5 Goals Every Black Family Must Set for the New Year

BY: - 24 Dec '13 | Parenting

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This past week I have had the honor and privilege of traveling to California with my son and visiting some of the best Universities in the world. I call our father-son time together, the California Dreaming by Plane, Train and Automobile Tour.

As proud and excited that I am to be the father of a son who has the academic and extracurricular background to make him a qualified applicant to attend any school of his choosing, it would be disingenuous not to admit that the Tour also left me discouraged. I’m not disheartened because he will be leaving home. I have grown accustomed to him being away. He has spent the past year living abroad playing soccer in South American soccer academies.

Instead, I was saddened by something or more precisely someone who was noticeably absent on our Tour – a significant number of people who look like him.

Behind The Eight Ball 

According to the U.S. Census, “Black or African American” people make up 13.1% of the U.S. population. However, wherever we went, Black students were underrepresented. I dare not elaborate on the presence of Black males – outside of athletes – which could be titled like Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel – Invisible Man.

Like all parents, I want my son to attend the University that “fits” – elite academic ranking, superb career placement, matched intellectual capability, Fortune 500 internships, international study opportunities, influential alumni, cultured location, world renowned professors, tropical weather, etc. All the things that will get your child to leave home and never want to come back.

Jokes aside, I also want my son to attend a university that will encourage him to be his best, allow him to continuously celebrate his glorious heritage and do so without having to carry the burden or be the mouthpiece for all things Black. Yet as good a “fit” as some of the universities seem, our obscurity makes me anxious.

The odds are that the place my son calls home for the next four years will look drastically different than the statistics reported by the U.S. Census. Consequently, to many on campus he will be “different”. To me he will be an embarrassing and preventable societal numerical anomaly that should no longer exist. He will be involved in an exclusive experience that was to be resolved long ago – living separate with the educated minority and partaking in unequally shared educational opportunities.

Separate and Unequal 

In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education that “separate but equal” has no place in public education yet the educational outcomes of Black children remain undeniably unequal.

According to the Alliance for Educational Excellence, Black students are graduating from high school and college at alarmingly lower rates than White Students. Black students graduate from high school at 67% while White students graduate at 85%. Black students graduate from college at 38% while White students graduate at 60%.

These woeful unequal educational outcomes might have been expected in 1954 but certainly not in 2013. The benefactors of our increasing technological global society are those who have college degrees.  In 1973, 72 percent of jobs were open to high school graduates; by 2020, that percentage is expected to fall to just 36 percent.

It’s Just the Facts 

Instead of regurgitating more sad statistics, I would like to share 5 Things Black Families should resolve to do in the New Year.

  1. Read, Read and Read Some More – The number one thing that we must do is improve our children’s literacy. According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), assessed that only 14% of Black 12th grade students scored at the proficient level in reading achievement and only 1% scored at the advanced proficiency level. My father told me as a child that if you can read you can do anything. Now as a father, I know the converse to also be true – if you can’t read you can do very little.
  2. Success by 6 – Many in our community are fond of blaming others for our failures and shortcomings. I’m not one of those people. The education of our children mustn’t be a subject where we seek to blame others or euphemistically pass the buck. Most of us are aware that children who do not read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school than children who read proficiently. Despite this information, we collectively fail to be proactive in our children’s educational foundation. This is inexcusable. There are too many resources available for any child to be illiterate – free and public libraries, online books, web-based schools, etc. There are also programs like the United Way’s Success by 6 initiative that exists to provide the tools and training so that children learn to read proficiently and have a chance to succeed.
  3. Let’s All Go To College – Commit to take your child on no less than 3 college visits annually. As the late Aaliyah once sang “Age ain’t nothing but a number” – the earlier the better. Wherever you live or travel find a nearby university to visit. My son has been visiting colleges – well – since he was conceived. His first scheduled college visit was at age 6. At the time, we were visiting Nashville so we scheduled campus tours at Fisk, Tennessee State and Vanderbilt University. I remember the visits like they happened yesterday. At each school, the admissions counselor walked toward us with a quizzical look. My guess is that they were wondering why there was a first grader – whose feet dangled from the chair – sitting in their office. When the admission counselors asked my son why he had come to campus, without being prompted, he proudly and confidently replied “it’s time for me to start thinking about my future”. Out of the mouth of babes. The time to start thinking about the future is long before the future becomes the present.
  4. Don’t Rely On Your School, City or State – I know that I promised to keep this positive but this must be stated. You just can’t trust anyone with the welfare of your children. Your children are just that “your children”. If you want to make sure that your children are getting what they need to be successful, you can’t regularly or exclusively trust that others are doing what’s best for your child. Many of our children attend schools that have been determined to be Dropout Factories. Neither your children nor you created these Dropout Factories. They were created by those who you have been asked to blindly trust. Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice…
  5. And Then There Were 5 – We are fond of espousing the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. However, if asked to name just 5 people who make up your child’s village how would you respond? On second thought, don’t answer that. This New Year leave nothing to chance. Introduce your children to 5 GREAT villagers – people who will elevate, inspire, encourage, mentor and be models of achievement and success. It’s time to really create a village that can raise your child to reach their maximum God-given potential.

