Newswire : Hotel employees fired after calling police on Black guest using his phone in lobby

By: Carla Herreria, Huffington Post

Jermaine Massey

     The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Portland, Oregon, fired two employees days after they were accused of racially profiling a black hotel guest who was taking a call on his cellphone in the lobby. 
     In a statement posted to Twitter on Saturday, the hotel issued another apology and announced that it fired the two men “involved in the mistreatment” of Jermaine Massey, who captured parts of last week’s confrontation on camera. 
     The decision to fire the employees came after the hotel announced it would investigate the discrimination claims.
     “Their actions were inconsistent with our standards & values,” the hotel tweeted. “We reiterate our sincere apology for what he endured & will work with diversity experts to ensure this never happens again.”
     Jacob Benjamin, the hotel’s general manager, did not immediately return HuffPost’s request for the employees’ full names.
     Last weekend, Massey posted a series of videos showing DoubleTree staff members and a police officer asking him to leave the hotel, despite his having booked a room. Massey was eventually forced to give up the room. 
     “Tonight I was racially profiled and discriminated against for taking a phone call in the lobby of my hotel room at the @doubletreepdx @doubletree,” Massey wrote in an Instagram post. “They already had in their minds that they didn’t want me there so I waited for the cops to show up and when they did, I explained my side of the story and they didn’t want to hear it.”
     The hotel first apologized on Wednesday, then again on Friday, in a pair of statements obtained by HuffPost detailing the company’s plans to launch an internal investigation and reach out to Massey.
     Massey, who was in Portland to see rapper Travis Scott perform, said he received a call from his mother who is on the East Coast after the concert. Thinking it was an emergency, Massey said he found a “remote area” of the hotel’s lobby to answer the call.
     In Massey’s videos, a security guard identified as Earl can be seen telling Massey that the police have been called and he is no longer welcome at the hotel. Meanwhile, Massey, who is seated on a couch, accuses the security guard of harassing him while he was on the phone.

Subscribe
Later, speaking to a hotel manager identified as Luis, Massey said he was a guest of the hotel and needed privacy to take the call.
“I needed some privacy, I had a family emergency going on and this gentleman decided to come over here and harass me and ask me where I was staying,” Massey says to the hotel employees.
When Earl accuses Massey of loitering by sitting in the lobby, Massey says: “So this area is off limits after a certain time?” Earl replies, “Only if you’re a guest.”
“I am a guest,” Massey says. “You didn’t tell me that,” the security guard responds. “I asked you what room you’re in and you refused.”
Later in the videos, a police officer can be seen asking Massey to leave the hotel. The Portland Police Bureau confirmed to HuffPost that officers responded to a trespassing call at the hotel late Saturday and asked Massey to gather his personal belongings from his room and leave.
Massey’s Instagram posts, which have since gone viral, reignited a national conversationover people who call the police on people of color who are doing mundane or normal activities, such as throwing a picnic or going home.
In a video message to his Instagram followers, Massey called attention to the racism he experienced.
“Racism is still alive and well. It’s sad that people have to go through these things and I know I’m not the only one. I’m not the first, and I’m not the last but I will not stand for injustice,” he said.
Throughout 2018, white people have called or threatened to call the police on an 8-year-old black girl who was selling water on a sidewalk, a pair of Native American brothers who joined a college campus tour, a black youth mentor who was babysitting two white children, a black man at a bank trying to cash his own paycheckand a black man trying to enter his own apartment building.

Newswire : First member of Congress calls for Trump’s resignation amid month of chaos

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI)

