Thursday, June 30, 2011

Is #plankin what happens when we lose touch with our history, or is it just fun?

I saw this trending the other day and thought it was just stupid. But I have seen more and more people uploading @plankin photos. Why is that ownership of this is being laid at the feet of black youth? As I think about it more (I tried not to), why can't it just be considered stupid, harmless, fun? It started in England, let's lay some kind of heavy historical chip on them.
Is 'planking' harmless fun or fundamentally offensive?

Have you ever felt the urge to "plank" something? While it started out as an Internet stunt -- "planking" has become this year's craze -- inspiring intrepid, amateur stunt men and women lying with their face down, usually in a public place and then posting the photos to the web (preferably Twitter). And it's not just something white kids are doing. It's been a worldwide meme that's been a viral phenomenon since at least this spring, with the widely publicized death of a 20-year-old who fell off a balcony trying to take a picture of himself planking.

But now, the concept of planking is becoming more and more visible in references made on Twitter by members of the hip-hop community.

Within the black community, some of the photos are arguably horrendous. One shows a woman with her head in a toilet bowl, hands to the side, feet against the wall. Others show people in sexual positions. Body outstretched on a stool.

The rules of planking require you to keep your body in a straight position with your hands to the side, face down. A humiliating pose to say the least. The term that black folks have been using is #plankin or #planking.

CBS Sports has showcased several photos by Orlando Magic's Gilbert Arenas and center Dwight Howard whom they called "two of the most prolific plankers". Photos showed the two planking at a hotel and throughout Orlando's Amway center.

As the wave of planking photos built to a wave and then crested yesterday at least one person made people think. Comedian Katt Williams posted a picture on Twitter showing a man being arrested, face down on the ground, hands cuffed behind his back. The caption on the photo: PLANKING, You're Doing It Wrong. Williams added the message "Black people been #Plankin for years."

And that's what's gotten so many in the black community shocked by this Internet craze which trended heavily on Tuesday. There were multitudes of mentions and even people who said the word "planking" was derived from a slavery era term. It allegedly described the prostrate position slaves had to take when traveling over the Atlantic.

From the Wikipedia page on "slave ship":
Often the ships, also known as Guineamen, transported hundreds of slaves, who were chained tightly to plank beds. For example, the slave ship Henrietta Marie carried about 200 slaves on the long Middle Passage. They were confined to cargo holds with each slave chained with little room to move

Another mention of the word, describes the "bed" for slaves who were chained onto ships. From the book, Upon these Shores: Themes in the African-American Experience, 1600 to the Present:
Some ships had tiny bunks, really nothing more than shelves, on which slaves could recline; in others, the slaves lay side by side on the planking, rolling with the ship, bodies virtually touching, for weeks on end.

The term "slave plank" also brings up mention of political platforms or "planks" that were used during political conventions in the 19th Century. Frederick Douglass would argued the "anti-slavery plank".

Still, given the similarity with the visual references of slave ships and stacking bodies in chains during the slave trade, evidence also points to the planking position as being one of humiliation and confinement for African people during the Middle Passage.

What we know about planking is that it's derived from the Laying Down Game (a.k.a Playing Dead) meme that spread throughout England and Australia sometime around 2009 and seemed to reach its peak in 2010.

It became known as "planking" sometime later because participants try to get their bodies to resemble wooden boards or planks.

However, any intended allusion to slavery has yet to be proven. As some would suggest, African-Americans have been taking to "planking" for the competitive factor, the same reason that people stuffed into phonebooths and Volkwagons back in the 1950s.

Mass fads such as those were all about oneupmanship, recorded in a still photo -- but without the potential viral audience that the modern era can deliver. With athletes and celebrities talking about planking and showing themselves in the act, it's only natural that the massive young black Twitter and Facebook community will follow, even without realizing that it recalls the slave trade that ended several hundred years ago.

Photos: Gilbert Arenas in a grand piano
Dwight Howard on top of a garbage can at the Am
Gilbert Arenas planking in the median at an expressway toll booth
Dwight and Gilbert together on a double-decker luggage cart at the Grand Bohemian
Dwight Howard on top of a riding lawnmower

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Black bloggers have been discussing Matt Drudge's attempts to start a race war for weeks, now Peoria plays into his hands...

I tried to go to Peoria Chronicle and couldn't get on. I went to Peoria Anti-Pundit and I noticed that more Fox News types are signing on. As a matter of fact, they have referenced a link to a Fox News report about a white man allegedly attacked by a person with "cornrows".

