We have started another school year, and though some kids are eager to be a part of the educational experience, others dread going back into an environment that is embarrassing and humiliating to them because they cannot read or write. 

The people we send to school is as important as the school or the teachers in it, and that is why I have been so committed to the Campaign for Educational Excellence. 

As we watch thousands of uneducated and unemployable black youths spiral out of control, we are at the threshold of becoming a nation decaying from the inside. 

Education is at the heart of this problem and the only reliable remedy. How we win the education battle in the inner cities will determine the fate of this nation.

I believe that the battle can be won right here in Seattle and in Martin Luther King Jr. County because we have everything required to get the job done. We just must finally get past our insecurity as a small city on the Western frontier and see ourselves as a catalyst for an educational revival in America.

 

Where there’s a will…

The blueprint for winning this battle is almost impossible to create in an older, large, urban population where the activists are too consumed with present survival to have the time or patience for reinventing the educational system. How to get Johnny to school safely is their first concern.

We don’t have that problem here yet, and we have one of the best-educated African-American communities in the nation to work with. We also have leaders of other racial groups who understand how important it is for African Americans to win this battle. 

Why? Because they know that decay cannot be stopped, no matter where it starts — eventually, it will consume them, as well. 

America is more of a federation of racial and religious tribes than it is a great melting pot. How those tribes take care of their members and contribute to the total welfare of the nation determines how strong or weak the United States will be. That blueprint of all of these tribes working in total harmony with each other is the foundation of Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of the Beloved Community.

Education is the bedrock of a healthy community because it assures that everyone has an equal chance for knowledge and skills. They still must have the will to use these tools, and that will is determined by whether they have the confidence to compete.

 

A campaign for education

The Campaign for Educational Excellence has as its motto, “2.7-Plus is a Must for African-American Students.” It means that we don’t want our children to go below that grade-point average, and we want to encourage them to go as high as their skills will carry them. The national and local average is currently around 1.9.

We are asking our churches to open up their Bible-study classroom, recruit some of our retired or active school teachers or professionals and turn those classrooms into tutoring centers three nights a week. 

We want a campaign with buttons, billboards, yard signs and media advertisements pushing this idea so hard that every African-American child in Martin Luther King Jr. County cannot miss it.

The energy to make this happen must come from the African-American community, but anyone can contribute financially. Social engineering is what we are doing, and reversing a trend of school dropout to prison inmate needs to be one of our most important social issues. 

Eventually, they all come out of jail — untrained, unwanted and likely to go back. They end up in a destructive spiral on the streets of our cities, and any one of us can be caught in a deadly crossfire.

You will hear more about the campaign and how you can get involved in the days and weeks to come. Go to mlkci.org for updated information and get involved. 

Every racial or religious tribe may have its own drumbeat or song, but ultimately, we all must find a note that we can harmonize together, and being a well-educated nation gives us the best chance of doing that. 

CHARLIE JAMES has been an African-American-community activist for more than 35 years. He is co-founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. County Institute. To comment on this column, write to MPTimes@nwlink.com.