Challenging the status quo

Lansing Voices

Sheryl Black

Sheryl Black
I consider it a privilege to have been elected in 2011 as the 1st person of color to serve on the District 215 School Board in the history of the district and then be re-elected in 2015. Challenging the status quo by giving a voice to the racial inequities that exist in District 215 cost me my seat on the School Board yet, I have no regrets. Is anybody really surprised that so many people still prefer the status quo over change?

After witnessing and also experiencing discrimination as the only board member of color, I made a conscious decision to take a stand against the status quo. I never imagined the effort to silence my voice as a school board member would extend from the teacher’s union to political powerhouses to alleged voter fraud (it has been said that some Lansing residents voted more than once). Fear, power, politics and fraud do nothing to improve the educational success of the students in District 215. Don’t the students, families and communities served by District 215 deserve better?

Do the students win when the status quo is maintained? Let us always remember, District 215 serves 4 communities – Lansing, Calumet City, Lynwood and Burnham. The April 2 election results mean 2 communities, Lynwood and Calumet City, remain unrepresented by the District 215 School Board. And while 90% of the students served in District 215 are students of color, they remain underrepresented by the District 215 School Board by still having only 1 person of color on the board.

Although the board fought to maintain the status quo, I am grateful that my decision to challenge the status quo has resulted in dialogue that has:
1. Revealed the need to address discriminatory comments made by board members, that I witnessed during hiring.
2. Revealed the racial discrimination that I personally experienced as a board member.
3. Revealed the racial discrimination experienced by a group of parents and students of color from the district.
4. Revealed racial inequities as it relates to AP and Honors class enrollment.
5. Revealed racial inequities as it relates to student discipline.
6. Revealed racial inequities as it relates to curriculum.
7. Revealed the need for the district to establish a commitment to equity, including racial equity, through policy change, curriculum, vision and mission statements, etc.
8. Resulted in board policy to require implicit bias training to all board members at least twice a year.
9. Revealed violations of the Open Meetings Act resulting in policy and agenda changes.

I hope the fear, power, politics and alleged voter fraud that kept me from being re-elected doesn’t stop the progress of addressing these issues that, most assuredly, negatively impact student success in District 215. To those who voted to preserve the status quo I ask…what are you afraid of? Fear always has and always will breed racism.

Falling short by only 156 votes may look like defeat but for me victory is measured by doing what God says. My job on the school board was to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8) and to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly before my Lord (Micah 6::8). According to Ephesians 6:12-13, we wrestle not with flesh and blood (school board opposition). We wrestle with spiritual wickedness (speaking or not speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves).

I want to extend my heartfelt THANK YOU to all who supported me and voted for me in Lansing, Calumet City, Lynwood and Burnham. “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)

Sheryl Black
Lansing, Illinois


The Lansing Journal is a community newspaper. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community.

Lansing Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writer, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.

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12 thoughts on “Challenging the status quo”

  1. Sour grapes if you ask me. You make wild racial accusations without any examples or evidence. We must always fight for justice, but can’t fight something that is fabricated and not substantiated.

    I for one did not vote for you or your teammates because all you spoke on were race issues that weren’t supported. The winning candidates seemed to also care about race issues, but also care about finances, academics, and professional development of staff.

    I’m disappointed the journal would post this from someone who lost an election and now is on the offensive making unproven statements.

    Lack of integrity in this post

  2. So, hundreds of people conspired against you? People committed a felony by voting twice in order to silence you?

    Is your bedroom wall filled with photos, push pins and red yard too?

    Get over yourself. You lost.

  3. The Lansing Journal is a community newspaper, and we appreciate opportunities to engage the community in discussion on important issues. Sheryl Black has a right to express her views on her political experience, and these anonymous readers do as well, though their opinions would have more integrity if they were willing to put their names to them.

    Please remember, whether you agree or disagree with the opinions expressed in any Lansing Voices post, do so with respect. If comments are deemed to be disrespectful, they will be removed.

  4. A right to express yourself is one thing. Making unfounded allegations is another.

    This sets a precedent for anyone with a personal grudge or complaint to have a forum without any need for verification.

  5. You also have not provided any verification for your claims that Ms. Black’s claims are unfounded. You are welcome to submit an opposing viewpoint as a Lansing Voices entry, and provide a name and photo along with your opinions. You have as much right to be heard as Ms. Black does, but it requires some courage to put your own name and face with your words.

  6. Interesting that you’d like a reader to verify claims that an article seems unfounded, but yet choose not to require the same for someone submitting an entry to your paper. Seems convenient at this point to refute my position rather than ask if there is validity to the point that her initial claims are significant enough that they would require some support.

    Did your staff consider at all the damages Ms. Black’s claims may cause? If there is truth to them, which neither you nor Ms. Black seem to have at this point, then action must be taken to correct the issues at the board level. If there is no truth to the claims, which we will likely never know and which you don’t seem to want to ask for, then shame on Ms. Black and shame on The Lansing Journal for allowing these types of allegations to go on.

