I agree with Marian Wright Edelmen, who spoke recently with Tavis Smiley about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, beyond the 60s: “We love our prophets, we love the dream, but we don’t love the bounced promissory note.”

On a personal level, I look at how far we have not come since the 1963 March on Washington:

On the one hand as you read this, lucky college freshmen, such as our daughter and her friends, settle into their new lives. On the other, I find myself mentoring an 8-months-pregnant 19-year-old, caught in the vortex of poverty, a broken home and juvenile offenses; holding on to the only thing she has to promise her baby at the moment: a creative mind and a fierce will to change for the better.

One—of many—evidences of this failed dream is right under our noses all over America: the group of youngsters we throw away to our broken juvenile justice system. Our culture is well designed: we don’t have to see these young folk if we don’t choose to. They are kept well out of sight.

Emotional times.

A year ago I was like most of you—had no idea about the alternative education system within school districts across the country that struggle to address this huge problem. Having spent a school year volunteering “inside”  a school many describe as “the last stop” (before jail) for many of the middle to high school students who end up there (my pregnant mentee included),  I can say in too many cases it is a vicious cycle that must change.

“We love our prophets, we love the dream, but we don’t love the bounced promissory note…We’ve sanitized and trivialized and romanticized Dr. King. We need to not just celebrate him, we need to FOLLOW him. He told us what to do—we need to get about the business of doing it—sacrifice ourselves and understand that if our children go down we’re going down as a nation with them. And if as Black folk we let this happen on our watch, then shame on us. ”  — Marian Wright Edelman, Founder & President, Children Defense Fund

Please join me and make the choice to look at the thrown away generations. America deserves the talents of ALL her young people to help us make a truly vital country. Choose to RE-SPECT them—to see them again—and help them re-spect themselves.

Thanks to Tavis Smiley Reports for this empowered place to start:


“Tavis Smiley Reports: Education Under Arrest looks at the efforts by those on the frontlines of juvenile justice reform and what programs succeed in breaking the school-to-prison pipeline.” ~ Tavis Smiley on PBS