May 25: Afrikan Liberation Day

Peeps, Afrikan Liberation Day is almost here. What are you up to this year? Some families wear white and have a special meal with friends & fam. Drumming/chanting are in order if that’s your thing.  Others  play relevant music , share poetry/readings & discuss our liberation stories. Whatever you do make sure it’s child-friendly. Take pictures, play games, have FUN! There are lots of public gatherings going on too. Check out if you’re interested.

PM wants African Liberation Day on national calendar

DOMINICA – Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 11:00 AM

March at African Liberation Day celebrations last year March at African Liberation Day celebrations last year

Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, is calling on Dominicans to embrace their African heritage and wants African Liberation celebrations to be part of the National calendar of events.

He was speaking during the opening ceremony of the 50th anniversary of African Liberation Day celebrations at the Arawak House of Culture on Tuesday afternoon.

“And I want to say that from henceforth this government shall continue to recognize and to play its part in the celebration of African Liberation Day as part of our national calendar of events in Dominica,” the Prime Minister said.

Skerrit pointed out that when Dominica celebrates African Liberation Day “it is an expression of solidarity to Africa and in so doing we are in fact expressing solidarity to our own people; and that African liberation is not a’ Rasta man thing. It is our thing as a people, as a nation and as a region.”

The Prime Minister also said that ways must be explored to improve relations with the African Union and the people of Africa.

“We at the level of government are engaged in Africa in various ways and in various contexts,” he said. “There are many issues that unite us. We are still victims of trade imbalances; we are still affected by international systems which work against our interests. This is why models of cooperation have emerged in Africa and in the Caribbean. Here in the Caribbean we have the OECS and CARICOM. These are well established models of cooperation. More recently we created ALBA and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and the new arrangements such as Petro Caribe.”

The prime minister noted that these cooperations are ways “of guaranteeing economic security, political sovereignty and independence of our countries.”

“In the spirit of African liberation and solidarity we need to find ways via these regional arrangements to deepen our relations with the African union and with the people of Africa,” he said.

Meantime Minister for Culture, Justina Charles, said that African Liberation Day is a special day and should be celebrated as such.

“It is indeed a special milestone and it is very appropriate that we celebrate it in a special way…not only as a special day for the Rastafarian community but for the nation as a whole,” she said. “This is why Government has become more engaged, more involved in the observance of this special day, we recognize that African liberation day is a special and symbolic day for Africans at home, on the continent and abroad.”

Charles also urged persons to reconnect to their roots and support the activities.

Several Cabinet ministers as well as officials from the diplomatic corps were in attendance.

African Liberation Day will be celebrated on May 25.


Jamaicans celebrate 50th African Liberation Day

Published: Wednesday | May 22, 2013

Duane Stephenson
Duane Stephenson
Ken Boothe
Ken Boothe
Pashon Minott
Pashon Minott

Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer

At least three events are planned between tomorrow and Saturday in celebration of the 50th African Liberation Day. All three events feature stage shows and will see Jamaicans celebrating freedom through music.

African Liberation Day has its roots in 1958, when Ghanaian leader Dr. Kwame Nkrumah convened the First Conference of Independent States in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. April 15 was named African Freedom Day, as the formal decolonisation process gained momentum across Africa. When the Organisation of African Unity was formed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 25, African Liberation Day was declared on that date.

Full stage shows rare

Compared to the regularity of former years full-scale stage shows are now a rarity in Jamaica, with Reggae Sumfest, Rebel Salute and Western Consciousness three of the few calendar events remaining. However, all the celebratory events incorporate the stage show format.

US-based reggae artiste Eljai is in high spirits for the African Liberation Day celebrations. He speaks highly of  Flavors Fest, to be held in Central Village, Spanish Town, St Catherine, tomorrow.

“Flavors Fest is a culturally rich event. When you talk about Africans you talk about a rich cultural heritage. So this event will, no doubt, bring about that element of our past to life. I have some strong songs with rich material to unveil to the people and trust me, who never enlightened are going to be,” Eljai said.

Eljai is currently signed to Jah Mix Entertainment and is expected to debut his single For You at Flavors Fest. Other notable acts booked to perform include Tarrus Riley, Romain Virgo, Duane Stephenson and George Nooks.

