U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell said:
Frank Sinatra, himself a stamp honoree, once characterized Ray Charles as “the only true genius in show business,” and certainly, if anyone was a musical genius, it was Ray Charles. Despite being blind and having a young life marked by tragedy, hardship and tremendous challenges, Ray Charles went on to have a remarkable 58-year career playing music that blurred the lines of jazz, gospel, blues and, in later years, country. In doing so, he became the personification of the American Dream.
The Postal Service also made available an unreleased recording of a Ray Charles song, “They Can’t Take That Away From Me.”
Indeed, they can’t take that away from me -- loving Ray Charles.
The new school year got off to a rocky start in Philadelphia.
Students must navigate the school system without guidance counselors. About 60 percent of all schools do not have a full-time counselor. A group of 16 ‘itinerant’ counselors will serve eight schools with a combined enrollment of 48,000 students. Do the math: That’s one counselor for 3,000 students.
The failure to fund basic education means in some schools, students will have to “hold it” because there are no hall monitors to unlock the bathroom doors.
Education for a Better America seeks to promote, fund and sponsor educational systems that serve the needs of students in urban communities. Philadelphia is dealing with a major crisis in public education. The children in Philadelphia deserve better. The focus should be on closing the achievement gap, not closing schools.
Ms. Sharpton asked:
If there are no guidance counselors, who will help students apply for college and financial aid?
The concern about the defunding of Philly’s public schools was echoed by speaker after speaker, including Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
While noting he has no direct control over the school district, Nutter said:
We need a new and real education funding formula across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania…There’s not one reason in the world that the things we have asked Harrisburg to do have not happened. If you’re not going to help us, let us help ourselves.
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry T. Jordan said help is long overdue:
After many years of underfunding, our children are in the position where they are not getting the basics…They don’t have access to libraries because librarians have been laid off. They can’t access resources at multimillion dollar libraries…Class sizes have ballooned. Some classes have 40, 50, 60 children.
Jordan questioned whether the facilities should be called public schools:
Philadelphia schools have been starved to the point where it’s almost unfair to call them public schools.
It’s criminal for the state to abandon its responsibility to provide an adequate education. Gov. Corbett says teachers should pay for the deficit out of their pockets. He’s withholding $45 million until he’s satisfied that teachers have given up enough.
Jordan said we must move beyond “band-aid solutions to get us through another school year.”
Sharpton denounced a solution that scapegoats teachers who are on the frontline:
We need to bust that up and fight for the right to a public education. It will inspire children because they will know someone cares about them… We need an education movement to show in the name of Dr. King that education is a civil right. We cannot fulfill the dream without fighting for quality education.
He questioned the Governor’s priorities:
You got money, Corbett, for jails, but no money for schools. And you ask what's wrong with the kids? I come to ask, “What's wrong with you?” Bible says that you reap what you sow. Well, if you invest in jails and cut the budget on schools, you’re investing in incarceration rather than education.
Sharpton plans to expose what’s happening in Philadelphia on his MSNBC show, “PoliticsNation”:
The whole world needs to know that in the City of Brotherly Love they are building jails and closing schools…The whole world needs to know what’s happening here in Philadelphia. Unelected officials have destabilized the city and children’s right to a quality education.
We will take the veil off the city. We will not lie. We want you to stand buck naked before the world and let them see what’s happening here.
There are no new books, no art or music, few guidance counselors and no plan to provide IEP services as mandated by federal and state law. Roughly 14 percent of the school district’s 136,000 students are in special education, which includes homeless, foster and gifted children.
On Feb. 28, 2013, 7000 Villagers filed a class action lawsuit to stop the school closings and protect the interests of students who under federal and state law are classified as “special needs” students. The school district is required to develop and implement an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) for each special needs student. The lawsuit is about shared sacrifice (publicly funded charter and cyber schools are not subject to the “doomsday budget”), transparency and accountability. The bottom line: Follow the money.
It bears remembering that Gov. Tom Corbett runs Philly schools through the unelected School Reform Commission.
The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is in the history books. Sadly, the impact of role of jazz musicians and the jazz culture in breaking down barriers to racial integration has largely been lost to history.
In 1939, Billie Holiday told the nation that “Southern trees bear a strange fruit.”
In 1955, Louis Armstrong transformed Fats Waller’s song of unrequited love, “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black and Blue,” into an anthem of protest against racial discrimination.
Holiday, Armstrong and Waller were members of the Harlem Renaissance. In his invocation at the “Let Freedom Ring” commemoration, Pastor A.R. Bernard Sr. noted how artists helped ignite the civil rights movement:
They called themselves the New Negro Movement, better known as the Harlem Renaissance, creating their own literature, art, music, theater. They artistically and intellectually challenged the pervading black stereotypes. From this generation emerged names like W.E.B. DuBois, Alain LeRoy Locke, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Fats Waller and Duke Ellington.
White America experienced it and said, “Ooh, we like the style of these people.” So they enjoyed it, adopted it, integrated it and exploited it. And the popularity of black style and culture soon spread throughout the country. But it was not enough for black folks to be artistically admired. Blacks wanted and demanded full participation in the social, political and economic life of American society. And that attitude set the stage for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and the 1960s.
The legacy of the March on Washington include the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In February 2014, we will commemorate the signing of that seminal legislation, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s remarks at the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival. For more information, send us an email.