All Articles Tagged "politics"
Not everyone is gearing up to cast their ballot in 2016. These celebrities aren’t voting this election, and wait until you hear their reasons why.
Some celebrities understand the power they wield, using their celebrity status as a platform to discuss social issues such as racism, police brutality and injustice. These famous people weren’t afraid to talk about political or social issues in public, and we salute them.
Janelle Monae’s appearance on “The Today Show” last week double as a public confessional as she expressed her views on the ongoing issue of police brutality in the country. Monae, who was joined by her artist Jidenna, performed “Hell You Talmbout,” a song that pays homage to several victims of police and racially motivated violence. She concluded the performance with a message about police brutality, but producers of the show weren’t having it and pulled the plug on her performance. Viewers at home watched as the camera panned to one of the show’s anchors in the middle of Monae’s message.
The news is filled with hot button racial issues, from police shootings to Rachel Dolezar impersonating a Black woman for years to the horrific and tragic murder of nine people in Charleston’s Mother Emanuel church and the raging debate over the Confederate flag. It’s almost hard not to have a fiery discussion these days, and it will probably get even more divisive as the election heats up.
But should you talk about race and politics in the workplace? “While workplace diversity is an intentional and strategic business focus these days, and varying viewpoints, free speech and personal perspectives are our individual rights and can lead to greater understanding about the beliefs of others, chatting about race and politics at work should ideally be avoided at all costs,” warns Dr. Anita Davis-DeFoe, president/CEO of 3E Global Solutions. “Typically, considering the range of emotional intelligence levels in the office, discussion of these topics too often result in heated arguments, adversely affect others as people’s stereotypical thinking and prejudices surface to the top impacting working relationships as words spoken may be retracted, but rarely are forgotten…Today’s 21st century office has the largest mix of ethnic groups and intergenerational workers in history, and this in itself is creating enough workplace conflict already. So discussing political and racial ideologies too often serves to add more fuel to this already festering fire.”
But what if someone asks your opinion on, say, the Confederate flag. Should you give it? “If someone asks you a question, if someone asks you your stance on the Confederate flag, certainly if you choose to, and you want to honor your truth, share your opinion. But do not feel compelled to, and simply respond ‘I do not talk about race, religion, politics or sex at work.’ Enough said!” Davis-DeFoe tells MadameNoire.
“In the case that someone asks you a direct question, it’s best to just deflect the question. If I were asked what I thought of the Confederate flag, I would simply say, ‘It sure is controversial, there is no question about that’ and then leave it there,” adds Bill Fish, founder and president of ReputationManagement.com, via email.
Obviously, you should always aware of your online image and what you say in social media.
Bianca Payton, an Atlanta-based business analyst, says when faced with this situation she doesn’t hesitate to offer her opinion, but she does take care with how she delivers it.
“Honestly, I am very open, honest, and straightforward, so I won’t shy away from any conversation or dialogue concerning any issue. Race can no longer be a taboo subject,” she tells MadameNoire. “By the same token, there is a spoken and unspoken corporate culture that is implemented in the workplace to prevent people from feeling uncomfortable, out-of-place, etc. I believe if you’re able to have a conversation with someone and it is respectful, them possibly.”
Eula M. Guest, COO of Griot’s Roll Film Production & Services Inc., however feels some issues should always be avoided in the workplace. “You are getting paid to provide a service for your company unless they hire you specifically about those issues I would stay clear of it. You don’t want your personal opinions to be used against you for promotions, bonus, etc.”
According to executive coach Kathi Elster of K Squared Enterprises and co-author of Mean Girls at Work, Working with You Is Killing Me, it does depend on what industry you are in. “It is very tempting to talk about politics in the office, but unless you work in a newsroom or in the industry that might be in the news, politics have no place at work. When at work talk about work. Talking about sensitive subjects that can cause friction and arguments leading to hatred and not being able to work together should be off-limits. Besides, your company is not paying you to give your opinions on topics that are not work related,” she tells us.
But if your boss or co-workers say things that are totally offensive to you, then this might be a time to speak up-to HR.
How you discussed any of these issues at work? How have those discussions gone?