On Saturday, May 25, a collaborative event between the University of Technology, Jamaica, (UTech) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, called the African Liberation Day Cultural Programme is a three-day celebration. It will be hosted in UTech’s Sculpture Park from 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

The Saturday celebration will feature African drumming and Mutabaruka playing recorded music, with performances by Warrior King, Mikey General, The Informative History Man, Ras Takura, Scrathylus, Mau Mau Warriors, Kshema Francis, Nature, Keke I, Jah Bouks, LSX, Steppa, Simji, Exile Di Brave, Empress Italafiyah and Princess Love.

Not all music

But it will not be all music, as there will be two panel discussions on the day as well. ‘Developing African-Centred Consciousness as a Means for Community Empowerment and Development in Jamaica’ will feature Dr Kadamawe K’nife, Dr Clinton Hutton, Dr Jahlani Niaah and Dr Copeland Stupart.

The other panel session, ‘Reflecting on the Pan-Africanist Movement of the Sixties to Chart a Path Forward in the 21st Century’ will feature Willie Ricks and Dr Allister Hinds, among others.

Preceding that, on Friday, May 24, a symposium entitled ‘Pan-Africanism or Perish’ will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre (N1), UWI. The slated speakers are Mutabaruka, Ras Miguel Lorne, Reverend Majorie Lewis, Minister Clive Muhammad, and Willie Ricks (Baba Mukasa).

The celebrations return to the Neville Hall Lecture Theatre on Sunday, May 26, for a film screening session from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Documentaries on Dudley Thompson, Peter Abrahams and Fela Kuti, among others, will be shown.

“This is basically a three-day event and there is something in it for everybody. We have an open symposium on Friday and we will deliver some cultured music on Saturday at UTech. Then on Sunday we have a film festival at N1, UWI. It’s basically a three-day festival,” Dr Michael Barnett of UWI, who is organising the celebration, told The Gleaner. He will chair Friday’s symposium.

In a prior release, Barnett noted the significance of the celebration. “Ever since the formation of the OAU in 1963, African Liberation Day has become a much celebrated date on the calendar for Pan-African organisations and Pan-Africanists on the continent and in the African Diaspora. So far as African Diaspora communities are concerned, it has long been celebrated in the United States and in Jamaica,” Barnett said.

“Various community organisations have hosted African Liberation Day since the 1970s in Jamaica, and UWI had the distinction of hosting one such event in 2012. This year being the 50th anniversary of African Liberation Day offers a great opportunity, in my opinion, for UWI to provide both a special educational and cultural programme to commemorate the occasion,” he said.

On Saturday, May 25, Minott Productions, spearheaded by Pashon Minott, will host the third staging of Sugar Minott Day celebration. Pashon said the night’s theme is ‘Black People Unite’ and the event will feature a special authentic African drumming display by Nyabinghi drummers.

“The day commemorates African Liberation Day and I want to pay homage to that. We wanted the drummers for the celebration last year, but it didn’t work out. But this year it’s definitely on. We want all African descendants and everyone to come out and unite at Sugar Minott’s Day celebration on African Liberation Day,” she said.

It will be held at Youth Man Promotions HQ, 1 Robert Crescent, St Andrew, and features Sizzla Kalonji, The Mighty Diamonds, Ken Boothe, Queen Ifrica, Iba Mahr and Eddie Fitzroy, among others. The event runs from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.       Sizzla’s “African Liberation”      Garvey’s Afrikan Liberation Day message     Dennis Brown’s “Black Liberation Day”

Daddies & daughters

Ryan Cameron’s Father-Daughter Dance Celebrates 10-Year Anniversary

June 12, 2012 | Posted by

Atlanta, Ga – On Father’s Day, the most many men expect to receive is a card, a tie and a “Happy Father’s Day” phone call. Iconic Atlanta radio DJ Ryan Cameron wants to change that expectation. Every year, Cameron and the Ryan Cameron Foundation host a father-daughter dance on Father’s Day to give dads a chance to truly shine.

“For the dads, it’s part of a ritual where Mother’s Day we spend millions and millions of dollars on cards, flowers, gifts, dinners and dad’s day is just a phone call like ‘Hey, Happy Father’s Day. ‘Preciate it! Now put mama on the phone,’” said Cameron. “So for that dad it’s like get him off the couch, get him out to do something and celebrate them as opposed to dropping a card and keeping it moving.”

