Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tha Artivist: Shame On The Gates Foundation & Memphis City Schools For Missing A Golden Opportunity

***For Immediate Release***
Contact: Ron Herd II a.k.a. R2C2H2 Tha Artivist
The W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group Inc.
phone: 901-299-4355
Date: 11/9/2010

Philanthropist Melinda Gates speaks Wednesday during a tour of Hamilton High with (from left) her husband, Bill, Supt. Kriner Cash and Allan Golston, president of the Gates Foundation's U.S. Program. Photo by Mike Maple November 3, 2010

Shame On The Gates Foundation & Memphis City Schools For Missing A Golden Opportunity 

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.” 

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence. “ 

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~Frederick Douglass 

"A nation or civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on the installment plan." ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” 

“I believe that if you show people the problems and you show them the solutions they will be moved to act.”

“Until we're educating every kid in a fantastic way, until every inner city is cleaned up, there is no shortage of things to do.” ~Bill Gates 

I am thoroughly disappointed about the opportunity that was missed to empower students that are often neglected and shunned because of socio-economic situations and because of the way in which they are portrayed in a very unflattering and skewed manner on/in local and national corporate news media, things which are beyond their control…Legendary philanthropist , business man and one of the wealthiest men on the planet Bill Gates and his wife Melinda visited Hamilton High School in Memphis on Weds., November 3, 2010. Needlessly to say as a substitute teacher and outsider with some insider perspective (I have been subbing at Hamilton High School for several years under two different administrations) it was a pleasant surprise to find out that I would be able to, along with other everyday ordinary people, participate in such an historic moment for both the children and the community in general. At least that’s what I thought at first. I was extremely disappointed to find out that Bill Gates wouldn’t be addressing the full student and faculty body at Hamilton High School in assembly hall/town hall style fashion in the auditorium. 

Although by chance I was able to get a surreal glimpse of the rather small in stature yet big in business and giving tycoon, from the window of my classroom door interacting with a teacher and a barely filled classroom and then later down the hallway when I was helping with hallway monitoring I saw the Gates doing an interview with a news network, it still was an opportunity that wasn’t in reach for most of the student body that day. 

Many students and several teachers confided in me and expressed frustration, disappointment and even anger in that decision. Many of the students felt like prisoners on lockdown or wild animals in zoo cages when the distinguished guests arrived. Instead of engaging the quite possibly intriguing and inquisitive Bill Gates in a friendly intellectual exchange or listening to him lecture on the finer and nuanced points on what it takes to be an empirical success aided perhaps with an even incredible power point media presentation (after all he is Mr. Microsoft) they were instead disengaged and turned off waiting in closed door classrooms only to be led to lunch in a single file line accompanied by a teacher as if they were in kindergarten or elementary school. I even encountered students who were sent home because they were “inappropriately dressed.” That was unusual to even the students considering that they dressed like that every day with no problem, except for the particular day in question. 

If Superintendent Kriner Cash & Co. wanted to use the Gates’ visit as a photo-op and politrixs as usual for the grown folks in charge instead of as a truly invaluable teaching moment for students in need of inspiration then they should have kept the media circus and hoopla at 2597 Avery Ave. (Memphis City Schools Board Of Education) or better yet he should have let the Gates visit one of the elite public schools in the system such as White Station High School or Central High School instead of the Poster Child for what’s wrong with everything in the Memphis City Schools as well as one of the lowest performing schools in the state of Tennessee. Once again an historic and golden opportunity squandered by the usual suspects. 

People of the Gates’ exceptional societal standing and empirical achievements do not visit places like Hamilton High School often. Historically in terms of Memphis it would have been like Booker T. Washington or Pres. Teddy Roosevelt addressing a crowd of thousands at Church Auditorium or Mary McLeod Bethune being the commencement speaker for both Hamilton High School and Manassas High School’s joint graduation in 1946 at Mason Temple and when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,came to organize and speak truth to power and eventually lose his life on the behalf of sanitation workers, their supporters and disenfranchised people everywhere back in 1968. For these students to be able to hear firsthand the insights, musings and advice of a multi-billionaire who lived his dreams and is willing to invest in improving their quality of life so that they could have a better chance of manifesting their own dreams could have made a profound difference on how they view themselves in relation to the world and could have forced many of them to redirect efforts in becoming somebody of value to themselves and the greater community. 

For those looking to conjure up their dreams in a big way or even those looking to learn how to think big, his example although not quite Horatio Alger (he came from a very educated and upper middle class family with business connections that would prove vital to the early success of Microsoft, a far cry from the reality of many of the students the Gates are trying to help) could have provided much needed inspiration for these young turks to be so every so bold and committed because when you pursue your goals and desires, you not only create jobs and opportunities for yourself, but also for others as well which is much needed right about now. 

One can never underestimate the power of such human interaction. My friend the famed world class sculptor, renaissance man and first Black astronaut candidate Ed Dwight told me that he still get letters to this day from CEOs, pilots and other successful people who tell him that that they were inspired by him when they heard him speak about being an astronaut candidate and success at their elementary, junior high or high schools decades earlier. Pres. Bill Clinton has talked about how meeting Pres. John Kennedy as a teenager at the White House made him want to become President of the United States one day. I can’t even imagine if Oprah, Condoleeza Rice or a Pres. Obama and First Lady Michelle or some other dignitary wanted to visit Hamilton High School how the kids would be treated. They probably would have to get their food underneath the door of the classroom during lunch time. 

I know personally that the system and many others in our greater community have gotten our kids figured wrong. It’s like blaming a person for a car accident when they are only the passenger and not the driver in charge of maintaining control of the vehicle. The Gates’ contribution should not be looked upon as charity but as an initiative or even wakeup call to get us and the powers that be to take the potential of our youths seriously because their actions or indifference will either enhance or eradicate our society. Right now we are treating our children like cannon fodder/collateral damage in a system that does not care about their survival or success. Shame on us all. 

In conclusion, the Gates should have truly been allowed to see and experience the true representative segment (not just the good, but also the bad and the ugly) of The Memphis City Schools on whom they are spending their $90 million dollars on. Instead of the administration choosing the students that they wanted the Gates to see, they should have allowed all students the honor and access being that their financial investment is intended to benefit all and not just some of the students in The Memphis City Schools…It’s like if you invite guests over to an unkempt house that is badly infested with roaches and rodents. Instead of one being honest with the guests about the situation they hide it by keeping as many lights off as possible or keeping certain doors closed or places in the house off limits…Our kids should never feel like unwanted pests and that they are off limits to good things happening to them or being loved as human beings in spite of the even dire and dysfunctional circumstances that many of them may find themselves in. Please remember that being poor is not a crime and can be a temporary state of being that can possibly be corrected though intervention and a combination of other remedies but possessing a poverty mind and spirit can be an everlasting and devastating condition which can evoke generational curses. 

These are my thoughts. Thanks for reading. 
Ronald Herd II 
Tha Artivist 
Founder of the W.E. A.L.L. B.E. Group Inc.

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