Washington, D.C. Our nation’s capital. It is the nucleus of American politics. Where presidents reside during their term and where Democrats and Republicans debate (and manipulate) the passing of federal laws in Congress
Washington, D.C. Where “We the people…” is uprooted from the pages of the Constitution, and every day, from Capitol Hill to the White House, politicians and their staffers are working to serve the people of the United States. However, there is one question that is tossed around in the white male-dominated world of politics when politically advantageous. How can the system adequately serve Black and brown people? And, in particular, Black women?
Black women are underrepresented in legislative halls. According to the 30-page report compiled by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University and the Higher Heights Leadership Fund, Black women are 7.4% of the U.S. population and 7.8% of the electorate. However, there are only 14 Black women in Congress (2.6%), two Black women in statewide elected executive office, 241 Black women in state legislatures (3.3%), and 26 Black women mayors in cities with populations over 30,000 (1.9%). Two black women serve as mayors of two of the 100 largest cities in the United States.
Black women are 2.7% of the 74 women in statewide executive offices, and 25% of all eight African-Americans holding statewide elected executive positions. Currently, there are 20 women serving as U.S. Senators of which none are Black women.
Although the number of Black women serving as elected officials is disturbingly low, there are young Black women in politics working to change those numbers and make history.
Lillian*, 33, holds both a Master of Business Administration and a Juris Doctor degree. She is currently serving as legislative counsel for a state-level official. “My goal is to run for office in my home state,” she says. “I feel it is the best way to touch and make changes that assist those who are underserved. One political platform that I stand by is to always remember who I am truly working for. Some people get lost and forget the actual reason for their job. It’s to make life better for those who are in need.”
Samantha*, 32, holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and is currently serving as a policy advisor for a federal elected official. Samantha reflects on why she chose to follow a career path in politics.
“As an adult, I realized that every successful person I knew was successful because they made ethically and politically sound decisions. I wanted to change the world, and I wanted to do something to impact not only my community, but the lives of my unborn children. My job isn’t exactly glamorous, but I see the impact that my actions have on those around me.”
Camilla*, 31, holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree and is currently serving as the manager of communications and external affairs for a nonprofit social service and civil rights organization. Camilla firmly believes that our current political system needs fixing, and she is dedicated to working to help fix the problems. “I stand for a platform that focuses on some aspect of justice system reform to include ending mass incarceration; and also for a platform that focuses on the economy and access to wealth.”
Though these women are extremely qualified for their positions, they did not get to where they are now without opposition. “There have been so many stigmas for being a black woman in politics,” Lillian said. “One is that some perceive you to be less intelligent than your coworkers. We are placed in administrative roles, or roles that have no connection to our actual degree and or desire. I have personally had people attack me in the workplace then cry that I was the ‘angry black woman’ when I didn’t agree with what they may have said or done. I was once also told that I didn’t get a promotion because the elected official I was working for at the time didn’t want a black woman representing him or being the face of his office. I was told I could help by giving my contacts and access to my network, and to my Caucasian male coworker who was not qualified for the position.”
Samantha, too, recalls times she has been discriminated against in the pursuit of her career goals in politics. “The federal government is very much still a ‘good ole boys club,’” she attests.
But in spite of the many obstacles and tests, Black women have proven throughout history to be resilient and steadfast. It is evident that these young Black women are continuing that legacy in the hopes of bringing about real change.
As President Obama’s term prepares to come to an end, the country is heading into another season of heavy campaigning. Hillary Clinton announced her 2016 presidential bid, and her announcement has fueled talk of the history that she could make. If she is successful, she will be the first woman to obtain a major party’s nomination, and, of course, if she wins the election she will be the first woman to become president. This is a major moment for women and feminists alike. But the feminist movement has historically fought for the needs of white women. Will Black women have a place in this historic moment if Clinton takes office? Will our needs be met? Will our voices be heard?
Lillian is in full support of Clinton’s campaign having had the privilege of working for her when she was a United States Senator. She considers Clinton to be one of the best political figures she has worked for in her career. “I think Hillary is going to ensure that women, regardless of color, are able to break through the glass ceiling. She is a symbol of hope for all women.”