The Atlanta event will celebrate its ten-year anniversary on Sunday and a lot has happened in that decade. Cameron has a bevy of stories about the dance and, for him, it has been nice to see the progression of the event and its attendees. “I’ve watched people go from being teenagers to adults and the dance has always been a part of it,” he said. “I’ve had women come up to me crying because the last event they had with their dad was that dance.”

Our Father, Our Heroes:

The impact of the dance was so strong for one father, he made a special request of his family: “One woman that went on to become a volunteer for the organization, actually at [her father’s] homegoing service was buried in the same tuxedo he wore to the event, by his request,” said Cameron.

According to Cameron, the dance started out as something small in “a little house and about ten dads and we’re all in there crying just dancing with our daughters” and he wanted to turn it into something big. The foundation spares no expense—the first public dance was held at the elegant Ritz-Carlton Hotel; this year’s location is the Georgia Aquarium. The V-103 host describes it as a “father-daughter prom.”

At the center of it all, Cameron’s daughters remain a source of inspiration for the event, always attending the dance with their dad. He wants to show them how they should be treated and what they should expect from a future partner so a young man won’t be able to deceive them, a common concern of many fathers.

“Anything I try to do, any perk that I get, I put my daughters in there,” said Cameron. “No matter what it is, whatever it is, because I want them to be able to say that they’re not swayed by a quick tongue and a cool rap and that’s basically it and it’s working.”

The dance will take place on Father’s Day, June 17, at the Georgia Aquarium. For more information, visit the foundation’s website at    2012 Ryan Cameron Father-Daughter dance    Black Star Project’s Father-Daughter dance (Chicago)   National Father-Daughter dances (all over the U.S.)


Origins of Mother’s Day

The origin of Mother’s Day goes back to the era of ancient Greeks and Romans. But the roots of Mother’s Day history can also be traced in the UK where Mothering Sunday was celebrated much before the festival saw the light of day in the US. However, the celebration of the festival as it is seen today is a recent phenomenon and not even a hundred years old. Thanks to the hard work of the pioneering women of their times, Julia Ward Howe and Anna Jarvis, Mother’s Day came into existence. Today the festival of Mother’s Day is celebrated across 46 countries (though on different dates) and is a hugely popular affair. Millions of people across the globe take the day as an opportunity to honor their mothers, thank them for their efforts in giving them life, raising them and being their constant support and well wisher.

Earliest History of Mother’s Day
The earliest history of Mother’s Day dates back to the ancient annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to maternal goddesses. The Greeks used the occasion to honor Rhea, wife of Cronus and the mother of many deities of Greek mythology.

Ancient Romans, too, celebrated a spring festival, called Hilaria dedicated to Cybele, a mother goddess. It may be noted that ceremonies in honour of Cybele began some 250 years before Christ was born. The celebration was marked by making offerings in the temple of Cybele. This lasted for three days and included parades, games and masquerades. The celebrations were notorious enough that followers of Cybele were banished from Rome.

Early Christians celebrated a Mother’s Day of sorts during the festival on the fourth Sunday of Lent in honor of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Christ. In England the holiday was expanded to include all mothers. It was then called Mothering Sunday.

History of Mother’s Day: Mothering Sunday
The more recent history of Mother’s Day dates back to the 1600s in England. Here a Mothering Sunday was celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday of Lent (the 40 day period leading up to Easter) to honor mothers. After a prayer service in church to honor Virgin Mary, children brought gifts and flowers to pay tribute to their own mothers.

On the occasion, servants, apprentices and other employees staying away from their homes were encouraged by their employers to visit their mothers and honor them. Traditionally children brought with them gifts and a special fruit cake or fruit-filled pastry called a simnel. Yugoslavs and people in other nations have observed similar days.

The custom of celebrating Mothering Sunday died out almost completely by the 19th century. However, the day came to be celebrated again after World War II, when American servicemen brought the custom and commercial enterprises and used them as an occasion for sales.

History of Mother’s Day: Julia Ward Howe
The idea of an official celebration of Mother’s Day in the U.S. was first suggested by Julia Ward Howe in 1872. An activist, writer and poet Julia shot to fame with her famous Civil War song, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Julia Ward Howe suggested that June 2 be annually celebrated as Mother’s Day and should be dedicated to peace. She wrote a passionate appeal to women and urged them to rise against war in her famous Mother’s Day Proclamation, written in Boston in 1870. She also initiated a Mothers’ Peace Day observance on the second Sunday in June in Boston and held the meeting for a number of years. Julia tirelessly championed the cause of an official celebration of Mother’s Day. Her idea spread but was later replaced by the Mother’s Day holiday now celebrated in May.

