Mama's Brunch for Quality Education in Jackson, MS
At 11 am on October 13, 2018, Jackson’s mamas got together at the Mississippi Museum of Art to engage in an honest conversation on education and the centering of black motherhood in Jackson, Mississippi. MomsRising and the People’s Advocacy Institute led the initiative in partnership with the Jackson Council PTA & the P16 Council . The conversation was supported by several community groups, including the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), Jackson People’s Assemblies, Mothers Obtaining Justice & Opportunities (MOJO), Center for Ideas, Equity & Radical Change, Clean Slate, and Fresh Start.
The intention to the conversation was set by Michelle Henry, who leads the P16 Council. In her opening remarks, Michelle shared about the work and the necessity of the P16 council as a critical space in the JPS context. Rukia Lumumba, who leads the People’s Advocacy Institute shared about raising black children to realize their full potential within the context of systemic oppression and school to prison pipeline that black mothers have to constantly combat. Ebony Lumumba, the First Lady of Jackson, shared about her values and the work her non profit MOJO Mama is spearheading at Tougaloo to support mothers in college. Beatrice Beckford, who is the Campaign Director of MomsRising, shared a national lens on the issue of quality education and the school to prison pipeline while outlining the vision, work and efforts of MomsRising.
Several mothers and grandmothers shared personal truths and lived experiences of their children and grandchildren who are in the local school systems. The stories they shared range from children’s experiences with teachers that do not fully center the humanity, potential and growth of each child, to the experiences parents and children have with teachers and administration because of outdated, punitive and inequitable policies.
The conversation by itself became an organic space of sharing personal traumas that are unique to black mothers, with a clear focus on a pathway to healing and solutions. Some of the organizations represented in the space focus on parent organizing, community engagement, parental communication, and business partnerships in the district, while others provide services such as, legal, technical, cultural and economic support, engage in stakeholder specific capacity building, resource generation and redistribution, skill sharing, training, dismantling the school to prison pipeline, prison abolition, youth advocacy, and critical support of the just transition of returning citizens to communities.
This was a necessary and timely conversation that calls for several next steps. Some of the possibilities discussed include sustainable, transformative, policy driven, multi-stakeholder framing of a community engagement strategy that cohesively connects 1) Jacksonians to Jacksonians, 2) Jacksonians to Jackson based organizations, support groups & service providers, and 3) Jacksonians to institutions. An eco-system based approach to addressing inequities in the public education system, centering children at the core of transforming the district, supporting the elevation of women and mothers across the socio-economic spectrum to impact school policy, broadening and deepening the analysis of power that school districts utilize to shaping curricula & introducing new policy through the lens of ethics, equity and economic justice.
As Melissa Harris Perry said, “recognizing humanity will always be revolutionary.” A big salute to black mamas that fight for their humanity, that of their children, and their family members.
Chokwe Lumumba, the late mayor of Jackson once said, “I think some of the most significant things happen in history when you get the right people in the right place at the right time and I think that’s what we are.” In this moment in time in Jackson, MS, Mama’s Brunch for Quality Education is that, a truly grassroots effort that believes in and invests in the power of black motherhood to imagine and build a thriving Jackson.