Melanin Origins Needs Statement

Content: According to Junior Achievement of Dallas, a 501c(3) organization with a purpose to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy, 20% of U.S. students will not complete high school on time and earn a diploma.  Furthermore Literacy Instruction for Texas (Lift), a 501c(3) organization focused on adult literacy, states 1 in 5 adults in North Texas cannot read. By 2030, Dallas County's population will reach 3.5 million. An estimated one-third of that population will be illiterate.

Lift On Poverty - Over 35% of adults in households who make less than $12,000 per year did not complete high school. A child's ability to read increases if a parent is able to engage with them in reading.  Literacy data shows the academic achievement level of children who attend pre-school and engage in reading activities before kindergarten are significantly higher than those children who do not.  This data suggests the importance of family reading with young children in the home, and can predict academic achievement during their educational career. 

Lift On Drop-Out Rates - In Dallas, more than 35% of the population does not have a high school diploma or GED, and half of those individuals read below a basic level.

Lift On Immigration - Almost 40% of Dallas County residents speak a language other than English at home.  The longer people reside in the U.S. and the more education they receive, the higher their level of English language proficiency. As proficiency increases, new residents are more likely to be civically engaged and self-sufficient.

In addition to the areas stated above, Lift also found that literacy is often the result of a few other interrelated factors that impact the community in many ways.  A few of which are the following:

·         Crime Rates

·         Unemployment

·         Early Mortality

·         Health Care Costs

Melanin Origins Connecting the Dots:

We believe in the integrity of Lift as they receive federal funding and have statistical evidence of the impact of their adult literacy programs.  However, we would like to point out a few things from the research that appear obvious to us.  As mentioned previously, 1 in 5 of U.S. students will not complete high school on time and earn a diploma.  Furthermore, 1 in 5 adults in North Texas cannot read.  Lift proceeds to provide more statistics from Dallas County.  Our first point is this – it is safe to say that Dallas County, which is the hub of North Texas, could be considered as an average representative of every major city in the United States in most literacy categories (not so much as it pertains to more geographically sensitive issues like immigration, however). 

Let’s revisit some of the core factors which impact our community shall we:

·         Poverty – Federal Safety Net released the U.S. Census bureau’s 2017 U.S. Poverty Statistics Race report that states – while the poverty rate for the population as a whole is 12.7% the rate varies greatly by race. Blacks have the highest poverty rate at 22.0% and Non-Hispanic whites the lowest at 8.8%. The Poverty rate for Blacks and Hispanics is more than double that of non-Hispanic Whites.

·         Drop Our Rates – reported that U.S. public high schools recorded a four-year graduation rate of 80 percent for the 2011-12 school year, an all-time high. Graduation rates vary greatly by state and race. Nationwide, black students graduated at a rate of 69 percent; Hispanics graduated at 73 percent; whites graduated at a rate of 86 percent.

·         Immigration – A North Texas local news station reported findings from Pew Research Center affirming that North Texas has the country’s fourth largest population of unauthorized immigrants.  Five out of every 6 immigrants to our region between 1990-2000 were born in Latin America. 85% of the Latino population is Mexican.  According to immigrant community leaders, North Texas is home to 40,000 Chinese Americans, nearly 100,000 Indian Americans, 150,000 immigrants from Africa and around one million Hispanics.

·         Crime Rates - According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, blacks accounted for 39.4% of the prison and jail population in 2009, while non-Hispanic whites were 34.2%, and Hispanics (of any race) 20.6%. The incarceration rate of black males was over six times higher than that of white males, with a rate of 4,749 per 100,000 US residents.

·         Unemployment – The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that labor market outcomes in the United States vary considerably across race and ethnicity groups. In 2016, for example, the overall civilian unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, while the rates for the major race and ethnicity groups ranged from 3.6 percent for Asians to 8.4 percent for Blacks or African Americans; the rate for Whites was 4.3 percent in 2016, and the rate for Hispanics or Latinos was 5.8 percent.

