The challenge of educating black children in Los Angeles is getting some of their so-called “advocates” to understand what time it is. Before former schools Superintendent David Brewer came to LAUSD, there was no real plan to save the worse of the lot — African American males. For the past three years, a group of black men within 100 Black Men of Los Angeles have been studying the successful publicly funded single-gender school of our New York chapter, The Eagle Academy for Excellence, as a possible solution to the dilemma facing black boys in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). A group calling itself “Advocates For Black Strategic Alternatives” (whatever the hell that means) called this just an “erratic drip” and attacked me in a recent op-ed “in response” to an earlier commentary.
I have no real beef with these people. I can dish criticism and I can take criticism. But how does advancing a success model “hinder the efforts to improve the quality of education for Black students”? Their “response” here is to defend, not the mission of Black Education Task Force (BETF) — because BETF wasn’t the real point here — but the actions of the leader of the task force (Rev. Eric Lee) whose appearance at Mayor Villaraigosa’s “support choice resolution” press conference gave an implied endorsement of the resolution, undermining BETF’s open opposition of the resolution.
It’s okay for the BETF spokesperson to co-op BETF’s position taking both sides? That’s intellectually dishonest. If you can’t figure out what you’re advocating for, that’s fraudulent advocacy and you’re a fraudulent “advocate.” Simply put, it’s the type of intellectual dishonesty that got him caught up with BOTH the Jews and the Gays. Now he got us caught up and twisted on how we educate black youth? I got two words for this: Bite me!
The convener of these “advocates,” Larry Aubry, is a master rhetoritician whose full-time occupation is attending community meetings, sitting in a room, and whining on other people’s ideas. Aubry can tell you what you “ain’t doing,” what you “should be doing,” but he never does it. He’s always calling for “accountability,” calling for action — but missing in action to get something substantive done. If it goes past a conversation, Larry Aubry’s not there. It’s interesting the words Aubry used to try to describe me. He even goes as far to infer that I’m an “undesirable.” None of us are perfect, and I’m far from it — but my events are among the most popular in the city. The people know what’s “real” and they embrace me for who I am — foibles and all. That’s all that’s important to me.
My advocacy has been selfless and at times caused me more grief than joy. My reputation, like it or not, is that I stand up for black people (particularly when others hide). My idealistic and often futuristic thought and strategic analysis have always played past “the old ways.”
My biggest critics have been “old heads” (young and old) stuck in old paradigms. When Barack Obama announced he was running for President, the “strategic” black leadership called him “individualistic” and “self-serving” and they put their chips with the white woman. King’s biggest enemies weren’t just J. Edgar Hoover, who called him “morally bankrupt,” it was Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and Thurgood Marshall who called his “individualistic tendencies” and “opportunistic advocacy” (non-violent direct action), “dangerous to the movement.” All because King didn’t wait on them. Like King, Barack didn’t wait on the permission of the “black caucus.”
Black children, black boys in particular, have been waiting in an educational quagmire for over 30 years. They have become the feeders (and fodder) of California’s prison-industrial complex. The capacity to provide culturally competent education, for black or Latino children, is not there. Even in the model proposed by BETF, it is not there. The group offers little “accountability” for the 30 years of conversation that has taken place around black children. Who is being “intellectually dishonest” about the realities black children face educationally and the most viable “strategic alternatives” available to them? If you want to expose something, let’s expose the practical aspects of the BETF proposal. They are non-existent in its current context and haven’t advanced beyond the theoretical concept developed a decade ago. My assessment was neither fallacious nor unsupported. Black children are perishing in LAUSD. Still.
While eight “advocates” seek to try to assail my character and raise what they think are “deficiencies,” absent in their critique are successes of advancing partnerships and collaborations that forge an independent voice through the Urban Issues Forum — the only one of it’s kind anywhere in the nation for 10 years now — or the $600,000 I personally raised for the 100 Black Men/LA to mentor and educate black youth (the money didn’t go to me, it went to them — ask ’em), or the effort to expose (through Who’s Who In Black L.A.) the influence black Angelenos have amidst the perception of a shifting demography and a shrinking African American footprint. And I speak truth to power (for the powerless) every week for 20 years running, even bringing 8,000 members to an antiquated NAACP branch that wasn’t ready to challenge economic subjugation and police misconduct 20 years ago.
Whether I’m working alone or in a group (and I’m in as many groups as Larry), my change is tangible. I’m nowhere near “the fringe.” But what can Aubry point to? It is dishonest of them to suggest that all-male, publicly funded charter schools that work in New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and communities where schools were taken over cannot work in Los Angeles. It is arrogant for BETF to think they speak for a whole community when half the people downtown advocating for choice on the day of the resolution vote were black.
My occupation isn’t “professional whiner.” For the past 15 years, I’ve taught at the college and community college levels where over 3,000 students have taken my classes. I am in the classroom. I witness first-hand, on a daily basis, the largely under-prepared product of LAUSD. Is that close enough scrutiny for you? A race-based district solution is not timely enough to address our children’s problems. White people recognized it in the 1980s when they began to resegregate with “neighborhood schools.” Latinos understand it today.
Those 50 schools today represent the rebuilding of a social infrastructure. These black “advocates” would rather try to repair an old boat than put our children in a new one. Los Angeles is also rebuilding their school facilities infrastructure, which will last another 50 to 70 years. There is no need for black children to have to wait any longer.
They say my advocacy for single-gender schools to save black males is “self-serving.” Why, because we will operate our own schools, and control the taxpayer money that will flow through them? I don’t call that self-serving, I call that “smart.” It is exactly what everybody else is doing to insure quality education for their children. I know what change looks like. It won’t take me 30 years to figure it out. It won’t take me ten. Our children can benefit in both traditional and choice schools. Only “fringe pretenders” can’t see this. And I’m not waitin’ on em to figure it out.
“Black Strategic Alternatives” sounds good. The question is, what is it an alternative to? Certainly not an antiqued mindset of the past, or the dysfunction of the present confusion around knowing which side to play on because your alternative wasn’t even in the playbook. People who think they’re perfect rarely get anything done. But those of us with life’s flaws and foibles are shaped by trial and tested by error — we somehow figure it out long before those seeking to judge us. We can rebuild our children’s educational future, just like we can rebuild lives. I’m a living witness.
When we open a single-gender male academy in Los Angeles, I want the “Advocates for Black Strategic Alternatives” sitting on the front row so they can see first-hand what change is.
Especially you, Larry. “Mr. Accountability.”