A commenter named "Shay" left a comment here that Peoria Chronicle has been linked via Drudge report for the article about black folks in Peoria wanting to "kill all the white people".
Shay said...
Hi Em! Peoria Chronicle website has been shutdown for last few hours probably due to amount of hits. You see it is now linked via Drudge front and center under the headline: PANDEMONIUM IN PEORIA: MOB YELLS 'KILL ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE.' Perhaps we'll see the national press descend on Paul's neighborhood.
Okay - now I find this all quite LAUGHABLE! For weeks now, black blogs have been discussing Matt Drudge and his attempts to start a race war. As I read the comments on Peoria Chronicle and Peoria Anti-Pundit, I had begun to see BUZZ WORDS that Drudge started. The talk about it happening all across America, comes from day after day of the Drudge report putting up headlines like the ones shown in the photo above (click on photo to enlarge).

Here are just a few of the articles from black blogs discussing Drudge:

Matt Drudge's disgusting race war awareness campaign...
The Drudge Report, Flash Mobs, and Race...
Matt Drudge Using Urban Beach Weekend to Stoke Racial Flames...
Matt Drudge Targets African-American Youth on Drudge Report
Stewart mocks Drudge's "race baiting" story on school bus fight ...

I'm beginning to wonder what the real story is here. The Drudge connection is nothing to be proud of, all it does is cloud our local issue.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

All available cars, respond immediately - white lady down - isle three...

Earlier today, The Peoria Chronicle posted this "Peorians living in fear on the East Bluff". It's an eye witness account of racially tinged mob activity near the home of Paul Wilkinson, who is the President of the Altamont Park Neighborhood Association.

Shortly thereafter, The Peoria Anti-Pundit 2.0 posted this "War Zone?". This post pushes the racial aspect a step further and calls on City Leaders and the NAACP to step up and do something. Reading those two blogs and subsequent comments, brings me to this...

Not to take away from the seriousness of what happened in Paul Wilkinson's neighborhood or the frustration that the Anti-Pundit and others are feeling...

I agree that the problems come off the streets and into the schools. Societal ills are definitely permeating our classrooms.

Schools are limited in how they can deal with students. They can only discipline so much and discipline can get to be expensive.

These people shooting, killing and robbing are the same people who have children in our primary and middle and high schools. Some of them attend our middle and high schools right along with students who want an education.

A call to City leaders to deal with these trouble makers is fair. They certainly have more leeway to intervene.

Black on black crime is rampant (and that’s an understatement). Although, a break down along racial lines would be unfortunate, perhaps it’s good that white folks are getting completely fed up—maybe now some body will pay attention.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Parents must take a leadership role in a school turnaround program

What do you think is the appropriate way to structure parental and community involvement in a school turnaround program? Is it a meaningful role if parents just choose from the administration's preferred turnaround models?

Parents in low-income communities have seen “reform” after “reform” imposed on our schools, with little success. But it is wrong to assume that we—our students, our teachers, our communities—are the problem. Instead, we should be viewed as partners in reform. What is Peoria’s/District 150's plan to bring us to the table?
Recently Empowering Parents held the first annual dinner at Glen Oak School to honor parent volunteers. The District 150 website teases that "this year-end event to celebrate parental involvement, ...will also serve as the launch for the Empowering Parents organization’s “Million Parent Wake-up Challenge.”

While this organization (who I am assuming was hired by District 150) certainly gives good information to empower parents to take back their homes, it falls short of giving parents the information needed to take back their schools and to advocate for their children when the programming is not sufficient for their child, or when schools fail to do their jobs.

One way that the District is allowing parents to get involved, is the Peoria Council for Continuous Improvement ("PCCI"). Throughout the summer, parents will be selected to add up to six more members to the Council. According to the District 150 website:
"the PCCI will focus on changes that impact the individual school (Peoria High School) as well as systemic issues that impact the entire district. It will identify areas where learning from the School Improvement Grant schools can be shared across the school system. PCCI will also help identify ways for the district to sustain changes beyond the term of the intervention. The Consortium for Educational Change will facilitate efforts to link the work of the PCCI with school Universal Leadership Teams to expand the learning across the system beyond schools targeted for intensive interventions."
Parents run the risk of being disenfranchised, when they don't seek ways to be involved proactively.

The Elements of Sustainable School Transformation:
Families, students, communities and school staff, must play a meaningful role in designing and implementing a school transformation plan. The process of planning and implementing a school transformation is a key element in its success. The process of designing and guiding reform:

A school-based team of parents, educators, students (in high schools) and community representatives—the School Transformation Team—should be selected to undertake the development of a transformation plan. This team should be allowed a full school year to assess the school’s needs and challenges, and to develop a plan to meet them; The team’s assessment of school strengths and weaknesses should look specifically, for example, at such factors as:

o teacher-student ratio;
o teaching quality, the presence of experienced and effective teachers and conditions for quality teaching;
o feeder school programs and shortcomings that impact performance at the target school;
o how data is used to identify instructional strengths and weaknesses as well as student support needs;
o measures of school climate and discipline issues;
o the availability of wrap-around supports for students;
o measures of parent engagement.