  7. I am asking you to apply the same standards to your claims that you want Ms. Black to apply to hers. You are essentially saying, “She hasn’t proved it, so it isn’t true.” So my response is, “If proof is required of her, it’s also required of you. Instead of just saying it isn’t true, prove it isn’t true.”

    And I’m offering to you the same opportunity that Ms. Black took advantage of. If you have thoughtful opinions about any subject, you are welcome to say them here, but not anonymously.

    Throughout this e-conversation, I am neither refuting your position nor supporting Ms. Black’s. I am simply providing a forum for discussion. Perhaps the discussion will reveal that Ms. Black’s feelings are unfounded, or that a situation was misunderstood, or that racism is something we do need to be more intentional about correcting, or that “status quo” does not need to be an insult. I am hopeful that whatever new understanding we arrive at will be a gain, and that the process of learning to listen, consider, and grow will be valuable.

  8. We will continue to disagree that it is my burden to disprove her statements. Until she can provide substance to her claims, the onus lies with her.

    We can also agree to disagree that giving her a forum to express her disappointment with the “status quo” is a great opportunity, the claims made against the board are significant enough that they require vetting before being posted.

  9. Has the Lansing Journal turned into a On-Line Dirty Rag ?
    What could you possible be thinking when posting this rant?

    The NEWS used to be about the FACTS…..So where are they?

    Melanie your setting a precedent here that the next sore loser can spew their garbage without ANY FACTS.
    There wasn’t even 1 fact that Sheryl substantiated but yet, you let her slander the school board, the teachers union and the voters. Now that is a Fact !

    Truth….If a child is to be successful then the parents / guardian must be behind them. The teachers, school board or teachers union can’t make a kid open a book….But their guardians can !

    Keep the Journal about Lansing, not wild conjecture like Facebook.

    P.S. If I wanted a Bible lesson I would go to Church

  10. If disappointed voter needs “proof” of MS. Blacks claim, I can attest to them, as a parent who has attended most if not all the school boards meetings this year. If you have questions please feel free to email me.

  11. I think a conversation has generated rather you agree with Ms. Black or the Disappointed Voter. And that, what should be taking from this mostly is a conversation about the things that so many have have turned a blind eye to the future of the children and the communities we all live in. If we talked more as neighbors we could then learn the true intentions of those we speak against as well as those we speak for. Obviously Ms. Black has been affected, hurt, disappointed whatever the word one will use. Yet it’s also obvious she is doing this for many of the right things SHE CARES!! I don’t think this is a paid position?? So come on folks lets be fair, discrimination, racism, injustice is something we all experience at some point in time in our lives and is a reason for the lack of unity in the community in which we all live. If Ms. Black feels lead to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves more power to her just for being courageous enough to do so and face the hackles or backlash that she has faced. To the Disappointed Voter maybe you know something about Ms. Black or the process that many of us don’t know. But whatever the case imagine the energy from both Ms. Black and the Disappointed Voter if this is taking in for the betterment of open dialogue and make the community we all live in better, we are on the right page. I applaud Melanie Jongsma for helping to get the story out. We have all come to realize the process is not flawless. Therefore I rest on the side of caution, not just because of this article but on the many things that have taking place in many of the communities around us and even throughout our country. So let’s all just try to work together for a better community that’s based on all of us not a few. Let’s keep talking and listening to one another.

  12. I have had several conversations about this post in addition to the comments shared here. In each case, I’ve mentioned that I put a lot of thought into the decision to publish Ms. Black’s piece. It was concerning because some of her commentary could be interpreted by some as an attack, and I do not want Lansing Voices (or The Lansing Journal) to be used for that purpose. In the end, I chose to believe that in sharing her experiences, Ms. Black did not intend to attack the D215 School Board. She later confirmed this, and she changed some wording to help avoid any misinterpretation.

    The Lansing Journal is a community newspaper. It is Sheryl Black’s newspaper. And mine. And the D215 Board’s. It belongs to the people who comment here, and the people who don’t, and the people who wish they could but need to stay silent because of complicated circumstances.

    Race is an important topic that we need to learn how to talk about in Lansing. So I published Ms. Black’s letter in the hope that it will become part of a conversation that ends up being helpful. It was a risky decision, and it may not have been the right one, but I remain hopeful that it was.

    Race is complicated, and maybe it’s too complicated for online conversation. Sometimes people use words differently, and that leads to misunderstanding. Sometimes words come across more harshly in print than they do face-to-face. In addition, it’s true that sometimes people (of all races) are guilty of racism without meaning to be. And it’s true that sometimes people feel discriminated against when they weren’t. And sometimes opinions and facts are intertwined.

    I think some important things have been said here—in Ms. Black’s piece as well as in the comments and in my other conversations. But there is more that cannot be said. So at this time, I am going to turn off the commenting on this piece. We can digest things for a while, and evaluate, and learn. And when the next opportunity arises to talk about race, we will be even better equipped to do it well.

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