The second episode of HOPECAST is here! HOPECAST is a series of conversations regarding education equity and the hope we have for students coming out of various initiatives we’re seeing happen across the country.
Listen in as Chris LaTondresse and Nicole Baker Fulgham of The Expectations Project share about the recent Justice Conference and how you can win the Kirk Franklin Zip Code Contest.
Don’t forget to TAKE THE PLEDGE at our website, HopeForStudents.org, for your chance to win a FREE concert in your town with Kirk Franklin, Propaganda and other artists to help shine a light on education inequality
CHRIS: Alright, welcome everybody. You’re listening to HopeCast, Episode 2. I’m Chris, of The Expectations Project and the Hope for Students movement. I’m here with you today with Nicole Baker Fulgham from the Expectations Project and Hope for Students. Hi, Nicole. How are you?
NICOLE: Hey. I’m good, Chris. How are you?
CHRIS: Good. So today, we’re going to be talking about the Justice Conference that happened last week in Chicago. You are one of the main stage speakers. Expectations Project hosted a pre-conference. One of the themes of this year’s conference that certainly played out both in a lot of social media chatter around the conference itself, but, then, on the main stage in the various sessions was this theme of racial justice and racial equity. From what you saw both from the pre-conference and from some of the other speakers and conversations surrounding that, how did you see those themes connecting to the conference this year?
NICOLE: Yeah. I mean, I think this played a front and center role for a couple of reasons. One , I certainly think it connects to what’s happening in our country right now around issues of race. But, I also felt that people are more comfortable digging into race, even in a Christian context where at this particular conference, I would say the majority of attendees were White Christians. But, I think that this sort of like concern or fear of talking about race in a mixed-race setting to me seems completely absent from the Justice Conference. I feel like no one sort of hesitated to kind of dive in. And, I was talking to the other main stage speakers and we were reflecting on how, my gosh, five years ago like that probably wouldn’t have been so front and center, right? Now, I feel like we’ve kind of transition and certainly in the pre-conference work that we did. And in the topic that I gave and others from talking about issues of justice solely around issues of poverty to really acknowledging the racial legacy in our country and around the world, particularly in the U.S.
CHRIS: Yeah, you bet. There are certainly a lot of times how justice and poverty gets framed in a lot of more White evangelical settings tends to be around global justice issues and domestic issues tend to get a little bit less play. And, of course, you cannot talk about domestic justice issues in the United States without bringing racial justice and racial equity. So, only appropriate.
NICOLE: Yeah, and even beyond, sort of, individual racial reconciliation which again I think the church has been talking about that for a while. I feel like I heard many more speakers both in the pre-conference track that we did in the main stage were talking about systemic racism, institutional racism, whether it was that the first speaker who talked about some of our founding documents in his language being systematically racist, inherently racist. And I think that’s jarring to hear. I hate it and I think that you definitely got people’s attention. And you know folks can feel free to debate whether you know sort of how they feel about that. But, that perspective I think was one that I wouldn’t have imagined I would have heard four or five years ago. It was refreshing to dig into the issues on racism.
CHRIS: You had a session that same evening from the Justice Conference main stage. You talk about specifically education equity and racial injustice. If you can summarize quickly, what were some of the themes and ideas that you touched on and what would you want our listeners today to take away?