History of Mother’s Day: Anna Jarvis
Anna Jarvis is recognised as the Founder of Mother’s Day in the U.S. Though Anna Jarvis never married and never had kids, she is also known as the Mother of Mother’s Day, an apt title for the lady who worked hard to bestow honor on all mothers.

Anna Jarvis got the inspiration of celebrating Mother’s Day from her own mother Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis in her childhood. An activist and social worker, Mrs Jarvis used to express her desire that someday someone must honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to the contributions made by them.

A loving daughter, Anna never forgot her mother’s word and when her mother died in 1905, she resolved to fulfill her mother’s desire of having a mother’s day. A growing negligent attitude of adult Americans towards their mothers and a desire to honor her mother soared her ambitions.

To begin with Anna sent Carnations to a church service in Grafton, West Virginia to honor her mother. Carnations were her mother’s favorite flower and Anna felt that they symbolised a mother’s pure love. Later Anna along with her supporters wrote letters to people in positions of power lobbying for the official declaration of the Mother’s Day holiday. The hard work paid off. By 1911, Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state in the Union and on May 8, 1914 President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

History of Mother’s Day: Present Day Today Mother’s Day is celebrated in several countries including the U.S., UK, India, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Turkey, Australia, Mexico, Canada, China, Japan and Belgium. People take the day as an opportunity to pay tribute to their mothers and thank them for all their love and support. The day has become hugely popular and in several countries phone lines witness maximum traffic. There is also a tradition of gifting flowers, cards and other things to mothers. The festival has become commercialised to a great extent. Florists, card manufacturers and gift sellers see huge business potential in the day and make good money through a rigorous advertising campaign.

It is unfortunate to note that Ms Anna Jarvis, who devoted her life for the declaration of Mother’s Day was deeply hurt to note the huge commercialisation of the day.    Tribute to activist moms

Mama’s Day


Do you celebrate Mother’s Day? It’s one of my favourite days of the year! My siblings and I do exactly what our mom enjoys. Mama’s Day is a time to honour the mamas/grandmas/godmas (ancestral and living) in our lives. Important stuff! How ’bout placing photos of your ancestral mamas on your family altar? Remember to do something special with/for the ones who are living.  Consider giving gifts with meaning ie. experiences rather than things.  Here are some suggestions:

-Head to a park or out on a boat. Serve a yummy meal or have one catered by someone in our community.
-Give mama a plant or freshly picked herbs.
-Pick flowers or order some organic ones.
-Host a tea party.
-Treat your mama to a spa day or a gift certificate to a show, movie etc.
-Get some family photos taken. Professional ones? Not necessarily.

Now some of us skip mainstream Mother’s Day for various reasons. Got it! How about designating another day to honour our mamas? One that makes sense to you. It’s so worth it. Think about it.

P.S.- If you choose to buy a gift try to stick with something that’s locally made ie. visual art, soap, jam, music, baked goods, veggies, candles. & offer some sweet gifts too.  Whatever you do lay low on the packaging.

flower  A Song for Mama (BoyzIIMen)  A Mother’s Love (Kem)

For an extra special gift purchase a bag via

Graduation time!

So graduation time is right around the corner and your high schooler is still deciding what they’re gonna wear. There’s tons to choose from. Has your son or daughter found anything that really grabs them? If not check out these designers for ideas:  Accessories  Dresses   ”  ”  ”  Afrodesiac photo shoot

prom1 prom2  

Whatever  you do represent our culture well. Ancient inspiration, contemporary style!!

P.S.- Find some fabric and one of your local designers/taylors.  Let us know what you come up with. Pictures please!!! Heehee.

NEEDED: Foster parents/Short break carers

Your Take: We Need Black Foster Parents

Nothing can help black and Latino kids in crisis as much as having enough homes that accept them.

By: Jeffrey Gardere, Ph.D. 




To say that America and the world are in crisis is an understatement. The world economy is careering off a financial cliff. And in America, Wall Street and corporate greed have resulted in a trail of high unemployment, record foreclosures and nonexistent savings and 401(k)s. Yes, it appears the good times that we enjoyed in America for the past several years are over. 

