Amanda Gorman’s First Teachers

Placing our children front and center, in the fight for equity and justice!

(DOD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Carlos M. Vazquez II, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0)

by NAACP San Diego Branch Education Chair, Katrina Hasan Hamilton on January 25 2021

Greetings and Happy February. Ordinarily I’d say Happy Black History Month.  However, as many of you know, every day is Black History for us because quite frankly, we make history every single day. Just look at 22-year-old Amanda Gorman, for example. On January 20th, 2021, she made history as the youngest Inaugural Poet to ever recite at an inauguration. With her poem, The Hill We Climb, Amanda joined the ranks of great poets like the late Maya Angelou.

Recommended to the Biden Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) by First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden who first heard Amanda recite in 2017 at the Library of Congress, this amazingly beautiful Harvard Graduate became an overnight sensation. Everyone from CNN’s Anderson Cooper who was so “overjoyed” that he interviewed Amanda the evening after her international debut to Robin Roberts of Good Morning America who interviewed her the morning after. During these interviews, we learned about Amanda’s inability to say words with the “r” sounds (AAVE and SEL buzz words). People from all over the globe wanted to know more about this dynamically beautiful poet who beamed with sunshine on a cold winter’s day. Just Google Amanda’s name and you will see countless articles, pictures and interviews about her childhood and schooling. Amanda’s former teachers are emerging into the spotlight, as is her former school, New Roads in Santa Monica. While this is a rightful nod to the importance of education, we must remember that children’s first teachers are their parents. Their Mothers and/or their Fathers, caregivers, and in the case of Amanda, both her Mother and her Grandmother.

In a field that is nearly 80% White, female, and Middle-Class, our children are often exposed to classical literary works that frame their point of reference and world view. At least that is the hopes. However, for many of our children here in San Diego’s East County, their homelife impacts largely how they will interact with the world around them and their extended family, including grandparents/caregivers must be part of the holistic framework of educating our children. 

As for Amanda, her Grandmother and her Mother instilled a sense of pride and love that only a Black parent or Black teacher can give. Hence the need for more culturally responsive and empowering Black teachers in our schools today. We applaud the teachers in Amanda’s life who exposed her to Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine as early as 3rd grade. I’m quite sure her teacher (Ms. Shelly Fredman) is beaming with pride in knowing that her teaching is partly responsible for what the world witnessed – a phenomenal woman.

Yet, we must not forget it was Amanda’ mother, Dr. Joan Wicks, a teacher herself, who encouraged her child to read and write at an early age and to complete her assignments at home. Something most of us parents during online learning know firsthand. From the day Amanda was born, to the moment she walked, began to write, graduated from school, and set foot onto the steps of the US Capitol to recite The Hill We Climb, Amanda’s mom, Dr. Wicks taught her daughter along with her twin sister, Gabrielle, and older brother Spencer every step of the way.

Amanda proudly credits her mother as a key part of her evolution as a young, Black woman and according to an interview with the Washington Post even referenced ‘the talk’ that we all have with our children: “My mom was not playing around. When you are a Black child growing up in America, our parents have what’s called ‘the talk’ with us. Except it’s not about the birds and the bees and our changing bodies, it’s about the potential destruction of our bodies. My mom wanted to make sure I was prepared to grow up with Black skin in America, and that was my first awakening to the political climate I was stepping into.”

Not surprisingly, Amanda saw in her Mother, a woman of resilience who “climbed many hills” along with her children to get Amanda and her siblings to where they are today. Dr. Wicks is a Humanities Teacher at Alliance Schools in Los Angeles, received both her Master and Doctorate degrees in Education from Loyola Marymount University and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. You can read more about Dr. Wicks’ research here: https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1492&context=etd

In regard to her nurturing support from her “Grandma’s Hands”, well, according to her Grandmother, Ms. Bertha Gaffney Gorman, Amanda and her siblings spent most of their time with her writing. Ms. Gorman told the Sacramento Bee that: “When they [Amanda and her siblings] would come for the summer or visit for vacations, that was our entertainment. They would write. They would make a play and they would perform them,” Bertha Gorman said. “It’s just part of what we did. The kids were very creative. Amanda and her sister (twin Gabrielle), her brother and her cousins were all very creative kids.” According to realblackgrandmothers.com, Amanda’s Grandmother, “…worked as a journalist for The Sacramento Bee (1971-1978), as one of the only Black reporters in the newsroom at the time, before she went on to work at the California State Assembly.” My fellow NAACP members and community-at-large, as the oldest civil rights organization in the Nation, it is no surprise that Ms. Gaffney Gorman also served as an NAACP legislative advocate in California.  

