Photo Credit: @ As Told By Brittany D
Growing up I lived in a black middle - class neighborhood. Everyone on my block owned their homes. I went to an all black grammar school, Harried Ross Tubman Elementary (to emphasize the blackness). I could count on one hand how many white kids actually attended this school. My teachers also taught my parents and reminded me that they knew them by first name every time I got out of line. I loved my school. I received a great education and gained skills I now know many kids in my neighborhood attending other schools didn't. Most importantly, the teachings of black history and culture were laid on pretty heavy. Of course, just as other schools in the country we had to recite the national anthem every morning but we followed with Lift Every Voice and Sing by: James Johnson. We learned about slavery and we learned that black history didn't began there. We learned about the continent of Africa, our ancestors and African traditions. Every play was African heritage inspired and even though we threw annual Christmas parties, we celebrated Kwanzaa also. Our teachers had our backs and we not afraid to show up at community meetings and protest if changes in the school system weren't beneficial to us.
When I gave birth to my daughter I instantly new she was a tad bit different. She hit all of her milestones rather early, became fully potty trained over a weekend, She read better than most adults I knew by four and math seemed to be second nature to her. When it was time to select schools for her to go to I opted for a black school in hopes she would gain the same experience I did in grammar school. Two Black schools, a lot of disappointment, and nine years later I was tired. No matter how much I tried communication with her teachers were non-existent. She wasn't being taught on her level because the majority of the class were behind and my suggesting of gifted testing kept getting put off. And let's not mention the bullying by children who obviously had problems at home. Very quickly I noticed my daughter started to seem burnt out and her grades started to drop. The curriculum began to bore her. Life happened and I missed the opportunity to enroll her in another school but the thought of sending her back to the previous school was eating away at me so I marched down to the school board office looking for options.
Although private school and home school were no option for this mom, for the first time ever I was considering them but at the school board office I was informed of a school that was across town that many parents were interested in but availability was limited and luckily there was one spot open in the fourth grade. I was handed a booklet and noticed the top rating the school received. The school board counselor assured me that it was a great option. The next thing I noticed in the booklets pictures was the ratio of black children to white children. "It's pretty diverse" I thought. Now, its not that I'm against my children going to school with white kids. I attended a very diverse high school with students from every walk of life. But it was important to me that my daughters foundation in education was black, just as mines. I remember arriving at orientation and being so impressed. The curriculum, staff, everything the school had to offer were just exceptional but it was clear that my girl was one of few black kids in attendance. She was the black version of the handful of white kids that attended grammar school with me.
It's been six months since the first day of school and my daughter has received more at her new school than she has ever received in school before. Organization and being taught on her level. The freedom to express herself, we never realize the impact that uniforms and dress codes have on kids in such a fast developing stage in their lives when all they want to do is be themselves. The act of wearing pink braids simply because that's who you are at the moment is beautiful. I instantly understood the free dress policy the school has. The children's mental and emotional health are well nourished. I was surprised to receive a letter from a licensed mental health specialist informing me of group sessions that will be taking place with the students. Not only is black history taught, Latin history is too and the history of so many other cultures. My daughter is learning to play the violin and many other string instruments. She has more friends than ever before and when I ask if she's happy, she says yes. I'm glad to have been open minded about this change and my daughter is very pleased.