But one group in particular has never enjoyed the fruits of the boom times: children who have had to be removed from abusive or neglectful homes. These kids have never been comfortable in the world and certainly have never had any hope for the future. The dismal and depressing emotional climate we are experiencing today may be new to many of us, but for these children, a catastrophic, unstable and dangerous environment is all they have ever known. 

Their world has always been bleak as they have struggled to surmount the multiple traumas in their young lives — traumas that include watching their parents beat, stab and shoot each other. Witnessing their parents abuse drugs and alcohol, or even dying from drug-related illnesses such as AIDS. In turn, these parents or caretakers have acted out their insanity on their kids by neglecting, beating or sexually abusing them.  

Of course the ultimate trauma is their forced separation from their parents and their placement into foster care. Consequently these children have low or nonexistent self-esteem, anger and often severe mental-health issues, which cause them to act out against others and themselves. They struggle through their childhood, often failing in school and in constant conflict with all those around them. For those who are born with positive toxicity because of their parents’ drug use during pregnancy, they must now live life with severe learning disorders and stunted cognitive growth.

I work with the Harlem Dowling-West Side Center for Children and Family Services. Formerly known as the Colored Orphan Asylum, this 175-year-old agency is the oldest not-for-profit child-welfare agency in the country and has long been dedicated to serving children in New York City and beyond. As a clinical psychologist, I am part of a unique treatment team that consists of social workers, case planners, a nurse and psychiatrist, and together we assist these emotionally wounded children not just to survive but also to thrive.

Our goal is to turn pain into power so that these children can work through their early trauma and resultant mental-health issues and eventually realize their true potential. In addition, we also work with the biological parents and help them exorcise the emotional and psychological demons that caused them to lead lives of dysfunction, which ultimately fractured and destroyed their families. Our goal is to help them become healthy physically and emotionally so that they can eventually receive their children into a positive and loving home. 

But despite our grueling — but rewarding — work, one major problem remains: We don’t have enough foster homes to provide the stable and loving environment that our children need now, before they return to their biological parents, while we are delivering the therapeutic care. In fact, this is a problem of epidemic proportion for practically every black- and Latino-oriented foster-care agency in America. 

Foster parents may not have the advanced degrees of members of our treatment team, but they are essential to the process because they are dealing with the kids 24-7, from home to school to even the occasional psychiatric hospitalizations. These foster parents step in and become the stable parents that these children have never had. In essence these parents provide therapeutic and loving homes, safe havens, so that our children can finally breathe, relax and live comfortably.

When we lack these foster homes, our kids must be placed in temporary homes where they cannot get the consistent and specialized attention they need. If they are older, they can end up in group homes or institutions — certainly not the preferred placement!

If you truly believe that it “takes a village” to raise a child, than I urge — no, I beg — you to consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent in your town and help save and transform a young person’s life. These children need you. Who knows — by your being there for them, they can be there for you, too. Your act of kindness may turn your life around to the point that the hope you lost for the world may now be restored.

We need more of these the world over:

Black students, White Schools – Part 2

Apr 05, 2013

‘American Promise’ and the black student struggle in the nation’s private schools

