School Choice Question

Read Chapter 3 of the text ( A Search for Common Ground: Conversations About the Toughest Questions in K-12 Education by Frederick M. Hess and Pedro A. Noguera)

Watch the documentary “Waiting for Superman”(2010) written and directed by David Guggenheim. It follows the educational journey of Geoffrey Canada and others.

Write a one page reflection answering:

What is your position on school choice? Are you for or against? Why?

Time is of the essence is the first thought that popped into my head while I clicked the x before the credits rolled at the end of the documentary, Waiting for Superman. Time is of the essence for me in my own education as well as in the essence for my students. Time is of the essence if success is what we want. 

Nonetheless, concerning how we succeed ( in terms of which school has the road map and which doesn’t)  isn’t vital, as long as we get there. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said to the Sanitation workers in Memphis, “It really doesn’t matter…because I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land”. In this instance, education is one of the tools used to get us to the promise land. We want our children to be educated and able to think critically.

There seems to be no right and no wrong in public vs private vs religious vs independent vs charter vs homeschooling. What we want is success for our students and our communities and we are willing to try what promises to work. 

The trouble comes when virtues are mentioned. We will never succeed being dishonest. 

Michelle Rhee put it best when she said, learning ‘comes down to the adults and accountability’. We know if and when we are doing right by our children. 

I am for whatever choice works. The documentary mentioned that leading up to the 70’s the educational system worked for America. The system produced great men like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Neil deGrasse Tyson. 

However, the times changed. The material King and Tyson learned while in school is still relevant; however, the systems under how they were taught has changed. 

I wonder now if America is still waiting for Superman. How much have COIVD changed the face of education. Will there be a documentary showing the state of the Education post COVID?

Noguera, co-author of A Search for Common Ground reminded in his letters that each system put out something good. Even in flawed systems, there is always space for a ‘David and Goliath’ battle. The problem is that war happens constantly and the Battles are won far and few in between. 

Noguera stated “ America’s inability to create schools where poor children of color are learning has more to do with our nation’s history of segregation and unequal treatment than anything else”. 

It’s no wonder the nation was thriving in Education during segregation and 20 years after. Blacks were learning under oppression and White were the oppressors succeeding. It’s been over 60 years since Brown vs. Board and the fire is still boiling. The people haven’t learned to work together. Policy, law, Government,  officials are caught up in greed and comfort to even think about ways to fix the education system. Even though the laws came into place to end Jim Crow the spirit if separation is so great in America. The same evils that once allowed America to thrive are the same evils that are now killing America.

I wonder, are we going back into a complete segregated educational system? (We were never completely integrated) Organic personal school improvements, vouchers, charter schools, educational savings account and more are terms I’ve heard in conversations about the future of Education… when listening to policy makers, reading literature, and sitting in class. However, in the real world, around parents of the majority; parents are now in the same routines as before COVID.

You see, so already, we have started the conversation about school choice without the voice of the below the poverty line or lower class parent. So, where do we go from here?

At the Fountain

Some children from Mary Mitchell at Fordham University. Even though the university sits in their neighborhood, most at this young age, never heard of it or witnessed it.

Walking through the campus was fun for them but also forced them to look at themselves and their surroundings in a different way.

The younger ones were interested in the buildings….wondering if they were among castles.

The older ones walked with caution and introspection.

While never addressing race or opportunity, the subject was thick in the air between us. While going other places in their community, (like the park or grocery store) they would wander off without question, here they stuck together and whispered about what they saw and heard.



I met Antawn at Fordham through United Christian Fellowship. He was a very funny and clean person.

One night he invited everyone to his place for a meal he cooked. He spoke about where his family was from and there was a big funny argument about who cooked better- men or women.

When it was time to clean up, he went on and on about how clean his place had to be at all times…which lead to an even funnier argument about what would happen if he had a disorganized wife.

I remember that night because Antwan had a cute roommate who gave me his number. I can’t remember that guy’s name. I don’t even remember how he looks. I do remember laughing later with the girls about taking his number.

For the most part, I remember laughing a lot in Antwan’s presence. We laughed in the Christian meetings and at the cafe and in the Ram Van on the way to Tarry Town for the retreats.

We laughed because we could. We had our troubles but we also had our youth and constant motivation from adults in our lives who helped to keep us grounded. It was the last time in our lives to be this free. It was the time when adults would remind us that high school that was over and we are grown. So, act like it.  

College ended and we all went different ways. Making promises to meet up again.

In January, Josh sent me a message telling me that Antwan passed and I texted Tasha and asked her if she knew and she said Facebook told her. Cause Facebook tells everyone, everything. And that’s why we don’t need to meet… or don’t meet. Because we got facebook. We kinda went silent after that.

Our conversation ended the same way, we should keep in contact more often. But what does keeping in contact even mean these days?


Black Women: Power and Grace

Deborah Willis

Ms. Willis and I at a Herman Leonard photo event

In 2009, right before I graduated college,  I remember sitting in my photography class, annoyed. I was bored. The class seemed to be similar to my music classes where I saw myself and my people very little in the material we covered. I had began to trick myself in thinking we would come next in the syllabus. But, if that time came, it came quick.

My only solace was the library where I educated myself. One day I came across Black: A Celebration of Culture by Deborah Willis. I was sitting in Rose Hill’s library on the floor in a criss crossed position with a couple of books with images by black photographers. As someone who is always concerned about how I carry myself in public, I knew no one was going to walk into the aisle, so I stretched out my body and opened the book.

