and now students in my beloved hometown are stepping up demanding better resources. What makes me so proud is that these students were not “led” by old school civil rights leaders and as a result, they couldn’t be used as a backdrop.
Going beyond the picture
You are probably surprised that we posted a picture to accompany this post because you have never seen us do so in the past, but there is a point to be made that words alone can’t express. We are not permanently changing the format but if you read this story without the picture you might miss the significance. The young lady speaking, Christina LedBetter, is holding a bottle of Sprite and what I presume to be her talking notes. Now compare that image to what you normally see of so-called Black leaders; memorized talking points and catch phrases along with a bottle of water.(that they never use by the way.) My point is that she was being herself and she wasn’t being coached or managed. I’m not saying the students looked like bums but how many of you would get on camera fighting for justice if you were not looking right? And please don’t say yes too soon.
And do you see the tall brother standing behind her? His arms are crossed and his face, like the others is serious and I think it is symbolic of the fact that Black men have less of a problem being supportive of Black woman than what most would think. Beyond that, their faces convey a sense of urgency that I don’t see very often. And if the students have been reading all the negative statistics about Black youth and their bleak chances of achieving their educational/career goals, then they knew that they need a quality education right here, right now. And just like our forefathers before us, these students are taking control of their destiny and demanding a quality education. So before you continue, take a minute to let this image sink into your conscious so you are aware of what’s at stake.
What I think people forget about most the civil rights movement is the preparation and sacrifice that people never saw or heard about. As such, I am proud of the preparation it took these students to get over 200 students to walk out of class. 200 people are not a clique. This event took thoughtfulness, determination, and effective communication because you know some people were on the fence, but was won over by the peer pressure to stand up for justice. Just imagine what will happen when they improve their organizing skills and present a whole new paradigm for correcting the system.
The sorry principal
Principal Bernard Bonam, I don’t know you very well but even if the newspaper took you of context, but you never should have said, “They don’t give a doggone thing about their education… and many of the problems are caused by students themselves, such as those who toss their textbooks out windows onto the schools greenhouse or others who stuff toilet paper into the toilet.” And people wonder why so many Black people are not pleased with the state of public education. For starters, you have to take people at their word and if the group was chanting, “No books, no school,” then that shows me pretty clearly they care about their education. But how many times do people have to say that schools don’t have enough textbooks, classes are overcrowded, the maintenance is shotty, and there is too much administration and not enough education. The students had enough and they demonstrated. But here is the real problem, why should kids ever have to protest to get enough books?!?! I mean fa real fa real. Could you imagine your wealthy suburban high school having kids march talk about “No books, no school?” That sounds silly right? Well if it sounds silly for suburban students then why in the hell doesn’t it seem silly for inner-city students?
Which brings me back to Principal Bonam, why are you blaming the students for the school’s issues? I’m not denying that there are some troublemakers but here’s a new rule that might help you. Get out of your office and get in the hallways and the classrooms. If you know kids are throwing their books out the window, how in the world can you say that you have an adequate number of books? Lock the windows!!!!! And then you tell me it is not in the budget. What about your budget? Open up your wallet, sell some candy, I don’t care, but don’t just wallow in what’s wrong, offer some solutions and ask yourself, “What can I do to make the situation better?”
This question also applies to the person reading this post because even though you may not work in the education field, we all have learned some things along the way that make us extremely valuable in being a resource and inspiration to our youth. Markell Donaldson, a Mackenzie sophomore, said “If we don’t walk out, we won’t get recognized.” Let’s wrap our hearts around all the Markells in this country so they know that the community is there to serve them in school so they don’t have to walk out.
Big Superspade shoutout to all the students that organized today, I applaud your integrity and willingness to stand up for what’s right. We stand with you in the constant fight for justice.
Stay up fam,