Education summit finds its focus

Dr. Stephanie Evans, director of African American Studies at the University of Florida, was the keynote speaker at the education summit.

Lauren Joos/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 at 9:54 p.m.

An education summit on the "State of Education in the African American Community" ended last Saturday afternoon with several community organizations pledging to focus on three issues.

Nearly 30 people representing all facets of the community, from local teachers to the African American Studies Department at the University of Florida and the Alachua County branch of the NAACP to the United Way as well as others attended the six-hour summit held at the King Center.

The summit has become an annual event during the annual King Celebration. It was sponsored by the African American Accountability Alliance of Alachua County and the Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Florida Inc.

After discussing the local problems of the state of education in the African-American community, including the low percentage of African-American teachers and the number of parents who are not engaged in the education of their children, summit participants were charged with coming up with issues to be addressed throughout the year.

Cheryl Williams, chairwoman of the 4As educational committee who presided over the summit, revealed the group's three issues of concern. They are mentoring/tutoring, accountability and parent engagement.

Williams said committees now will be formed that will meet quarterly to discuss the progress being made toward reaching these goals. The committees will meet at the 2012 summit to discuss the impact.

The keynote speaker at the summit was Dr. Stephanie Y. Evans, director of African American Studies at UF. One of the main points Evans made during her presentation is that black youth can be guided by the testimonies of other blacks who have achieved success.

She said everybody has an autobiography, and she suggested some that should be read by blacks, especially young blacks, that will teach lessons in identity, resilience, empowerment, substance, positivity and other things vital for self-growth.

She suggested numerous books that would serve that purpose, including the "Autobiography of Malcolm X," a leader of the black power movement in the 1960s, and "I, Tina," the autobiography of singer Tina Turner.

The summit also included a parent discussion with four parents who primarily talked about the role parents must play to make sure their children succeed in school.

One parent, Germaine Brown, said he feels it is "80 percent" his responsibility to make sure his child gets a good education. Brown was joined on the panel by his wife, Andrea Brown, and two other parents, Wilma Rogers and Stephanie Hines.

There also was a panel discussion with community leaders, including Officer Ernest Graham of the Gainesville Police Department, Alachua County School Board member Gunnar Paulson, PASSAGE Family Church Pastor George B. Dix Jr. and Faith Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Thorpe.

Graham is a crime prevention officer with GPD, who said truancy and the lack of father figures in black homes are big problems in Alachua County.

He said throughout the years he has been dealing with juveniles locally, he can count the times on one hand that a man came to deal with the child after the child had been taken into custody.

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