Sunday, November 25, 2012

WA's Emerged and Emerging African Americans

Marselas Owens (of Seattle)  and President Obama
Signing the Health Care Bill

Keeping informed and informing others is a key part of who I am and what serves me well. I like connecting people who are on the say path and enjoy seeing new things emerge from these new relationships.

As an Elder in our "Village" I get to meet, know and partner with incredible African Americans. Most are  much younger than I am.  They keep me wanting to get up get dressed and go see what they are accomplishing today. They keep me updated on their ideas, inspire me to come up with new and relevant ideas. I have learned from them the value of new technologies. Dr. Maxine Mimms taught me that this is the key to staying emotionally, and physically healthy and adding more and more years to my life. This is what African Americans have been doing for many centuries, getting up, accomplishing and sharing. She models this well as the Professor for Critical Community Conversations at the Life Enrichment Bookstore and Learning Center in Columbia City, Seattle the third Friday of each month. It is so refreshing to see the number of inspired African Americans of all ages gather around our Elder of Distinction and share with her and each other the many positive aspects of their lives and of being African American.

When here as a surrogate for President Barack Obama, Newark Mayor, Corey Booker gave this instruction: Move from sedentary agitation to unapologetic activism.  There are many emerged and emerging leaders among us in WA State, who are doing just that. They are not waiting for someone to pay them or give them a huge grant, or give them permission. They cover a myriad of skills, and areas needing unapologetic leadership to move our children and families from mediocrity to greatness. It is a formula that keeps African Americans alive and well in America.

Marcelas Owens My hero. He is one of the most familiar young faces associated with Pres. Obama. He stood next to Mr. President when he signed the Health Care bill. His mother,Tiffany, a dynamic advocate for health care, died at the age of 27, and lacked the kind of medical care this bill now guarantees to all. Marcelas,is a First Place alum and now at Madrona K-8 in Seattle was 11 years old, and chose to pick up where she left off.
Khadijah Toms, Danielle Jackson and Mia Franklin are fireball advocates for children and adults living with disabilities, their expertise comes from raising children with very challenging disabilities and I depend on them for their knowledge and activism. Getting more paid and support services for African American families is needed at every level, early services, school, and state Developmental Disabilities. They know the systems.
Cheryl Milton stepped up and into a vacuum that has elevated her life and knowledge and that of homeless children needing a teacher who loves and knows how to teach science and math. 
Norman Alston I can not say enough about him, his Fear No Number Math is making a difference and changing the culture of so many brown, black and poor children. He has grown into his brilliance.
Yalonda Masundire had a vision and no funds, but like all successful did not let that stop her. Go with your inspired self and the resources will find you. She brought to children in Rainier Beach an academic camp with certified teachers that reflected their cultures. 
Delbert Richardson His American Museum because of its content and message may never get the funding it needs. He educates about the sustained part of American history we know as slavery and Jim Crow. How can such a long period of our history get only one chapter in our history lesson. 
Life Enrichment Books and Learning Center TeamWhen the owner threatened to reclaim his property, this team of young folks stepped up to the challenge and held a fund raiser, and put together a strategic plan. While other independent and even corporate bookstores are closing its doors, our young folks decided to expand the bookstore into an African American learning center the only African American bookstore in Pacific Northwest.  Please get on the mailing list and stay informed. and this leads to another young person
Mayor Marilyn Strickland She is the Mayor of Tacoma and makes us all proud whether we live in Tacoma or not. She is guiding this city to a renewal that is making it a gem in Washington's crown. 
Rev. Paul Smoot up in Everett is ever present when it comes to being a voice for African American students. He runs a school where he is producing children who know they are scholars as young as three years old. 
Kamilah Abdul-Alim and Nicole Burns this 2nd and 3rd grade teaching duo are two educators to behold. Watching them teach is like watching a painter paint a lovely picture. They are just naturals and they take pride in each of their children. Their doors are always open to visitors and they helped me to formulate the Elders in Residence Project. Both have retired community members helping them assure that every child can read.  
Bernard Bennett and his brothers The number of black owned media is down to a number we can count using our fingers. With such a small African American population along the I-5 corridor it is a miracle that this family owned media a radio station and newspaper is still on everyday and we can count on news important to African Americans to be printed every week. We know Chris Bennett the Elder, but many do not know his sons have stepped up to keep this business going against all odds. 
Salah Mason When he was so much younger than he is today, I put him with a professor at the UW Business school could he make a businessman out of an artist. The answer after a small amount of time counseling him was "I do not think so."  It is not easy to teach business to African Americans in the ways that it is taught to white students. So I applaud him for his international business Kinfolk Design Studio, Bar, Restaurant, clothing and Bicycle Brooklyn and Tokyo Japan.
Roz Jenkins I have just this year gotten work more closely with Roz. She chairs the African American Education Roundtable and will not stop until education is equitable and excellent and the achievement gap is closed. She fights for our right to have a voice when decisions are made about our children. She will guide us through the education agenda for the upcoming legislative session.
Rita Green and Lina Brown It is refreshing to not have to worry about a problem because someone says "I got this." and means it. Well these two young women have Rainier Beach High School. And they are doing a great job of assuring that it does become a Baccalaureate High School and that African Americans are enrolled. Lina was recently honored at the White House for her volunteerism. 
Erica Newman She has been part of my support system that makes me able function as an Elder in our Village. She has been that for others also as she learns the ways of being a leader. She is willing to volunteer and do the work that is necessary for learning to lead and be heard. She is parenting a young child who will likewise grow to make us proud.
Nafisa Mussa She is the go to person in the Somalian Community. She came to America and grew into her purpose in this foreign place. She is everywhere, and is a great voice for both African born and African Americans. She is clear about the need for inclusion at every level of involvement of black people. 
Darryl Smith, he is our Deputy Mayor. He is a bit quiet but he has a big job and is doing it well. He listens. That is the best you can ask of any who is in politics, listen. And when a person in a leadership role listens to the many voices, it shows up in their accomplishments. 
Akua Kariamu a gifted and exceptional musician and teacher. She plays a violin like no other, and combined with her spoken word that comes from a soul so deep you can get lost in her. I told her that if I spoke a more natural language with the words and phrases that speak to brilliance I could describe her so much better. She smiled.
Sabrena Burr She is a parent and our African American voice for children and parents on the State PTSA Board. She is a legislative policy representative. Understanding education policy, the legislature and how their decisions impact our children's education is important. I partner with her at South Shore K-8 and she a key player in getting the Math Academy established. 
Dawn Bennett - We call her "Little Dawn" she is a dynamo as an organizer, a voice and advocate for the education of African American children. When she enters a room all know that Dawn has arrived. She showcases not only a we will prevail spirit but a head of some of the most beautiful locs in the region.
Dr.Quinton Morris  Is the Founder of the Young Eight String Octet, a professor and  Director of Chamber Music and Fine Arts at Seattle U. This year he performed a violin solo at Carnegie Hall, the ultimate for any musician. His is committed to introducing classical music to our children.
Keisha Scarlett This dynamo of a principal (South Shore K-8 in Seattle) is clearly on a trajectory to one day be Superintendent of one of Washington's School Districts. She is making not a difference but the difference that principals can make for children others say can not be brought to academic excellence. 4th and 5th graders doing Algebra early mornings before school even begins, yes! Math Academy on Saturdays Yes! Parents and community engaged, yes!
Council Member Victoria Woodards Besides being on Tacoma City Council she is dedicated  to reviving the Tacoma Urban League as its CEO. She came up through the ranks both in the military and and under the tutelage of Harold Moss another of our Washington Elders of Distinction. We spent time together on a panel for the AKA National Convention. 
Gary and Deborah Boune - they are transplants from Detroit and a welcome addition as small business owners. They own B2Fine Art Gallery in Tacoma. African Americans they teach that we must learn to purchase fine art as an investment and for the pleasure of owning nice art pieces for their homes.
Erin Jones Now if you have not met this woman, you have missed a treat. She recently left the Supt. of Public Instruction Office where she was Deputy Superintendent, and is now the Director of Diversity and Achievement at Federal Way Schools. I always smile when I think of Erin, her energy and passion for education is contagious. 
Dian Ferguson  I love Dian, smart, organized, focused and one of the best people to know when you want to get something done. She is a strategic advisor to the FAME Community Center.  She is also guiding the CAYA team back into full blown business. Last year she ran for City Council and kept in the debate issues important to African Americans and others like us who are too often overlooked or taken for granted. 
CAYA Team (Joe Stanton, JJ Wilkerson and Michael Ellis) they are the team breathing new life into CAYA. We do not have an organization in Seattle that has in its mission statement that they exist for African American youth. Our children are always sharing mission statement with others or linked in as at risk. Michael Preston, directed CAYA for years as a place known for producing African American scholars and winners.
Dr. Tamara Lewis I just met her but she is surely worthy of being on this list. She is a Naturpathic Physician, a Bastyr U. graduate. She practiced in NYC before returning to Seattle to set up practice. She has recently published a children's book HERBS ABC's it will be available on and Bastyr Book Store. Another must for our children and support for our sister. 

