JAMES: A Prayer for Newark Schools’ Reopening

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Before I talk about how happy I am that our kids will be going back to school, I want to start with a quote from the great James Baldwin.

In 1963, James Baldwin wrote an essay on the importance of education.  I believe it was first a speech but was later published for all to read.

There is a line in that essay that I remembered and looked up when COVID-19 first hit, where he stated:

The purpose of education…is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions.

One of the big reasons I have lost sleep during this pandemic is knowing that our kids in Newark have been losing out on so much – most of all, the ability to continue developing so they can one day make sound decisions.  And to do this well, every child needs impactful life experiences.  It’s kind of hard to look at the world when you are trapped in a house or an apartment.

All the learning loss and all the time away from the classroom have prevented our own kids from finding needed independence.

I am so proud that in the middle of this mess, our community has protested productively and peacefully.  We have fought to make Black Lives Matter a slogan not only seen in our own communities but embraced around the world.  We even changed the history of our country and voted Trump out of office!

It pains me to think about all the kids who should have been out in the streets with us.

Think about all the kids who could have joined in our efforts in states like Georgia.

Think about all the kids who should have been in a classroom with their peers to talk about what we were seeing in 2020.

For over a year, our kids have lost out on bettering their minds, creating social interactions, asking questions, questioning the world, and discovering the world for themselves.

Last week I shared some thoughts that our community should not have to “ask permission” to create positive action.  But beyond anyone’s attempts to bring about change, a person must first have the opportunity, as Mr. Baldwin states, to first make their “own decisions.” And I agree with him — that the process begins in the classroom.

This is why I am so happy we are opening back our schools, finally.

And that is why getting back to class is such an essential first step for our kids to create opportunity and independence for themselves.

I hope this transition back to the classroom goes well and the District has a plan to ensure our kids remain safe.

But most of all, I pray.

I pray that our kids will get back on track.

I pray that our State and City will do all they can to make sure our kids make up for the lost learning.

I pray that our classrooms will provide each of our kids with the means to receive a powerful education.

And most of all, I pray that getting out of the house will allow our kids to begin finding themselves again.  So our kids can become their own person and start looking at the world through their own lens.

Opening our public classroom is a good start but, as I will talk about next week, there is a lot of work to do now that our kids are back to school.  There is a great deal of responsibility that we must demand from our Governor, Mayor, and Superintendent.

But today, it begins with a pretty basic idea – that our kids remain safe and that they are provided the opportunity to begin again in bettering and empowering themselves

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