The Achieve! Town Hall was a first step in an effort to bridge the gap between those facing decisions about school choice and the information they need to make good decisions. It included a panel discussion that probed issues related to school choice. (Photo: Shirley Jackson)
by Karanja A. Ajanaku
Some see school choice as a new arrival. Others see it as old as education itself. The extremes suggest the need for dialogue and that’s what the Achieve! Town Hall delivered at The Magnet in the Soulsville community last Saturday, March 30.
Hosted by The New Tri-State Defender, in partnership with New America Media, the forum featured a panel of school leaders, educators and advocates. They were guided through a discussion moderated by TSD President/Publisher, Bernal E. Smith II.
The panelists were: Kevin Woods, commissioner, Shelby County Board of Education; David Hill, director of Academic Operations, Diocese of Memphis Catholic Schools; Ginger Spickler, communications coordinator, Memphis Opportunity Scholarship Trust (MOST); James Alexander, director, Memphis Academy of Health Sciences Charter School; and Keith Williams, president of the Memphis Education Association.
A billing for the evening read: "Mountaintop Speech Commemoration." It was a summons to gather back at Mason Temple, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last oration – often simply called "The Mountaintop Speech" – on April 3, 1968.
Forty-five years had elapsed since Dr. King gave the prophetic speech that eerily seemed to foreshadow his death. That came the next evening after he was felled by an assassin's bullet while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
So the Memphis-area community – joined by numerous others from various places around the nation – showed up Wednesday night. They answered the call amplified by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, the union that long has represented Memphis's sanitation workers, the group that Dr. King died supporting.
Where were you in 1967 and on April 4, 1968? We must not ever forget our history, and if you are young, then put the stress on this notion: "We must learn of history."
Many of our leading ministers – both black reverends and white reverends – were maced downtown in 1967 while supporting the strike by sanitation workers. Even at that time we had some people who tried to do what was right and just for all the people.
The Memphis sanitation workers were an integrated group. There were some white workers who drove the trucks and supervised the black workers. The black workers could not go into the sanitation barn where the white workers ate lunch. They had to stay outside in the rain on rainy days and sometimes they would take shelter in the trucks to eat their lunch and keep the rain off.
As arduous tasks go, selecting only 50 honorees for the 6th annual presentation of The New Tri-State Defender's Women of Excellence ranks right up there.
The selections now have been made and the list of honorees for 2013 is complete, with the Women of Excellence (WOE) Champagne Brunch and Awards Celebration set for 10 a.m. Saturday, April 27 at the Memphis Botanic Gardens, 750 Cherry Road.
"We had another phenomenal response from the community this year with over 100 nominations," said Bernal E. Smith II, President/Publisher of The New Tri-State Defender.
At The Soulsville Charter School, the shared focus is on preparing the students for success in college and beyond.
Acceptance letters – dozens of them – help build the case for mission accomplished. This year, each senior in the graduating class has just such a letter. It's the second consecutive year that every senior has been accepted to college, all of them to four-year programs. The details show many of the students headed to some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country, and many with substantial scholarships.
"Each of the school's classrooms is themed around a college or university and on most mornings this time of year, we announce college acceptance letters over the intercom," said NeShante Brown, executive director of The Soulsville Charter School (TSCS).
Things aren't looking good for people with allergies in Tennessee. Not only is the pollen apocalypse on its way, three of the state's major cities made the Asthma and Allergy Foundation's annual list of the 10 worst places for spring allergy sufferers.
These so-called allergy capitals are ranked based on pollen levels, use of allergy medications and the number of board-certified allergists in the areas, according to a foundation statement.
Everyone in the United States can expect their allergies to be worse this year, thanks to an unusually wet winter, the foundation says.
The People's Conference on Race & Equality was envisioned as "a place where people could take constructive action against racism" and about 1,000 people showed up for the cause.
The event unfolded at the Fairgrounds, with attendees undaunted by the wet conditions. It was organized by Memphis United, a collaborative of groups and individuals.
Jacob Flowers of the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center said the event went as well as it could given the day's conditions.