What's Wrong with This Picture?

"I covered the public comment portion of the Atlanta School Board meeting Monday evening and saw a crowd that was about 80 percent white in a district that is almost 80 percent African-American. It's time for a change."


Ooooh. I'm going to catch it for saying this.

But it's O.K.; I don't always align with the popular, liberal view.

African-Americans in southwest Atlanta need to get more involved in the city's public schools system.

I covered the public comment portion of the Atlanta School Board meeting Monday evening and saw a crowd that was about 80 percent white in a district that is currently 78 percent black, according to the latest Georgia Department of Education enrollment data.

Before anyone "goes off" on me, hear this: Someone with the Twitter handle "jboogie52000" posted —in my Cover It Live Report on the public comment portion of the meeting that evening—that "I have not seen ANY speakers representing SW Atlanta yet! This is ridiculous."

Well, my quick retort to this person was: "In response to JBoogie52000 who says SW Atlanta parents need to "step up." I do see quite a few SW Atlanta parents here and they were here before the meeting began (I arrived at 5:45 p.m.). It seems E. Rivers showed up early and signed up to speak. Parents from other schools also have not been able to speak. Just want to be fair. Thanks!!!"

I wrote that because there were parents and supporters (from all ethnic backgrounds) from southwest Atlanta in the audience, as well as other people of African descent at the meeting, so I though the tweet was misleading. But, the truth is, enough of us were not there and those who did attend were “overworked” in speaking for us, if you know what I mean....

Come on. Let's keep this real. Though we have a sizable black middle and upper-middle class in this city with (private) school options, the school system still serves our children more than any other group. And though affluent blacks have options, the "Talented Tenth" has, historically, been the group to "pull up" and support those in our community with no options. We did it during the Jim Crow Years, we did it in the civil rights 1960s and we can do it now.

Why should we get more involved? Because over-committed southwest Atlanta parent activists like Shawnna Hayes-Tavares, Dawn Brockington-Shaw and Beecher Hills father Elliott Brown should not always have to speak for us; Because other people work the “third shift,” too, (a dozen Latinas with a translator made it to the meeting—at least two in work uniforms—so our blue-collar people can, too); Because we need to stop reacting to what “they did to us” and start becoming part of the decision-making process.  

Why should we get more involved, southwest Atlanta? Because it's not that hard to take the initiative to create real power and influence for yourself and your people! I know we are a people transitioning from a very complex, underacknowledged slave history but it is only up to us to break those chains, folks.

Bottom line: You can make one phone call to the school board (404-802-2200), join your local PTA, attend the next SNAPPS meeting, network with the parents of EMC2 and take time off in advance to attend any one of the public board meetings listed on the APS website and posted right here (see PDF) any time you ever want to!

Yeah, I’m airing our dirty laundry. Yes, some northside white folks are going to read this and continue to think whatever they think about us.

But doing what I can to encourage my community to step up is much more important than worrying about what some other group might think of what I just said.

We can do this, southwest Atlanta. We can make a difference.

