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Monday, February 29, 2016

It’s time to RISE UP and TURN UP CT BATs and SOSers for Black, Brown and poor children

Readers, Dr. Fran Huckabee an Associate Professor from Texas Christian University was a panelist on media messaging at the United Opt Out Conference this past weekend. She spoke about dangerous truths and the contradiction of saying save our schools public schools while at the same time discussing the test and punish culture premeditating those same schools. We had lunch together, and she shared the amazing work she is doing around social justice and education. Trust me she is rising star in this movement to save our public schools. On the 4 hour drive home I kept thinking about the idea of thw dangerous truths of my childhood. There are two that define me, that transform me, two that made me the man, the brother, the husband, the father and the activist I am today.
I am going to share two truths and one glorious and one dangerous. I am going to ask you click on a link for a 3 and half minute video clip of the man I have become, and ask you to join me in rising up and turning up for equity, for justice, for children. parents, teachers, and our public schools.

My two truths

My first truth is an glorious and easy to share. At the age of eight my grandfather wanted to go to Dr. King's March On Washington. He offered to drive people from Trenton New Jersey to Washington DC. He asked his pastor to say he was looking for company to go to DC. No one would go. He asked at the union hall. No one would go. He asked at the his VFW hall. No one would go. He asked my grandmother. She was afraid there would be trouble. She asked him not to go, but he explained he had to go. Grandma said no, but said you should and need to go.
She called my mother, and they prayed together about this going to the March On Washington trip. I doubt people today understand that every soul that turned up for the March On Washington has similar stories. I am certain they all face moments where people they thought would go with them said no. My grandfather was 68 years old, and they were worried about his age and driving alone to DC. As Catholics Grandma and Momma prayed the rosary,. They asked the other Rosary Ladies to pray for someone to go with my Grandfather. For weeks everyone prayed, but no one would rise up, no one would turn up. Then Momma called Grandma, and said take the boy. He keep him company. Because he has the boy he'll have to stay out of trouble.
So at eight years old I stood in the shadow of greatness holding my grandfather's hand at the March On Washington, and heard Dr. Martin Luther King speak with 250,000 others. I stood in the glory of hope, and was blessed with the legacy of Martin's dream. It became my dream. I know God's Grace, I know what it means to be saved, I know the Holy Spirit, and no Pastor needs to lay his hands on me to tell me I am save for I was touched by a saint name Martin. Every time I tell this story tears run down my eyes. Martin said on that historic day “Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Grandpa said that's scripture boy. Call me bless by the truth of Dr. Marin Luther King America's greatest dreamer. This is my glorious truth.

My second truth, my dangerous truth. The one that open the wounds of a childhood of poverty and my deepest pain. At the age of ten my father's alcoholism was out of control. Every night was a night of screaming, breaking things, and threats. Every night I prayed dear Lord send him away. That prayer stills hurts me. No child should have to pray that pray.
Then the screaming and breaking turned to slapping Momma. I know injustice, I know sin, I know wrong, and I know right. I felt Martin calling me to rise up and turn up. I felt something Christian deep inside me saying did not Christ lay down his life for you...So I stopped praying for him to leave, and jumped in front of my mother as he went to hit her. It took everything I had to keep standing as his fist hit my cheek. I could feel my legs wobble, blood flowing in my mouth, and my heart breaking. But, I would not fall. I could not fall. I could not let him hit my mother once more time. I had reached that moral arch that make a man something worthy of his manhood. Through pain, blood and tears, "I said you can not hit my mother". My father said "boy do you think you can't take what I have to give"?
My mother wrapped her arms around me crying, screaming enough, enough, enough, please God enough. My father looked at us, shaking and crying himself. Turned around and walked out of our lives right then and there. He would not return until he was dying 15 years later. 16 years later Momma asked me to forgive him. I did, but it would be years later before I could forgive myself.
Momma worked six days a weeks as a waitress, but without my father's income she could not maintain our apartment. We would come to know hunger, days and nights without heat, and even homelessness.
At the age of ten I found my moral arch. But it cut me deeply. For many years I felt responsible for that poverty. Every night without heat, every night we were hungry, the Thanksgiving without a turkey, the Christmas without a tree, every night that we had no place of our own to sleep cuts deeply. I know trauma. I carried that pain, but that pain ended each day at the school house door, at church on Sunday, at that local library of warmth and hope everyday. Did not Martin say “Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” He never said it would be easy. He never said those waters will flow without pain. It's my glorious and dangerous truths that call me to rise up and turn up for our Black, Brown and poor children in our Connecticut public schools and public schools everywhere.   

The short video clip of the man I am today:
I like you to do me a favor. Barry Lane is making a movie "What Are School For" he interviewed me in the process. He asked me why poverty matters. It short it's 3 and half minutes long. The favor I am asking is to watch it before you read today's RISE UP and TURN UP on. Link is below. 

