Opportunities Beyond Obstacles at
Releasing Black Excellence
Under Cheatham’s administration, a new focus has been placed on Black Excellence, which provides a way to shine the spotlight past income and socio-economic factors to the children
themselves and the talents and creatively they possess that belies their income level.
Jacquelyn Boggess and David Pate, from the Center for Family Policy & Practice, shared all the data and numbers needed to make the case for unequal poverty in communities of color,
but also called the question: Black Excellence is already there. It is not a thing that folks can construct for Black people. How do we stop stifling it?
After outlining all of the barriers to economic security — what kids and their parents have to get past in order to be prepared to learn in the morning: Discrimination, denial of access
based on race, class and gender, employment discrimination, community and family violence, lack of housing, poverty and despair — they allowed the audience to wonder. What is the
“Competence as a teacher of children who are marginalized or oppressed, knowing what their life is, what they are doing, how the world works, recognizing how it works,” Boggess
confirmed. “Having people who run schools and programs in way that shows that they know and recognize what a person’s lived experience is. Their experience of having to live as a
poor Black person in Madison. You act differently when you know. When you stand in your own truth and think everyone is standing where you are, you cannot do that.”
Seeing where we are now as an “achievement gap” vs an “education debt” was illustrated by the sharing of a quote by Madison’s own Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings. “We must use our
imaginations to construct a set of images that illustrate the education debt. The images should remind us that the cumulative effect of poor education, poor housing, poor health care and
poor government services create a bifurcated society that leaves more than its children behind. The images should compel us to deploy our knowledge, skills, and expertise to alleviate
the suffering of the least of these.”
Looking further out and back at the beginning, Dane County District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne made the case for more funding for birth to three as a possible diversion versus waiting for
young people to enter the juvenile or criminal justice system.
Dr. Rose backed that theory during his introduction of Ozanne and his praise of the DA’s work to identify alternatives to incarceration, reminding the attendees “When you no longer can
dream, when you no longer believe that you can do for yourself, you become a very, very dangerous person because you have nothing to lose.“
Dr. William Greer ended the conference by tying back to County Executive Parisi’s reference to Trauma Informed Care and its importance in responding to depression and an increase in
suicide in young people today. “For these are all our children, we will all profit by or pay for what they become” he reminded us by quoting James Baldwin.