At the start of our 2018 Parent Leader Institute, parents were asked to finish this sentence, “My child is my…”
Responses included: Passion, work, motivation, hero, angel, peace, treasure, purpose, and “everything”. Then parents wrote their beloved children’s names on a heart and pinned it to their sleeve. This would serve as a reminder to them about why they were there – to organize with other marginalized parents to demand better schools and hold the public education system accountable, not only for their own children, but for all children.
Over two and a half days, 100 parents from all over the country learned how to organize in their communities from some of the most experienced organizers in the nation.
“I’m a mother of four, I have a son who is 31, and one who is a six year old. As a young parent, you don’t know what you don’t know,” one participant shared. “I felt as a younger parent, that I failed my son, because he still struggled with his education. At the age of 29, he finally got his GED. Maybe I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What I know now is that my child deserved more.”
Throughout the Institute, parents engaged in deep discussion and analysis on the state of education for Black, Latino, and low-income students and how to change this reality by organizing to build collective power. Parents reflected together on their relationship to power and what holds them back, as well as workshops on how the system responds when oppressed communities speak up, the process of organizing, how to use data to bolster their cause, and the key elements of world-class schools.
Throughout the Institute, parents shared their personal stories on how the system has hurt them and their communities. One mom shared: “I was fortunate to go through the a program where they take kids like me from East Palo Alto and transfer them to good schools in Palo Alto Unified. After I graduated, I went to Sonoma State University. But when I got there, there were 8,000 students and only 100 or so black kids. How does this happen when we are just forty minutes north of some of the most diverse cities in the United States?”
At the end of the Institute, participants left inspired and committed to using their new relationships, knowledge, and resources to build power and fight for educational equity. The system won’t be keeping them down for much longer!