Time to RISE UP and TURN UP for Black, Brown and poor children

Finally my call to my Connecticut brothers and sisters:

In Connecticut Governor Malloy who as a mayor supported the Connecticut Coalition For Justice in Education Funding case CCJEFF v. Rell case, but once elected governor he has fought it from day one. 
Why Poverty matters, and what can Connecticut teachers, parents, students, and activists do stand up for Black, Brown and Poor children?
Well as Bishop John Selders leader of Connecticut Moral Monday has said time and time again “TURN UP”
We BATs and SOSers can start sitting in that Superior Court room for CCJEF v. Rell,
Christains, Jews, Muslims and people of all faiths can start praying outside the court room daily,
We can thank CT teachers every time they testify for CCJEF,
We can sit in the Governor’s office asking him why Black, Brown and Poor children have to fight for equity in our courts,
We can sit in the Connecticut Commissioner of Education office asking her our why is the Connecticut State Department of Education not demanding equity, not standing with us outside the CCJEF courtroom clapping for teachers testifying for CCJEF. We can demand they condemn inequity in our public schools.
What can we do for CCJEF?
We can gather together like New York State Alliance for Quality Education, (AQE), who condemns Governor Cuomo for failing to fully support the schools of Black, Brown and poor children.
We can condemn our own governor who has fought against school equity from the Governor's mansion from day one, while continuously allocating more money for charter schools and choice programs. Let me make this clear Choice Without Equity is the wrong choice.
Connecticut BATS and SOSers are rising up, and we shall start turning up in that CCJEF courtroom.
It’s time to RISE UP and TURN UP for Black, Brown and poor children,
Dr. Jesse Patrick Turner

If you like to listen to the song I listened to on my walk this morning it's Adra Day and Nick Jonas "Rise Up"


  1. Thank you for sharing such deep personal truths and helping us to know poverty as more than a statistic. You are a living example of the book of Amos. "But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." Here is a song that has the line in it. John Gorka from Jersey.

  2. While we try to persuade the public differently, the drums constantly pound, much to our chagrin, as reformers have stolen our language of education and successfully use OUR vocabulary for THEIR own purposes.

    For example:

    Customarily, when Local educators and communities make changes in local education in order to improve student learning.

    Reform Usage: Lobbyists support National or State Education policy to theoretically save American Education… but in reality these policies provides for profits for a few. BOOM!

    Customarily, when schools and their communities make improvements to their schools as they see fit to benefit their students

    Reform Usage: Districts close public schools and reopen them as profitable charters. BOOM!

    Customarily, teachers use “authentic assessments” to evaluate whether students know, understand, can do, and communicate what they learned while teachers provide immediate feedback with means to improve work.

    Reform Usage: Administrators collect non authentic standardized test data and use it to evaluate teachers, close public schools, then open charters for profit. BOOM!

    Customarily a level of quality or attainment in what students are expected to know and be able to do at specific stages of their K-12 education…
    often accompanied by educator written, flexible syllabi, and sample, not mandated, lessons.

    Reform Usage: Flawed COMMON CORE curricula and prescribed lessons not written by teachers is forced on school districts to supplement standardized testing evaluations. BOOM!

    Customarily, when students have acquired the various hard and soft skills, and traits, not merely content knowledge, to be able to adjust to and succeed at life after High School

    Reform Usage: As in NYS: Students must graduate with at least scores of 75 and 80 on HS Regents English and Algebra Exams PLUS scores on grades 3-8 tests that are the equivalent to an SAT score of 1630, 80 points higher than the College Board’s own college readiness score.

    Any School that cannot produce enough of these students is a failing school and must be closed and replaced by a profitable charter. BOOM!

    Customarily relating to a community.
    Reform Usage: “Common” public schools characterized by a “lack of privilege or special status” in need of reform that must be closed and replaced by charters. BOOM!

    Customarily a basic, essential part…
    For the purposes of describing it reformy use… the inedible central part of some fruits. I leave the conclusions to you. BOOM!

    In this teacher’s humble opinion:
    We must regain control of the narrative and OUR language.
    We must be clearer in, not just our OBjections, but in our SUGGestions.

    We know what works.

    We know good teaching and teacher preparation.

    We know what kinds of school environments work best for students and teachers.

    We know our most powerful audiences – the people - and must be sure we speak to them, RATHER THAN PREACHING TO THE CHOIR, using clear, concise, and precise language.
    In short, we must use every medium to inspire more parents, more teachers, and more students to rise up against the abuses of our education system by those claiming to reform it and create more positive public actions like OPT OUT and whatever else it takes.

    Let’s keep banging our drums.

    To help us understand more about this issue…

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