02-19-2017  1:18 pm      •     

BVy Lisa Loving Of The Skanner News

This month Portland Public Schools held one of its most important annual celebrations: Young, Gifted and Black. The ceremony honors students of all ages nominated by educators and celebrated in a festive evening event. But the key to the project is in documenting the young peoples' achievements through professional photographs and writing, this year by photographer Marquis Stoudamire and journalist Wade Nkrumah.

The Skanner News spoke with Young, Gifted and Black founder Reiko Williams about the program. Photos of the awards ceremony are by Katharine Kimball
Photography and are courtesy of Portland Public Schools.

The Skanner News: How long have you been doing this and why did you start it?

Reiko Williams: This is the fourth year of the program. I started it in response to overwhelmingly negative information -- internally and externally -- around Black students and their academic and personal progress. I was speaking with a woman and she challenged the idea that there were successful Black students in Portland. I was going to facilitate a workshop on Black student success and she said, "Are there Black students here that are successful?"

And I thought, if she and others think that way, and with persistent negative media stereotypes about Black students – it must be pervasive. I felt like the pervasive message is that Black students aren't faring well. And so I conceived of a program where we can highlight student success.

TSN: So what do you do in the program then?

RW: We started four years ago, hired a professional writer and a professional photographer to interview students to capture their narrative and the photographer took pictures of the students. We held a program so teachers, staff and administrators nominated students and we chose the students and honored them. The program has grown from the first year when we honored 13 students. For the past two years, we have had more than 130 nominees every year but because of budgetary constraints we are able to recognize 25 of them although in our program. We recognized all the nominees and sent certificates of recognition to all the students nominated.

Twenty five of them get their stories told and their photograph taken by a professional photographer who goes out to the school, a professional writer captures their narrative, telling their individual stories. There's not one experience. We live in different households, with different families and different experiences. Young, Gifted and Black acknowledges the different ways our students show up. Success doesn't always look the same.

TSN: How can people support what you're doing?

RW: It's a one time event and we are trying to conceive of ways that we can continue the success of YGB. I just got off the phone with a parent before you called who is so excited she asked, "can I bring six or seven people? Am I limited in terms of the number of people?" It's not just the parent or the staff member who's excited about that student's success. There's a community around that student that they're celebrating and there are other students watching those students achieve success in different ways – it's not just the 4.0 student, not just a student having academic success but students who are interested in engineering, music or in art or athletics, achieving success in different ways. So how can people help? We are limited in terms of the number of students – and I wish that I could acknowledge all of the students.

TSN: What can people in the community do to support this work?

RW: I think what folks can do on a regular basis is to highlight student success, acknowledge the strengths the students possess, not to focus on their weaknesses or challenges. That's the problem our students have in our public education systems—they hear so much negativity. Portland Public Schools has a new initiative on a racial educational equity policy and plan. We're talking about the impact of race and racism and about the psychological trauma around racism that we don't talk about. This program inspired Si Se Puede which is a Latino student recognition program.

Although some people would rather not see race, the program acknowledges that we do, in fact, see race and it doesn't have to be a bad thing. There are assumptions about why people of color may not show up for school events – yet they show up in big numbers at events where we're celebrating student success. No parent wants to only be engaged in schools around negatives like you're kid isn't doing well, or they have discipline issues. We have been engaging with families around negatives and we want to change that conversation. There is institutional responsibility and accountability for the success or failure of any student. Also, there are lots of stories of success, nominated or not. How we view Black students, often based around stereotypical notions and assumptions, can adversely impact their success. Despite the societal and institutional obstacles they all face living in a racist society, Black students excel. The students acknowledged in this program represent thousands of other students like them. Unfortunately, various mediums on local and national levels convey a slanted picture of Black students. I want to set the record straight.

TSN: What is the most important thing for people to know about Young, Gifted and Black?

RW: I really want to focus on the larger societal issues that students face that hamper their success. If you're aware of the news and the reports in North and Northeast Portland about Black students, you often hear about gang affiliation or criminal activity – there seems to be an emphasis on that kind of reporting. I say folks are interested in hearing about student success. And our students need to see images of success, where they see they are part of a larger community where folks are doing great and wonderful things – they just don't talk about it, it doesn't seem newsworthy to the local media. I think the reason why we do it is because it's not understood in the public's mind. Folks are not ready to deal with race, there is so much discomfort around race.

A lot of folks had issue with the fact that we were saying Young, Gifted and Black. Whenever you talk about race, some people raise an eyebrow. But folks didn't have any issue identifying nominees, right? They had no problem identifying who the nominees were.

 

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all
Oregon Lottery
Carpentry Professionals
Calendar

PHOTO GALLERY

Reed College Jobs
His Eye is on the Sparrow