The flashy affair was over.  Finals were happening in a few days and The Kid was ready.  We attended the Senior Parent Breakfast and waited to pick up our cap & gown.  You will notice I talk about this moment as if it were mine but we worked at this. So, we celebrated this moment together.img_4143

Now, this senior breakfast wasn’t a high point for me.  Especially after I saw that buffet line.  In true fashion, that kid knew I wasn’t about that life and he got my pancakes. Not wanting to be a brat I stood in line for the other portion. During the running around, we took this picture. Yup – he got me by a few inches! God answered my prayers. 😉  This was the final whoo rah for the seniors.  The final grades were being calculated and the verdict would be announced the coming Friday.  These 10 days were taking the longest time to get to us.  This was the only moment we were really waiting on.  I told you about part of our struggles to get here.  See, his dad graduated out of summer school and he didn’t want to repeat that experience. We worked our asses off, he more than me but I kept a light fire under it to keep him on his toes.  Then June 9th happened and he handed me this when we met up with each other. img_4187.jpg

For the 3rd time during this journey, I shed a few tears.  He reached over and hugged me exclaiming “I told you I’d get it done.”  This cap and gown made it real. I held on to that thing like it was mine because somewhere in my soul it was.  I worried, prayed, and cursed to get him right here. I’m that teenage mom that had never even baby sat a child and here I was about to watch mine walk across the stage to accept his diploma. My expectations were firm but my methods kept changing but he did it.  Yeah, it would’ve been easier if he had done it my way but this was his story. I needed to let him do it his way.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/i-made-it/id204509084?i=204509140

So the morning of the graduation was here, and I posted the picture that matched my mood.  Hashtag #TheFinisher – I was beyond ready and I even packed a handkerchief. img_3986

This picture captured everything I was feeling about this meeting.  In a graduating class of 262 students, all I could see was him.  He strolled pass me as they marched in the theater of the Michigan Opera House.  This was a long ceremony and for a short moment, I was ready to rip all the programs up because I didn’t see his name. When I found it in its respective area, #CarryOn. Then they asked the graduates to stand up and I was on my muthf’n feet -which happened to be in some 5″ heels but let’s go. Then I got this message: I remember this paper being in his room on his desk and of course he forgot it. Now, I gotta run down the aisle like I’m on the Price is Right. Then I got back to my seat and cheered for all the kids that spoke when they were on the phone with him, introduced to me, called me “Ma, Auntie & Ms. Wilson.” Then I saw him make his way to the stage. #Leego The announcer said Lorez Wilson and I lost it – screaming, clapping, jitting up the aisle (my footwork was unmatched) and I did all of this while taking pictures.

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Did you notIce me mention I cried? NOPE! I had shed all the tears prior to this day.  This day was for smiles. We did it. In 1999, this event seemed to be a million years away but with each passing year, I realized how close we were.  As we made our way out to the streets of Detroit, I couldn’t wait to see him and congratulate him one more time. I found him in the swarm of black and yellow.  His smile was as bright as the day but I saw something in his eyes.  We snapped a few images in the daylight.

I asked to see the diploma and he told me they had to pick it up from the school later on. WTH DPSCD? We left headed to Joe Muer for lunch with Grandma. Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you he cut his hair off prior to graduation. I was looking at a young man ready to make his mark in the world.  Little did he know he had already done a good amount of that through me.  I was different because and for him.  He is the best part of me.  Everything I never knew I needed.img_4240
While we were at lunch I learned his dad had not shown up to the graduation, after I gave up my opportunity to monopolize this event. I knew I saw something in his eyes at the theater. It was sadness.  Afterward, he went and got a tattoo (how could I say no- I have 16) and I sat down to REST.  I thank everybody that was on this journey with me. All of your help was and still is appreciated.  You never left me out here to do this by myself. The village of Marti truly came through for this kid. There are so many to name but I’m positive I’ve already told you personally. Eternally grateful to you all for everything because I know your love for him is an extension of the love you have for me.

August 1st, while I’m sitting in my chair at work listening to inspirational music this little exchange occurred and it gave this chapter closure.

As we tackle this next mission, I’m positive he’ll be just fine but I’ll be right there to throw an assist if needed.