NICOLE: A couple of things. One, that students often in lower-income communities may be experiencing other things in the case connected to poverty, but also connected to systemic racism in their personal lives. And that’s important for us, as educators to go beyond advocating for kids, to go beyond just to sort of what we see and visually in the classroom and to get to know students and to ensure that schools can support kids who may be bringing them a lot of issues to the classroom. But, I think along with that, holding fast to sort of this idea of high expectations, that yes, that child has experienced a lot of his or her life, may need additional support that they need, but is actually still can achieve academically, right? That’s the first thing. And if we have to give up on that because of other things in their world, then, they’re not going to have a shot right at achieving in the way that I believe God wants them to and that they can. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, similarly, I think it’s really easy I think to talk about, not really, but easier to talk about education and inequality on U.S. as an issue of income only, right? To only stay there and not to acknowledge the fact that every group of color in America from Native Americans, Latino, Hispanic and African Americans and certain subgroups of Asian Americans have dealt with systemic racism in the public school system to the point where it was a legal right to learn to read or to go to school to, you know, Jim Crow era, where you know African Americans and Hispanic Americans were allowed to go to schools with White students. I mean just the legacy of that to today where we see African-American boys and girls are suspended at significantly higher rates than other populations, right? And, there’s just this massive piece that is just really easy to forget about because it’s not comfortable. But, it doesn’t explain everything that we see today in schools. There are a lot of different factors, but, wow, like, we can’t pretend it doesn’t explain part of it and we’re missing an opportunity to really dig into some of the root causes of achievement disparities.
CHRIS: And even if you put on a couple of slides in your presentation that shows these extreme disparities just in one school district between a lost city of Los Angeles, the Compton, unified school district where you spend some time teaching and the Beverly Hills school district, and, of course. There’s, you know, huge disparities in terms of income their, poverty graduation rates but one of the starkest contrast was race.
NICOLE: Definitely, I think 92% of students in Beverly Hills were White, and I think even a higher percentage and maybe, this is a little bit wrong, but almost, you know, a higher percentage in Compton. We’re all African-American and Latino, and just, you know, we can’t pretend that you know.
CHRIS: We will make sure to put that slide up in the blog post of HopeCast and make sure we got it right. It’s pretty striking.
NICOLE: Thank you.
CHRIS: It connected to one of the things one of the pre-conference speakers said that just stuck with me during the conference that when you look at these extreme disparities against the backdrop of and racial disparities in our public education system against the backdrop of history, Brown vs. Board of Education, as you mentioned, just the fact these public, you know, education system, just have never been responsive to these communities. The thing that she said was, “We shouldn’t be surprised when these systems fail, young students of color, because education in its inception in this nation was never meant for them. It was never designed for them.”
NICOLE: Yeah. And that’s just heartbreaking but incredibly powerful and accurate. I mean, look at the history. It completely is accurate. And, I know they’ll be people that disagree with that and say “no, of course it was.” It can’t be now but by the very nature of how schools were set up, it was not designed for kids of color and for quite frankly, for poor kids either. So, it’s an interesting legacy and again if I think if we don’t dig into some of that, we’re missing the real system at giants.
CHRIS: Absolutely. So, on a related note, we often talk at the Expectations Projects and Hope for Students about how a zip code should not determine a child’s destiny. One of our big announcements that the Justice Conference this year was around this partnership with Kirk Franklin that we’ve talked about in the past. But, the specific announcement we had a really exciting announcement at the Justice conference you want to share what that announcement was?
NICOLE: Yes. We are so fortunate to have amazing Christian artists that believe deeply in educational equity for all of God’s kids. And Kirk Franklin and Propaganda are two of the artists that have come into the space with us and are truly talking about these issues from such a personal and passionate place themselves. And between now and the end of July, we have a contest to inspire people to have the opportunity to shine a light on education inequality in their hometown. And so, if you sign up for Hope for Students between now and the end of the July, for that campaign, the zip code that has the most sign-ups for the next couple of months will win a free concert, essentially. Free experience with Kirk Franklin, Propaganda and other artists in their hometown. And again, awesome right to have these very committed artists, amazing musicians and ministers in your community, but this great opportunity, to have them there for a reason. People in your town will be talking about why they’re there. So, if you’re committed to education inequality, this is a great way to shine a light on your community.
CHRIS: So, take the Hope for Students pledge, the zip code with the most Hope for Students pledges between now and the end of July get that opportunity. So, if you want to take the Hope for Students pledge, make sure you include the link in the body of this blog post. You can also text the word HOPE to the number 44144. That will automatically opt you in. And you can join the movement. Nicole, thanks so much for being with us today. This is HopeCast. Chris, your host will be with you next time.