        On Christmas Eve, Milwaukee Congresswoman Gwen Moore became the first sitting member of Congress to demand that President Donald Trump resign from the presidency. She made her comments as the Dow dove 500 points on December 24 in worst Christmas Eve trading day ever.As of Christmas, the market was on track to suffer its worst December since the Great Depression.
        “Some of this money for the doggone wall, I wish they would put into places like Flint and Milwaukee,” said Rep. Moore during the interview. The Congresswoman worked to secure millions of dollars to remove lead from America’s water infrastructure.
        During an interview on the Scott Dworkin report, Rep. Moore said that President Trump “resigning is a dignified way for him to leave as opposed to being impeached or as opposed to being indicted or having the 25th amendment evoked. It’s really a very palliative approach to ask him to just go quietly and spare us all this pain.”
        December 2018 featured a turbulent series of events around the 45th President.His Secretary of Defense, retired Marine General James Mattis, resigned. The White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, set a time for his departure.The federal government partly shut down as Trump reportedly became angry with a budget bill that didn’t include billions in funding for a wall at the U.S. and Mexican border. Two children died in U.S. custody as Trump Administration policy on immigration was led by relative policy novice, Stephen Miller.
        Though many other members of Congress have been consistently critical of the President, Moore is now the first member of Congress to actually call for him to resign. Nine members of the House have either stated on the record that President Trump should be impeached or assisted in moving articles of impeachment to the floor of the U.S. House.
        The impeachment effort against Trump has been led by Rep. Al Green of Texas. In October 2017, Rep. Green drafted an impeachment resolution and articles of impeachment and attempted to have it considered on the House floor against the wishes of Democratic leadership.
        Rep. Green would be joined a year later by Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). Non-CBC members Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and John Yarmuth (D-Ky.).
        Currently President Trump’s approval rating is only 40 percent. Democrats will take control of the U.S. House on January 3rd.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist and writer for NNPA as well as a political analyst and strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at LBurke007@gmail.com and on twitter at @LVBurke

Newswire : Cigars and Whiskey – America’s oldest veteran, Richard Arvin Overton, dies at 112

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

President Barack Obama greets Richard Overton, with Earlene Love-Karo, in the Blue Room of the White House, Nov. 11, 2013.

     Born on May 11, 1906, Richard Arvin Overton, a member of what is often called America’s “Greatest Generation,” died on December 27th in Austin, Texas. At 112 years and 230 days, Overton was believed to be the oldest living man in the United States as well as America’s oldest veteran.
     He enlisted into the Army on September 3, 1940 at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Overton then fought in World War II, serving in the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He fought in the South Pacific from 1940 through 1945, a time which included battle in Iwo Jima. He retired from the U.S. Army in October of 1945 as a technician fifth grade. He then worked at a furniture store and then took a job at the Texas Department of the Treasury.
    “He was there at Pearl Harbor, when the battleships were still smoldering. He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said, ‘I only got out of there by the grace of God said former President Barack Obama in 2013 during a Veterans Day ceremony honoring Overton at Arlington National Cemetery.
     The second World War was the deadliest conflict in modern military history as over 70 million people lost their lives and the U.S. suffered over 407,000 deaths in battle.
     As the years went by Overton became a local and then national celebrity. In 2013, at the age of 107, Overton won widespread media attention after telling Fox News he would spend Memorial Day “smoking cigars and drinking whiskey-stiffened coffee.” He was later invited to the White House.
     Overton had been hospitalized with pneumonia but was released from the hospital on December 24, Christmas Eve according to family member Shirley Overton. He had become known in his community for driving others to church well after turning 100 years old.
     “With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honored to have known him,” wrote Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in a statement on December 27 after hearing the news of Overton’s death.
     The Governor added that Overton was, “an American icon and Texas legend. Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans. We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State.”
     Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill turns the tide for historically underserved farmers and ranchers

By: Lorette Picciano, Executive Director, Rural Coalition

The Rural Coalition and its members applaud the completion of the House and Senate conference report to the 2018 Farm Bill. The conference report was passed in the U. S. Senate by a vote of 86 to 12 and the U. S. House of Representatives by 334 to 47 last week. The 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law this week by President Donald J. Trump.
The 2018 Farm Bill is a strong indication of Congress’ legislative efforts to ensure that our nation’s African American, Asian Pacific, Latino, and Tribal Farmers and Ranchers and rural communities are well equipped to meet the growing demands for healthy foods and farm land preservation.
Rooted in the stronger Bipartisan Senate version of the bill crafted under the leadership of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Pat Roberts, and Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow, the package ensures food access for all communities, and retains funding and authority for the crucial Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). It also increases support for the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives program and related initiatives to strengthen local food systems.
Of great significance to our communities, it makes critical new investments in tribal farmers and food systems and programs supporting the nation’s historically underserved, veteran and young farmers and ranchers, improves transparency in credit programs and removes barriers to cultivation of industrial hemp, strengthens local food and organic programs and establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture.
Some Specific Sections of the 2018 Farm Bill, we highlight are:

· Extends SNAP funding as in Nutrition Title in the Senate Bill without the very stiff and bureaucratic workfare requirements in the current House bill. Those provisions would create hunger and deepen poverty for vulnerable Americans, including children and families, and burden States with implementation and costs of constructing an underfunded bureaucratic infrastructure.

