Enough Reform

Hello Fam,

If you listened to our podcast yesterday, you heard Erin and I briefly discussing the presentation we did last Monday at the My Brother’s Keeper Convening.

In that conversation Erin, said something that has been sitting with me for a week now. She said, “everyone else is talking about educational reform but you (CREAD) is talking about race.”

Since then I’ve been thinking, what does it mean to reform education? So far it has meant:

  • crafting new standards (that mirror the old)
  • crafting new teacher/admin ratings (that mirror the old)
  • crafting new tests (you guessed it that look like the old)
  • crafting new metrics for graduation (bc all of this must increase graduation rates)
  • giving poor kids new technology (with old pedagogy)
  • convincing parents and the youth that STEM will be our saving grace (because our right side of the brain is unimportant)


In the mix of that we have had other other notable ideas being shared.

  • Hip Hop Education
  • Social Emotional Learning
  • Project Based Learning
  • Restorative Justice and Practices

But these things happen in pockets and feel like bandaids being placed over bullet wounds.

The bullet wounds of the way that race impacts every moment of ALL of our lives, whether we are conscious of it or not.

On J. Cole’s new album KOD he has a track called Brackets. (I LOVE Brackets)

“Yeah, I pay taxes, so much taxes, shit don’t make sense
Where do my dollars go? You see lately, I ain’t been convinced
I guess they say my dollars supposed to build roads and schools
But my niggas barely graduate, they ain’t got the tools
Maybe ’cause the tax dollars that I make sure I send
Get spent hirin’ some teachers that don’t look like them
And the curriculum be tricking them, them dollars I spend
Got us learning about the heroes with the whitest of skin
One thing about the men that’s controlling the pen
That write history, they always seem to white-out they sins”

So, let’s stop right there…or rather start right there.

As Erin said, we aren’t talking race when we’re talking education and more over we’re not talking about the fact that children of enslaved ancestors need a different education than the children of the slave master.

I didn’t coin that phrase, I am borrowing from Brian and Lurie Favors but I feel that ish on a spiritual level.

I keep on reminding people that there is no such thing as neutrality in education. You can be on a spectrum of racist, non racist and anti-racist but you can’t be neutral. Because neutrality is centered in white supremacy. White supremacy is centered and therefore anti-blackness is also centered.

And all the proof we need is the statistics that show that Black and Brown children do not have good experiences in school (to be kind). Because their needs, identities, histories and literacies are NEVER centered.

Yesterday, I shared an Algebra II lesson that I created that contextualized the skills and standards of trigonometry through the lens of gentrification. Taking this audience through the experience of how harmful and traumatizing gentrification is for People of Color I connected colonialism to Columbusing to gentrification to rap lyrics about buying back the block to students becoming engineers who will propose an urban planning project in their neighborhood to either beautify it or add functionality to the neighborhood.

The first question asked yesterday was about how offensive this lesson could be and then conversations about the benefits of gentrification attempted to float to the top but I pushed back on that immediately. Beneficial for who?

Now just 2 days before then I shared this same lesson with my Woke Cypha crew of teachers and the excitement and thoughtfulness and connections that were made and expressed was so beautiful. With one of the 1st questions being, “could the students REALLY submit this plan to the authorities.”

Same Lesson.
Same Standards.
Different Audience.

Slide1.jpgDescendants of the enslaved vs. descendants of the enslavers and beneficiaries of the concept of Whiteness.


I explained to yesterday’s audience that Culturally Responsive Education is responsive to the students and communities sitting in front of you. These lessons are not transferable to everyone–yet.

Because while I know that we must be responsive to those in front of us. If we as a society don’t get on the same page about humanity….as Baba Belafonte said, we gonna have to burn this ish down.

I wanted to push the group yesterday and say explicitly that little white children everywhere need to learn how to STOP Columbusing…but it would have been futile.

What I am clear about is that CREAD will be focusing our work on how we support the self agency of Black and Brown urban youth to determine the outcomes they want for themselves, their families and our communities.

Our goal is to ensure that children of the Diaspora learn how to wield power that in the end, will benefit all humankind.

In solidarity.


  1. Fantastic article Khalilah! The algebra lesson was great – never would I have thought gentrification would tie into math.

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