This is not an exhaustive list and I could have doubled it. There is so much great leadership among African Americans along the I-5 Corridor who are brilliant and creative and give so much compensated and uncompensated,  to make life in the Seattle/Tacoma metropolitan area one of the best regions in the nation who are not on this list. Let me know and I will surely make sure you are on the next one. 

I will be writing soon about the upcoming legislative session and encouraging every African American young and old to make it point to email, or testify or call Olympia to let them know that Yes, we are coming to collect on our votes. 

As always I want to hear about what you are doing. Leave a comment or email me. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

November is National Epilepsy Month

Aaje at 13 years old
For Aaje and Qimmah

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month and I dedicate this blog entry to my goddaughter Qimmah and her daughter Aaje.  Aaje is 15 years old and lives with epilepsy in Seattle WA.

President Barack Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod is a parent who knows what epilepsy does to the life and family of a child with epilepsy. His wife, Susan,  Chairs  Citizens United for Research into the Causes and Cure for Epilepsy CURE. They asked for personal stories. I read many of those written by parents each with both similar and unique experiences. I thought, parents of children living with with epilepsy are extremely modest in the ways epilepsy impacts a family. So I am writing from my observations as Auntie Dawn, a member of Aaje and her mother Qimmah's support team.

Becoming Auntie Dawn
Being Aaje's "Auntie Dawn" is  complicated but brings with it gifts. It is a relationship like no other it goes beyond usual relationships. I am godmother to Qimmah, which makes me grandgodmom to her children. My best friend Beverly, died of breast cancer in 2004 and a long time pact was that in such an eventuality, we would step in as surrogate mothers. She left me with instructions for each of her children and for Qimmah it was that I must assure she always has the support she needs to take care of Aaje who besides epilepsy, she has Autism and underdeveloped cognition. Aaje will need the daily care of her mother for her entire life.

Becoming Aaje
Aaje was a normal birth her first three years of checkups placed her above average on the growth charts  including language and cognitions. Two weeks after she blew out her three birthday candles, she suffered her first cluster of seizures, they were often and violent. That was 12 years and too many seizure episodes, medications, scans, MRIs, neurological evaluations, assessments, education planning conferences, therapies, hospital stays and tantrums to count. Entering the teenage years have added piled on her the many issues associated with puberty. She struggles with these changes that she does not understand. After having moved with her family to another state, her mother overwhelmed by her needs returned home to Seattle. She is learning to be with her extended family, she can be as rude and non compliant but within the realm of her damaged neurological functioning is a bright and loving child.

Being Mom
Aaje's mom is an incredible and knowlegeable caregiver, in ways that go beyond just being a caring mom. She is an expert on caring for a child with special needs. A child with epilepsy that is complicated by Autism and compromised cognitive skills.  As her sole parent, she is the expert. The professional experts do not know what causes epilepsy nor what can cure it and they are just coming into higher knowledge of Autism.  How epilepsy affects her development is not known.  Each person living with epilepsy has their unique story and parents know the frustrations associated with epilepsy.  There is the never knowing when the next seizure will occur, or how long it will last.  What they do know is the cost of the hundreds of medical consultations, the prescriptions that did not work or did work for awhile and now there are increasing break throughs. Qimmah knows well the fear of those who do not understand epilepsy, she knows that she can count on half a hand the people who she can leave Aaje with. She knows the questions and suspicion when arriving in the  emergency room a child bloodied and bruised from a fall during a seizure when you were busy taking care of her siblings.

I watch with admiration this young mother who presents like a student of neurology, pharmacology, education and psychology? She is an expert in what works and what does not work in our medical care and education systems. She knows what happens when professionals do not hear her, or discount her observations.  How does this  young and now single mom take care of her own natural need for friendships, a social life and career?  Well like most parents, not very well.  When there is a child with a disabling disease in a family, breaks in relationships are  extremely high. So I admire Qimmah as she manages the education of her 8 year old son who is very bright and cares for her 1 year old son who is now walking and into everything. Though she has applied for every service that should be available to her family, they are not readily forthcoming.