Finally, it’s completely acceptable if you start doing any or all of the five things I mentioned now. As my son articulated at six, “it’s time to start thinking about our future”. A future that depends on the educational success of our Black children today. For without a quality education and positive educational outcomes, the Black family can’t enjoy a Happily Ever After.

BMWK – what goals do you have for your kids in 2014?

About the author

Nathaniel Turner wrote 21 articles on this blog.

Nathaniel A. Turner, J.D. is the author of "Raising Supaman", a collection of life lessons written by a father to his son. Nate holds degrees in Accounting, Theology, History and Law. Nate blogs at The Raising Supaman Project which exists to CHANGE THE WORLD one parent, one child at a time.

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2 WordPress comments on “5 Goals Every Black Family Must Set for the New Year

  1. Bernice and Andy Tate

    It”s nice to know, we are not alone in our concern about the right to exist as productive human beings. Our journey has been a forty year quest. We often wondered, “is there anybody out there listening?” You folks have indeed answered that concern. We invited you to view our humble website. Continue to do well.

    Bernice and Andy Tate

    1. Nathaniel Turner Post author

      Mr. & Mrs. Tate: Thanks for taking the time to read the post. I also wanted to let you know that “someone is out here listening”! Your site, books and story are impressive. Please feel free to contact me if you believe there is ever anyway or anything that I can do to assist you.

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Autism Awareness in 2014: 10 Facts You Need to Know about Autism

BY: - 31 Dec '13 | Parenting

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Facing Autism on BMWK

I ran into my six-year old son’s former daycare provider the other day. During our conversation, I told her that he had been diagnosed with autism.  As soon as she heard the word autism her facial expression changed. It conveyed shock and sadness. Then she held on to both of my hands and said, “I am so sorry.” Her expression told me that she truly believed that an autism diagnosis was the worst news that a parent could possibly get. I immediately told her, “Don’t be sorry. We are doing our best for him and he is progressing.” Then she replied, “I always worried about him. Is he talking now?” I told her that Angel is saying more words than before and she smiled.

As I walked home that day, my head was spinning from the encounter. It confirmed for me that we have a long way to go to increase autism awareness and an even longer way to go for people to truly understand autism.

In the autism community, we have a saying:

If you meet one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

This is so true. Media depictions of autism and even how you experience autism in your home and community are quite different from how my family experiences autism. Some of us have our struggles and some of us have our triumphs. It is not a walk in the park for any of us, but we persevere. We do not have a choice. Our children are depending on us.

As we go into 2014, I want to share some information about autism with you that you may not have been aware of:

  1. There is no known cause of autism.
  2. There is no cure for autism.
  3. Autism is not a terminal illness.
  4. Autism families need support not pity.
  5. Autism families need compassion not disdain.
  6. People with autism deserve respect just like anyone else.
  7. The challenges (communication, behavioral and social) caused by autism have a real impact on our families.
  8. Autism is a not a fad.
  9. According to the CDC, autism “affects each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.”
  10. The indirect and direct costs of raising a child on the autism spectrum can have serious effects on families.

BMWK: What else do you want others to know about autism? How would you like autism awareness and acceptance to progress in the new year?

Check back every other Tuesday for additional articles from Kpana Kpoto as she shares her experiences and what she learns as she raises her son that has been diagnosed with Autism.

About the author

Kpana Kpoto wrote 38 articles on this blog.

Kpana Kpoto, also known as Miz Kp, is a special needs advocate and blogger. She provides resources and support for autism parents through her blog, Sailing Autistic Seas and her support group, Bronx Parents Autism Support Circle. Kpana lives in New York City with her husband and only child, six-year old "Angel" who is conquering autism one milestone at a time.

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