· Provides Fair Access for Farmers and Ranchers who attempt to farm on “heirs property”.

  The conference report language ensures that more farmers — especially African-American farmers and farmers of color operating on land with undivided interests – can finally access USDA programs that enable them to protect the soil and water; and continue to operate viable farms that feed their communities.  

This language, sponsored with thanks to Senators Doug Jones, Tim Scott and Tom Udall in the Senate, and Reps. Marcia Fudge, Sanford Bishop and Alma Adams in the House, was developed in cooperation with Rural Coalition with its members including the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Inc., Land Loss Prevention Project, and Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, with critical support from the Uniform Laws Commission, the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts and support from the National Association of Conservation Districts.
· Expands and Improves Opportunities for all Farmers to Access USDA Programs – The Conference Report includes language that creates the new Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach (FOTO) Program. FOTO strengthens the historic Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program and also links it closely to the related Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. The improved program provides permanent authority and permanent funding of $50 million annually, shared equally between the two programs. We thank Senators Tina Smith, Chris Van Hollen, Tom Udall, Reps. Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Ben Ray Lujan, Sanford Bishop and many others who led the effort to make these changes. And we especially credit the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for their diligent efforts to permanently secure and fund this landmark program.
· Legalizes and regulates cultivation of Industrial Hemp by removing it from the controlled substances list and allowing tribes, states, and territories to establish regulatory structures within their boundaries that allow farmers and ranchers to produce a high value cash crop while retaining federal farm program benefits that were previously not allowed.
· Provides critical improvements in USDA direct lending credit policy by including equitable relief servicing options in order to protect producers against errors or mistakes made within the USDA direct lending program.
· Authorizes the Farmer and Rancher Stress Assistance Network which supports mental health resources and services to farmers and farmworkers who need them;
· Creates a new Local Agricultural Market Program (LAMP) by merging authorities and providing baseline funding for a streamlined new program. Specifically the LAMP language links the previous Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program and the Value-Added Producer Grants Program.
· Establishes an Office of Urban Agriculture
“This bill turns the tide for African American and all other historically underserved farmers and ranchers,” said Rural Coalition Vice Chairperson Georgia Good, Executive Director of the Rural Advancement Fund of the National Sharecroppers Fund, which has worked since 1937 to improve the quality of life in rural communities in the South. We are grateful to Senators Tim Scott (SC) and Doug Jones (AL) for opening a critical new door to allow families of multiple generations operating on inherited land to be allowed in to the programs of USDA that all farmers need to thrive with their bill. We further thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (KA) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (MI)for their patient and persistent leadership to work with us all to include these sections in a landmark package that values all rural communities and peoples.”

According to Rural Coalition Chairperson John Zippert of the Alabama Association of Cooperatives, “The Federation of Southern Cooperatives estimates more than 40% of black owned land is in heirs property status. Including the Fair Access Act in this bill enables people in states that have the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property laws to access USDA programs more directly with less red tape.”

“We have been working hard for decades to bring equity to the farm bill in terms of treatment for Black farmers and other farmers of color to build cooperatives and to uplift low-wealth communities. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 addresses continuing inequities and supports the quality hands-on assistance needed to make sure the 2018 farm bill reaches everyone,” he continued.

“Particular thanks are due to the Senators Stabenow and Roberts and their staffs for dedicated efforts to refine legislation and push it to the finish line, and to Rep. Conaway and Peterson’s staffs for working with them to make the important changes necessary to improve opportunities for all farmers. We also thank the many other Senators and members of Congress who led in developing key sections of this legislation.

“The Agricultural Improvement Act passed last week is a huge step forward,” said Rural Coalition Board Member Rudy Arredondo, President of the National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association. “We are extremely happy that the Agriculture Committee leaders were able to stay focused on the essentials of as good a bipartisan farm bill as we can get in this political climate.”

