Guided by the belief that educational opportunities in Harlem can and should be developed, implemented, and strengthened by Harlemites (in collaboration with others), Total Equity Now (TEN), an all-volunteer organization, engages community members as active participants and decision makers in advancing educational excellence and equity across our village by facilitating education information sharing, community-based policy research, community organizing, and youth leadership development.
These days in Harlem, the public is largely absent from dialogue and decision making about public education. Grassroots groups, nonprofit organizations, and governmental institutions alike struggle to persuade the broader community that it can and should play a meaningful and sustained role in strengthening educational opportunities for our children, youth, and adults. One-off rallies and protests claim media headlines, while deliberative public meetings in which community members and officials discuss, debate, and make important decisions about pressing educational issues are too often carried out in empty rooms, with little or no input by local families or the broader public. National, statewide, and citywide groups–flush with cash, staff, and political connections–swoop in to fill the civic vacuum, often with agendas developed elsewhere. And too many community members accept passive roles as “education-service recipients” and bystanders rather than active education participants.
Faced with competing concerns and interests, it’s easy to lose site of the big picture: the educational goals and aspirations of the broader community. And in the absence of sustained community-based problem solving and advocacy, the cumulative results have fallen far short of meeting community needs or building an informed citizenry that understands and advocates for its educational rights and a true voice in decision-making processes. Everyone says, “it takes a village,” but where is our village?
Team TEN is working toward the day when all Harlemites–from our youth to our elders–understand, embrace, and apply their individual and collective power to shaping and strengthening our community’s educational landscape. TEN’s role is to connect educational dots, empower with information, and help build our community’s capacity to develop and expand educational opportunities, especially with and for our neighbors who routinely receive the short end of the stick. A critical mass of concerned, committed, informed Harlemites–from our young people to our elders–will ensure our community the educational opportunities it needs and deserves.
Some say, “it takes a village”; we say IT TAKES A HARLEM!