Aaje and Qimmah
Becoming Poor
For Aaje's mom there is no compensated and trained respite care available due to government budget cuts and shortfalls.  So she had to give up an enjoyed and lucrative career. When other young people are going to social events, she is sitting in hospital rooms and doctor offices or merely caring for daughter who is totally dependent on her. She and her family had to learn to be poor.  Which means she had to learn the systems associated with being poor. In friendships there is an expected give and take, when so much of who you are is going to a child who needs your constant attention there really is not much to contribute to close relationships.  Time away from the job for unscheduled seizure activity does not coincide well with a workplace project timeline.

Everything is Pre-Existing
Qimmah manages Aaje's multiple appointments associated with the first diagnosis of Epilepsy when she was 3 years old. She was traumatized as she watched  her bright and active child began to show signs of cognitive delays. The diagnosis for Autism the Special Education designation and Individual Education Plans(IEP) and the expectation that it be managed by her, the parent.  Though all of this is extremely complex and difficult,  mom is a proficient and wonderful Chief Advocate and Manager for Aaje's epilepsy and the complexity of her multiple diagnosis. I consider what it was like  being a mother with a husband to teenagers.  Add epilepsy and not knowing when not only a behavioral tantrum is on the horizon but a cluster of seizures just might occur when least expected and they are always least expected. The already difficult teen years for Aaje is exacerbated by increased seizures and behavioral episodes associated with her Autism and marginally her menstrual cycle.  She and all who have epilepsy diagnosis are perfect for knowing the need for Obamacare, everything about Aaje's current medical history is "pre-existing." And mom, despite her college education and having a marketable skill, is poor and might be poor for a very long time.

Families of children with epilepsy or any or multiple special needs need human support systems. They need government systems that do not add to already overwhelmed lives. Siblings need attention and to be cared for. When someone needs to be with Aaje when she is hospitalized. Going with mom to the IEP conferences means she does not have to be alone with a team made up of several education, health and legal professionals. It is someone to hand her a tissue. And as her surrogate mom, me there is is the occasional saying to her what she already knows. "You can do this. You have to do this. Who else will do this better for your daughter?" An then being a shoulder to cry on.

Aaje and Auntie Dawn
I wish I could bring this story to some conclusive end but without a cure for epilepsy there is no end. There will always be conscious and unconscious listening for the "thud."  The counting the seconds, because if the seconds goes into minutes then the next steps of the response goes into play. There is the not knowing if this is one seizure event or the beginning of a cluster of seizures. Epilepsy robs Aaje and her mom and siblings of knowing what a day or week will bring. She will grow beyond her teen years, but epilepsy, her need for care and a dependable support team will be with her for life.

Those who can please make a donation to CURE. And then decide to be on a support team for an adult or child living with epilepsy or any special need. For me, of all of my titles, being "Auntie Dawn" is very satisfying.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

There is Plenty to Say for Expectation

I tutor a 2nd grade boy in the home of his Somalian family of 5 children.  They are Muslims and though I know many Somalian parents and Muslims,  I had never been in their home. I  understand the value of visiting people where they live and allowing them to visit you at your home. It is the best way to form cross cultural understanding, respect and relationships. Culture is important, it supersedes race in human experience. 

Being in their home has helped me be a better tutor to their son. To learn their expectations for him.  During one of the tutoring sessions, their daughters and two other young girls were studying and reciting Quran in Arabic. Arabic is a difficult language, and not the primary language of Somalians, nor the language of their schooling.  It was a privilege to observe 5 girls between the ages 7 - 13 under the instruction of a young woman no older than 20 years. Any who understands how children learn, could observe in the parent and the young teacher that these girls would learn their Arabic and Quran lessons. There was no talk of can't or “special education” or learning disabilities.   

I immediately transferred this expectation to the young son, who has an IEP and learning challenges. I have spent time in Kenyan schools and clearly understand the ability for poor children and all children to learn well beyond what our children learn in the USA.  I know his parents, culturally,  do not and can not accept that their son will not learn to be an excellent reader of English.  It will just take more time on task and patience. 

Knowing this me and my young student are focused on this expectation. he reads, he write, he questions, I challenge him.  When pencil and paper and book learning is done, he gets to practice on the IPad, a great motivator.  The family is not asking me to teach him Arabic, I do not know how to read or speak Arabic but I do know English and if that young woman in the next room can teach 5 girls how to speak and read Arabic, I surely can teach their brother how to read and write English with a high proficiency and I will. 

I will comment on our progress as it occurs. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Status Quo hurts Poor, Black and Brown Students

In Support of I-1240 - Public Charter Schools

Eliminating One Status Quo
I put my name and the trust many have in me behind public charter schools. I have supported alternatives to traditional education for many years. After all my B.A. Degree is from Evergreen State College, my Masters in Education was obtained at Antioch University and my Ph.D was honorarily conferred in Nairobi Kenya by the Institute for Cultural Reconnection. All are non traditional but excellent higher education choices.

I have learned many things along the way to being an Elder. (Elders are not just old, they are also learned and wise in the ways that the people need them to be. They care about the entire village, and when entering a place they traditionally ask "How are the children."  Our poor, black and brown children are not as well educationally as they should and could be. 

After 25 years of paying close attention to public education, doing research on parent and community involvement, and raising three children in Seattle, I know that the status quo has not allow African American, Hispanic, Native American, immigrant, and poor children to attain an eduction that brings equity.

Policy makers do not listen to solutions that come from within the communities of these children, they do not listen to teachers, parents education specialists. This is a reality that makes public charters attractive as a choice.  

The Other Status Quo
If I-1240 is passes public funds will follow students whose parents enroll them into a public charter school. And we know there will be many who will be immediately interested in our children. It is called follow the money. 

In about 1991, just before launching my first campaign to become a WA State Representative, a blue ribbon panel was selected to establish school reform. This Blue Ribbon Panel was comprised of those who represented corporate interests. Kerry Killinger, the CEO of the now failed Washington Mutual Bank was the Chair.

The Governor, sent a message to parents gathered from all over the region that parents would not be placed on the commission and would be polled later. Since that time more than 20 years ago, much has occurred. Most significantly, there has been a substantial growth in private school enrollment and in the achievement gap between privileged and low income school age children. And this gap has created an new economy we call the "failure industry."  The many well paying jobs allows many to earn the tuition that keeps their children out of public schools or pay for academic enhancements.

