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How Many Februarys Will It Take for America to Believe Black Children Are the Future, Too?

Ikhlas Saleem

Ikhlas Saleem

By Ikhlas Saleem

In 1986 Whitney Houston covered the George Benson hit, “The Greatest Love of All,” which he originally recorded for a film biography of Muhammad Ali. Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote that Houston’s cover gave the “message of self-worth an astounding resonance and conviction…a compelling assertion of black pride, family loyalty and spiritual devotion, all at once.”

Now that I work in education, this is a song I often reflect upon when feeling emotionally tasked, particularly the opening lines: “I believe the children are our future, Teach them well and let them lead the way, Show them all the beauty they possess inside, Give them a sense of pride to make it easier, Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be…”

My grade-school friend, Yasmine Muhammad, who was blessed with the talent—and in this case burden—of a great singing voice, was requested to sing this song at every awards ceremony, academic gathering and sometimes basketball games because, why not.

I didn’t know it then but what an incredible message to continuously impart upon children—particularly children that were and are descendants of slaves, carrying almost 400 years of baggage of a dignity lost and a future almost impossible to dream.

So now in 2016, I can reflect and celebrate my ancestors that carried the burden of a back breakin’, cotton-pickin’ South, while spending their nights in hope of freedom trying to make sense of a language that was not their own, while being reminded that their futures lie in nothing but death or labor of the American South.

Nate Bowling has said it before and I’ll say it again, while the fate of black children lies outside of plantation fields, America isn’t quite ready to believe or concede that black children are the future. Instead there’s the exception. There’s the, “Jahmal, despite his circumstances, who has managed to exceed expectations.” There’s also, “Keisha who displays incredible potential.” And of course there a couple of kids from 90220 and 10027 that “made it.”

You see, it’s much easier to find exceptions rather than tending to the whole lot. The fact is we’re not teaching children well and black children are among the groups that suffer most. We’re not making it easy when we lower standards for students and teachers. We’re not making it easier when we lessen measures of accountability for our lowest-performing schools. And we’re not making it easier when we restrict school enrollment to a block-radius. What we are doing is limiting students’ ability to show us all the beauty they possess inside.

Pride is lost when a high school student can be thrown from her desk and arrested in front of her classmates. Pride is lost when disciplinary action is met with a school-to-prison pipeline. Pride is lost when you graduate high school only to take remedial courses at your local community college because your diploma is worthless.

I believe children are the future, but America has to believe that black children are part of that future, too.

Top 10 CNN Hero, San Bernardino Business Owner Kim Carter Has a New Goal: A Governor’s Pardon

From the Left: Sen. Bill Monning, Sen. Isadore Hall, III, Lisa Moreno, Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Sen. Mark Leno, Kim Carter, Sen. Connie M. Leyva, Sen. Mike Morrell, Sen. Jean Fuller and Sen. Marty

From the Left: Sen. Bill Monning, Sen. Isadore Hall, III, Lisa Moreno, Sen. Holly J. Mitchell, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Sen. Mark Leno, Kim Carter, Sen. Connie M. Leyva, Sen. Mike Morrell, Sen. Jean Fuller and Sen. Marty

SACRAMENTO, CA- Local nonprofit leader, Kim Carter, was presented with a Senate Resolution at the State Capitol on Monday, January 25, 2016. Senator Connie M. Leyva, Senate District 20,  presented the resolution on the Senate Floor on behalf of Carter’s recognition as a 2015 Top 10 CNN Hero. “When we hear negative things about San Bernardino, we forget to talk about some of the really amazing work that’s going on there,” stated Senator Leyva. Recognized as a national model Senator Leyva noted Time for Change Foundation’s 0% recidivism rate achieved through their Positive Future Program. She went on to express that the work being done by Time for Change Foundation is truly remarkable as it fosters complete transformations, “It is truly amazing when people are given an opportunity, and shown what they can do, how they actually thrive.”

In a rare moment, Presiding Officer Senator Ricardo Lara allowed Ms. Carter an opportunity to speak. Carter electrified the room as she thanked the “body” for its leadership and expressed her commitment to making a difference in the great State of California. As Carter addressed the floor, she thanked all of the members for the work they do that makes rehabilitation possible. She now seeks to obtain an Official Governor’s Pardon.

With a compilation of support letters from various esteemed elected officials, prison wardens and high ranking members of law enforcement in support of her pardon, she hopes that somehow Governor Jerry Brown will hear of her request and give it careful consideration.

Carter exclaimed, “My goal in obtaining a Governor’s Pardon is to demonstrate that we have a system of governance and keepers of the law that would consider exercising its ultimate power of redemption on my behalf.”

At the conclusion of her address, many of the elected body stood in amazement as Carter’s inspirational testimony demonstrated her passion to help others. She tearfully thanked Senator Leyva for this pivotal moment in her life.

To view the entire address, please visit http://bit.ly/leyvahonorscarter.


Youth Action Project Hosted YAP TALKS: An MLK Event


SAN BERNARDINO, CA- On Friday, January 15, 2016, Youth Action Project hosted YAP TALKS: A Martin Luther King Jr. event, to commemorate and honor Dr. King’s life and legacy. This event was held at the San Bernardino Valley College Library Viewing room.

YAP TALKS strongly resembled a TED Talks. Four speakers were invited to deliver 15-minute speeches that incorporated the philosophies, teachings and principles of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to current issues experienced by San Bernardino community members and its youth. Each speaker projected a positive message by bringing awareness to these issues and by sharing their insight on how we can resolve them. The speakers consisted of:

Enrique Murillo, Professor at California State San Bernardino and Executive Director of Latino Education Advocacy Days (LEAD); Johnathan Buffong, co-founder of Buffong Consulting and Mental Health Consultant with the County of San Bernardino; Raihanah Medlock (Grand Terrace High School, Junior), Sheba Jennings (Summit High School, Junior), & DeVon Clay (California State University, San Bernardino, Freshman); Lolita Lyles, Professor at California State Long Beach and University of La Verne; and Rev. Dennis Brown, influential speaker who is also known as the “Voice of King.”

The event also featured a special guest, R&B sensation, Abraham McDonald. You may have seen him on The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Voice. He graced everyone with his humorous personality and beautiful voice.

Jonathan Buffong, a speaker for this event, said, “To see the community celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King life’s work and dreams is always a great thing. Youth Action Project went an extra step when they did YAP TALKS, as each speaker not only analyzed King’s memory, but also forced the audience to look at ways to actualize how they can implement Dr. King legacy in their daily life. That’s when you will see true change in the way we engage with each other”.

Eleven-year-old student, Alexis Gallarzo, simply said, “I loved listening to everyone’s speech, especially since I am learning about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in class right now. The best thing about this event were the girls who free-styled their poems. It was so cool!”

Carol Flores, one of the event coordinators, said, “It was an honor working on an event that served as an agent to promote social change. My goal was to construct an event that would make people think about their current predicament and take action by fighting for social justice and equality as Martin Luther King Jr. did.”

Youth Action Project had one purpose in mind when planning YAP TALKS and that was to host a community event that would impact a diverse audience. C.E.O Joseph Williams closed the night with a powerful quote stating: “Youth Action Project was pleased to host this event. Our aim was to see Dr. King’s dream implemented. I believe we did just that.”