 

 

I believe Malcolm X said it best, “Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”   As parents, we expect the educational system to provide a sufficient foundation for our children to build upon during the next steps in their life.  After Brown vs. The Board of Education, there was a blanket of security wrapped around black people who assured them they would receive the same education and opportunity as their suburban neighbors.  During a time of great social unrest and concern for #BlackLivesMatter, we find ourselves in Detroit preparing to go to battle regarding education and its numerous failures to our children.  Sit back and read my frustrations mingled in with the facts being presented in relation to how DPS and the political machine have left these children and teachers out.  This is an extended emergency and too many have turned away.

Over the pass several weeks, the teachers here have become “sick and tired of being sick and tired” and have been demonstrating through sick-outs.  The first I heard of this was one day when I pulled up to drop The Kid off at school.  He said, “Aww man Ma, I might have to go back home because these teachers have been talking about a sick out.” WHAT?! With no time to drill him about this, I went on to work and classes were not canceled.  It was later on that day that I learned what was going on.

I completely agree with the sentiment expressed in the video.  After countless messages via email and my representative about books with limited to no response.  This was puzzling to someone who is only 17 years out of high school herself.  Yes, I attended public schools in Detroit and they always gave us the ” it’s not in the budget” speech.  However, look at how much enrollment has decreased in the city.  I’m not making these numbers up.  Not as many kids, would mean to me, there are more resources to allocate to the students. Right?

Enrollment

They’ve closed numerous institutions within the city to cut the cost of under-populated schools and pushed kids to other schools that are not in their neighborhood.  All in an effort to become more efficient.  So far the plans they hatched, cracked, cooked and shitted out are not working.  As I said, I attended and graduated from DPS and here is the short version of the history of my former schools.  The first school I ever attended was Sanders Elementary School.

This was the only picture I could find of the place because it was demolished very early in this century.  As you can see, once I left there it was no question where I was going next. The school right across the baseball field was my next stop and that was – Harry B. Hutchins Intermediate School. Every day I looked forward to crossing through these doors in anticipation to learn ANYTHING.

This school held a special place in my heart.  It was here that I was exposed to my love of science through DAPCEP, was inducted into the National Junior Honor’s Society, developed my personal style, learned to swim, got paddled on the hand when I was out of line and experienced my first school dance.  It was a wonderful time but as times and populations changed so did my beloved middle school.  Here’s a small slide show of the place that cultivated someone eager to learn continually. (Some pictures including are courtesy of this site.)

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You will notice that my middle and elementary schools were a standoff point during the Detroit ’67 riots.  After leaving this school, some family concerns forced me to split from my friends and I entered Beaubien Junior High School and went to Mumford for a short spell.  All to return to the same high school my entire Detroit family graduated from – Northern Senior High School.  NorthernHighSchool

This is the only institution still in functioning order.  The only difference now is it’s home to the Detroit International Academy for Young Women.  I’m sure you can imagine all of the memories I created within these halls and the expectations I had as I became a parent. The education was sufficient even though we could have had more but the budget never allowed us to get everything the teachers wanted for us.  We made due with what we had, we succeeded and I graduated in 1998.

The Diploma

So you can imagine my frustration when I kept looking for the answers to where his educational tools were.  The tools I was looking for were books.  Books for all his classes. There was one day I asked him about homework and he showed me a picture on his phone.  What kinda lazy shit was this?! He told me, this is what he needed to do because they do not have books to give each child.  WHAT?!  Are you implying they don’t have money to get you all the supplies you need?  He couldn’t give me an answer but in his 3 years within the Detroit Public School system, he has only brought a book home twice and that was when he stole it out the building.  So, you need to steal to get an education in Detroit in 2015?  This was and is unacceptable.  I had more questions the teachers/administrators could not answer.  So when the shit hit the fan about the “sick outs”, I was on board.  These are the concerns I have been having.  Not only for my son but all of the children.  Why?  I’m seeing the reports stating “Detroit students are not prepared for college when they leave high school.”  Was this a bad side effect of no child left behind?  My mind continued to race for information and resources to get answers.  My mom told me about a state representative that was explaining all the details at the church and brought me some literature to read.  I read it but it still wasn’t clear to me.  I didn’t get any solid answers until the beginning of 2016.  The SICK OUTS finally hit Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.  In a quick crawl through social media, I was given an over abundance of information.  Let’s start with a declining timeline which begins right after my graduation year.