This is a status quo that voting in public charters will correct, in fact if not monitored it will only grow and charters will be just another out for those who are most capable of competing for limited but good choices for their children. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gov. Gregoire Again Misses Opportunity to be Diverse

Governor Chris Gregoire throughout her life has had a problem including African Americans in her rise to lead the State of WA. Even as she prepares to leave the Governor's office she has not done much to improve this problem with African Americans and other non white Washingtonians. Most recently she had the task of appointing three members to the Education Funding Task Force called for by the Legislators. Gov. Gregoire was to pick three members.  The make of the legislature leaves few people of color to choose from due to the small number of non whites currently elected to this body of policy makers. There are several policy advisories that call upon legislators to participate and the few minorities can not serve on all of them. But this is where the Governor has opportunity to make appointments that represent more fully the population and talent within the State of WA. Again, this time she failed. Just a year ago, In the August, 28 2011Seattle Times they reported on her lack of diversity among those hired to advise her.  And,  exactly 7 years prior on August 28, 2004 the same media source reported during her first campaign about her anger when it was revealed she was in 1966,  President of a UW that banned non white and non christian women to join. This did not change during her Presidency.  That is beyond us and her, but her selection of those close to her or selected to advise her as Governor is not.

This is a message I sent to her today after seeing that again she overlooked an opportunity in making her appointments to the Education Funding Task Force. I voted for her in 2008 assuming that time and experience allows growth and wisdom.

August 13, 2012  

Dear Gov. Gregoire,

I was thinking of letting this pass but it is such a clear example of your missing opportunities to be inclusive of our entire state population who elected you.  Being African American, I know that we have been slighted often during your time as our state leader.

Your Education Funding Task Force is without representation from our community. The solutions made by others to pull our children from the bottom of the education heap have failed miserably. Choosing solutions from those who are closest to you without expectation of credible outcomes for our students is a pitiful effort at the least.

The Task Force required State Legislators, as for African Americans and other groups you had no control in that Rep. Eric  Pettigrew being the only African American State Representative can not spread himself across every state problem. So this is where you could have filled the gap but you used your appointing authority to chose three whites. Jeff Vincent, Mary Lindquist and Susan Enfield.  There are within our state African Americans with recent school leadership experience in James Dupree living in Kent WA. And as to financial background there is Mary Pugh of Mary Pugh Capital which like Jeff Vincent manages multiple billions of dollars in assets, and there are many African American and non white teachers in leadership roles. This was your call to make. And as reported by the Seattle Times August 28, 2011 edition you continue to turn a blind eye to opportunity for diversity.  This is an example even after having it pointed out to the public in this article.

I am sharing this with the the two contenders vying to replace you with the hopes that they can promise a more diverse leadership for Washington State. In Seattle non white students are the majority of our school students. I am sure the significance of non white students reigns in other school districts in this state.

As the top Democrat in our state, you have not done a good job of leading our state toward a more diverse and thus creative place to live. Also under you leadership we have have dropped off of the list of good states to live in despite our leadership in many industries. Inclusion in the end results is always the best practice.  


Dawn Mason

Former WA State Representative

The Mary Pugh  mentioned in this letter to her is African American with a financial business as successful as that of Jeff Vincent.   James Dupree is retired and lives in WA State, despite a less than supportive Monroe School Board this is what community and professionals who worked with him and lived in community said about him,  "...solid financial management, improved test scores and more certified teachers in the classroom mean Dupree has earned a chance to continue to continue the work he began four  years ago when he became superintendent."

I am not saying these are the ones that she should have chosen I am just using them to make the point that when looking for the kind of experience that guides fiscal and social policy there is a large pool of competence within the diverse make up of Washington State.

It would be disappointing to me and others if Gov. Gregoire sees my concerns and comments as anything but those of a concerned resident of WA. I have served as a State Representative from the most diverse district in WA, so giving voice to a diverse constituency is always foremost in my thinking and being.  And a leopard does not change its spots. It appears that Gov. Gregoire has not changed hers and surely I have not changed mine.  I love living and working with people that look, think and live differently, yet want the same thing as I and that is opportunity and equity.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Parents of Color Need Information about Charter Schools

Parents of students at the Martin Luther King Saturday School in Moses Lake, WA. It is an education and culture enrichment program, founded by Maryamu and Leon Givens (former First Place teacher and counselor) demonstrate the ability of African American parents and community to be involved in their children's academic and cultural enrichment

Getting information to parents and communities of color for Initiative 1240 which when passed will enable the creation of 40 public charter schools in Washington state. Public charter schools are created as public schools open to all children and focuses on  teaching practices that equalizes academic success for children who have lingered at the bottom rungs of academic outcomes. 

What will it take to bring the supporters of charter schools together with African, Asian and Latino Americans? How will they learn all of the elements of a public charter education for their children? It will require intent and purpose on the part of those who believe we should want them. I have been speaking to this for many years and know that voters would vote for public charter schools as a choice, if those who craft the initiatives and legislation include them in the discussions. This can not be done through talking to a few people in any community, black,  brown, white or poor.  There are many questions about public charters that need and deserve to be answered. Our communities need to know the elements of what makes a public school a charter school. They need to know why it is a choice that needs to exist for parents, teachers and students. 

If parents and communities are engaged with getting this initiative from the people I1240 on the ballot and passed, they will be ready to engage in getting a public charter school in their community.  I know of several teachers who are ready to teach, parents ready to enroll their children, children ready have a different education experience, and communities ready to support public charters. Every neighborhood, will not have a public charter school only 40 over the course of 5 years will be created. 

Getting parents and communities engaged during the campaign to pass this initiative will strengthen the movement and bring along with us, the parents of the children who public charter schools were really created to serve. There is something right about changing the status quo of public education, and it is time for this right thing to move forward. It is not the answer to the our entire public education system but it is a choice. When other choices are created that bring equity and excellence to all children and elevate African American children I will likewise work to make it a reality.

Robin Lake and Betheny Gross at the Center for Recreating Public Education at the University of Washington,   edit a report on Charter Schools,  Hopes, Fears, and Reality they support my concerns and those who live, learn and teach in communities with high enrollment of poor, brown, and black students. in Chapter 7, Paul Teske authors Creating Savvy choosers: Informing Families on School Choice. Even with all of the best intentions the lack of informed parents and community detracts;

"...however, none of these advantages can play out if parents do not exercise choice or if they make their decisions based on limited or poor information. Unfortunately, low-income and language-minority families tend to fall behind affluent families in their knowledge of and access to school choices. Low-income families especially face more of a burden when choice systems do not provide free transportation to schools."

Chapter 7, continues with the concern of lack of access to information; 

"Even when low-income parents are aware of choice, some of the parents may lack the political efficacy to exercise their options. these parents may be concerned that they will not be able to effectively navigate the bureaucratic system, or they may be concerned that the system is rigged against them. these concerns are magnified for families with questionable immigration status."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Day focused on Education

Yesterday, Tuesday June 19 was a great day. Education of African American children as well as brown and poor children reigned.