It’s no wonder Amanda learned to love and herself (her hair, her skin, her weight), unconditionally and to advocate for others from her support system that included her family. Her mother’s sacrifices to place Amanda in learning environments like New Roads that incorporate self-exploratory and group projects, including wonder projects to develop public speaking as early as elementary school also played a factor in her love for education. It is schools like New Roads, Montessori and African-Centered Schools (which you will hear more about in future posts) that support the whole-child learning experience that is critical in producing history-makers like young Amanda Gorman. Speaking of support, purchase Amanda’s new book, Change Sings for your children and/or donate copies to libraries, afterschool programs and schools.

Here at the NAACP San Diego Branch, we applaud all of our children’s first teachers. We also know that while every parent is unable to afford private school education, our goal is to ensure that all BIPOC (Black, Indigenous People of Color) are receiving fair and equitable outcomes. We are always looking to share information on scholarship opportunities, parent and educator resources and events that support our children. As always, let us know if you need our help. Together we can make a difference! 

 

 

February 4th General Membership Meeting

6pm via Zoom: sandiegonaacp.org/zoom

National PTA Presentation

This meeting will feature a presentation by Anna King, President Elect of National PTA and Otha Thornton, 2013-2015 National PTA President. They will discuss the long association of PTA and Black/African-American communities, and shared values, priorities and goals of the NAACP and PTA.

Anna King has over 20 years of leadership experience at all levels of PTA and was elected president-elect of National PTA in June 2019. She previously served at the national level as a member of the board of directors, vice president of membership and as chair of several committees.

King is also involved in other community activities as a board member of the Douglass Law and Public Safety Academy, a Salvation Army volunteer and the co- lead for Moms Demand Action NE Chapter.

Otha Thornton became the first African-American male president of National PTA at the June 2013 National PTA Convention in Cincinnati, Ohio.

He is a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel, who earned the Bronze Star for exceptional performance in combat operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom 2009-2010.

Currently, Thornton is a doctoral student in Executive Leadership at the University of Charleston West Virginia.

Zoom Requirements

For the safety of all attendees, we require the following from participants in our meetings:

  • Have a (paid or) free Zoom account and log in to it before attending
  • Use a current recognizable photo of their face as the profile picture
  • Use their legal first and last names on their profile

For help on setting up zoom, please see sandiegonaacp.org/zoom-setup

Jan 27: Education Advocacy During Distance Learning

Welcome! You are invited to join a webinar: Special education advocacy & distance learning!. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email about joining the webinar.

Join us January 27th, at 7PM, for a lively webinar on distance learning and special education! We will have six educational advocates and consultants discussing how to navigate the IEP process, address distance learning concerns, what solutions and concerns they are seeing in schools, and other tips and information that can help everyone as we head back to school in light of school closures.

Revised Position Statement on the Deputy Secretary Nomination

January 27, 2021

Cindy Marten has been nominated as the US Department of Education’s Deputy Superintendent of Schools. If confirmed, Marten would be second in command potentially serving under Biden’s nominee for US Department of Education Secretary, Dr. Miguel Cardona who already brings in K-12 experience.

At a time when Black children are suspended and expelled at higher rates than any other children on a national, state and local level, it is quite troubling to hear that San Diego Unified School District’s (SDUSD) Superintendent will help lead the Nation’s Education Department given her district’s own history of educating both Black and Brown children in San Diego.

Ms. Marten in the past year has attempted to correct harm by conducting anti-Racist trainings that included Dr. Bettina Love–which were voluntary and not mandatory–along with changing policies on grading. While this is commendable, it does not erase the fact that SDUSD has a history of harming our children, families, staff, and educators.

A recent report released by researchers at San Diego States University (SDSU) Black Minds Project sheds light on historical disproportionate rates of suspensions and expulsions in SDUSD. For example, the report found that Black males in Kindergarten through Third grade (K-3) are suspended at a rate that is 280% higher than that of their peers. The report also found that in comparison to the district’s average, Black males were 3.1x more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension and 2.8x more likely to receive an in-school suspension. To help fix this issue, researchers offered to provide free on-going district-wide training on implicit bias and microaggressions in the district, an offer that never received a response.