Everyone in our nation who cares about a future for diverse farmers, ranchers and rural communities needs to call upon Congress and the President to assure swift passage and signing, and final enactment of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Newswire : Senators Harris and Booker lead historic passage ofFederal Anti-Lynching Legislation

Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Corey Booker

        WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) took to the Senate floor to ask for unanimous consent to pass the bipartisan Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018, historic legislation that would criminalize lynching, attempts to lynch, and conspiracy to lynch for the first time in American history. The motion passed, marking the first time in American history that federal anti-lynching legislation has been passed by the Senate.

        “Lynchings were needless and horrendous acts of violence that were motivated by racism. And we must acknowledge that fact, lest we repeat it,” said Senator Harris. “From 1882 to 1986, Congress failed to pass anti-lynching legislation when it had an opportunity 200 times. Today, by passing this bill we have offered some long overdue justice and recognition to the victims of lynching crimes.”

        “Today is an emotional and historic day. For over a century, members of Congress have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is: a bias-motivated act of terror. And for more than a century, and more than 200 attempts, this body has failed. Today, we have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country’s history,” said Senator Booker. 

        “This bill will not undo the damage, the terror, and the violence that has been already done, nor will it bring back the lives that have been brutally taken. It will not reverse the irrevocable harm that lynching as a tool of oppression and suppression has caused. But it will acknowledge the wrongs in our history. It will honor the memories of those so brutally killed. And it will leave a legacy that future generations can look back on – that on this day, in this time, we did the right thing.”

        The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018 amends the United States Code to specify that lynching is a crime under existing federal civil rights statutes. The legislation was originally introduced in June 2018 by U.S. Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Tim Scott (R-SC), and unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in October 2018.

        Lynching was used as an instrument of terror and intimidation 4,084 times during the late 19th and 20th centuries, according to data from the Equal Justice Initiative.
   The Justice for Victims of Lynching Act is supported by the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Equal Justice Initiative, and has companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

School board in split decision will not renew superintendent’s contract in June, 2019

At its regular monthly meeting, December 17, 2018, the Greene County Board of Education, in a 3-2 decision, voted not to renew Superintendent James Carter’s contract, which expires June 2019.
The Alabama Code directs school boards with appointed superintendents to notify the superintendent 180 days prior to the termination date of the contract as to whether or not the board will offer an additional contract. If the board had made no decision, the contract would have rolled over one more year.
Dr. James Carter was hired as Greene County Schools Superintendent in the summer of 2015. He brought many new initiatives to the system during his tenure there, including the following:
Securing Chrome Books and Tablets for students; Apple Coding Program Planning; Virtual School Program; 9th Grade Academy; Art and Dance Programs; 21st Century Community Learning Centers (after school academic and cultural enrichment programs) at Eutaw Primary and Robert Brown Middle; Welding and Automotive Programs; First steps toward infusion of Black History across the curriculum.
In other business the board approved the following personnel items:
Employment of Angel Moore, Special Education Teacher, Robert Brown Middle School.
Resignation of Jerria Prince, Career Preparedness Teacher, Greene County Career Center, effective December 21, 2018.

  • Family Medical Leave for Carl Oliver, September 28, 2018 thru November 5, 2018.
  • Catastrophic Leave for Carl Oliver, September 28, 2018 thru November 5, 2018.
    *21st Century Extended Day Program, Shirley Noland, Librarian, Eutaw Primary School.
    *Supplemental Contract for Brittany January, Assistant Girls Basketball Coach, Robert Brown Middle School.
    The board approved the following administrative services recommended by the superintendent:
  • Contract with Audio Enhancement.
  • Proposal for Peer helpers.
  • Authorize Superintendent to advertise the sale of surplus equipment and supplies owned by the Greene County School Board.
  • Payment of all bills, claims, and payroll.

Newswire: Maasai fight efforts to convert their lands to game parks

Maasai people of Tanzania

        Dec. 10, 2018 (GIN) - “The water that quenches our thirst, the air that we breathe, the trees that provide shade and the animals that give us company, all make life real and creation complete.”

        So begins a prayer by an elder of the Maasai people of Tanzania whose traditional knowledge encompasses herbal medicine, grazing practices, landscape ecology, the behavior of animals, livestock management, and the gathering of wild plant foods.