After flipping the pages back and forth, I looked for more work by Willis and checked the books out. I brought the books to my professor with the intention of simply talking about the images. However, I never imagined how I was going to start the conversation. I did not know how to ask him straight forward if we could jut talk about African American photographers and their work. So, what I said, came out childish and sounded like I just happened to find anything.

Look what I found in the library.

He smiled at me. I did not know if he understood what I was trying to say but his response surprised me.

Lystria, this is work by Deborah Willis. She’s coming to campus today.



I stuck around for the event and when I arrived the room was packed. It was hard to find a seat. I stood by the door.

As she spoke about her work and the power of images, I imagined what it would be like to take up this important job of photographing my community. I hung on to her words of inspirations.

After the discussion, I introduced myself. I spoke to her about some of my wildest goals (of traveling America and taking pictures of Black people) and simple dreams (of taking pictures of people in the Bronx). I remember her soft response. Just do it. Just do it. She kept telling me. Start small.  Keep practicing. Then she told me her testimonies and how she started projects.

When we were about to part, she said, this is my last copy but I want to give it to you. And she took out her new book (at the time) Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs  and signed it for me.

I was extremely shocked. I thanked and hugged her tightly.

Now, as I look back over my experiences at Fordham. Those four hard years of coming to terms with myself as a black woman in the world and still grieving the loss of my mother. I am so grateful for all the people God allowed to be kind to me. The small gestures of kindness was what made me feel invincible. That feeling of I can live in this world and be happy. 


Photographer Russell Frederick

That feeling was what I felt when I went to Kamoinge’s event, Celebrating the Grace of Black Women, three months ago. Only this time, I did not engage in much conversation but mingled and watched.


Photographer Terrance Jennings


I knew a few faces in the crowed space. Okay, only four faces! Friend and Photographer, Terrence Jennings, Deborah Willis and of course my two sisters (who don’t count…) However, I was excited to place faces with names like Jamel Shabazz whose books I also came to enjoy. He asked me if I was a Hebrew Israelite….I think it was because of the hat I wore. I also placed a face with Jules Allen, the photographer whose work I studied after I graduated. His Hats series was what inspired me to start the Hats or Hats Not chapter of my blog.

Later I looked up the meaning of Kamoinge on their website.

“Kamoinge exists as a forum of African-American photographers, to view and critique each other’s work in an honest and understanding atmosphere, to nurture and challenge each other to attain the highest creative level. The name comes from the Kituyu language of Kenya, and means a group of people acting together… The intention [of Kamoinge] was to help make up for the absence of works by African American artists, so history could not say we did not exist.”

Something about reading their history and intentions mixed with knowing my own personal history of why I enjoy taking pictures and being at their event titled, The Black Women: Power and Grace, made the significance of my attendance even more vital for myself.

I always seek self representation. When Black women are represented as leaders (whether on a small or large scale) this reinforces, for me, the lessons I’ve learned as a child. Those lessons of positivity and determination. The same sense of self-fulfillment and happiness I felt when I was in college I felt at the event (but on a difference scale) And, now as I sit and write about it three months later, I realize that it was needful for me to attend The Black Women: Grace and Power.



Quincy Jones & Those in the Music Room

IMG_1115The younger children did not go everywhere on Campus but one place I let them explore was the Music Room. With names like Quincy Jones, Melody, and Dominic, I had to bring them around the piano and drums.

When we got there, they fell right into their zone. While Quincy Jones was playing the drums the rest of them were banging keys on the  baby grand.

Then they switched.

When I told them it was time to go, they all placed fingers over their mouths, and creeped out of the music room in one straight line.

Then, Dominic stopped and said,  wait, where are the teachers?

Shhh! We can’t disturb the students, another one whispered back!!

Meanwhile, they all looked at me with curious eyes, beginning to wonder about the same thing. I kept my eyes straight and crept them back outside. To which they forgot to ask for the the teachers again.

Mother and Daughter


Ms. Richardson and her beautiful daughter Priscilla on Eddies Parade.

Ms. Richardson a parent who volunteered with the center this year. She came in faithfully twice or three times a week to lead the art class.

Mary Mitchell at Fordham University


Here we are! We are sitting on the steps where I  was given my college diploma a couple of years ago.

Almost the entire after school program, staff and children, left the center to tour Fordham’s lovely campus. The children were E-C-S-T-A-T-I-C.

The older children wanted to know if it was going to be a fun trip and the young kids just wanted to play. I was worried something crazy was going to happen but when we got there, everything worked out for the good.

Two Fordham students (and Mary Mitchell volunteers), Erin and Nia, met us at the main gate.  We split the children into groups by age.

They trekked all over campus. The pool, the library, the church, the cafe, the music room, the basketball court, the baseball field, Eddie’s parade, and finally the dorms.

Every where they went, they were mesmerized by the college life. The students, the band practicing, the ‘big buff guy playing frisbee’ , ‘the girl with the Pumas’, the art on the wall, the grass and trees, the flags, the banners, the lights, the long hallways, the water fountains, the kitchen area, even the bushes.

And, Fordham’s lovely students embraced them.

The older kids walked away saying, I played frisbee with the college students!! The girls are nice, they taught me how to do splits and flips!!

The younger kids walked away saying, I was a whale on the lawn and got to gobble up everything then, I went into the castle and drank water from the water fountain!

I walked away simply exhausted.

At the end of the trip, everyone declared that they wanted to go to college.  Even staff wanted to attend Fordham.