Schools

The writing is right there in this infographic supplied by one of the educators within my circle of Facebook friends.  Feel free to open it up and take a good look at it.  From Surplus to bust with almost 120k missing students in the last 17 years.  Where are the students? Falling over into neighboring districts for an opportunity at better.

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This wasn’t even an option for me.  The kid wanted to go to KING and who was I to deny him his dream.  I graduated from DPS and I was alright.  I needed to know what was so wrong that they needed to go this far to protest in the middle of a school year.  Things should be better by now.  Nope, my timeline was littered with the truth.  This information was disturbing. Here’s some of it:

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These were the answers I had been looking for but didn’t want to find.  The system was failing our children on a higher level and the parents had no idea.  The teachers have taken all they could and now they wanted action.  In my support for them I found more upsetting information about our schools:

Horror House Unhealthy

I posted these things and videos to show what was going on and my frustration with the way our children’s welfare is being handled.  The institution my son attends does not have any visible signs of wear, I can see, from my numerous visits inside.  This for me was about the community and being a voice for those that I felt needed my help.  During all of this the one thing that kept jumping out at me, was everything minorities have been through to obtain an education in a land that provides it to its residents and I became angrier and focused on learning how I could help.  I used my social media pages to spread the word to parents of DPS kids, charter school kids and children outside the district.  The community needed to become outraged. Generally speaking, we all are products of DPS that have ventured off but this is the system that showed us there was more for us in this world.  How dare them deny our young for whatever reasons they may have?!  Hell, we’re only one generation out of school before this decline began happening.

This system was already FUCKED up when my son got there in 2013.  I made a plea to leave this place for better and he chose to stay in this school.  He and I have talked about teachers that have walked out on them and never returned.  He’s been through more substitutes and abandoning teachers than I have had my entire scholastic career.  Then people wonder why the students are having an even harder time learning.  They can’t adjust to the daily changes that are happening at home and then school as well.  The only consistent thing some of them have is their friends.  That’s also lofty idea because there are still parents ripping their kids from the district in search of better than THIS. He’s been bounced around from class to class in search of instructors or lack there of. They don’t know if the teacher is coming back or they have to fend for themselves.  This certainly isn’t a way to learn or trust the education system.

It’s not enough to say the system was already bad.  It’s not an option to relocate these children in haste.  It’s not fair to give the appearance that learning is being done and it’s not.  Have we lost our will to fight for what we believe is fair?  Have we turned a blind eye to the educational needs of our children?  Is the future of our children less important than our own?  I do not want to accept yes to these questions. With four Emergency Managers over the Detroit Public Schools, no one has found solutions for the EMERGENCY of these children not receiving a proper education in the wake of financial ruin – year after year.  As the old saying goes, “desperate times call for desperate measures.”  We’re desperate if you can’t tell.

#SupportTheTeachers

#StandUpForTheStudents

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year my son informed me that he wanted to take the High School Test which is a big deal here in Detroit. See it’s the passing or failing of this test that let’s you know if you’ve been accepted into one of Detroit’s premier high schools. For the 1st time in his life, I felt he was taking some real interest in his future. It was a semi-cold afternoon in January as we rode toward the testing site and I asked him “Are you ready?” He said, “I’m fine.” During one of my regular chauffeuring trips to get him EVERYWHERE he needs to go. I told him I was proud of him and that everything would be alright. The closer we got to the hotel (that’s where they took the test) I sensed a change in his demeanor. When I pulled in front of the building he reached for the door and said “I just got nervous..” He opened the door, walked inside and that was that. When I came to pick him up after the test he made mention that it was easy. That’s when I got nervous!