Reporting Back to Community.  All who know me or read my blog and other writings know that I believe that those who use public funds, or represent a community on any issue, owe it to us to prepare and deliver in some way a report to community. Two Rainier Beach Students and their teacher Ms. Wong were our presenters at Rotary this week. We meet every Tuesday morning at 7:30 - 8:30 and hear from a variety of people who are doing something important to Rainier Valley.  The students thanked us for our support and reported on their trip to the Elwa River in the Olympic Peninsula. Two hydroelectric dams are being removed.  I found it quite refreshing that students not only come to us for funding but understand the need to report back on their learning. 

Another Seattle Public Teacher joined us as a visitor and the topic of Public Charter Schools Initiative 1240 came up in our discussion. The issue of public charters has been a topic several times. It looks as if Initiative 1240 as written just might get on the ballot November 6, and pass this time. It is important that African American parents and community understand all elements of what a public charter school is and how it can enhance or diminish the education of their children.  My personal position is that if black, brown and parents and their communities are not informed and included beyond the token few in the conversations there is a danger that if and when they come into being, others continue to maintain control of our children's education. Those who have information should share it widely and deeply.  

Later in the evening Rep. Eric Pettigrew responded to an invitation to meet with a parent who has been traumatized by the lack of services and responses for services needed for her son who is diagnosed with Down Syndrome, extreme Autism, Behavioral disabilities and is non verbal. Any clear thinking person would think that this child and mother is being supported by our state and other funded systems and services. Our systems are complex and too often do not get to those who need them most. This mother is Ethiopian American and her son African American as he was born right here in Swedish Hospital.  She has done everything any would expect her to do. Her story is sad but more usual than any who is not engaged with our parents would think.  She is not unintelligent, she owns her own successful business and her other child entered University of Oregon at age 16.
In advocating for families of the most difficult students, I have learned many things. One thing I know is that privilege is what makes the difference. Privilege comes in many forms sometimes it is money, sometimes it is education, and sometimes is relationships.  Just wanting a good education for your child is not a guarantee that the child will be educated. She had the resources to get her daughter into private schools, but it take great wealth to care for an extremely disabled child outside of our public education, health and social service systems.

I visited Community Center for Education Results but this requires its own Dawn Seattle the Retired One Blog entry. I have to think about the conversation I had and who I had it with.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Jay Inslee for Governor Join the Campaign

As summer approaches we will be hearing more and more about a few very important elections. In January we will have a new Governor. There are many reasons for us to make sure that Jay wins this election.

At the top of the agenda for his opponent is reversing the work that President Obama and Congress has done to assure that health care is available to all Americans. Our families and children need access to health care no matter what their social or economic status might be.  The insurance companies have never been the friend of families, children and workers. And Jay will make sure that we as a State move Forward with President Obama,

We can not sit back and let this important election pass us by.  I have known Jay for many years, and have access to him on issues important to my former constituents and now the many communities I have come to know and respect.  The opposing forces in Washington State and across America would like to see us back at a time when there were great divisions based on race, income, and religion. We have all worked too hard to get to where we are today.  Without us working together across differences, protecting civil and equal rights and yes even having many die for the cause we would be a nation of shame.

Please join me in supporting Jay Inslee for Governor and yes, volunteering and contributing to assure a win for all the people of Washington.

His opponent is using a math program conceived by Norman Alston, and African American parents to give the impression that he has done something for the education of children who need an education system that elevates them to a higher potential.  He has done nothing to support this program.  Just being seen at opportune times is not what we need in a Governor.  We need someone who engage with all communities.

Also, President Obama needs to know that we are with him all the way back to the White House. He has stepped up and to the plate on many issues important to people and communities important to me and thus those I consider friends and allies in the struggle to keep America moving forward for true equal and civil rights.

Has he reversed all of the setbacks that we encountered during the Bush years, of course not. The damage done to working families and children during those years will take more than 4 years to reverse. But he has turned the ship.  We know that stimulus money given to banks has been used and misused to strategically to keep the wealthiest wealthy while small businesses have suffered from lack of loans that would strengthen communities across America. They have illegally foreclosed on homes and failed to invest in communities. This gives the impression that President Obama is not doing a good job of moving our economy forward.

He needs governors and a Congress that will stay the course with him and the only way that will happen is if we make donations, volunteer and of course vote and have all who you know get their ballots filled out and turned in on election day.

Thanks for reading this and join me in assuring that all children and all families are given an equal chance to rise to a full potential. That means we need a Governor, President and Congress who cares more for families than they do for corporate greed.

The Seattle Campaign office for the Obama and Inslee campaigns is located at 901 Rainier Avenue South (at Charles St) just south of Dearborn.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Elders And Rotarians Can Eliminate Illiteracy

Grateful for the Gift of Longevity, Good Health and Energy
Today's Elders who are retired have what elders in times past did not have. We are healthier, we are going to live longer and we are more educated. For all of these I am grateful, and sharing these gifts is important to my well being.  focused on sharing my life. This year I have been graced with five children who have brought me great joy.  Three have major developmental disabilities and two are healthy young boys.

Seeing or schools system through their experiences and seeing parenting children with various gifts and challenges through the eyes of three single moms has expanded my compassion. Each child and each mother has demonstrated extreme differences. Likewise, they have shown the commonalities of getting children educated in systems that are not easy to navigate.

It Takes More Than A Village
"It takes a Village to Raise a Child." A nice saying but it takes wise Elders to raise a village. We read about the need for parents to "Tiger Moms" or "Warrior Parents" to get the kind of education that will bring children to their full potential.  I decided that having a "Loving Elder" from within the community could not hurt. So I have spent time being that Elder for three single mothers with challenges beyond any I faced as a parent. I am their advocate, cheerleader, and strategic partner. It works and I think that we have developed a model to replicate.

Why should an older retired person help with getting children educated? Because they are Elders and need to leave a legacy.  Also, children need to know they live in a community of adults who care if they learn.  Also the kids give hugs and so do their parents.

I have sat through several parent conferences with parents who want the best for their children but lack negotiating skills and too often effective follow through.  They get distracted by competing needs such as food, shelter, multiple children, careers that are not secure and being young and inexperienced.

If I Knew Then What I Know Now
More than two decades ago I co-founded Parents for Student Success with the thought,  "If I knew then what I know now...."  This applies to many things that occur  for young families. They often think that what they encounter is new and that they are alone in their experiences. Often they are conversing with those who like them are negotiating, without much success the difficult waters we know as public school or even private school education.

