2010 Lecture Series: Literacy, Non-Negotiable

By Tanya

From left to right: Ernest Marshall, 1st place winner of Oakland Oratorical Fest Shakeri Evans, Montel McKinney, 1st place winner of the Oakland Oratorical Fest, Donald Layne, and Nate Parker.

In1865, African Americans opposed slavery, because not to do so would mean a denial of our humanity.
In 1965, African Americans opposed Jim Crow racism, because not to do would mean a denial of our humanity.
Will we wait another hundred years to oppose ignorance?  We can’t afford the luxury.  At the rate our African American men are being incarcerated, it is estimated that by the year 2030 fifty percent of all Black men will be in prison.  Right now the ratio is one in eighteen.  At this rate, one hundred years from now all Black people will be incarcerated or extinct.
While many of our children celebrate “Going Dumb”, there are concerned adults determined to help them become literate.
Nate Parker is no ordinary Hollywood star. He is a man on a mission.  He’s also intelligent and articulate. Parker shared his history with approximately 200 people March 9th at the 2010 Speakers Series entitled “Literacy Non-Negotiable” held in the Lissner Theater at Mills College.
A native of Norfolk Virginia concrete projects, he attended thirteen schools in twelve years with no father to guide him through the landmines of poverty.  He sees himself in the Henry Lowe character he played in the Movie “The Great Debaters” and he saw himself again last week when he visited Best High school, a school of approximately 375 predominately African-American and Latino students in East Oakland last Tuesday.

Andrea Nobles is the Director of the Oakland Oratorical Fest and the Literacy Speakers Series.

Parker stated, “If we can’t make education relevant to our kids it doesn’t matter.  They have to see themselves.   Right now our children have adopted a plantation mentality and value system which is vacant of self-esteem and self-worth. Without a direct connection to family, community or society our children will perish. This is a battle cry; our children are a reflection of us!  When we get it right, they’ll get it right!”
Parker continued, “We have to teach our children to be culturally competent, we can’t do this when we ignore obvious obstacles that are presented to our children. They face institutionalized racism, less resources, and culturally incompetent teachers.   Many teachers don’t know how to deal with our kids. They can’t relate or teach, and many of them say our kids can’t learn.  We must cultivate and hire culturally responsive teachers.
Kids today say “I don’t see myself; we’re not in the curriculum.”
Parker sees this disconnect and it has moved him to action.
As co-founder of The Leadership and Literacy Camp Program, his goal is to cultivate leadership amongst inner city youth and college students through educational programs and presentations.
Parents of two Oakland students, Anton and Lenore Walker, in attendance, have also taken action.  They conduct an after-school program at Bret Harte Junior High School, offering a cultural enrichment program that teaches students African history.
“By teaching the connection between Africa and ourselves, children learn their history and as a result they can have a better future.  Many students at school don’t have core values or core support.  We’re their extended family.  We do this from the heart,” said Anton Walker.
Parker concluded, “Because of gross achievement gaps and inequities that exist, teaching literacy to our children has to be a collaborative effort.  As Frederick Douglass said, “There is no progress without struggle.”