On a national level, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2018, Black children had the highest amount of disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates nationwide. Black boys, who otherwise are at the bottom of the achievement gap, lead the way in the percentage of suspensions and expulsions, more than any other subgroup. Black girls outpace every sub-group except for Native American boys and tie with Bi-Racial boys.

According to NAACP’s Education Chair, Katrina Hasan Hamilton, “Black children experience Racial Trauma and Racial Battle Fatigue as early as preschool and Kindergarten and districts like SDUSD that suspend and expel our children at higher rates are part of the systemic problem.”

Educators at all levels must have a track record of dismantling the harmful practices of Anti-Blackness and institutional Racism that occur in our schools. Cindy Marten’s district has a historical pattern of disproportionately high suspensions and expulsions of Black students in San Diego.

President-Elect Biden, with all of the qualified educators we have in our nation, including educators in Higher Education like Dr. Tyrone Howard and Dr. Pedro Noguera, who have worked with improving outcomes for Black children for years or Dr. Leslie Fenwick, Dean Emeritus of Howard University, who you considered for the top spot and for years has addressed the teacher crisis where “less than 20 percent of the nation’s 3.2 million teachers are educators of color” this is not a good choice for healing Black students, families and educators. Nor is it a step in the right direction for repairing ant-Blackness and harm in our schools.

Sincerely,

Katrina Hasan Hamilton, Education Chair
NAACP San Diego Branch

PO Box 152086
San Diego CA 92195

(619) 431-1633 Phone/Text
[email protected]
www.sandiegonaacp.org

Celebrating 102 years of civil rights advocacy in San Diego

Jan 26: ACT-SO Mentor Orientation

Join us at 7pm on January 26th for an introduction to mentoring high school kids in our ACT-SO Program.

In this orientation, we’ll explain briefly how the ACT-SO program works, cover the requirements, responsibilities, and rewards of mentoring African-American high school students, and answer your questions. This event is for folks who are already signed up and/or who are just interested.

To learn more about the program, visit our home page: sandiegonaacp.org/actso

To sign up to volunteer (mentor, judge, committee member, etc), visit sandiegonaacp.org/actso-volunteer

At the time of the event, join via sandiegonaacp.org/actso-zoom

Zoom Requirements

For the safety of all attendees, we require the following from participants in our meetings:

  • Have a (paid or) free Zoom account and log in to it before attending
  • Use a current recognizable photo of their face as the profile picture
  • Use their legal first and last names on their profile

For help on setting up zoom, please see sandiegonaacp.org/zoom-setup

At the time of the orientation, anyone can join by visiting:

Home Page

Urgent culture changes needed at Fire-Rescue

January 18, 2021

Councilmember LaCava
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Council President Campbell
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Whitburn
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Montgomery Steppe
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Von Wilpert
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Cate
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Campillo
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Moreno
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Councilmember Elo-Rivera
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Mayor Todd Gloria
City Administration Building
202 C Street
San Diego, CA 92101

Dear Mayor and Members of the San Diego City Council,

In light of the insurrection at our Nation’s Capitol, it should be clear to all that the words and symbols of the alt-right and white supremacists are not merely empty threats and crackpot grumbling.  Instead, they are clearly an indicator of violence and hate-crime waiting to happen.

And yet, the symbols embraced by this movement are tolerated, and in some cases explicitly endorsed and permitted, by San Diego Fire-Rescue on equipment and at firehouses. 

The following symbols and displays have been reported to us as present in firehouses and on equipment:

Thin Blue Line/Blue Lives Matter Flag

While we understand that the ostensible purpose of this symbol is to honor the risk and sacrifice of peace officers in the line of duty, it has been taken up by white supremacists and is thus tainted.  While we also honor our peace officers for the risk they willingly take, this flag has always been a poor choice of symbol.  Its underlying message is not one of unity, but of division; peace officers as a “thin blue line” protecting “us” from “them.”  We can see from the different treatment of the insurrectionists and Black Lives Matter protestors who are most often perceived as “us” and “them.”

In a move with which we disagree, this symbol was explicitly permitted by the department, albeit as a temporary measure only.  It has remained on display long past the permitted time, and needs to be removed.

