The African Centered Middle School Naming Controversy:

An Issue of Honor, Integrity and Parental Respect

 

From the African Centered Education Taskforce

Of the Kansas City Missouri School District

(February 6, 2003)

 

Over the last three months, the parents of the Kansas City, Missouri School District’s African Centered Schools have attended at least four separate meetings for the purpose of naming the African Centered Middle School. At each of those meetings, the room has been filled to capacity with the anticipation that this will be the last meeting. Well guess again. Each meeting has been a series of breakdowns, disappointments and parents leaving with the distasteful notion that they have been disrespected again.  Allegations have been rampant that these parents have been mislead, mis-directed, mis-guided, un-informed and that policies and procedures have not been followed. Now, Dr. John Henrik Clarke’s name is being dis-honored and his character is being mis-represented by outside antagonists who have never set foot inside any of the African Centered Schools. Enough is enough.  The parents, community members, staff, students and supporters of the

African Centered Schools want to set the official record straight.

 

I.       On Africa Centered Education (ACE) Being Racist or Anti-white:

The African centered perspective is not anti-anyone. Contrary, the African centered perspective focuses on humanity and realizes that the hierarchy of race is a man-made notion. We believe that there is only one race, the human race that has scientifically been documented as having an African origin. As such, the concept of one race being inferior and other races being superior is not an African centered position. We reject ethno-centric notions that marginalize other ethnic groups and dis-respect their realities, if they are different. The African centered perspective respects and reserves the right for all children to learn about the rich history and cultural contributions that relates to people of the world.

 

II.      On African Centered Education (ACE) Parents being Mislead, Un-informed and Mis-guided:

The parents and supporters of the African centered schools have been working for more than ten years on establishing equality educational institutions in the inner city urban core. They are probably among the most educated and informed parents in the district on quality educational matters. They have been consistent in their efforts and contribute their precious time and energy without any form of monetary compensation. Their stake and rewards are investing in children and the local communities that they live in. These parents have formed study groups and meet on an on-going basis (evenings and weekends) to better understand the core educational issues confronting urban communities. Many of these parents have second and third generational children attending the African centered schools. Their frustration is the lack of educational continuity within the KCMSD. With each new entering superintendent and school board operating in absence of the historical knowledge and understanding of the African centered school successes, it is if the ten-year plus track record of success is negated and they have to prove themselves all over again.

 

III.     On the choice of naming the middle school after Dr. John Henrik Clarke Academy:

The current location of the ACE Middle School at 6330 Swope Parkway has been operating as a district African centered school for approximately four years, prior to this current school year. The building was known as the John Henrik Clarke House during that period and served as an African centered alternative location for Southeast High school students. Parents therefore expected the building to remain as the African centered John Henrik Clarke building. This only changed when antagonists to the African Centered schools, began to use their power to corrupt the integrity of the naming process, change existing district naming policy and procedures, for the sole purpose of preventing the school from formally being named after Dr. Clarke.  As if this was not enough, a vicious well-orchestrated dis-information campaign began by attacking Dr. John Henrik Clarke’s name. These same individuals are willing to slander and mis-characterize Dr. Clarke’s integrity to get what they want. We will not tolerate, letting this occur without the appropriate response. Dr. Clarke was honored, known and widely respected all over the world. The attacks on Dr. Clarke are now becoming national story and issue. Stories have run on the BET Network, USA Today Newspaper and the Black World Today. We are receiving e-mails, phone calls and concerns from some of the leading African American scholars and organizations. This is a sample of the concerns and letters being sent to the Kansas City School Board Members on Dr. Clarke being accused of being anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish:

 

·        Martin Bernal, of European Jewish descent, scholar, historian and professor – Cornell University.  "The charge against Dr. Clarke of anti-Semitism is absolutely false. He came of a generation in which Jews were central to the white civil rights movement."

 

·        William Katz, of European Jewish descent, scholar, consultant to the Smithsonian Institution, author, historian, professor and close personal friend of Dr. Clarke.  "Based upon my more than a quarter of a century of association with Dr. John Henrik Clarke… I can say that any charge that he was anti-Jewish or prejudiced against any other minority is without foundation… He was devoted to the education of his people and community. The last few years we spoke by phone weekly and I continued to learn from his wisdom and storehouse of knowledge."

 

 

 

 

IV.     On Closing the Achievement Gap:

The African Centered elementary schools of the district are among the highest performing schools in the district and state based on MAP scores.  Chick school has achieved a ten-year plus history of academic excellence using the African centered model. Ladd school was considered one of the lowest elementary schools in the district several years ago, until the African centered model was fully implemented. Ladd School became the first court ordered African centered school in the nation. This was done because African Centered Education (ACE) was viewed as a potential remedy to closing the achievement gap for African American children. Ladd now is receiving recognition by Governor Holden and the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) as one of the most improved schools in the state of Missouri. Across the country, school districts are viewing African Centered Education as an educational reform model that effectively engages African American children in academic rigor and standards of cultural excellence. But, in Kansas City, the very schools, which have assisted the district in closing the achievement gap and moving toward unitary status, have to fight just to exist. WHY???????????

 

In closing, there is an African proverb that states, "If you don’t know where you are going, any road will lead you there."  The parents and supporters of African Centered Education have been very clear over the last ten years where they are going. Their integrity, character and commitment should be applauded, not questioned. The African Centered schools and their heroes such as, Dr. John Henrik Clarke, continue to hold on to the uncompromising notion of educational excellence for all children without excuses. It is indeed unfortunate that they are being attacked for their right to school choice and academic freedom.