- Category: News
27 Jan 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Special to the Tri-State Defender
The room was heavy with ministers but it was Memphis City Schools Supt. Dr. Kriner Cash who delivered the sermon: “Memphis has the worst case of economic segregation I have ever seen.”
| ‘People might not like me saying it and they might want me to leave after saying it, but it’s the truth and the problem.’ – Supt. Kriner Cash, referring to economic segregation. (Photo by Earl Stanback)|
Cash was the keynote speaker, with the head table featuring guests Freda Williams, Memphis Board of Education chairperson, Shelby County Schools Board President David Pickler and Shelby County Schools Supt John Aitken.
The present debate concerning the area’s schools ignores the real problems created by the cultural divide in Memphis, said Cash, adding that he is sick of the negative image often painted of the City Schools.
“The problem here – and I have never seen anything like it anywhere else in my life – is that Memphis has the worst case of economic segregation I have ever seen. You have an $87 billion economy here and less than one percent of that is directed to the black community,” said Cash.
“People might not like me saying it and they might want me to leave after saying it, but it’s the truth and the problem. The Memphis City Schools is a microcosm of that system. Those who say they don’t want our children because they don’t want the problems, do nothing to help solve the problems that they themselves have caused. They don’t love our children. And these kids see it. They are not stupid.
“You speak of role models, well here’s the model you’re giving them to follow: economic segregation. And the model ain’t good.”
The luncheon was billed around SCLC’s drive to present a plan for faith leaders to become more involved with the schools, particularly on the key issues of parental involvement, truancy, poor grades and negative gang activities.
Telling the ministers he hoped for an immediate 200 pledges from their ranks, Cash rocked the room with a passionate illumination of the current situation.
“You don’t know how good Memphis City Schools are,” Cash began. “There is a media-fed addiction here – “How bad are the city schools?” – that’s fed to you everyday and you don’t even question it. The last place to find the truth about black people is to say ‘I saw it on TV’. You don’t know how good your school system is, how beautiful your children are, how talented they are, how good your teachers are, how hard your principals work. We hear a lot of criticism, but you and other professionals like you and everyday people need to be more involved with the schools.”
Referencing the perception that City Schools would be better if a merger took place, Cash continued, “What we have done over the past two years is second to none. We are leading the country. We’re not asking to be with anybody. I don’t want to be with you, come get with us. You’re talking about giving away the pearl of this community – the second largest employer in Tennessee, a $1.3 billion dollar organization.”
Expressing great respect for the county schools team, Cash said though they might not agree in principle, he greatly appreciated their efforts as advocates for the students in the county system.
Picking back up on the theme of media-created perception, Cash said a recent news account concerning teen pregnancy is the perfect example of how school achievement is overshadowed by problems that cannot be controlled within schoolroom walls.
“You think that was news to us? No. We know there is a problem, but why try to alarm the situation, instead of exploring in-depth what we are trying to do to address the situation? We have to care for them and get them the education they need to get through life.”
We teach them, said Cash, that, “Yes, you’ve made a mistake, but if you work hard there is still a bright future ahead for you, and your lovely child. We tell them that they are diamonds dipped in destiny and we try to instill in them three points that they must believe in to succeed – love yourself, forgive yourself, educate yourself and graduate.”
As the minister-laden audience roared in apparent understanding, Cash said, “I sound like one of you guys don’t I?”
The corporate community, he said, needs to make education a more visible priority.
“We call it From the Cradle To the Career. We need more corporate presence to push the kids to better careers than Pack and Stack. It’s necessary, but, especially with the global competition we are facing, if there is to be a strong middle class in this city it is to be found in the Memphis City Schools system. We can no longer afford the example of us and them.”
Asked about his remarks as he exited, Cash said, “Somebody has to step up on behalf of these children. That’s what I’m here for and for that only. Whatever the community decides, I’m here to be its servant.
“I’m not trying to scare or insult anyone, but we should be going to school together, going to church together, as a community. It’s something that should have been done a long time ago, but this is an opportunity to make sure we take care of the education of the children as we are doing this.”