By Eisa Nefertari Ulen

 Last week, PBS aired “180 Days,” a film that examines one year at DC Met, a school that serves of The District’s most dispossessed young people- and an institution under scrutiny by local public school officials because of its scores on the DC CAS. PBS is airing another film that examines black student life in an American school, which will also be available to see in Washington DC movie theatres this fall. Titled American Promise, it examines 12 years at The Dalton School, one of the most prestigious private schools in the nation. Free public education is a right in this country; indeed, Americans are compelled to educate their children. Yet schools serving people of color too often fail to meet the basic educational goals required for children to become functioning, tax-paying citizens in our post-industrial society. In “180 Days,” teachers and other staff suggest that the ongoing problem of an educational system that fails our children is a Civil Rights issue. In “American Promise,” though the middle class boys featured are full of academic potential, the film asserts that even elite private schools fail our children. If public education is a Civil Right, then perhaps fair and equitable treatment for all private school students, regardless of race or gender, is a Personal Right. In “American Promise,” filmmakers Joe Brewster and Michele Stephenson document the journey of their own son and his best friend at The Dalton School, a New York City independent institution that Forbes magazine ranked 13th in a 2010 list of the country’s top 20 prep schools. If “180 Days” asks why the public schools fail so many of our disenfranchised young people, “American Promise” asks how the private schools fail far too many of our middle class kids. Scheduled to air on PBS and in Washington movie theatres this October, “American Promise” opens with the image of two smiling, bright-eyed, African American boys. Thrilled to be going to school together, Idris Brewster, son of the filmmakers, and Oluwaseun “Seun” Summers, Idris’ best friend, run up and down the sidewalk, excitedly searching for the car that will take them to their first day of kindergarten. Idris is the firstborn child of a mother who is also a lawyer, with degrees from McGill and Columbia, and a father who is also a Harvard and Stanford educated psychiatrist. Idris has been tested for giftedness and ranks in the top tier of preschool learners. Seun’s parents are also both college-educated, with degrees from the State University of New York and fulfilling careers that provide a middle class lifestyle for their four children. By the year the boys reach 5th grade at Dalton, they smile less, appear less engaged, begin to struggle academically. Toward the end of their middle school experience, Seun’s academic status is in jeopardy, and the audience wonders what happened to the unfulfilled promise of Idris’ giftedness. The dramatic tension of the film is heart-wrenching, as audiences root for these beautiful brown boys to overcome the barriers that would prevent them from fulfilling their personal potential, potential that was so evident when they were both 6. As they grow older, Idris’ and Seun’s disengagement only renders the boys’ desire to achieve more poignant. Winner of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize for Achievement in Filmmaking, “American Promise” focuses on a specific experience at a nationally-ranked prep school, but the lamentations of these two families will resonate for any African American caregiver with a child attending a majority white school. This film is important for everyone on your family team, including partners, grandparents, even babysitters, to see. The narrative offers solutions families can employ to enable their children’s success.

Come Together

In one scene, Idris’ and Seun’s parents gather with other African American caregivers that have formed a support group. Over coffee at the kitchen table, they discuss their experiences and their frustrations, seeking solutions to the specific issues their children face in school. While this level of networking is certainly helpful during the admissions process, it is essential once families join a school community. Stephenson thinks black families interested in forming their own parent-led support groups should keep them “informal and intimate” while remaining separate from the school PTA or PAT. In an interview for TheRootDC, Stephenson explained, “They need to be independent of those structures and be safe spaces to problem solve.” The film also examines class issues and the impact of wealthy families’ vast resources on their children’s level of achievement. For those of us with modest incomes who have promising children in independent schools, many of these scenes will feel familiar. For example, I remember very distinctly talking to the father of a child in a private school who shook his head as he recounted his experience with his own son’s seemingly apparent underachievement. This father said that he knew his child was just as smart as his peers, yet his grades always lagged behind the others. An epiphany came for him, he said, when he figured out what was really going on – and how connected it all was to money. First you pay for tuition, he said to me, then they want you to contribute to fundraising, and then you learn that these other families are paying more money on top of all that money for private tutors. That was the disconnect for him – that he did not realize supplemental learning in the form of expensive, one-to-one enrichment was taking place in the homes of the wealthy white children he was sending his child to school with, to compete with, every day. Of course his child was just as smart, just as capable of success; the other families had simply, and quietly, given their children an advantage he couldn’t afford. A very similar scene plays out in “American Promise”, when the black families share this high-priced secret the wealthier families employ to insure their children’s successes while chatting in the safe space of the support group. “For us it was a safety net,’ Stephenson says. “Being able to pick up that phone and brainstorm, even gossip at times, troubleshoot about certain things our kids were confronting and just share information. I think the most eye opening experience for us was this whole issue of tutoring for enrichment. Being able to share those experiences with other parents helped us gain a greater understanding of what the culture of the institution was like for our son and find out what other parents were doing.” Without that informal group of like-minded parents, many African American students may have simply slid down an incredibly slippery academic slope. Perhaps more importantly, they would have figured that they themselves, and not socio-economic forces well beyond their control, were responsible for the slide. And, most essentially: the parents would have never figured out the game, would have never figured out exactly what it was going to take to win at this level of highly competitive private schooling. Stephenson and Brewster feel so strongly about the importance of black family support groups at majority white, wealthy schools, that they are creating a community engagement campaign. “We are working on helping parents across the country build these types of parent support clubs for their boys’ educational success,” Stephenson says.

