by Gloria Dulan-Wilson
On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, a 6:00 PM, there will be an emergency community meeting to save Boys and Girls High School from being closed. It will be held in the Auditorium of the school, which is located on Fulton at Malcolm X Boulevard (Utica Ave.).
And, I personally don't care who you are, or if you ever attended Boys High before it became Boys and Girls, or if you attended a rival high school in the community, or what – if you're Black or of African Heritage, you had better be front and center to save a school that has been the birthplace of geniuses for over the past 50 years.
I have received so many emails from concerned New Yorkers; many of whom I had communicated with in the beginning of the school year when Bloomie was threatening to destroy the school back then. And, while they passed the information on, no one showed up for the strategy meetings that were held at that time to turn this around. So my message to each and every one of you is this: YOU HAVE TO DO MORE THAN PASS THE MESSAGE ON; YOU HAVE TO DO MORE THAN COMPLAIN ABOUT NEGLIGENT, IGNORANT PARENTS, A RACIST ADMINISTRATION; A BROKEN SELF SERVING BOARD OF EDUCATION, OR A DILETANTE MAYOR WHOSE MAIN INTEREST IS HIS CRONIES AND THE BOTTOM LINE. We've all been cognizant of that for far too long. Just complaining about it is not sufficient. Just testifying in behalf of Boys and Girls High's survival, though necessary, is not sufficient. YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. YOU HAVE TO BE HANDS ON. And so do your elected officials and community representatives.
Yes, let's get ready for the Inauguration; let's pat ourselves on the back for having re-elected President Barack Obama. But let's also admit, that when it comes to protecting ourselves, our institutions, our communities and the things we claim are important to us – here in New York, we're really not doing such a hot job. In fact, I'd give us a D- right about now, if there was a grade point average to be assigned to where we are at this point.
As the Mecca of Black culture, education, and pride, we've taken some heavy hits. Harlem and Brooklyn are being gentrified to the extent that the percentage of Black people in these communities have dropped dramatically. WLIB and WBLS have gone into bankruptcy. There is no more Michael Baisden broadcast, which kept us informed and involved; Tom Joyner likewise had been taken off the New York Circuit. In addition to Boys and Girls High School, Paul Robeson was on the hit list for closure – as well as countless other inner city schools. And let's don't overlook the debacle that has been playing out big time for the past three years at Medgar Evers College in Crown Heights. Wake up and see the patterns - we are not only under siege, but for some reason we are putting our heads on the chopping block or shooting ourselves in the foot by our very lack of unity. .
We have been so gerrymandered and re-apportioned, thanks to being under counted in the 2010 Census, that we no longer have the representatives we need, and indeed, their territories have likewise been watered down so that they can no longer look to the critical mass of support to effect change.
So, with this new – actually not new, continuing – crisis before us, I think it will take the full regalia of all our leaders to come together and show that we have actually learned something about our strength from this last election. It think it will take us showing up en masse and en force, the way we did at the polls, to show that we are now united, and we aren't taking any further incursions on our communities.
For indeed, we showed that we really do know how to stand together and get things done. This re-election was definitely no fluke. We had a plan, we worked the plan, and we retained our man.
Now, let's take those same principles and apply it across the board – starting with Boys and Girls High, right on through Paul Robeson; affordable housing, employment development and training, health care and whatever else we need in New York to have the quality of life others are leaving here to find elsewhere.
I recently wrote a piece in my Blog – www.gloriadulanwilson.blogspot.com about self-gentrification. In it I mentioned that by now, in the 21st century, we should have the wisdom, knowledge and understanding ourselves to see when there are things that are wrong in our communities, and to remedy themselves. We don't need outsiders coming in, making the changes, then pushing us out so they can enjoy them. We need to be about it. We know that trash should not be allowed to pile up in front of our homes; we know that it's not right for our kids to be killing each other; we know drugs are destructive; we also know that you can't get a decent job without a decent, relevant, quality education.
With that we also know that if your kid is in a class room and he or she is not doing their best, you as the parent have to put your foot down.
Nearly 50 years ago, the government, as the result of some sort of mental aberration took prayers and discipline out of the schools. They likewise hogtied parents hands, prohibiting them from their right to discipline their children. The rest has been an absolute disaster. Our kids have developed a sort of “make me do it” attitude toward many of their teachers as well as their parents. With that, even the most charismatic, motivational education guru will have a difficult time getting adolescents to hunker down and focus on getting an education. There aren't enough consequences they can exact consistently that will impact a hormone driven child to sit still and learn.
That said, there still has to be some means or motivation we can incorporate that will help our youth not end up on the slag heap of marginalization. Imagine the irony: we have a BLACK PRESIDENT, we are in the mecca of Black culture, and our Black Youth are somewhere near 45th in the nation in educational level.
And while Boys High was called the PRIDE – Boys and Girls High has lost a lot in the transition and translation of what that means.
Am I saying that there aren't some real gems at the High? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that they have now become the exception as opposed to the rule. The reputation for excellence has actually been reversed!!
And you don't get to blame that on the Principal. When Frank Mickens was there, and doing an excellent job, they had him removed because he was too strict; too old school. Can you imagine that? They replaced him with an individual (whose name I can't recall) who had no idea about Boys and Girls reputation, didn't live in the community, and took it down ten notches from the already low ranking it had descended to after Mickens was removed.