A review of external obstacles that create barriers to school success should also be conducted. These might include district human resources or other structures that don’t work effectively to support schools; contractual agreements; inequitable state or district funding formulas; community characteristics, and more; A team of outside experts—like the State’s School Quality Review Team—should conduct a separate assessment of the school, and meet with the School Transformation Team to share and compare findings; Together, the school-based and state or district team should identify partnerships, agreements and structures that are needed in order to support a reform plan; The state and/or district should facilitate this process, and support it, making sure that the plan is accountable and fully resourced.

Most of the time, parents, teachers and even students know what the problems are in a school, and may have ideas for how to overcome them. And, when improvement plans are imposed on a school, rather than developed with the school community at the table, even the most dedicated teachers and parents may resist change—because they haven’t been involved or respected enough to help create the plan.Source

Thursday, June 9, 2011

School Board reviewing travel request violations

In April School Board members Martha Ross and Lynn Costic attended the National School Board Association annual conference, which was held at the Hilton San Fransisco, Union Square.

Controversy abounds, since the money came from the Education Fund before being approved by the full Board. Now the question is should Costic and Ross have to pay the $5,000 in travel expenses back to the District (i.e. taxpayer)?

Would the public be wrong in assuming that Ross should have known better, given that she has been on the Board continuously for what the pjstar terms "nearly a decade"? Shouldn't she be a wonderful mentor for the recently appointed Costic to learn from?

I must admit, it is somewhat surprising that after being on the Board for so long, that this makes Ross appear that she does not know the ins and outs of School Board Policy. Surely, they go over these type of things in School Board Training - right?

Does this decision mean that they will also review the recent approval by the Board to allow Butler and Wolfmeyer to travel to DC? Most believe they should have not been able to vote for their own travel request and should have abstained. I believe the vote should be revisited.

District 150 board will review travel policy after violation.
The Peoria District 150 School Board will review procedures this summer after technically violating its own travel policy earlier this year.

In April, board members Martha Ross and M. Lynne Costic went to the National School Board Association's annual conference in San Francisco without the travel request going to the board for approval.

The district made the travel arrangements, but other board members did not learn about the travel until about a week prior.

Ross, who has been on the School Board nearly a decade, maintained she believed the board did not need to vote on board travel that was specifically for School Board training, saying Tuesday that "normally, board travel never had to before."

Costic, who joined the board in January, said she was not aware of the policy.

School Board policy notes "board members should seek pre-approval of expenses, except in situations when the expense is diminutive."

Also, when nearly all the School Board traveled to Chicago in November for annual conference of the Illinois Association of School Boards, the board voted on the travel request.

The cost of the trip to California for Ross and Costic was about $5,000.

The technicality resurfaced last month with a travel request. Board President Debbie Wolfmeyer and board Vice President Linda Butler brought to the board a request that they and Superintendent Grenita Lathan go to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Peoria.

That travel request, at a cost of about $7,500 for all three, barely passed, by a 4-3 vote. Ross, Jim Stowell and Laura Petelle voted no.

Ross said she voted against the Washington, D.C., travel because she didn't see it as an instructional benefit for a School Board member. "I didn't necessarily see it as board training," Ross said, but added, "I'm sure it is educational to some degree."

Stowell said he didn't believe the money should come from the Education Fund and that another funding source should have been sought.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Let the Choice School fight begin

Throughout the District parents are feeling anxious about what schools, what programs, what teachers and/or what principal they will encounter come the 2011-2012 school year.

The tightening of District 150 school boundaries appears to limit the options that parents who are seeking boundary waivers have available. With the institution of the Choice Student Transfer program, waiting lists for schools will be built, while other schools are not even shown as a option. You can see the District 150 Middle School Choice Form and Primary School Choice Form below (click on thumbnails to enlarge).

What if a you find out Washington Gifted is not an option; you aren't lucky enough to win the charter school lottery; your neighborhood school no longer exists; you can’t afford private school; and the choice school available to you, is not the choice you would make for your child? Makes one understand why parents are driven to do what Kelley Williams-Bolar did.

Would it make you feel better to know that parents in other cities are facing the same problems (see article below from the New York Times)? Oh well, try to enjoy your summer vacation anyway and if you are still with District 150 next year, good luck finding a good fit with a school for the 2011-2012 school year.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Public Service Message: Bullying hurts and must be stopped

How many of us out there were victims of bullies and told we had to toughen up?

Things are different these days, parents are hiring lawyers and suing school districts, accusing them of letting schoolyard bullies frighten, intimidate and sometimes beat up their children. The uptrend started around 2007, with people and agencies now recognizing bullying as a public-health threat.