Samantha isn’t as convinced. “Folks are going to hate me for this, but you asked. I do not think Hillary Clinton is who the nation needs as a president right now. I admire her as a woman, and I’m quite impressed with her. However, she will not help Blacks as a whole. The affluent Blacks would benefit from her presidency, but lower class Blacks would not. In press interviews, she always uses third world countries or lower class New York citizens as her paradigm for the poor. I do not believe she has any idea how to handle the struggles of poor, rural, mostly Southern Blacks.”
Camilla has suggestions for how Clinton’s campaign can convince Black voters (like Samantha) that she is the right person to hold office. “She will have to open up at some point in her campaign in order to really speak to the majority of voters’ pathos. But for Black women in particular she will have to show overall care and concern for the Black community as a whole. Economic empowerment is a gateway to furthering change in the Black community and the country at large.”
We are living in a time where social unrest is having a domino affect in major cities across the nation. We are in need of political leaders who are selfless and truly have a heart for serving the people. It is inexcusable the lack of Black representation we have in politics, especially the lack of Black women who hold political offices. We must get to the polls and vote so that Black women like Lillian, Samantha, and Camilla, the future of politics and women who are ready to fight against social injustice and fight for our economic equality, can make their voices, and the voices of our community heard. Black women in politics are ready to serve their community, “We the people…” have to do our part and vote to get them in office.
— M3rcury (@Clos3stToTh3Sun) April 20, 2015
In my heart, I know that not all police officers are bad. I have family members who work in law enforcement. But Lord knows, in the news, as of late, the image of police officers is ranging the scale from completely inept to sociopathic.
And last Tuesday, we saw another example of that in the small town of Parma, Missouri.
Tyrus Byrd made history when she was sworn in as the city’s first African American, female mayor after beating incumbent, Randall Ramsey by 38 votes. Ramsey served as Parma’s mayor for 37 years, under two terms.
And while many supported Byrd’s new position, others didn’t take the news so well. The outgoing mayor said that five of the city’s six police officers submitted their resignations the same week, citing “safety concerns.” Parma’s city attorney, clerk and water treatment supervisor also resigned.
Ramsey told the local CBS affiliate that the government employees gave no notice.
Aside from stating that she was unable to find the resignation letters, Parma, who previously worked as the city’s clerk, declined to comment about the massive walkout. Instead, she’s waiting for more information before she speaking publicly about the loss of personnel.
That’s smart on her part but we all know what’s up. #Racism
While some city officials are in their feelings about Byrd’s elections, several residents are not concerned about the safety of the town, even now that a majority of the police officers have stepped down.
One resident told the CBS station, “I think it was pretty dirty the way they all quit without giving her a chance. But I don’t think they hurt the town any by quitting because who needs six police for 740 people?”
(I can’t tell you how long I laughed at this comment this morning.)
But even a few monkeys don’t stop no show. While they’re looking for new officers, a nearby town’s sheriff’s department will help monitor the city.
It’s a shame the actions of others are clouding the very exciting news of Ms. Byrd making history. But with city officials with this type of loyalty to the city, it’s probably best that they step down anyway.
After dancing around the issue for the past year, Hillary Clinton announced she was officially running for president over the weekend. Unlike her Republican counterparts who declared their 2016 plans amid large crowds of fans, Clinton released a video kicking off her campaign.
Clinton’s campaign announcement included a diverse cross section of American families sharing their plans for the future. In one scene, a Black couple excitedly tells the camera they’re welcoming their first child. In another, a gay couple holds hands and explains they’re getting ready to walk down the aisle. The video also shows a young Asian college student looking for a job, a white woman preparing to retire, and a cute little brown boy discussing his role in an upcoming school play. At the end of the clip, Clinton finally appears on screen and tells the camera, “I’m getting ready to do something, too. I’m running for president.”
The clever video signaled a departure from Clinton’s previous bid for the White House. Back in 2008, then-Senator Clinton also kicked off her campaign with a video, but unlike her latest effort, it was all about her. There were no “regular” Americans, no uplifting music, and no shots of cute kids and couples talking about the future. Back then, Clinton was all business, outlining her ideas for the nation and talking up her experience. This time around, Clinton seems to be positioning herself as the candidate who will fight for everyday Americans.