Through Parents for Student Success a non profit, that is different than many. We are not a place of employment for anyone, and never have been. We exist only to support parents of school age children who are struggling. This is not a job, as a job it would be much too difficult. We do not apply for large grants because it does not take much money to do effectively what we do. And those in the business of making grants, do not understand our logic. It is more common sense and determination than anything else. Parents of successful children should have a way to pass onto parents who are struggling information that works. Principals do this for other principals, teachers do this for teachers, why then not put model parents with struggling parents?  That is what we do and it works.

We are finding Principals who can see the value in this thinking and partnering with them. We know where to find healthy Elders, they are at the Senior Centers, Teachers know what parents are not pulling their weight in the Teacher/Parent partnership needed to bring a child to excellence.

Becoming an Independent and Habitual Reader Takes Practice
Being an independent reader takes practice, daily practice. And just like in contact sports, the future professional must be taught the right way to hold a bat, shoot a ball or hold a tennis racket. And they need to practice until they know that they will hit the mark more often than miss it.
Brian and Aaliyah  

This is Brian and his mom. He is completing first grade with a good teacher.  He was behind academically when his family re-located to Seattle.  He had to catch up and keep up with his first grade classmates. He had the furthest to go but but that is the best kind of champion one who comes from behind. With his mother agreeing that she wanted her son to catch up and become a reader, we created the strategy a game plan.  I am competitive by nature of my being raised by an athlete father and being a contender in political campaigns. I told her  If we can raise black boys to compete on athletic fields and courts, we just apply the same intent, focus and strategies to make them academic contenders and champions. We put them with the best trainers (teachers) we give them time to practice, we give them opportunity to perform and we applaud them.  Assure that they are in communities that see their academic success as a contact sport of sorts. This is not rocket science we know how to support failure and we know how to support success.

We do not have until 12th Grade to Get this Right
There are many studies and assertions that if a child is not reading by 4th grade their chances of being in the criminal justice system spirals upward. Well if reading is the determinate, we do not have forever to get it right. In Seattle there are approximately 250 African American children well below grade level for reading at the Third Grade. That is not an insurmountable number to bring to grade level. The schools know exactly who they and their parents are. When a child can not read and they have been attending school for four years, we have to approach the parent with a different conversation than what they have been hearing.

Turn the Box Upside Down 
I approach problems and issues with What If, or Have You Considered?  Most people are stuck on solving problems the ways they always have even if the outcomes are unfavorable.  Millions of our public tax monies are paying for things that do not work for the children we need most for them to work for. Because those who administer funds are stuck. I was a Systems Analyst for a large City of Seattle Department. I once was called into a meeting because the the billing stock was not packed correctly and could not be fed into the printer. I was not part of the original conversations which ended with we have to send these hundreds of boxes back to the printer. We will be late sending bills, etc. I told them to turn the box upside down and feed from the bottom. End of problem, they all had salaries much higher than my own.  We need to turn the box upside down and approach this problem differently. When I learned the number of students that causes so much concern, I thought they need to do something different for these children.

What If?
What if each Elder in whatever village they see themselves a part of decided they would help a young African American boy or poor girl become a champion reader, brag about their little reader, be present for them, encouraging, help mom or dad see the value of the practice for making their child a strong reader. Maybe that mom would turn off the television because she knows that we are pulling for her and her son or daughter. Maybe dad will read with their kid before shooting a hoop, or playing a video game because their Elder will be asking what they read.  What if the Elder taught the parents  how to listen to their child read, how to ask the questions about the book, write down the words that are challenging so they can be learned and practiced?

While walking at Seward Park, I saw a father with his two young children. I asked them what school they attended and what book they were reading. The little boy told me his book was "Are You My Mother." This book was a favorite for my own children many years ago, I know this book. He was quite pleased that it was likewise my favorite. I told his parent of our interest in having every child a reader. I believe this family will remember this village elder who took two minutes to communicate so positively.  This boy will know that reading is important to not only his parents and teacher.

What if we believed that our Elders could become a school based Peace Corps. There is something special about older people with a purpose with intent.  I believe that any child placed with me can become one of the top readers in their class, poor, black, brown whatever the excuse is not excuse enough for Parents for Student Success.

If Rotary Can Eradicate Polio in Poor Countries.....
We so appreciate that Rainier Valley Rotary is willing to partner with us on this vision of literacy for every child in SE Seattle. Why is this a big thing? Rotary International stamped out polio in the entire world. Well, if they can do that, they can stamp out illiteracy in SE Seattle.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Seattle Mayor McGinn Makes Smart Hire

This week Mayor Mike McGinn brought Chief Harry Bailey out of retirement to help with the mess that Seattle is in with communities and the Department of Justice.  The seriousness of this assignment requires a Police Professional that almost walks on water. I know that Mayor McGinn could have searched the entire nation and not come up with a better person to guide him out of the mess that Seattle Police is in.

I know Harry Bailey well and along with his wife and colleague Emmett Kelsie have watched his entry into Police work and his rise to Police leadership since 1968. City Council Member Bruce Harrell is reported as being curious whether someone the rank-and-file officers think they can trust. "Seeing this as critical to the changes needed..."  

I was once told by a Precinct Commander that then Lieutenant Bailey was a "Cop's Cop." I found this interesting because at the same time, many who had minimum trust for Seattle Police in general likewise knew Lieutenant Bailey as the one they trusted. He has been a Vice President of the Seattle Police Guild and began and ended his career with the Seattle Police force. He never got lazy, he stayed physically fit and I once asked him had he ever discharged his firearm at that time the answer was "No, but I will if I have to."  He explained that as an Officer his gun is not in the forefront of his work even as it is significant to his work. I think I got it.

So from my personal, public and political view here is who Mayor McGinn hired and why I think he was smart in making this decision.  First of all former Chief Bailey is not building a resume, so he gets to do what he thinks is good for the people of Seattle and for the integrity of good police work. He is not running for office, and he does not need the money. He and one of Seattle's most outspoken critics Rev. Harriet Walden who is the founder and primary voice for Mothers for Police Accountability has his personal number on her automatic dial. He gave it to her many years ago because he is not afraid to hear what does not work for community.  What Mc Ginn sees as his greatest accomplishment is what created the most contention between he and Rev. Walden, Weed and Seed. Everyone did not see it as a solution for stemming violence and crime in communities of color.  So Harry listened and tried to make it work.

I met Harry in 1968 when he was new in his job as a Police Officer Trainee, and I new in my position as Seattle's Minority Employment Specialist our jobs were aligned in bringing minorities into key jobs with the City of Seattle. From day one Seattle had a man who loved police work not because it gave him power over others but because he believed in the true nature of keeping a community safe by being part of that community. Over the years of his career he gained more than friendships, he gained respect. That is what it takes to work in the public, respect.