Gassaway, who is a consummate educator, came in three years ago, and has been hands on ever since, practically sacrificing his family to make a difference. We have been witnesses to his efforts; but where have we been when it has come to the trenches of trying to move these kids from Lodebar to upper echelon education again?
And just be clear, the meeting on Tuesday December 4, 2012 had better be attended by all the elected officials we help to get into office or return to office – especially those in Brooklyn – but those from all the 5 Boroughs as well – Black and white! This is your paying it forward for helping you retain your position, so you can help us retain our community – in other words QUID PRO QUO community style.
The really sad thing about this is that I had to read about Boys and Girls potential closure in the meanstream press – the Daily News. Over the past 12 months I can count on one hand the number of times I actually purchased the Daily News; and I am absolutely boycotting the NY Post except to pick up dog poop. So it must have been divine providence that I picked up the Thursday, November 29th edition of the Daily News. Even then, I had just about discarded the paper when, I came across it somewhere, buried in the middle of the publication - the doomsday announcement that Boys and Girls High School was slated to be closed. It, along with 24 other “low performing schools”, ranked below the so-called standards of the City.
I daresay, many of you guys missed it because they start from the back reading the sports section. Many of my sisters may have missed it because of the article on Jessica Simpson's pregnancy, the Powerball Jackpot (we unfortunately did not win), and P-Diddy.
But there it was, buried on page 35 of The Daily News Headline:: “SHAME FOR 'PRIDE': Boys and Girls HS Flunks again and could close for good (by Mark Morales) - with a photo of Dr. Gassaway, the Principal, addressing some very woeful looking students.
The article stated, in part: The “PRIDE OF BED STUY” isn't going down without a fight. Boys and Girls High school on Fulton St. earlier this week landed on the city's list of 24 schools that could be closed, following its SECOND F RATING in a row(!!!)
Education department officials are headed to the school next Tuesday for a meeting in what could mean the end of the school – a move many parents, teachers and administrators are determined to stop.
According to the article, things have not shown major improvement despite innovative efforts on Gassaway's part – including a new state of the art library and computer center; instituting card swipes to go in and out of the cafeteria to cut down on student loitering; and 70 advanced placement students attending Long Island University's college credit program.
Statistically speaking, 71% of the 1600 students show up for classes – below the city's average of 85.4%; They had a 39% graduation rate, below the city average of 65.5%; and only 21% of the graduating class went to a 2 or 4 year college – below the city's already low average of 49%. “The numbers were so low that the school was ranked one of the worst in the city on Monday, November 24.
There are many fingers of blame being pointed in all directions. Some instructors say the dismissal of veteran teachers left the students with inconsistent substitutes while replacements were being sought; others blame the lack of equipment, materials, supplies and an adequate budget. Still others say it's either the parents who are not educated or educationally oriented, or the students who are below average to begin with that the school has been forced to accommodate, bringing down the averages – Boys High was originally considered an elite school, while the criteria for Boys and Girls has changed significantly over the decades since its relocation to the Fulton street site.
Gassaway is not in favor of turning away low performing students, but does assert that you can't turn around years of low performance in just three years. It takes time to rebuild those standards. “I said I want to come in and stop the hemorrhaging, and I did,” said Gassaway. “Now it's time to build.”
The interesting thing about this is that the hearing is being held just before the holidays, with precious little time for really bringing to the table all the real stakeholders. I want to see our elected officials in Albany take the day off, make the time to be front and center – Eric Adams, Velmanette Montgomery, Annette Robinson, Hakeem Jeffries, Karim Camara, Inez Barron, as well as those in Congress, and the City.
There is no territory, no turf, no chain of command. This is your community, your school, your neighborhood, regardless of where the political lines are drawn.And I want to see parents and students there with a plan to really make this work this time. Not just angst and lip service. And if you think this issue is confined to Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy, consider this: The flyer below was sent to me by brother K Mensah Wali, my brother in law, Ric in California; a sister-friend of mine from Florida. I received separate emails from Zach Husser in Jersey, and Eduadvocate in Massachusetts; but I have not heard one thing from the brothers and sisters right here in Brooklyn - what's up with that?
Additionally, as I mentioned in my original article – where the heck are all the celebrities who point with PRIDE to having graduated from THE HIGH? It's high time you came back and gave back to the school that helped you move forward and become the success you are. In the 60's and 70's we had “Teach Ins” where celebrities would come to the schools and work with the students. That was a major inspiration to the youth of that day. It's an idea that needs to be resurrected, right along with the discipline, standards and respect that made THE HIGH the school graduates the world over point to and brag about.
I strongly suggest that you pack the place on Tuesday – that you make them open up overflow rooms in the cafeteria, library, gym an where ever else if they run out of spacr in the auditorium. But if you don't show up, if you don't come out, if they close the school – don't blame Bloomie, Gassaway, the students or the parents – blame yourselves – and tack that on to the overall grade point average Black New York has been accumulating over the past few years.
There is an old saying I saw at the end of an old 1930's movie that said: “If No One Else Will Save You, Save Yourself!!”
Black people of Bed Stuy, Harlem and the rest of the world, I think you know what that means – right?
Stay Blessed &