Our second point is this – it is clear that people of color in every major U.S. city are in need of literacy assistance the most.  To most of us, those statistics are a given.  It is something that we all witness with our own eyes, but we decided to compile this information from other valuable sources to provide a thorough reality check that this is real!  If we want to succeed in having better communities, better race relations, lower crime rates, ingenuity in the inner city, a generation of people that replaces trap culture with innovative excellence as the new dominant norm, etc. then we must be able to find the most effective ways to reach people of color.

The third and final point is this – A unified front of attention needs to be concentrated on providing culturally responsive teaching to children of color.  Lift reports that Dallas’ population is expected to grow by over 1 million people in the next 20 years, and the illiteracy rate is projected to grow faster than the population rate.  Remember  Dallas is our hypothetical “average representative ” of the United States.  As the clock keeps ticking and our nation becomes more illiterate, we must recognize that our babies are growing at the same time.   Our nation must come to understand the potency and impact of culturally responsive pedagogy.

Culturally Responsive Teaching is a pedagogy that acknowledges, responds to, and celebrates fundamental cultures and offers full, equitable access to education for students from all cultures.  It is a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural references in all aspects of learning (Ladson-Billings,1994).   Much can be said here about Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings and her highly acclaimed, award winning research, but the key here is that Melanin Origins provides Culturally Responsive Pedagogy.  We take historical leaders, make them relatable to children so they can tell their stories with ease, provide bright and fun illustrations, teach soft skills, stem, phonics, etc. and our learning materials are making a lasting impact in the lives of young people and the future of our nation.

Other articles on the impact of culturally responsive pedagogy:

Regarding the impact of diverse books in libraries, the American Library Association explains, they can give legitimacy by including substantial collections of material about different cultures, which helps to frame discussions, provides a basis for factually accurate debates, and demonstrates that diverse groups are complex and influential within society.  The only thing that’s clear is that having diverse books in libraries helps to expand horizons, educate people, and promote more positive perceptions of diverse groups.

Regarding the impact of black history in schools, Caitlin Dennehy, an eight-year veteran educator based in New Jersey who teaches a predominately black class of middle school students with developmental disabilities and autism sees great outcomes.  Dennehy states, Black History Month has provided a useful break from textbooks that largely focus on “dead white males,” and she told MSNBC it has been “useful in introducing conversations about where history has brought us and how we see racial dynamics in our community today.”  Dennehy admits she feels a “little awkward” sometimes as a white person teaching black students about their own history, but she believes her students appreciate the cultural exchange.

A Christian perspective regarding the need for culturally responsive pedagogy through the eyes of Pastor Tony Evans: Growing up in urban America during the Civil Rights Era in a Christian context of racism, segregation and an incomplete historical education didn’t give me an opportunity to know who I really was. In my all-black classrooms, I learned about white culture and white history. I read about Paul Revere and his midnight ride. But what my teachers failed to mention was that on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, another man—a black man—Wentworth Cheswell also rode on behalf of our nation’s security. He rode north with the same exact message.  Without an authentic self-awareness, African-Americans often struggle as we seek to play on the same team toward the same goal in the body of Christ. But just as relevant is the need for awareness among my white brothers and sisters concerning who we are, and who God has created and positioned us to be at this critical time in our world.

Post Word: The owner of Editor’s Corner, Francis W. Minikon Jr., is also the Chief Operating Officer of Melanin Origins, LLC.  When you find a black owned publisher creating black history books for kids… trust Melanin Origins.  Frank is intrigued by the resilience and tenacity of African American leaders who stand for truth, justice, and overcoming any obstacle placed in their way.  Thus, Melanin Origins was created to share messages of lesser-known African American pioneers to the children of the world and empower them to aspire for excellence and chase their dreams regardless of the complications they may face.  Thank you for taking valuable time from your day to share with us in this blogosphere.  Please provide any thoughts, comments, and/or questions in the comments section… and when you do please be sure to answer this question as well – What’s Your M.O.?