Fifty-four years ago, the late Thurgood Marshall via the Brown v. Board of Education decision, affirmed one of the core principals upon which this society is based: equality. Separate was inherently unequal, and African-American children across this country–in under-resourced schools–were to finally have their chance at an equal opportunity to education. An equal opportunity to access the American dream.
Fifty-four years later, you can walk down the street in any American city and see that the promise of Brown has been broken. Our schools are still as segregated as they once where and, as a result, opportunities remain scarce. The endemic poverty that exists in parallel with poor education has expanded to envelop not only African Americans, but Hispanics and poor whites across this country as well. There are more African American men in prison than in colleges and universities. And opportunities to escape the malaise of poverty remain in the shortest of supply.
In 2005, I watched Dr. Bill Cosby give an address to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that addressed exactly this broken promise. A promise, in his words, broken at both ends; among low-income African Americans for whom education, health and success were obscured by a street-level culture that blocked out learning and family, and a government that continued to tinker on the edges of genuine reforms that would finally make the intent of Brown real. Dr. Cosby’s words reached me in ways I could not easily express, but it was clear what I needed to do.
About Our Children, airing tonight (Sunday September 20th) on MSNBC from 7-9 pm, is the culmination of four years of effort by myself, and the staff of the Independent Women’s Forum, of which I am President and CEO, and the support of Dr. Bill Cosby, who at every step helped me focus on why we need to talk about the issues that affect poor people in this country. Put simply, if we can’t be honest about our problems, we’ll never find the solutions.
About Our Children, a two-hour, live town hall meeting featuring Dr. Cosby, myself, and numerous experts on poverty, healthcare and, most importantly, education, will address these issues in the way they must be: head on. Dr. Cosby and our panelists are determined to get to the root of why inequality is still presented as one of limited options to low-income people in America. What people can do to help themselves, and their children, and what our institutions and leaders must do to help stop the cycle of poverty which stands ready to consume another generation of our most precious resource, our children.
About Our Children is a discussion had privately by far too many Americans. Now it’s time to have it publically.