Literacy: The new Civil Rights Movement

‘We now know racially integrated education did not ensure quality education, and if America is to prosper, literacy must be regarded as the new Civil Rights Movement,’ said Dr. Goliath Davis.

BY GOLIATH J. DAVIS, III, PH.D., Contributor

PINELLAS COUNTY — Civil rights refer to the rights of citizens to social freedom and equality, and none have been more crucial than the right to vote and a quality public education.

For years, Black people were taught the ballot box and education were keys to equality and prosperity in America. It was widely believed that segregation impeded the ability of Black students to attain a quality education. Looking back, we may not have comprehended what now appears obvious: integrated education is not synonymous with literacy and does not guarantee quality.

Currently, organizations such as COQEB and the NAACP are working with the Pinellas School District to close the achievement gap between Black and white students. Regrettably, the data is not promising. Black scholars, as a group, are not doing well, and Black males, as a group, are in real peril. Educators are not solely responsible for the current situation. They need the assistance and support of our community.

Pastors, coaches, barbers, and beauticians, we need you. You have long been key influencers in the lives of our youth and their parents, and your influence is needed more now than ever. I submit that literacy is the new Civil Rights Movement for the Black community.

Not to suggest that voting, criminal justice and other issues are not important; rather, as I am known to have offered to several school superintendents when I was police chief, the nature of our relationship was such that every time they failed to educate a student sufficiently, I succeeded.

In other words, poorly educated students far too often become inmates. Poorly educated students far too often are poor readers incapable of discerning differences between candidates for election and may lose the right to vote due to arrest and conviction.

Pastors, please continue to encourage youth to engage, their parents and guardians to be supportive and your youth ministers to stress the need for scholarship. I am sure you are currently focusing on issues of education, homework, etc., but I respectfully request you do more. The request is predicated on the fact that we are at a crisis moment, and more is needed.

Coaches, football, baseball, basketball and cheerleading are attractive activities for our youth. I request you ensure scholarship is regarded as much as a touchdown, three-point shot, base hit or motivating cheer. Your students must understand the reality of becoming a professional athlete and how valuable education is to attaining success.

Barbers have long played important roles in the Black male’s rite of passage. I commend barbers for the lessons taught and ask that they continue doing what they do and more if possible. Stress the importance of the three Rs and why they are essential for future lives of success and prosperity.

Everyone knows hair and nail salons are where the “tea” is spilled. Hairstylists and nail techs, please encourage your clientele who are educators to consider assisting other clients who may be parents of school-aged students. They may be helpful with answering questions regarding school policies, how to interface with teachers and principals and other matters of concern.

Reading is the gateway to learning — scholars who cannot read experience great difficulty in all other areas of education. Our scholars are tested for the first time in the third grade. If they lack the requisite skills, it is easy to predict difficulty for the next nine years of school, and ultimately, their ability to attain a standard high school diploma may be impeded.

Poor reading and comprehension may mask a scholar’s abilities in other areas. For example, one must read directions to answer test questions in math, science, etc., resulting in poor performance.

The Phyllis Wheatley Rise to Read Campaign has been launched and emphasizes the importance of reading for a scholar’s ultimate success. As previously mentioned, reading is the gateway to learning. If our children are to succeed, all the partners — educators, parents, and community — must collaborate. 

We now know racially integrated education did not ensure quality education, and if America is to prosper, literacy must be regarded as the new Civil Rights Movement.

The white community must realize their fate is inextricably tied to the plight of the Black community. Caprice Edmonds is leading the charge for her constituents on the school board. The various community groups should sponsor community meetings and invite her to participate and share.

One may ask: Why worry about book bans if our kids can’t read them? The answer is obvious; book bans are authoritarian grabs for power, detrimental to democracy, and we do have Black scholars who are competent readers.

One Reply to “Literacy: The new Civil Rights Movement”

  1. S. Rose Smith-Hayes says:

    I am a product of Segregated schools. When the ‘White’ school children got new books, we received their old used books. some of my books had 3 names in them. We were told, if you want equal, we have to integrate. This meant that we could not get new books each time the ‘White’ schools received new books. The benefit of segregated schools was our teachers that knew us and our parents. They took interest in our success. I had teachers that followed my progress from 3rd grade to 12th. If I made a ‘C’, I heard from at least one of my previous teachers. We lost that. The other benefit was we were grouped into groups with people that learned similar to how we learned. We had students in All groups succeeded because we were nurtured and educated. In integration, we lost that type nurturing and caring from the teachers and the threats, ” I will speak to your parents”. The teachers knew our parents. Today with integration, the parents left everything up to the teachers. This is a new day. If parents do not take a ‘ Leadership’ position in their children’s education, many will be lost. I see it all the time. Be as aggressive about their education as you are about their performance in the Little League and about those name brand clothes and latest cell phones and video games.. Talk to them and listen to what they have to say. I have so much more to say but, I will stop here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

scroll to top