Saturday, October 23, 2021

As We Celebrate Our Physical Freedom This Juneteenth, the Fight for Educational Freedom Continues

Saturday is Freedom Day! A day of liberation and celebration for African Americans, establishing their right to design their own lives. 

Though President Lincoln signed an Executive Order—The Emancipation Proclamation— freeing enslaved people on January 1, 1863, it would not be implemented in places still under Confederate control. Those defending the economic institution of slavery strained democracy by committing to resist the president’s ruling. 

There is no doubt money catapulted the nation into the Civil War and stiffened social dysfunction long after. Money has always encouraged people to protect unjust institutions, regardless of logic or morality.

Our ancestors yearned and fought for the actualization of their freedom until June 19, 1865, when Union troops marched into Galveston Bay, Texas, proclaiming victory and announcing that all enslaved people were free by executive decree. Juneteenth, as this day came to be known, is a time to celebrate how enslaved African Americans survived and triumphed over hate and insult. Their fight to flourish and bring hope to future generations has taught us all how to help others gain their freedom from the proverbial institutional slave quarters of today. 

The realization of physical freedom was only the first step to manifesting all their hopes and dreams. The next, I’d like to think, is the attainment of educational freedom, or the emancipation from mental slavery. 

The realization of physical freedom was only the first step to manifesting all their hopes and dreams. The next, I’d like to think, is the attainment of educational freedom, or the emancipation from mental slavery. 

Educational freedom is the right for all students to learn in a setting that is conducive for their needs, learning styles, and abilities, regardless of where they live, family income, or background. For too long, African American boys and girls have been denied access to a high-quality education. Their ZIP codes have enslaved them into America’s poorest, underperforming public schools that keep them in bondage. 

It is time to liberate Black minds.  

Public Education Must Be Deconstructed and Reformed

In January, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities to address the unfair punishment of Black students in America’s public schools. However, teachers’ unions and bureaucrats fight to maintain the unjust infrastructure of public schools and their power over parents.

According to the Nation’s Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), only 13 out of 100 Black eighth grade students are proficient in math, and only 15 out of 100 are proficient in reading. The NAEP confirms the inequities we knew were present—the link between the failures of the educational system and a life yet again in chains. Eighty-five percent of all juveniles who come into contact with the criminal justice system are functionally illiterate. Nearly 70% of Black boys who do not graduate from high school will end up in prison

Black minds matter too much to tolerate the pain our children have endured.

The disparities are apparent. America’s public school system is an institution that has to be deconstructed and reformed. Black minds matter too much to tolerate the pain our children have endured. There is a national education movement diligently arising and it requires emancipation.

This Juneteenth, as we celebrate physical freedom, let us acknowledge the crisis in our education system and the potential we have to be liberated through education freedom. We have come a long way, but the freedom of body and mind has always been the goal.

Photo by tmcphotos via Canva.
Denisha Merriweather
Denisha Merriweather was a tax credit scholarship recipient in Florida, the Founder of Black Minds Matter and is the Director of Family Engagement at the American Federation for Children.

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