But are Black women buying it?
African American women are one of the most reliable and powerful voting blocs in the country. In fact, “In the past two Presidential elections, Black women led all demographic groups in voter turnout,” according to the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. While some have suggested Black women only turned up at the polls in the last two cycles to support President Obama, Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial race proved them wrong when “Black women once again, exceeded all other groups in turning out on Election Day” and swaying the election.
The power of Black female voters is clear, but it’s not certain whether Clinton will advocate for our issues, or take African American women’s longstanding Democratic Party support for granted.
Unlike her last campaign, Clinton seems to be embracing her position as a woman on the verge of making history. She’s come out in favor of raising the minimum wage, paid family leave, equal pay for equal work, and discussed income inequality. And while Black women will definitely benefit from Clinton’s advocacy around these issues, we also have our own unique challenges—like making sure our children and partners don’t get racially profiled by police, improving the safety of our neighborhoods, and making sure our children have schools that will help them succeed.
For Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States she’ll need to hold the Obama coalition together and inspire Black women to head to the polls. Whether or not Clinton will directly connect with Black female voters remains to be seen, but if she wants to win close races in swing states like Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania she’ll need to work to get African American women on her side.
MommyNoire, Will you be supporting Hillary? Why or Why not?
As we get ready to say goodbye to President Obama, the race for the oval office begins with new candidates. Hillary Clinton is making news for her recent battle over email she deleted that she claims to be personal, not work related. The trouble here is her ability to be transparent about the emails she deleted. With the truth ready to be told by any person with a blog and a camera, transparency is key. Rather they are work related or not, this brings up the question of rather we can trust her. Is she going to be a good candidate for presidency? In a recent poll, Clinton beats Governor Scott Walker by nine points as the next possible candidate for election in 2016.
“Gov. Scott Walker is a predictable first choice for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination among Wisconsin Republicans polled last weekend by Public Policy Polling.
Among all voters, however, he’s nine points behind Hillary Clinton and three points behind both Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren in hypothetical presidential election matchups.
The survey of 1,071 Wisconsin voters conducted last Friday through Sunday showed Clinton beating Walker 52 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent not sure.
When Clinton is replaced by Biden or Warren, the Democratic candidate gets 48 percent to 45 percent for Walker both times, with 7 percent not sure.”
While some are rooting for Clinton, others think that she is not up to the challenge. Her ability to step up to the new age in order to run the country is looking bleak. So says, National Journal who states that her “90’s ways of deception” when handling a crisis doesn’t work.
“Staggered by self-inflicted wounds, the former secretary of State faced a choice between the right way and wrong way to manage a public-relations crisis in the post-Internet era, when the 1990s tactics of deflection, deception, and victimization are far less effective. She chose the wrong way.
Rather than be transparent, completely honest, and accountable, Clinton doubled down on the 1990s. She refused to turn over her emails stored on a secret service in violation of federal regulations. She defended contributions to her family’s charity from foreign nations that discriminate against women and support terrorism, a brazen contradiction to her public profile.
“I fully complied with every rule I was governed under,” she said, a legalistic dodge that rivals Al Gore’s lame defense of his fund-raising shenanigans in 1997: “There is no controlling legal authority.”
What do you think? Can we trust Clinton or should we be waiting for someone else to take the reins? Which side do you agree with?
Attorney Loretta Lynch has been making headlines over the past few weeks as she stepped into the Attorney General nomination from President Barack Obama. If Lynch becomes Attorney General, which should happen later this week, she will also be the first African American woman to hold this position.
Lynch has served as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York under both President Obama and Bill Clinton. She’s spent the past decades prosecuting federal crimes that range from terrorists to Wall Street. While we’ve seen her across our TV screens we wanted to know more about Lynch and her history-making seat. Asma Hasan, a fellow minority attorney, took time to delve deeper into Lynch’s story and what she stands for.
Hasan reports for Refinery29:
So, who is she?