Many parents are not aware that Illinois is one of 46 states with an anti-bullying law, which was originally passed in 2007. Illinios has received a grade of A- from watchdog groups for their anti-bullying law. Additionally, Illinois law requires schools to notify parents and engage in intervention procedures when students are bullied. It is incumbent upon parents of bullied children to let schools know that they MUST take bullying seriously. Contact an Illinois injury lawyer if you believe you may have a claim.

Teen girl sues Seattle school, alleges relentless bullying
On May 27, 2011, a 16-year-old girl sued a small, private girls’ school in Seattle, where she said administrators failed to protect her from two years of assaults, Facebook taunts and near-daily name-calling.

The girl, who wanted to be identified by her first name Olivia, said she was initially excited to enroll at the Seattle Girls’ School in 2006, a Central District middle school known for its intimate setting and math and science curriculums.

But soon after she started sixth grade, another girl slapped her at a dance for no apparent reason, the girl said. She told her teacher, but nothing reportedly happened.

Instead, the bullying escalated to frequent name-calling, profane insults on Facebook and ostracism. She said other girls called her “ugly” and “fat pig.” They arranged “secret meetings” in the bathroom to talk about her, while she overheard them in a stall and cried.

“Eacy day was like a war zone,” said the girl’s complaint, filed Thursday in King County Superior Court. “She was subjected to things being thrown at her head and face.”

She began to dread going to her locker, where another girl with the locker above hers regularly abused her. ‘I felt like I was suffocating’

“She would stand above me and shove my head down,” said the girl, a slight, soft-spoken teen with braces. “I felt like I was suffocating.”

But when she reported the incidents to her teachers and an advisor, she said little happened. She said they assured her that they would deal with the bullies – a group of about 10 girls – but the taunts never really stopped. She said none of the girls were suspended or expelled.

Instead, the advisor reportedly told the girl to talk to her bullies and said every grade seemed to single out a victim for bullying each year.

“Sadly, that was me,” the girl said. “She said I was going to have to man up and deal with it. It was sort of like an unavoidable thing I was going to be bullied.”

On Thursday, the 120-student school – which launched in 2000 with a Bill Melinda Gates Foundation grant – responded with a statement about its anti-bullying efforts.

But it made no mention of the complaint or the girl, now in high school.

“We take the issue of bullying, relational aggression and cyber bullying very seriously,” the statement said.

“The commitment to our students who are entrusted to us is to equip them with the necessary tools and self confidence to combat issues of bullying.”

The girl said the school’s response included a circle group for her and her abusers, in which each girl was supposed to say if they had ever gossiped about anyone.

“They had these vague, kumbaya meetings with the girls,” said the girl’s attorney, Yvonne Kinoshita Ward. “That kumbaya stuff isn’t going to work when it’s vicious bullying and assault. You need swift, clear, consistent actions.”

The abuse culminated in eighth grade in 2009, in which the girl said the locker bully kicked her hard in the back and whispered, “That hurt, didn’t it.” The victim’s mother then pulled her daughter out of school.

The mother surmised that the school – which she said charged about $15,000 in tuition when her daughter was there – tolerated the mean girls, because it didn’t want to jeopardize funding from their parents.

“They’re dependent on the tuition and their reputation in the community, so rich donors (are) giving them money,” said the mother, who didn’t want her name used, in order to protect her daughter’s identity.

She said the pain still lingered. Her daughter, once friendly and active in ballet, is now withdrawn and distrustful. She’s been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and anoxeria. Her back still hurts.

“I used to be lot more outgoing,” she said. “I’m not that person any more.”

Aaliyah Burnett to audition for "The Event" in Orlando, Florida

In December, Peorian Aaliyah Burnett was chosen through a local audition to go to Orlando, FL the week of December 16th, to audition for "The Event".

At this gathering she will have the opportunity to audition before production agents and assistants for Disney, Nickelodeon and a host of other entertainment industry professionals seeking new talent for existing and upcoming projects. She will also be competing for cash prizes, but the recognition and opportunities that she will gain are the key to potentially open the door to her future.

To add some context to this, Aaliyah, who has been a student at Roosevelt Magnet (which is a Fine Arts school here in Peoria) pursued this competition on her own. She obtained the phone number, called the people herself and turned it over to her parents, Pastor Harvey and Geraldine Burnett.

The agent who auditioned her locally is also a manager and producer of some top young talent in the industry. She said that Aaliyah had some unique abilities and opportunities ahead of her and was looking forward to working with her in a greater way.

There is an expense and Aaliyah's family is trying to raise about $5,000 for the trip, registration fees and additional expenditures associated with travel, training and preparation for The Event.

Check out Aaliyah's website here to learn more about Aaliyah and find out how you may be able to help. Good luck Aaliyah!