Parents Must Give StudentsWhat They Need To Succeed
(Akron, OH) – “When it comes to educating Black children, the urgency is now,” said Dr. Basil Smikle, Jr on twe 94th birthday of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dr. Smikle was the guest speaker at the 2023 Rev. Dr. M. L. King Lecture held at the Downtown Akron Summit Public Library on Sunday, January 15, 2023. The Eta Tau Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc, lead by President Carlton Barnett, was the host sponsor.
Dr. Smikle drove home the importance of the lecturer's theme: “Never Backwards: Education, Civic Engagement, and Civil Rights.”
Dr. Basil Smikle Jr. is a Distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Public Policy Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College-City University of New York. He also lectures at Columbia University in the School of International and Public Affairs and Teachers College.
“Dr, King’s advocacy fought the wrongs of America from slavery, the New Deal, the 1960’s to present day. Black people have gotten the wrong end of the compromises in the name of Civil Rights. He cited that President F. D. Roosevelt compromised the future of Black workers and their housing to get the New Deal passed. Black workers were originally shut out of Social Security and VA housing which created the wealth and the educational gap we experience today.
Attendees were encouraged to be more involved in their children’s education- especially the Parent Teacher Association (PTA).
Many states are imposing education repression on the teaching of Black history in the home and in the classroom. His solution is for Black parents to stand up for children’s right to a quality education. Do you want politicians to tell you what can happen in your home”
An increased focus on civic engagement, character building and educational excellence is the key to student success. “What happens in the home is most important. Parents must stand up for student’s rights.”
As a guest commentator on MSNBC, CNN, Bloomberg News, The Hill, The New York Times and The Washington Post - he strongly proposed the re-introduction of the study of Civics in the classroom.
He holds a PhD in Politics and Education and a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and received a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University. He served as the Executive Director of the New York State Democratic Party where he was the “second highest ranking Democrat” in the State. Basil was a senior aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton on her Senate staff.
Dr. King wrestled with the denial of quality education for Black children. He knew that poor education ruled out opportunities to educate and motivate our children for the future.
Black families must show students that they care, demand better college preparedness, hold schools accountable, , and work with teachers as a team for their child’s successes.
“If we follow Dr. King’s example, there are still many opportunities for change in America.”
As a member of 100 Black Men, he helped start the Eagle Academy in the Bronx which has grown to 6 schools in New York and New Jersey, Dr Smikle stopped short of endorsing school vouchers. “It depends on the neighborhood and state,” he said. “Parents need to have the options to provide the best education for their child.” “But, public school education is our best solution- if funded properly.
Dr. Smikle had nothing but high praise for NBA champion and Akron native LeBron James and his I-Promise School. “We need more people like LeBron who are committed to quality education.”
The COVID pandemic has had a profound effect on Black students and education. “Too many children are under tremendous stress,” he noted. “We need to give them more attention and listen to their concerns. Now is the time for more mental health and cultural awareness programs in the classroom.”
Dr, Smikle urged more intergenerational conversations. A life-long New Yorker raised in the Bronx by Jamaican immigrants, Basil was always inspired by his father - a retired textile worker, his mother - a public school special education teacher, and his grandmother who was a constant source of wisdom and spiritual guidance.
` “Older folks have a lot experiences that need to be passes on to the next generation.” He encouraged young people to … “ask for advise and listen carefully.”
“Education is knowing what you do not know and going out to find the truth. “You can make your own mistakes but don’t make the mistakes I have made.”
Old folk want to give back but young people must ask questions to find out what they don’t know”
“It does not matter where you came from – it’s the journey that is important.
Basil is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons,. He is a Trustee of The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and sits on the boards of the Center for Charter Excellence, The Opportunity Charter School in Harlem, and The Association to Benefit Children.
The Eta Tau lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc and its foundation has been leaders in the Akron community awarding over one million dollars in scholarships and social agency grants. Bro. Charles Parnell. Lecture chair, presented a $2,000.00 donation to Open-M Center accepted by Executive Director Mrs. Christine Curry.
Representatives from the 100 Black Men of Greater Akron, Sorors of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, and Sorors of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority supported the King Day Lecturer.