Lynch is a study in legal career success. The 55-year-old, who was born in North Carolina, went to Harvard and then steadily climbed her way from lowly corporate law firm associate up. By the end of this week, she may arrive at the top, as the nation’s chief attorney. In an eloquent but understated opening statement to the Judiciary Committee (which kicked off a marathon day of hearing testimony), Lynch spoke movingly of her librarian/teacher mother and minister father.
Almost as moving for me, as a fellow female attorney of color, was Lynch’s uncanny ability to dodge, quite graciously, the venomous spitballs lobbed at her by many of the Republican members of the committee, who expressed bitterness towards Obama and current Attorney General Eric Holder. These interactions showed what Lynch would likely take on as Attorney General, and how she would deal.
She’s Against Legal Marijuana:
Unlike Obama and her predecessor Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch has taken a public stance against the legalization of marijuana. The current administration has been content to look the other way as states start legalizing weed, but Lynch, in a moment of candor, said that she felt increased use of the drug brings increased associated criminal activity to communities.
An impassioned attorney general against marijuana legalization, which Lynch may very well be, could shut down the pot industry in those states where it has been legalized, since federal law (under which pot is banned) preempts state laws. This is unlikely — Lynch herself said she probably wouldn’t start enforcing such laws that her predecessor hadn’t — but having her in office definitely could slow down legalization in new states.
She Agrees With Obama’s Exec Action To Stop Deportation:
In another bit of testimony that has received less airplay, Lynch slipped in that she feltObama’s recent executive action to stop the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants was not amnesty but a “temporary deferral.” Technically, she is correct in that the executive action merely delays deportation of the affected immigrants for three years. The realistic implications, though, are wide — and Lynch did not address them. Anyone with a green card can, after a certain number of years, apply for citizenship or a renewal of status.
She’s Not Afraid To Go After Police:
When Lynch was a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, she sent a police officer to prison for 30 years for a violent attack on a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima. The 1997 case was nationally known and became a symbol of broken relationships between cops and the people they police.
Now, nearly 20 years later, Lynch will take over potential prosecution of recent police brutality incidents, which have shocked the nation into a state of distrust towards law enforcement. In December, Attorney General Holder said the Justice Department will investigate the death of Eric Garner, the New York man killed by a police stranglehold earlier this year, after a grand jury failed to indict the officers involved. Given the timing, actually conducting that investigation will likely fall to Lynch.
Lynch’s style in her hearing shows that she supports the antiseptic beauty of technical interpretations over bold, controversial statements. It is this kind of thinking that, while somewhat boring, may actually result in progress in those areas where Obama and the Justice Department have spectacularly failed: specifically, the closing of the detainee prison in Guantanamo Bay (a commitment made by President Obama in his initial presidential campaign), and the successful prosecution of Chinese and Asian cyber-attacks on American websites, e-mail, and data. It may take a less-vocal — but collegial and by-the-book — thinker to finally move these tasks along.
Whatever Lynch chooses to take on (and as AG, she would have some discretion to choose), she will have to tap all her evident abilities in order to face several hurdles, the primary one being time. Even with an early February confirmation, Lynch will have barely two years on the job. Repairing the relationship between Congress and the Department of Justice, which Lynch would take over from the embattled Holder, will be no easy task. Fortunately, she is already on her way; she’s clearly won over several of the Republican Committee members, explaining that she wants to work with them and hopes to learn from their knowledge. She actually seemed sincere, too.
After seeing Lynch in action during her testimony, it seems clear that, if confirmed, her work will likely merit more than just a footnote in history textbooks. Here’s hoping she won’t simply be the first African-American female AG, but a professional who helped repair a nation that was fractured — both by outsiders and from within.
“It has been and still is a hard time for many…but today we turn the page.” – Barack Obama
Lets just keep it real, it has been a hard, long, bumpy road for President Barack Obama. Last night’s State of the Union address underscored the massive conundrum that POTUS still faces as he manages everything from world affairs, the economy, The resistant Republican Party, and a country on seemingly the verge of Civil War.
Parents face a quandary as well, and the president addressed those concerns in his speech.
