By Cheryl Brown
Last Saturday the California Black Republicans Council held an African American State Summit at Second Missionary Baptist Church to discuss issues in preparation for a national summit.
Black Republicans and a few Democrats statewide joined event organizer Chairman Emeritus Attorney James Flournoy to discuss what he, Ricky Wright, Principal of Palm Springs High School and Rev. Carl McPeters, Pastor of Kyriakos Christian Center will take back to Washington on May 13-15 at a non partisan event sponsored by Rod Paige, Secretary of the Department of Education. The national co- sponsors are Senator Ray Santorum and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson.
At the top of the agenda was Education and Economic Development with afternoon sessions focusing on Affirmative Access and Health Care in the Black Community. "The goal of this summit is to gain information from the community so that when meeting at the national level our ideas will reflect yours," said Flournoy.
Dr. Charlie Mae Knight, former President of National Alliance of Black School Educators and Superintendent of East Palo Alto Unified School District was on hand to discuss the No Child Left Behind legislation that was passed by Congress and is now the law. "Parents have to know what is in the legislation in order to access a better education for their student," she said.
Dana Kruckenberg, President of the Riverside Unified School District, said it is her impression that some school administrators dont want parents to have that information. At the top of her agenda was getting access to information, while others said they dont like the products the schools are turning out. Among them, James Etienne said he couldnt use them in his business. There were some who blamed the problem on the school counselors who do not steer Black students to the more challenging classes.
"Children have become commodities, money in the bank accounts of politicians," said Kruckenberg. She was particularly critical of L.A County calling them the worst. "In Los Angeles the board members have cars, their own offices and even a personal secretary," said Kruckenberg. "It is an abomination!" she said.
Knight said that teachers are not trained enough to relate to children of color and that before anything, the training for the teachers is most important. Some of the group members were also critical of the California Teachers Association and the Superintendent of Public Educations efforts towards public education. "They are in bed together," said Kruckenberg.
One problem the group agreed on was not having access to racial data of students in various situations. ""We cannot accept the argument that the Democrats wanted to do this and the Republicans wouldnt let us or the Republicans say we wanted to do this and the Democrats wouldnt let us.
Education has to be exposed or no one will do anything. We must let every parent know what their rights and responsibilities are in this new legislation," said Knight.
There was a strong disagreement on the burden being placed on the large number of female headed households. A physician told the story of his upbringing and how he lost both parents early in his life. "I disagree with that premise. I graduated medicine in 1948.
The problem is we have gotten away from the community. The elders controlled the community but if we try to correct our children today we are subject to go to jail," he said.
"There is a systematic strategy to eliminate the Black boys early. There are more of them and Hispanic boys in the special education tract. It starts in elementary school and as they get into high school they cant make up the classes," said Ricky Wright. "There is an expectation Black and Hispanic males will fail," said Kruckenberg.
Knight said that with the new legislation parents could take their children to Sylvan or Kaplan or any other center they desire if their student is not achieving in the school. "The cost will have to be paid by the school district," said Knight.
In a lively session on Economic Development subjects ranged from the need to develop a business plan to obtaining research important to African American business owners.
They wanted to see more education for people going into business. They were concerned about job creation and strategies to utilize resources. Local SBA groups should be used for the business plan and anything a business needs, said members of the group. As they were speaking about the need to work together on business issues, Jennifer Vaughn Blakely said, "slavery did something to our minds, and we dont trust each other," in answer to the discussion.
The criminal justice and our failing medical systems were other hot issues in the afternoon session. In speaking about affirmative access group members voiced the opinion that our children are being raised to go into the criminal justice system. "It is not a level playing field with government contracts or government jobs. Affirmative Access starts with information," said one participant.
One of the solutions to the problem is to fund the Public Defenders office at the same level that the District Attorney is funded. "A student gets $2000 and the government spends $30,000 to house a prisoner. It is a major cancer within the African American community," said a participant.
One person told the group that many Republicans think racism vanished like roaches. There are residual effects to institutional racism. Conservative Americans are covering up racism by using the Bible. To that Kruckenberg said that she is a Christian and a conservative against abortion and homosexuality, but she understands that racism still exists in our country.
"We are still suffering from the effects of institutional racism. Thirty years will not erase that many of the people still remain when it (legal segregation) was in place," said Vic Edinburg.
Another deterrent to access identified was the lack of corporate responsibility. "How do we get on boards of corporations? We need more African Americans.
This group also indicated they are looking for candidates on a local level, "because government is local," said Kruckenberg.
Although much of the discussion centered on problems, solutions were offered. Nationally there is a need for a strategy to inform parents and caretakers on Leave No Child Behind and the work on a solution to the problem of putting Black boys into Special Education programs. Fair access to government contracts and to work on job creation and strategies for economic growth, look into the disparities in the criminal justice system, including the appointment of judges were also discussed.
"I am pleased with the outcome of the Summit. I will report back to the group at an appointed time once we return," said Flournoy.
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