Harry and I had the same philosophy about the best way to know a community; live in it and where it is lacking help to make it better. He has been involved in every community in Seattle. Recently I had the opportunity to be with him on a project that took us to the far reaches of Seattle and he was well known in North Seattle as he was in Rainier Valley.  Assumptions are made about humanity when people protect themselves from all elements of humanity.  There are many stories I could tell about how Harry approached community, how he loved being a "cop" even as a Chief he loved best being on the street with his officers and with the community they were hired to keep safe.

In the 1980's when many professionals were fleeing SE Seattle, Harry and his wife and me and my husband decided to stay in SE Seattle and raise our family. We knew that if all of the strong African American families left, who would help. Many have learned what good policing can be through many of the decisions that Harry made along the way to this appointment. We know that being born poor, brown  black is not an indication that you will be come a criminal.  He knows the ways of a criminal, he knows the ways of good policing, the voice of a committed community organizer, and the tears and fears of a parent whose child is on a road to crime. I have seen him up close and personal in all of these realms.

Rev. Harriett Walden, who single handedly organized Mothers Against Police Brutality for good reason had not trust of Seattle Police.  She experienced what so many have, Seattle Police Officers stopped her sons, beat them mercilessly and then released them with no charge of any criminal activity. Everyone knew the Salisbury boys did not participate in criminal behavior, did not then and as now grown men are well respected contributors to the human good. When then Sargent Bailey moved to the East Precinct he and Harriett worked on forming a mutually respectful relationship. Harriett changed the name of her organization to Mothers for Police Accountability and with a vision for a better police force well before it became popular, she helped Seattle bring into being the Office for Police Accountability. She had Harry ended up on each other's automatic dial because of their willingness to work as allies.

Harry was once Vice President of the Seattle Police Guild, from this position he helped them see why they would want to endorse an African American woman and Democrat for a seat in the Washington State Legislature, and they did. That is because he believed then and his coming out of retirement shows he continues to believe that police work is best when community partnerships are formed at every level with those who agree and disagree.  He is a master in the power of people coming together over a conversation.  Not just those who cozy up but those who will challenge the status quo.

During the time I was a State Representative I had many chances to call upon Harry to help with constituency issues. A mother called me, she was hysterical. There was a warrant for her son's arrest and she believed that he would resist arrest and that would give cause for the police to kill him.  I called Harry and he told me he would make the arrest.  He was quite sure he could make the arrest without having to kill anyone, even though he was a wanted felon, he had made many such arrests.  The mother is best to tell the story of how she felt as comfortable turning her son over to Harry Bailey as she would have putting him into the hands of a preacher. She says he showed up in a suit, presented himself respectfully and arrested him without incidence. Her son was a felon and he did go to prison. This is good police work and it is possible more often than what we have seen from Seattle Police.

Mayor McGinn has a problem with not only Seattle Police Department he has a problem with city divided by race in every way. Our neighborhoods, our jobs, our schools.  Seattle is the 5th whitest city in the USA and the majority of whites in Seattle really like this distinction.  There is major hiring discrimination in our industries and contracting with our governments, this creates economic disparities. Seattle Public Schools  for decades has failed to educate for equity and excellence its diverse student population. An entire "failure industry" dominated by whites with failed solutions is well entrenched.  For too many years the majority population did not care one bit about police shootings and little regard for who they were shooting. This occurs when crime is personalized by race and culture. The culture of African Americans, Latinos and other non whites is not crime. If a bank is going to be robbed in Seattle, chances are it will be a white male robbing it. Who in their right mind would think that all white men are bank robbers or bank robbing is the culture of an entire race?

Chief Bailey might have taken on his toughest job, but it is a job he will rise to and do well. If he can not or is not allowed not to do his job, he will give it back to Mayor McGinn. He is ethical that way.  There is something refreshing about having him back doing what he seemed to born to do, and I believe that if anyone can make a difference Chief Bailey can do it.  I think he might be able to do more for Seattle from City Hall than from within the Police Department as Police Chief. I do not think that Police Officers should become Mayors but I do believe that Mayors need to understand a lot about policing a city.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Students Need an Informed, Intentional and Involved Parent

I spend considerable time on issues associated with parent involvement in education through Parents for Student Success, a non profit I co-founded and Direct in Washington State. The missing link for most students who do not do well in school is an informed, intentional and involved parent. 

Every parent I have met cares about their child's education but lacks the knowledge, a plan and vision needed to manage that education through to a successful young adult.  Parents for Student Success, exists to help parents and schools rethink parent involvement. 

An effectively involved parent understands how to navigate public education systems, they intend for their children to do well in school and in life and they leverage their time, resources and relationships to support this intent.  Their child is clear that their education is a priority for the family.  Our methods are very student based, meaning how does my involvement have a direct and positive impact on my child's education. Many parent involvement programs stop at how parents are attached to the child's school. We call this building based involvement. It has its place and does has an indirect impact. 

If a parent has limited, resources or extended family support, they must leverage their time and energy. For parents of children on education life support, their time must be directed to their child, conversations need to be with their teachers and there must be a plan. 

Getting a child from Pre-School through college or post high school graduation is the most difficult project we will ever undertake.  I have completed that project and have grown children whose success has allowed me to retire early, restructure my life and redirect my resources. 

How we are at home with our children can make the difference between an average education and a great education. Being poor or brown or black or if your parent is designated for special education adds to the challenges of getting the best education. The reasons for the heightened challenge are many but are not reasons that a child can not excel academically and socially. We speak often of intent, a child usually ends up where the parent intends for them to be a failing student or at top of their class. 

Here is an excerpt from research compiled at the Parent Institute,  on the impacts of parents being involved.
 Direct parent instruction of their own children at home positively affects school achievement.
 But parents need specific information on how to help and what to do. 
  1. A study of promising parent involvement programs in the southwestern United States identified seven essential elements of strong parent involvement programs: 
  • A formal, written policy 
  • Administrative support (funding, materials, meeting space, equipment, staff) 
  • Training for staff, parents and community members 
  • A partnership approach (joint planning, goal setting, definition of roles) 
  • Two-way communication (frequent and regular) 
  • Networking (to share information, resources and technical expertise) 
  • Evaluation (to allow districts to make program revisions on a regular basis).53A study of successful federal, state, school district and school building parent involvement initiatives identified the following key themes: 
  • Parents and schools share common goals 
  • Parent involvement programs must continue beyond early childhood 
  • Programs must include all families 
Parent involvement programs make teacher’s jobs easier 
Program development is not quick 
Grants encourage participation 
Family/school coordinators are crucial 
Programs need rooms for parents 
Programs must reach out to parents without requiring parents to come to school 
Technology (radio, TV, audio- and videotapes, computers) can help improve parent involvement 
Programs need to be evaluated.54 
When parents’ time for school involvement is limited, carrying out learning activities with children at home is one of the most efficient ways for parents to spend their time.  Traditionally, teachers tend to favor parents who come to school. 