He asked, “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well, or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
The answer is one that each and every family, parent, and child will have to answer on their own. From an African American perspective, there must be less and less tolerance for mediocrity and more focus on economic development within our own communities. The truth is, there is no “everyone” and far too many folks have drunk on the Kool-Aid of complacency for far too long. We have failed to give our kids the straight facts in an effort to shield them from the coarse American reality.
The President also tossed out a few cliches like: “This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” If that’s the case then the nation has never really operated at its best. As we move forward, we are going to have to be real about what is going on in places like Ferguson and move forward accordingly with your kids. Some have taken drastic measures like Lawrence Otis Graham, who monitors heavily what types of clothing his boys wear (Read: Police Brutality: Is It Time For A Black Boy Dress Code?”. Perhaps we look closer at what we let into our kids’ impressionable minds (Read: Is Empire A Good Representation Of Black Family Life? ) and bodies (Read:Wendy’s Fast Food Takes A Healthier Route). Or maybe, just maybe…we have a bit more patience for those that need more patience (Read: Who Failed Bobby Shmurda?). We have to care, people.
Like it or not, we have to do better and while police brutality is a scourge the nation must address collectively, the Black Community is going to have to come to terms with our inner Civil War. Far too many of us are looking at the president for solutions when the answers to many of our issues can only come from local activity. Again, the poor was unmentioned so we must become a village again.
Obama has the nation looking and feeling a bit better and that is a good thing. His approval rating is at 50 percent, a remarkable feat in these times of strife. He boasted about insurance rates, employment rates, a booming economy, reduction in combat mission overseas and other advances. When my big body vehicle filled up after only $41.00 I tweeted the president. So, when President Obama says the state of the union is strong, he’s not lying. The fact remains, the union he speaks of doesn’t address myriad of discrepancies that our children face.
Still, parents have a many matters to consider if the state of our families is to continue to be bigger, better and stronger.
“We are a strong tight knit family that has made it through some hard times.” – Barack Obama
There are more hard times to come, but the vigilant are already prepared.
As a mom to a busy 4 year-old toddler, I have very high expectations of my one and only son. Hopefully, through my guidance, as well as through the support of his ever evolving school system, he will one day grace the classroom of a top university, where a sea of academic options will be at his disposal. Creating a vision board for my son is one thing, but even better than that is my personal investment in his educational journey. That process begins by taking the time out of my busy schedule to help him read and write, while showing him the road map to becoming an earnest leader. I believe that early childhood nurturing, regardless if you are married or single is vital to a child’s learning compass. My goal is for my son to be an asset, and not a liability within his community. It’s easy to blame a child’s inability to thrive and become competitive on a failed school system. But, in all reality, the responsibility starts with a sound and solid foundation, and that begins at home first.
A few weeks ago, I was invited to a Media Brunch in Newark – New Jersey’s largest city. Within the beautiful spaces of the Newark Club, were media peers, waiting to hear Cami Anderson, Newark’s first white female Superintendent discuss her vision for Newark’s broken school system. Before meeting Cami Anderson, I read various opinion pieces regarding her leadership and strategy. As a mother, who has faced her own parenting roadblocks, I requested to meet with her one-on-one. I scraped the data and statistics talk. Our children are more than numbers. I wanted to see where her heart was. I wanted to see if we could connect beyond the political landscape and just be mothers in dialogue about our children’s future. We all have great expectations, but sometimes a mash-up of adversities and challenges can delay even the best laid plans. With the media fiasco aside, I sat down with Newark’s leading academic authority, who I didn’t realize was raised in a multiracial family setting and had a bi-racial 4 year-old.
Meet Cami Anderson, the Educator:
Mommynoire: Nice to meet you Cami. Let’s get to the heart of the matter. In terms of education and entrepreneurship do you think your current structure or how you are structuring Newark Public Schools will prepare children, once they graduate to be able to run their own businesses? Will Newark children be able to become leaders and not just members within the workforce.
Cami Anderson: I really believe strongly that every kid needs to be able to read, write, think and do math at very high levels. Because if you teach entrepreneurial skills and business skills, but you can’t do that, we just know that in the 21st century, you are going to have limits regarding what you can do. But at the same time, some of the passion you heard from me around teaching students the non-academic skills, like persistence and self-management and recruiting mentors and managing through challenges, so we do have a lot of curriculum, resources, standards and we’ve even partnered with the National Foundation On Teaching Entrepreneurship, because in many ways, what you need to be a successful student, is not different to what you need to actually further your career and start your own business.