Dominique Huff January 11, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Thank you Janita for leading the uncomfortable conversations we need to have about issues in Southwest Atlanta and the Atlanta zip code portion of unincorporated Fulton. We have these same issues with the Fulton County School system, where North Fulton parents speak up in volumes leaving the same faithful few South Fulton parents. I think we need to start doing more with the school such as participating with the Partner in Education programs for those of us who own businesses, engaging in Principal for Day to learn how the school works, the media can provide more coverage of the school board (outside of the big fights) and neighborhood associations need to work the school system into their agendas. SW Atlanta parents have no excuse as the school board meets in SW Atlanta unlike Fulton who moved their meetings up north. We must get past this, "vote black because they have our back' mentality.
Janita Poe January 11, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Thanks Dominique and thanks for all you do and have done for the community!
Betty Byrd January 11, 2012 at 03:22 PM
If they had a pair of Michael Jordan's available then Black folks would have been out there in droves. Don't get mad people, you can go back to the news archives and see video of the consumeristic whoredom that we perpetuate. We need to get a hint hint clue clue that shopping does not put us higher on the social ladder. Education and our own substainable businesses are the only things that are going to keep us relevant in this society; for those who wield the money wield the power and currently we are lacking in both. Not everyone can afford to pay for private education so you must work with the system that you are given. If you do not participate in the process: that includes voting, participating in the pta and other civic duties, SHUT UP BECAUSE WE DO NOT WANT TO HEAR YOUR COMPLAINTS!!!!
Jason B. Allen January 11, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Thanks Janita for this article. We all needed this and need to read this. I am emailing the link to this article out to our parents so that they can be motivated and informed. We must step up and make a difference. Our kids need to see us standing up for them outside of just having cell phones taken up at the school, a bad phone call home, or fals accusations children often make about teachers. Our parents quickly run up to the school for these things but not on issues that truly effect the well being and future of their child and our communities.
Atlanta Public Schools January 11, 2012 at 05:40 PM
The next round of Demographic Community Meetings have been scheduled. Demographers will present new options and maps to the public and request input. All meetings begin at 6:30pm. New options and maps will be posted on the district’s website prior to the January 30 – February 2 meetings. Monday, January 30, 2012 SRT-3 - Schools zoned to Grady and M.H. Jackson High Schools Meeting will take place at Jackson High School 801 Glenwood Avenue Southeast Atlanta, GA 30316 Tuesday, January 31, 2012 SRT-1 and SRT-4 Northwest - Schools zoned to Mays, Therrell, Douglass, BEST, CSK and Washington High Schools Meeting will take place at Young Middle School 3116 Benjamin E. Mays Dr. Atlanta, GA 30311 Wednesday, February 1, 2012 SRT-4 Northeast - Schools zoned to North Atlanta High School Meeting will take place at North Atlanta High School 2875 Northside Dr. NW Atlanta, GA 30305 Thursday, February 2, 2012 SRT-2 - Schools zoned to Carver and South Atlanta High Schools Meeting will take place at Price Middle School 1670 Benjamin Weldon Bickers Dr. Atlanta, GA 30315
Carol J January 11, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Well said Janita! I hope our folk will get more involved in what Rev Sharpton calls THE civil rights issue of our time: education and the achievement gap. Speak up SW ATL!
Dawn Brockington Shaw January 12, 2012 at 01:21 PM
Well said Carol J and Janita. Like many of you, I have options and I choose to live in SW Atlanta. This is a vibrant but sometimes disconnected community. I understand there are many factors that make it hard for some of us to show up but we have to do a better job of committing to and investing in our community. The parents and community members of EMC2 are actively looking for ways to re-engage our community as a whole. To make a change, we will have to do hard work over a long period of time - this will not be a quick fix.
JD January 12, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Way to ring the alarm, Janita. I attended a panel last night at Westminster about college admissions, and it was filled to capacity . . . with elementary school parents. The panelists were talking about planning beyond college and raising leaders, based on global changes that will put even American college-educated professionals with grad degrees in competition with people overseas. Step your game up or your kids will definitely be left behind. It was sobering.
Tiffany January 12, 2012 at 08:48 PM
Yes, Betty, that is it! WE have to do better and it cannot be the same small group of folks speaking on behalf of several. You have to work with what you got to make it better.
Dominique Huff January 16, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Today on The Atlanta Community Affair, we discuss Janita's excellent piece and continue this conversation. Everyone is invited to check us out today at 12noon and ON DEMAND at www.exceptionalradio.com. You can listen to us while you are out and about on your mobile devices!
Dean Neblett January 24, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I'd like to commend Janita Poe, Betty Byrd and others for their thoughtful comments on the need for Atlantans to become more engaged in education. I think those of us who have historically been denied access to education (it was actually illegal for Blacks to be educated not so long ago), should realize we a rare opportunity to make some progress, while we have a President who truly understands the need in this area. Eventually, federal funding for education might dry up and those of us who did not take proactive steps, will be left even further behind. The fact that Georgia consistently ranks in the lowest 5% nationally, in the area of educational achievement by state, our children may have a very bleak future, if we fail to take appropriate action NOW! If we stay on the sidelines, we are not only relegating the next generation of Black children to a life of poverty, we are ensuring future generations will be poor as well. Dean Neblett


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