What Made Me Smile This Week

Living in Seattle Washington as an African American means that much of what occurs in daily life is not about me. As African American, my experience is so often not included in many ways. An example, I was all up for a talk given by a woman I had great respect for, a white woman who I thought was well researched on women's issues. Not far into her talk, she spoke of the time when women did not work outside of the home.

Well, it is nice that she recognized that work inside the home is indeed work, there has never been a time in American history for African American women where as a distinct population we did not work outside the home. We were brought to the United States to work for white women and their husbands.

Though never getting used to be an oversight in the minds and mouths of others, as all humans do, I have adapted and accept that yes, people can be quite ignorant and still be in positions of influence.  It is known as privilege.

So I seek out things that allow me to relate to those who represent the full spectrum of experiences of those living in the African Diaspora.  Today seeing the video of the young people dancing at a mall in Silver Springs MD made me smile.  Take a look they are quite talented.

Harriett Hodge who taught me how to win at Word with Friends (be a bit more focused on excellence) also for the past 6 years has taught a young woman classical piano and has sent her off to Japan for a world competition. We expect that she will come home even a greater pianist because of this great experience. Harriett keeps crying. What made both of us smile is that I finally mastered the game and beat her handily.  A real teacher loves to see the student go a bit further.

Being with two Ethiopian American women who brought me with them to WA Dept. of Developmental Disabilities to advocate for the rights of one of the woman's son with multiple and complex disabilities. I was so proud of  this mother who expressed her determination with the help of a translator. She was not taking no for an answer and had done her homework. As a former public official and known in many circles, I am often asked to help with some issue. Most often, too often the requester wants what they are not willing to fight for. We left and had a great Ethiopian lunch complete with a glass of beer. This coming together across differences in language and origin of birth was diminished by the clear understanding that one woman in the room was of no help, and had no intent of being of help to this mother. I will write her up appropriately for her lack of support to this deserving mother.

Yesterday, Rainier Valley Rotary (Seattle)  celebrated 50 years of existence in the Rainier Valley community of Seattle.  This is a very white, very male organization but I enjoy the people who are members because they are committed to doing good.  It was a fun event and I knew many of the past presidents. Rotary and especially RV Rotary because  Rainier Valley is a community that has vast race and culture diversity.  It is not easy working with white's even those with great hearts. Privilege of being white in America allows them to want and often get their way in how things get done.  They do not know that others who have high regard for them, consider them friends, are much more tolerant of them they they are or have to be of others.  So, Howard Gutkneckt who has become a great friend is a rising abolitionist and keeps me at Rotary because, he buffers so much for me. This makes me smile. And Ruth Moen another abolitionist friend is fun to do anything with.

It is still early in the day. I am sure I will find many other things today to make me smile.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

President Barack Obama and Same Sex Marriage

This Reflection on President Obama's announcement that he supports same sex marriage was sent by the named author into African American communities across the USA. At the end of this I share my own thoughts,


The e-mailer writes: Good Evening Family, Friends, and Christians Everywhere,
In an interview Yesterday, President Obama said "I think same sex couples should be able to get married." That statement has people all over the Country talking. We even had a brief discussion during our Bible study at church today where I was compelled to make a point. My comment was this: " We all need to remember that the President took an oath of office to defend the Constitution. He did not take an oath to defend everything that is written in the Bible." Later, I elaborated a bit more: We--Christians, especially the Black Church--need to be careful about being sucked in by groups whose only motive is to defeat this President. Nor should we lose sight of our own needs simply because we disagree with the President on a single issue. Christ never said everyone had to follow him--he gave us free will. Elected government officials whose job it is to serve everybody--Christians and non-Christians--are not likely to do everything by Biblical scripture. On the other hand, Christians look to and expect our church leaders to follow the teachings of the Bible. This is what separates the "Church" and "State." It is mandatory that we help to spread the word that Individuals and groups who are no friend to Black people and other people of color will use us to take down the President; and at the same time would take us back 50 years if they ever got the chance.

Regardless of how you feel about same-sex marriage or homosexuality, just remember that someone will be elected President (your President) in November. The question is simple: Do you think you would be better off with Romney? One other thing, not voting is not the answer either. It would be a tragedy if President Obama did not get re-elected because Black "Christians" got sidetracked by the manipulations of other "so-called" christians with a totally different agenda.
I hope that you will use every opportunity to pass this kind of message on to your friends and family.
Written by Jessie Muse 
Mitchellville, MD

My personal reflection on the issue

In America electing Barack Obama as President of this great nation, God granted our desires and answered the prayers of our ancestors. When we elected President Obama, he brought to the White House and to world leadership three generations of African Americans. This was a first for America. Since his inauguration the family has presented themselves to be among the the most moral and ethical First Family we have experienced in many, many years. Commander, Mother and Grandmother in Chief. All are wonderful models not just for African Americans as this position makes them world leaders.  

I see President Obama as an answer to prayer and desire in all the complexity that he brings to and presents in his positions on many issues.  His victorious run for President answered many prayers of many people. Likewise it brought America together in a way that we had not been together, across economics, race, gender and generations, since the Civil Rights Movement. Unless as Christians, we believe  God created all of humanity with the same needs and desires and prays for what we as an individual prays for.  How can any ustify such a thought? If someone who is different than me has their prayer answered and it is different than mine, has God then made a mistake? 

To yield to the level of thought and acts that placed millions of humans in chattel slavery is foolish. President Obama is a child of a mixed race marriage that was illegal in many states at the time of his birth. The Bible was used to support these laws.  He should use the power of his position to support free will on the part of human relationships.  The Bible is, has been and will always be used by humans to prove what they they believe and to demean those who are different than themselves. This is not the model that Christ presented for humanity. 

President Obama is being challenged by Mitt Romney a man whose own Mormon religious beliefs have seen Blacks as inferior humans unable to ascend to equal status within their church. Giving equal status to sexual minorities does not hurt anyone. It does not say anyone has to marry someone of the same sex, it says he supports this for those who want to. How is this worse than seeing non white people as inferior human beings? 

Again, thank you for sharing and hopefully others will think through this and create within a humanity that will lead us to a better more humane world.