Get the Kids Together

In a Q&A following a screening of the film, Idris credited an organization of black students for helping him get through high school. Diversity Awareness Initiative for Students (DAIS), “was founded by the parents of one African American female high school student who wanted to encourage more socialization among the students of color at independent schools in NYC. Little did they know how important this organization would end up being for these kids,” Stephenson says. Stephenson says that DAIS created the same kind of safe space for her son that her parent-led support group did for her and her husband. Young people of color “across schools” could share their experiences with each other. Run by the young people themselves, DAIS members decide what their social events will be and identify topics for discussion at their monthly meetings. The social aspects of membership in DAIS may be most important of all for active members, especially as the “identity politics,” Stephenson says, that black students at majority white schools experience are complicated by young peoples’ growing awareness of “cultural, racial, and socio-economic factors.” Young people in DC and throughout the nation can form an organization like DAIS, where they cease to be a minority on the margins of the school community and step into the center of a group of kids with similar school experiences, “somewhat free of having to face implicit bias and stereotypes.” Organizations like DAIS, Stephenson adds, can be “a bit of a life float for them.”

Hire Black Folks

In American Promise, an African American teacher leads a class discussion of Ralph Ellison’s classic novel, “Invisible Man.” He challenges all the students, across racial lines, in their use of racialized language; indeed, he challenges the notion of race itself. Even more important than the rich content of their class discussion, Stephenson asserts, may be the presence of a black male authority figure in a majority white institution. “Diversity benefits us all,” she says. “And the one major thing that having a Black male in a position of authority over white students does is break through the stereotypes we are all bombarded with day in and day out. It pierces through the implicit bias we all internalize. Perhaps white students will think twice about the black male they see walking down the street or that they meet in a public setting as a result of their experiences at school. The more diverse an experience all students have with faculty of all colors and nationalities, the less they can rely on cultural biases once they step out that door. They have encountered and exchanged with human beings not like them and have had to deal with them at a different level. If these experiences are properly taken advantage of and channeled by a school such as Dalton, the students will come out of it the wiser and more exposed as global citizens and can have a more complicated view of the world they live in.”

 Hire a Director of Diversity

Stephenson says the presence of a head of diversity is “very important — in fact crucial — but it cannot be a token position. The students will see right through that both in terms of the respect they give to the person in that position and in how important they perceive the issue to be for the school.” Stephenson and Brewster have written a book, scheduled for fall publication by Random House, called “Promises Kept: How to Help Black Boys Succeed in School and in Life.” “Caregivers will find all kinds of shared stories, experiences, as well as evidence based advice from experts, from the basics around the impact of nutrition on academic performance, to how to handle issues of implicit bias that a high schooler may encounter in school and on the street, to a very deep discussion about parenting styles that will make parents think twice about their relationships with their child as well as reflect on how they themselves were raised,” Stephenson says. “There will be much for parents and communities to discuss regarding how do we as caregivers of the next generation want to provide in terms of preparation for the outside world.”

And, Most Importantly, Love Them

During a Q&A following a screening of American Promise, Brewster said that black boys are the most likely of every demographic in this country to be punished by teachers, by people in their communities – and by their own parents. Stephenson says that “the bottom line is that our job as parents is to be there for them. That they know they are loved. It is, of course, crucial that we maintain high expectations, surround our boys with the right positive reinforcement (it can be hard to be consistent on that one), and stay involved with those who are influencing the opportunities and experiences our boys are having in school and their wider education.”

Personal Rights

Though admission to an independent school is a privilege, a school culture that honors the potential of each individual child is a right. In schools with pedigrees going back 100 years, to a time when Irish, Italian, and Jewish students, as well as girls, were often barred from admission, African American students today will likely encounter young people and adults whose only daily contact with people of color is limited to the handful of non-white people in the school building. Even in cities as diverse as DC, once lovingly called Chocolate City by the majority black residents who lived in the district, the problem of segregation has disabled the potential to form enduring, intimate, organic relationships with black people from a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds. There is so much to overcome, and parents of black children have to take the lead in supporting diversity efforts in wealthy, majority white schools – public or private. American Promise will help all members of a school community begin the sometimes difficult conversations that will help institutions respect the specific, individual needs of every young person who arrives on the first day, gleeful, bright-eager, eager to do well, eager to learn.