Parents Should Lead this Movement

Memphis Lift applying pressure to the NAACP in 2016.

Memphis Lift applying pressure to the NAACP in 2016.

No one is as fierce or bold as a parent on a mission for their child. Education advocacy is no different. Parents often tend to be the most unflinching, uncompromising, and unapologetic agents of change for their children. They are powerful even though many of them do not know just how powerful they are, especially in education with its incredible bureaucratic red tape and the snail’s pace it takes to move on a daily basis. 

I often think about how different my education experience could have been if my mother had more confidence in dealing with my failing schools. I often wonder how different a district could be if all the Black parents in that system moved together and dictated our direction. Well, you don’t have to wonder when you look at organizations such as the Oakland Reach, and the Memphis Lift among others. They are my dream realized. I often wish they were around for my parents when I was in school. Then I met an absolute force in one Sarah Carpenter. She is the Executive Director of the Memphis Lift and I instantly fell in love. 

I had the distinct pleasure to host Sarah Carpenter and the Memphis Lift on a recent 8 Black Hands Podcast episode. The 8 Black Hands crew just happened to be at the same conference as Ms. Carpenter and her team. I actually wrote about them in 2016 when I was still publishing at the Huffington Post before they changed leadership. We were filming a live episode and they showed up in full support. In a room of supporters, they stood out. They felt like home. They felt like when I lived with my grandmother in Paducah. They felt like my granny coming out on the porch and calling me in to wash up for supper. Afterward, Ray, 2 of the 8 Blacks, and I were obsessed with getting an episode with them. 

Sarah Carpenter, the one and only.

Sarah Carpenter, the one and only.

We cornered Ms. Carpenter. She gave us these big hugs and told us we were “big deals” as she transitioned into telling us precisely what she felt SHOULD be happening at the conference. She held nothing back either. Ms. Carpenter is the personification of a CRITICAL FRIEND. 

“Why ain’t Dr. Fuller’s talk on the mainstage?” 

“Y’all need to come to Memphis!” 

“Y’all keep talking about more Black teachers, well being Black don’t be good. I know a bunch of bad Black teachers. Call for GREAT teachers.”

So after we got Ms. Carpenter to agree to do an episode with us, we were juiced. Luckily, I brought our mobile studio with us (which is just a Rodecaster Pro board, some mics, and headphones but dammit it’s still heavy - I feel your judgment). So Ray and I set up the spot for the interview in a medium-sized conference room that still had people coming in and out. So then, just as we are ready to go, Ms. Carpenter told us in no uncertain terms that she isn’t recording anything without her team. That’s who she is, she never moves along. Everything is done as a team. 

Once we got her and the team on the mic, it came together like a Jazz ensemble that had played together for a decade. The interview flowed effortlessly from serious emotional topics to snappy jokes and prophetic proclamations about the state of education reform and the need for Black parents to take the baton. It was beautiful. It was as beautiful as watching Black mamas grab this education reform movement by the throat in service of our children that HAVE NOT and STILL are not receiving equitable education across this country. 

Take a listen for yourself.