The results take a significant amount of time to get in. The kids are on pins and needles wondering – Did I pass? #19 is coming home with bad news of his friends that didn’t pass. His own teacher told him he wouldn’t pass and that he was a failure. I hope you all know that I didn’t take her words light and my actions were straight from the GHETTO MOMMA HANDBOOK!! She got the message and left mine alone. His birthday came which is April 3rd and still no answer, on if he got in. One of his friends that came out with us told us that he failed. In some strange yet appreciated way, Lorez’s faith kicked in and he screamed to the top of his lungs that HE PASSED. I looked sideways, because I haven’t received anything in the mail stating that this was a fact. He explained to us on the ride home, they send out all the failing letters 1st then send those out to the students that passed. The next morning, I could’ve start calling him prophet Wilson. There the letter was informing us that he had been accepted to the Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School of Detroit, Michigan. Needless to say he wasn’t as excited because he already knew, somehow.

May 8th, marked the day that we would go in for Freshmen orientation for the graduating class of 2017. Within the first 20 minutes, I broke down because my Duke, Manchild, Kid and favorite son was growing into a young man I was proud to call him my son. The majority of his friends decided to go to Cass. He was here all alone. The reality of this moment meant more to me than words will ever be able to describe. As a single mom I was beating the odds. This 14 year old black boy was taking life seriously, not becoming a menace to society or becoming another negative statistic. I shield my tears as not to let him see and took in this moment. My first-born was on his way to high school. Hell, it feels like I was just in high school (15 years ago, lol). Last & First Day The morning of June 5th, I pulled up to drop him off at the only school he’s ever attended in his educational career Martin Luther King Jr. Education Center Academy. Today was graduation day and it started at 1pm. With a truck full of emotion running through my body, I got dressed and there on time. As the graduates marched in I spotted my joy on any day, sitting there cooler than cucumbers on a side salad. Then my phone start vibrating. It was him texting me that his dad was coming to this glorious occasion. Let me be honest, I damn near lost it!!! All of the chapters from the GMH were running through my head: Wtf, wtf, wth, no he didn’t, somebody hold my purse, let me at him, I’m bout to tear this mutha down and who do he think he is!!! Then the Kid text me again and says “Calm down.” I told him I would try and he graciously replied thank you. I look up at him and mouthed that I loved him. Then I noticed a strange look on his face and right when I was about to text him, Shawn screams out “Hey Rolo!” The clown had moved closer to me and was trying to speak. My friend Daryl had to push the word hey out of my mouth, literally with a nice little shove. Then his mother appeared and I gave her a big hug and this other lady was with her. And you know what they wanted – SEATS, and I had a few. His godmother’s and Shawn’s seat, so I let them have them and opted to stand for the remaining portion of the ceremony. If my emotions weren’t already all over the place before, they sure as hell were now.

As they gave the awards, announced the schools that each child was promoted to Lorez stood alone as the only member of his class going to MLK High School. His cheering squad was the loudest because we already know the greatness that is within him. They announced that he held a 3.6 GPA his entire final year. He grabbed his certificate, walked across the stage and out of the first 2 portions of his primary education. Then I spied with my observant eyes this guy that looked familiar to me returning toward the rear of the auditorium after taking pictures… And I want to field goal kick the phone out of his hand with my 5″ heel sandals I was wearing. But I remembered the message “Calm down.” As the newly promoted high school freshmen walked out to meet their families and say their farewells to the staff, I shed a tear. I did it. I got him over this 1st hurdle. I stood there for a moment and took it all in and orchestrated an opportunity for me NOT to run into this guy that screamed out.. “That’s MY son,” that I almost recognized. Esha stayed back with me to keep me calm and I was glad she was there to bring me some peace, in a storm I was about to manufacture comparable to a hurricane.

I realized that I need to talk with his dad about the anger I harvested toward him in his absence in my rearing of this amazing child. That’s all I have to say about that.

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After the pictures were taken, we went to lunch, spent more money in honor of a job well done and enjoyed the company of good family and friends. I reflected on the events of the day. Something that I heard Oprah say came to me, “there’s a time in our child’s life when we as parents are the manager. Then we must shift to be the consultant.” My time was drawing near for me to become just that in his life. I’m very proud of him to this point and his future looks very bright if he stays focused on his goals. 🙂 for me – I have a high school student!!!

Congrats to all the GRADUATES this year!!!