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)
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