"Parent Power" Goes to Washington
On Wednesday, May 9 2012, U.S. Congresswomen Yvette D. Clarke and Karen Bass co-sponsored a briefing of the CEJ Documentary "Parent Power" on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC. This was a very welcoming first for the film, which chronicles 15 years of parent organizing in NYC beginning in the South Bronx. As featured parent leaders in "Parent Power," it was like having our wish come true. The sole purpose of making "Parent Power" was to have it be used as a vehicle to show parents from all walks of life that they have a right to organize around education injustices and the power to be totally engaged in ensuring that their children receive a quality and well-rounded education.
The purpose of us doing our presentation of "Parent Power" in Washington, DC, was to begin to scale up our mission of creating a national movement to implement federal policy regarding parent/family engagement. In order for this movement to be successful we must foster a national public will so that we can influence the political will, which is why we invited Capitol Hill staff as well as parent and community organizations from the area.
We felt honored to be in the room with parents from across the DC area. As parent advocates and activists, we know the sacrifices parents make to attend meetings and other events that are not part of their daily lives, so we pray that they were inspired and motivated to go back to their communities to view the film, and discuss how they can build their power to improve the education in the schools of their communities.
We applaud Congresswomen Clarke and Bass for understanding the importance of parental engagement and we thank them for co-sponsoring this viewing. It was a first step in the film reaching lawmakers on Capitol Hill. It is very important that others follow in the footsteps of Congresswomen Clarke and Bass in understanding just how effective good parent/family engagement can be for schools and communities. To hear Congresswoman Clarke's story about the critical role her parents played in shaping who she has become was very inspirational, and truly crystallized the purpose for which the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and NYC Coalition for Educational Justice created Parent Power.
We would love for Secretary Duncan and others in the Obama Administration to take a look at our film and have an open and honest dialog with the filmmakers, parents, and the Annenberg Institute’s staff about the film and the power that informed and engaged ordinary parents have in creating positive changes for the schools in their communities.
[Note from Zakiyah]
On several different occasions, I had the opportunity to hear Secretary Duncan speak about education and his thoughts on parent/family engagement, and on both occasions I was able to ask him a question. In 2009 at the National Action Network Conference in NYC , I asked Secretary Duncan how he saw parents engaged in his education plan?
“Parents should turn off the television,” he responded.
Let's just say that response was frightening and appalling to me. Moreover, it was truly indicative of how far he would be willing to go to legislate any real parent/family engagement policy.
I saw Secretary Duncan again in 2010, and I asked him a similar question. This time his response was more rehearsed.
"It's really difficult to legislate parent/family engagement, but if you have any ideas I'd love to hear them,” he said.
At that point I presented him with a folder containing strategies on exactly how he could legislate. However, we never got feedback from him. Perhaps we will send a copy of "Parent Power" to Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Will he believe it if he sees it?