It takes a village to raise a child.
Truer words were never said. Education happens in and out of the classroom. The messages kids receive about education and learning shape their understanding of the purpose and value of education. As such, the ability of their main support systems (school, family, and community) to support each other is critical. Establishing a strong support system allows kids to produce their best work and to be in an environment where they feel comfortable and ready to learn.
Grassroots organizations are vital to establishing this multilayered support network. They help to start the conversation giving families, who may be removed from their school, intermediary access to the help they need while providing an entry point for further involvement. They work on tying together families, communities, and schools.
Through this project I have realized the extent to which communication between these three particular branches are critical for student success. Both scholarly and peer-reviewed articles reflect this sentiment and the mission statements of the grassroots I have analyzed point to the importance of this relationship.
While important however, the question still remains; how can grassroots be more effective in creating and establishing relationships between schools and families who feel silenced or detached from their child’s education and / or the school system?
Connecting back to the material discussed in Urban Education and Community Organizing, it is important to note that in these situations power matters. Indeed, Barack Obama states in Why Organize? Problems in the Inner City, “the problems facing the inner city do not result from a lack of effective solutions but from a lack of power to implement these solutions” (as cited in Minkler 2012, p.29). However, the power and purpose of organizing, even if policies are not changed or if change itself is slow, relates back to self-realization. Realizing and believing in one’s power and capacity goes a long way. Once someone recognizes the strength they have, they become aware of their ability to take initiative and change the conditions of their community. It is why Ella Baker, a prominent activist said, “strong people don’t need strong leaders” (as cited in Mueller, 2004, p. 79).
So, how can grassroots be more effective in creating and establishing relationships between schools and families? They can’t.
What I mean by this is that organizing does not happen overnight, it’s not something you snap your fingers and make happen. It happens through stimulating relationships and strengthening network ties within communities, through dialogue and conversation, through pulling people into environments, not singling or kicking them out. It happens over the process of time, it is gradual. The kind of change grassroots organizations create and implement is foundational. It shapes the dynamics of communities for better or for worse. As such, it behooves organizers to be very intentional about how and why they organize.
They only way in which this process is easier is when organizers come from the same community in which they organize. This is primarily because they have an easier time connecting with the people. Perhaps this may make the overall process of organizing more efficient and effective.
When organizers come from outside the community they must make the effort to learn the community inside and out. The same is to be said for teachers who too play a vital role in crafting strong community relationships. Outsiders must become familiar with the how a particular community operates; who are the people you are teaching or organizing? What is important to that community?
This leads to one of the biggest takeaways I have from this class; people have power and people are power. Why do organizers organize? Why do teachers teach? They, in one form or another, are building up people, giving them as they do tools that allow them to access the culture of power. Reflecting back on my own childhood, one of my most defining moments, a moment that allowed me to see my power was a teacher who cared for me. She told me that I was great, that she was proud of me and who I was. I have never forgotten her.
Going forth, I plan to mentor young students, to uplift and support the dreams and passions of bright minds, to help them realize how incredibly smart, unique, and powerful they are.
Mueller, C. (2004). Ella Baker and the Origins of “Participatory Democracy. In J. Bobo, C. Hudley & C. Michel (Eds.), The Black Studies Reader (pp. 79-90). Great Britain: Routledge.
Obama, B. (1988). Why Organize? Problems in the Inner City. In M, Minkler (Ed), Community Organizing and Community Building for Health and Welfare (pp. 27-36). New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.