Dear Parkland Students,
I have been a teacher most of my adult life and it’s a role I cherish. I cherish it because of what I teach –African, African American and Caribbean history–but mostly because of young people, young people like you.
I can not tell you how much I admire you for standing up for the change you want to see.  You are channeling your grief in the best way you know how and  I believe we will all be the better for it.
I am sorry, though, that this must be your burden as you are children. What I have seen and watched over the years is that our nation’s schools have turned into battlegrounds, and little has been done to change that. We spend billions of dollars fighting wars abroad and yet are losing the war at home.  We are concerned with peaceful protesters such as those who protest the deaths of unarmed Black teens, think Trayvon Martin, but the random slaughter of children in our schools hardly moves the needle.
But you give me hope.
You know, there were some children like you in the 50’s and the 60’s; they were brave too.  You may have learned about them in your school because I can see that Marjory Stoneman Douglas is a very good school. Those children were Ruby Bridges and the Little Rock Nine and others like them who dressed in their Sunday finest and braved hateful words and violent mobs just because they wanted an education.
They dared to integrate our schools when half the country wanted them to stay home.  They needed Federal Marshals to escort them to school, some for as long as a year, but they were undaunted.
And you know what happened?  Justice and righteousness prevailed and their schools got integrated and that is the legacy they bequeathed to you.  You are a beautiful multicultural
group, and from what I can tell, you could not imagine it any other way.
So brave hearts, know that you are not alone. Be inspired by the past but carve out your own path and help this sleeping public to hear your voice when you say:
Enough is enough to gun violence.  Never again for another school, for another set of students.
Finally, I want say one last thing.  I was at a conference this weekend and there were many students there trying to think through other difficult challenges like diversifying their campus and reducing racial conflict.  We had really productive dialogue, but at one point, a friend and fellow teacher said to the group:
“We are so sorry.  We failed you.   Our generation failed you. “
Parkland, I am saying the same to you right now. We failed you. We didn’t protect you.  We squabbled over politics.  We made excuses.  We put our wants above your needs.  Please forgive us.
This time, we will have your back.
Godspeed in all you do.
Anne B.
Sources
For more info, see Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges and
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
US Marshals with young Ruby Bridges on school steps, Public Domain.

 

Find Anne C. Bailey's non-fiction book : The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History on Amazon.