        For centuries, Maasai communities lived in harmony within the rich ecosystems of East Africa. But in recent decades, evictions under the banner of “conservation” and “tourism” have been carving out huge chunks of Maasai lands.

        The Maasai lost 60 percent of their lands at the turn of the century in Kenya, when the British evicted them to make room for settler ranches. More land was taken to enable the creation of game parks in Amboseli, Nairobi, and Masai Mara in Kenya and the Serengeti/Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.

        In the face of these questionable evictions, the Maasai are fighting back and their efforts were highlighted this week as the United Nations marked the 70thanniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – a watershed document that enshrines a host of basic human rights for all people.

        “Too many around the world are denied their rights,” declared the California-based Oakland Institute, an independent policy think tank, which has launched a campaign called “Stand Up for Human Rights in Tanzania.”

        For the indigenous Maasai pastoralists in northern Tanzania – the situation is critical, the Oakland group warns.

        Last May, Maasai from four villages in Loliondo, on the outskirts of the Serengeti - famous for its annual wildebeest migration - sued Tanzania for the right to return to their villages which have become part of a park.

        “The government is trying to intimidate the villagers to withdraw the case,” said Donald Deya of the Pan African Lawyers Union, representing the Maasai after a hearing in the East African Court of Justice.

        “For the last three weeks, the police are summoning leaders and arresting them,” he said. Some seven men were charged with attending an unlawful meeting.

        The Maasai represent one of the largest pastoral groups worldwide, with about 1 million across southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, according to rights activists.

        A revealing new report on the plight of the Maasai – “Losing the Serengeti: The Maasai Land that was to Run Forever”, is available from the Oakland Institute by download from www.oaklandinstitute.org

Newswire: NAACP President Johnson travels to Ghana in support of upcoming ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’

NAACP President Derrick Johnson in Ghana

     BALTIMORE/ACCRA  (December 13, 2018) – This week, NAACP President Derrick Johnson traveled to Ghana to meet with Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia in support of the upcoming ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’ project, a year-long journey to celebrate the reconnecting of Africans throughout the Diaspora to their African heritage.
        In addition to meeting with officials and leaders, President Johnson also met with officials from the Ministries of Tourism, Tourism Authority and the Diaspora Affairs Office to discuss ways to reconnect greater numbers of African Americans to their roots in Ghana.
        “Next year symbolizes a moment in time where people of African descent regardless of where they exist within our Diaspora can reconnect and map out a future which establishes Africa and her descendants in their rightful place on the world stage,” said NAACP President Johnson.
        The yearlong event will commemorate the 400th year of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in Port Comfort/Hampton, Virginia. Launched in August 2018, by Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’will feature a number of activities, including a “Bra Fie Concert” to be hosted by Damian Marley, son of Bob Marley; a Back to Africa Festival to celebrate Black History Month, and a Homecoming and Investment Summit.
        Most importantly, this event hopes to promote business, spiritual and cultural reconnection between the African Diaspora and the Motherland, which many considered damaged beyond repair due to the Maafa –a Kiswahili term denoting great disaster or horrific occurrence and used to describe the Atlantic Slave Trade where millions of Africans were enslaved and transported across the ocean or died during the horrific Middle Passage.