The Gadsen Flag

The yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag (known as the “Gadsen Flag”) is a popular symbol of the far-right and white supremacist forces that attacked the Capitol.  It should not be permitted on equipment or in firehouses, and yet we have evidence of its presence on equipment.

A Cornucopia of Racist Images

Beside the two symbols, numerous racist images are permitted in firehouses.  Black men and women are depicted as:

  • Stupid
  • Oversexualized
  • Overweight
  • Drug dealers
  • Ridiculous (not to mention the ableism and sexism on display)

[Not all images shown; more available on request.]

Such offensive images of persons of any race are best kept out of firehouses altogether. When a population that is overwhelmingly white uses offensive images that are overwhelmingly black, the message is clear.

This is all the more troubling since a firehouse is a place where people both live and work, in close contact for long periods of time.  A hostile firehouse is not only a hostile work environment, but it is a hostile living environment.  This takes a psychic toll on every firefighter who is not white and male.

This psychic toll only increases when management dismisses the concerns of whistleblowers. Responses such as “we don’t get involved in disputes between employees” are extremely damaging.  This damage is increased when such whistleblowers, whether they make informal complaints or formal ones through EEIO, receive immediate backlash from their co-workers (a sign, perhaps, of management collusion) and lack of opportunity within the department.  

We have previously written to you about addressing the situation at Fire-Rescue.  The culture at Fire-Rescue is not a matter that can wait.  We request you work immediately with the leadership of Fire-Rescue to show bolder leadership and implement policies and procedures to address the toxicity in the departmental culture.

Urgently,

Francine Maxwell, President
NAACP San Diego Branch

January 21st Executive Committee Meeting

Our January 21st Executive Committee Meeting will be held online via Zoom.

Zoom link: sandiegonaacp.org/exec-zoom

Executive Committee meetings are public meetings, and anyone may attend. Only Executive Committee members may participate, however.

Zoom Requirements

For the safety of all attendees, we require the following from participants in our meetings:

  • Have a (paid or) free Zoom account and log in to it before attending
  • Use a current recognizable photo of their face as the profile picture
  • Use their legal first and last names on their profile

For help on setting up zoom, please see sandiegonaacp.org/zoom-setup

Letter to Family Health Centers Regarding Diversity

Jan 14, 2021

Fran Butler-Cohen
Family Health Centers of San Diego
823 Gateway Center Way
San Diego, California 92102

Dear Mrs Butler-Cohen,

The NAACP San Diego branch requires your immediate assistance with a pressing issue which you may not be fully aware of.

Rather than much needed hospitals, the 4th district must rely on your Family Health Centers of San Diego clinics for healthcare. None offer sufficient after-hour or urgent care services. As such, our citizens are left without access to much-needed health care. This has left many to resort to reaching outside of our community for services, where they are faced with long waits to be seen, or even worse, turned away.

The urgency of the situation is compounded upon the fact that many residents in the 4th district have been deemed to be essential workers and cannot work remotely from home. As such, Covid-19 numbers remain higher in poverty-stricken areas of San Diego where they cannot even get proper health care.

There are only a handful of hospitals in our area where your clinics are prominently located throughout southeastern San Diego. Your clinics and urgent care centers are vital in keeping our community healthier in a time when they are needed most.

Being one of the largest privately owned healthcare providers in San Diego, it is important that we have a strong working relationship with you where the impact benefits those who are most in need of your services. Family Health Care Centers of San Diego must provide expanded services and hours that would help us gain the upper hand with Covid-19 in district 4.

The NAACP San Diego branch requests a workforce diversity study be done regarding your employees. The study needs to be completed and returned to us by the 28th of January 2021.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. We look forward to working alongside you as you lead by example in our community.

Sincerely,

Wiley Lane III

Chairman Economic Development Committee
NAACP San Diego Branch

PO Box 152086
San Diego CA 92195

(619) 431-1633 Phone/Text
[email protected]
www.sandiegonaacp.org

Celebrating 102 years of civil rights advocacy in San Diego

Founded in 1919 after a visit by renowned author, activist and NAACP co-founder, W.E.B. DuBois, the NAACP San Diego Branch is celebrating a century of standing sentry over the civil rights of the people of San Diego. If you need more information about the NAACP San Diego Branch, please visit sandiegonaacp.org/presskit