“Powerful.” “Honest.” “Inspirational.” “It touched every emotion and bone in my body.” Those are just a few of the words and comments used by attendees expressing their reaction on Saturday, May 17, when the Wisconsin State NAACP Conference of Branches presented An Education Summit for Wisconsin: 1954 – 2014, the Changing Face of Public Education, at Aldrich Middle School, in Beloit, home of the state’s oldest NAACP branch.
The day-long event, paid tribute to the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and focused heavily on the education issues and barriers facing students of color in the state of Wisconsin.
Many of those issues have been documented in the national study, titled “Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for all Children,” produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
In that study, Wisconsin was identified as the worse state in the nation (ranking 50th) for black children seeking a better future in the areas of educational and financial achievement.
The event, attended by over a 100 participants, began with an opening welcome given by Wendell J. Harris, NAACP State Conference 1st Vice President and State Education Committee Chair. Featured opening session speakers included Wisconsin State School Superintendent, Dr. Tony Evers who outlined the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s Agenda 2017, an education reform plan whose goal is to reform education to ensure that every child graduates ready for future education and the workplace. Atty. Victor Goode, NAACP Assistant General Counsel and Interim National Education Director, spoke to the significance of the Brown v. Board decision today.
He discussed what’s being done to segregate schools and classrooms, the trend toward voluntary segregation, and coordinating fair housing with schools. He stated that more civic engagement for equity in schools is needed and promoted the use of federal civil rights laws as tool for justice.
The Opening Plenary Session featured Minister Caliph Muab’El, Vice President of M.O.S.E.S. whose presentation positioned the state’s zeal to incarcerate instead of educate in his address, “Wisconsin’s Misplaced Priorities: the School to Prison Pipeline.” Minister Muab’El’s life story brought to the forefront the meaning of purpose in the lives of young black males and the motivation to change.
Throughout the day, Youth and Adult attendees participated in concurrent workshops that included discussions on Core Curriculum and Legislation, Education Advocacy, College Access and Restorative Justice and the powerful, I Will Not Die Young workshop, presented by Kwabena Antoine Nixon. The conference featured Keynote Speaker, Dr. Demond A. Means, Superintendent of the Mequon-Thiensville School District, and longest tenured African American school superintendent in Wisconsin.
His powerful message stressed the need to revitalize the fight action against de facto segregation in Wisconsin first brought forward by the late Lloyd Barbee, attorney and Wisconsin State NAACP President in the 1960’s and 70’s. Dr. Means called for a “Barbee moment” today…we need to advocate and stay on the battle field for our children.