Newswirre : Rep. Maxine Waters statement on the death of Nancy Wilson

WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43) issued a statement on the death of legendary “song stylist,” Nancy Sue Wilson, who died at age 81.
“I am heartbroken by the passing of my beloved friend, the legendary Nancy Wilson. Nancy was a ‘song stylist’ without peer. Her unmatched mastery of numerous genres of music, including jazz, R&B, gospel, blues, soul and pop, has etched her name in history as one of the most ‘formidable’ vocalists of all time.
“Nancy began singing in church at the age of four in her home town of Chillicothe, Ohio. For more than five decades, she captivated audiences across the globe with her soul-stirring performances that would send chills down your spine; her more than 70 critically acclaimed albums, many of which I own; and her chart-topping hits such as ‘Guess Who I Saw Today,’ ‘Save Your Love for Me,’ and ‘Face It Girl, It’s Over,’ which are considered classics by generations of musicians and fans around the world.
“Nancy is also a pioneer and trailblazer for women and entertainers of color. She hosted the National Public Radio program ‘Jazz Profiles’ for nearly a decade, won an Emmy for her starring role in NBC’s ‘The Nancy Wilson Show’, and served as one of the first African American spokeswomen for major national brands, including Campbell’s Soup.
“Due to her brilliant talent, poise, and grace, Nancy was the recipient of numerous awards and recognitions including, three Grammy Awards, an NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Urban League’s Whitney Young Jr. Award. She also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was recognized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. In 2004, Nancy also received the coveted National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Jazz Masters Fellowships Award, which is the highest honor granted to jazz musicians by the U.S. government.
“Anyone who knew Nancy understood how deeply she cared for our community, and how committed she was to using her voice to make a difference. We could always count on Nancy to perform for special causes like HIV/AIDS or in support of political leaders. Whenever and wherever we needed her, Nancy would be right there.
“The incomparable Nancy Wilson. A musical genius, trailblazer, and hero who was loved and adored by so many. I join the world in mourning the loss of this extraordinary musical icon, and I consider it a blessing to have the privilege of calling her a cherished friend. My thoughts and prayers are with her three children, Kacy, Samantha, and Sheryl, five grandchildren, relatives and friends during this difficult time.
“Though she is no longer with us, she will forever be remembered in hearts as our ‘Classy, Miss Nancy.’”

Newswire: How zip codes relate to achievement gaps

By: Akil Wilson

 Marie H. Reed Learning Center, an example of expanded educational resources and community partnership in the District of Columbia.

        There’s no question that education quality has an extraordinary impact on the future lives of students. As a parent of a new middle school student, I can personally attest to the importance of dedicated teachers, early childhood education and a focused, personalized approach to education. In numerous studies it has been shown that the quality of education, especially within the country’s public school system, varies widely by location.
        There are several factors that contribute to success in adulthood. However, routinely we find that early childhood education and the empowerment of excellent teachers plays a pivotal role.
        Students from economically-disadvantaged areas of inner-city school districts have a plethora of obstacles to overcome, including but not limited to: lack of economic mobility, reduced health care options, and exposure to crime.
        Where schools should provide some relief from these challenges, they often serve as a grim reminder of how difficult it can be to escape difficult circumstances.
        Harvard University Economist Raj Chetti has researched this topic extensively, compiling data from millions of Americans, he found that education quality relates to economic and social mobility. According to Mr. Chetti’s research, on average, “only about 7.5% of children from the bottom 1/5thof incomes will reach the top 1/5thof incomes nationwide. However, those odds tend to rise to 14-15% in rural areas and places with higher social capital. They sometimes decrease to below 5% in impoverished or socioeconomically-disadvantaged places.”

        Children in lower income brackets disproportionately tend to be the recipients of sub-par educational resources. As Mr. Chetti points out on NPR’s ‘Hidden Brain’ Podcast, larger class sizes and less experienced teachers are all indicators that students are much less likely to obtain the cognitive and social skills necessary to advance themselves and their families.
        The fact that these lower-performing public schools tend to be found in more impoverished or socially/culturally isolated areas is not a coincidence.
        Prior to the implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in the 2017-2018 school year, education standards were largely determined by federal standards outlined in No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This structure did very little to address the specific needs of the most disadvantaged communities.
        ESSA seeks to improve students’ chances at success by encouraging a more personalized approach to students’ needs, strengths and interests as well as improving and decreasing the emphasis on standardized testing. Much of the research suggests this approach will do more to advance specific, individual state school system goals and impact students’ lives.
        It’s very important that parents, teachers, administrators and community members take strategic steps to address factors contributing to the educational shortcomings in some of our schools while working with policy makers to equitably utilize all the tools and resources available.
        The future is now, and if our community ever hopes to eliminate the disparities that are at the root of many of the issues we are often confronted with (i.e. poverty, mass incarceration, chronic unemployment) we have to begin with education.
        By requiring states to identify and intervene with their lowest-performing schools and take a more tailored approach to their improvement, ESSA is poised to have a significant and measurable impact on the state of public education in America.
        There is a very real correlation between underperforming schools and generational poverty. If we wish to eliminate the latter, we must tackle education with a focus and energy that is specifically tailored to the needs of our communities.

Akil Wilson is a native Washington, DC-based, podcaster, and parent. He is a contributing writer for the Washington Informer in addition to providing broadcast commentary for a variety of media outlets.