End of Year 1 of PhD Side Effects at 4am

Dear Leaders of USA,

I am an educator of ten years, an educational researcher and activist and 2nd year doctoral student of education at a mid-west university. Today, I want you to understand my scholarship. Author, feminist, and social activist, bell hooks wrote, “There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures.” I believe I am part of that paradigm and you Mr. Vice President and Mr. President are the practical model for social change. Several research studies establish that children’s socioemotional well-being is strongly associated with family socioeconomic resources. There are many organizations committed to creating strategies to fight poverty and redistribute resources more equitably. Sadly, according to a new analysis of 2013 federal data, “For the first time in at least 50 years, a majority of U.S. public school students come from low-income families” (Layton, 2015). The rise of social injustices have led me to dedicate my life to creating justice curricula to help students understand the unjust world around them and become agents of change. My dream is to create social and environmental justice curricula with K-12 students. The U.S. Census states: 40% percent of Flint’s population is living in poverty, also surviving polluted water, making it the second most poverty-stricken city in the nation by size.  Please empower us teachers, students, and parents by helping us achieve some voice in the education of our children.

Since I grew up in the town where Treyvon Martin was murdered, I felt it was a tragedy but not a shocking one.  Less than 20 minutes from where Treyvon was gunned down, Skittles in hand, exist Klan members that organize freely.  The poverty is notorious. When I was 9 years old I had a friend who always had long, dirty nails and dirty, unkempt hair.  The summer of 1994, “[The] Nine-year old on Saturday joined her sister, brother, and mother in death, succumbing to the bullet her mother put through her head on Friday afternoon.” (Oliver, 1994).  My friend’s impoverished and abused mother suffered  a mental breakdown.  She broke down, called her mother saying, “killed my babies,” and shot and killed her three children and herself.  The headlines were incomprehensible to me.  How can a 9 year old fathom: “Police declined to speculate on why [the woman] shot her children and then herself with a .38-caliber revolver [that] Friday.”  My friend was the eldest child.  She lived two horrendous days before passing due to the gunshot wound through her small face.  The community was traumatized.

2 months prior to the death of my friend I received a perfumed letter “from” President Bill Clinton:


December 1993 I was very dissatisfied with answers adults gave me about poverty.  During Christmas break my family visited the White House for the first time.  I was greatly astonished by the amount of homeless people I saw.  I kept asking my father for coins to give but he eventually ran out. My papi told me to think of another way of helping. Eight year old Alba knew President Clinton jogged around the capital each morning and I wondered why the homelessness did not bother him.  I decided to write him a letter.

I chose a career in education because I believe it can be transformative and help undo some of the woes of the world, like poverty.  When I taught 3rd grade during the 2011-2012 school year in Brooklyn, NY, we saw education falling apart.  With my 9 year old students we decided to write President Obama.  We each wrote a letter about things that needed fixing in our schools:  class sizes were large, high stakes testing took up valuable class time and we learned nothing from it, and there was always a lack of materials in our schools.  We received a reply from “The President” – an erroneous letter, which spoke if animals” rights.

It’s been over 20 years since I wrote President Clinton and four years since I wrote President Obama.  Now, as a doctoral student, I still believe I can be part of the change to save our schools.  I am writing the President asking for help.  Statistics are saying that over 50% of our students receive free and reduced lunches.  If you ask the students if free lunch is what they really want, they will answer no.  They still want smaller class sizes, less testing, more art, music and recess and meaningful and multicultural curricula.  I am committed to hearing the demands of our students and doing my best to advocate for my students.  I’ve made a career out of it!

Why not teach our students some of our ugly history, like colonialization and internment camps?  Why not allow them to see the world as it is and help us find solutions.  Our kids are smart enough.  In fact, I would bet all that I have that some of our youngest – they’d make better decisions than all y’all!!