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Editorial: An Open Letter to Fresno's Black Community from: Professor Emeritus Kehinde Solwazi

The local achievement scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test (SBAC) show that only 14% of African-American students are on grade level in grades 3rd through 8th. That percentage drops even lower to an alarming 3% once our children enter high school. The SBAC test and other state tests are used to determine the number of prisons that will be built. The research also confirms that the lower the test scores, the higher the chance the child will turn to a life of crime--the proverbial "public school to prison pipeline."

The dismal SBAC reading scores of our African American students attest to the fact that the current public school district structure in Fresno County is woefully incompetent and incapable of effectively providing meaningful curriculum that ensures a quality education for our African American children.

We are appalled, shocked, and angered at the failure of our taxpayer-funded public school districts to educate our children. The historical background of African Americans is deeply rooted in education. During the criminal system of slavery, our enslaved ancestors were brutally forbidden to read or write. After the Civil War, the top priority of the formerly enslaved people was to educate their children. 30 years following slavery, the African-American Community had reached literacy and by the end of the 19th century, African Americans were self-sufficient and had created 88 profitable towns. In our homeland of West Africa, we had a commitment to education and apprenticeship systems in our empires and states. Our education system was so great that the ancient Greeks came to study our curriculum in Egypt.

We must understand the fact that African American parents and the African American community are totally responsible for what happens to our children. Since the responsibility is squarely upon us, as a people, we must be able to control the education of our children. Our homes are our first schools. Education for our children should start in the womb with parents reading to their child. A parent's daily task is to ensure that their child is always learning. Community programs need to be built to encourage leadership for our young men and women, weekend mentoring and educational programs that strive for excellence and are responsible for teaching our children their history must be designed. These programs should be funded by African-Americans. Our churches, mosques, and community centers should be given the task of getting our children, not just on grade level, but excelling academically.

We, as, African-Americans, cannot continue to let our tax dollars be used to educate other children while OURS fail. We demand that the public school districts of Fresno County, hire teachers and administrators who believe that our young men and women are capable and and will help them strive for academic excellence. We demand that an African American oversight committee be instituted on every school campus, charged with the responsibility of monitoring test scores and ensuring that due process procedures are followed in all disciplinary actions taken upon our African American children.

We also demand that the public school districts of Fresno County equitably increase the number of African American certificated teachers and administrators that are hired annually. Hiring African American teachers and administrators, who serve as role models for all children in the district, is vital to the self-esteem of African American children. African-American history and culture must also be included in the required curriculum.

African-American children are our wealth, our joy, and our future. Their academic and cultural survival is in our hands.


Kehinde Solwazi

Professor emeritus

African American Studies

Fresno City College

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