I think part of the reason I got in education, I believe, when you look at boardrooms, The White House, higher education, and business, you just see a lack of diversity at the top in terms of gender and race. I think that’s morally wrong, but I think its a big problem for the country, because we are losing out on all of this extraordinary talent. So, some of the reasons I do what I do, is because I want to change that. The strength of our country is diversity, but when it comes to leadership, there are huge gaps.
Mommynoire: How do you combat the fears of Newark residents, who say you can’t do it because you don’t understand the Newark experience, although you come from a multicultural family?
Cami Anderson: One, I’ve had an interesting journey, as a person, given my family experience. I’m one of 12. I have 9 siblings who were adopted from some pretty tough circumstances and they are multiracial. So I feel like when it comes to some of the challenges I see our students facing, my own family experience has really given me a lot of first hand observations and passions around a lot of the same things our students are facing.
At the same time, I’ve also found that family and students, they want excellence. And if you are willing to be authentic, build relationships and stand up for what is right, a lot of folks just want to be in a great school, and they are happy to partner with whoever.
Mommynoire: As I listen to you speak, I’m not seeing a white woman in Newark. I’m just seeing an educator.
Cami Anderson: Yes, an activist. Someone who is passionate about equity. I think a lot of families want the best for their kids and they want to believe that the person at the helm, has that as their core value.
Mommynoire: I’m raising a 4 year-old boy with a busy and overactive imagination. When I look at him, he’s already been in 4 or 5 schools because he is always busy. They like to tie it to ADD. But when I work with him, I see the creative side. So my question is: how do you build programs around children who may not be special needs, but they have difficulties learning in traditional environments?
Cami Anderson: First of all we do know that when it comes to students, African-American and Latino boys are over identified, in terms of students with special needs and also in terms of being disciplined, for the same actions that their white peers are not. So, this is straight up in the research. The first thing is that we need to challenge or own systemic biases and really have frank and tough conversations about the affects of racism. With school in general, you have to be careful not to become too routinized. I grew up in the theater. I believe in giving students a lot of different ways to develop. Some are traditional, because they are going to have to learn to sit in rows to take tests, etc. and then also, non-traditional – the arts and theater. We have to focus on strong academics, but we also have to give kids a lot of opportunity to express themselves. I’m worried about this too because my son is bi-racial.
Mommynoire: Let’s take a South Ward child that is connected to the most perverse forms of hip hop music. They are heavily infused in gangs, and through music they are taught that school doesn’t even matter. And listening to a Lil Wayne, they realize they can get everything they desire without being in the classroom. They are making millions upon millions and telling our kids that they don’t need school, how do you get those kids – to not be the drop out?
Cami Anderson: I’ve spent most of my career in education, working with young people who failed out of the traditional system. I taught kids who were suspended for a year. In my old job in New York as a Superintendent of alternative high schools, I worked almost exclusively with young people, that really struggled. Many of them were court involved. I actually helped to find a network of charter high schools for court involved youth. So these groups of students are near and dear to my heart. I think you have to look at the 3 R’s – relevance, rigor and relationships. So the first is relevance – they have to feel connected to the people at the school. Schools that do well with young people that are struggling do well because they have adults who believe passionately in young people. They never give up on them, even when they may be challenging authority. That’s the relationship relevance. They have to feel like school is going to get them somewhere. You have to do a lot of things to engage them as leaders. You have to engage them as a community and also use topical issues that they are passionate about. About rigor – people think the way to recapture disconnected youth is to dummy down the curriculum. It’s actually the opposite. Because if they feel bored, or that you don’t respect their intelligence or leadership skills, which many of them have both, then they aren’t going to come back. And they certainly aren’t going to stay if they feel like they can be competent somewhere else. I’ve been blessed to be able to start charter schools and run a whole system. As a teacher, my students have been able get very significant gains. And its because we worked hard in all three of those areas.