Bill Gates Unplugged

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

POLY H.S.: We Knew We Could

By Eddie Griffin

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It took a masterpiece strategy and a Herculean effort for Polytechnic High School to survive being axed for lagging academic performance. Everybody in Fort Worth pitched in to save historic Poly High.

From top to bottom, from the state legislature to the students themselves, everybody was on the same mission.

What is astounding about this story is that most everybody feared the worse, and the kids were walking around, cool, calm, collected, and confident that they would do it.

Like most people, I started with my doubts. As I saw it, we had to achieve Mission Impossible, a subject that generated some lively discussions and ideas between us. When I tried to pin the tail on the donkey, the chief academic officer assured me that this was Our Mission Impossible together.

How can you resist the ultimatum: Either you are part of the problem or part of the solution? And, the kids at Poly were already giving their all and all.

So, when I saw the Star-Telegram’s headline this morning, “Polytechnic High rated academically acceptable by the state”, I was not surprised.

We set out to achieve Mission Impossible, with somewhat of an overkill strategy. We poured it on, and on, and on, every hand on deck, every resource available.

It was school in the morning, school in the evening, on weekends, no holidays, the kids went for it like ice cream.

If you oversleep, you got a call. If you needed a way, someone would pick you up. Just to know that somebody cared for them. After all, this was a school sitting on hard hood turf. Few kids make it up out of here and go on somewhere in life.

The teachers kicked in on their part, tutoring in the morning, on free time, during off hours, whenever and however they could. They worked as a team, meeting in the morning, developing collaborative teaching strategies, with each reinforcing the other teachers’ subjects.

The Fort Worth business community kicked in also, with incentives and goodies, scholarships and awards. The local colleges provided volunteers and tutors, some calling themselves the G-Force, serving as navigators to the college-bound. Community Action Teams worked to generate parental support.

Soon the parents were as strongly involved as the student were confident in saving Poly High School.

“I knew we had it in us,” said Luis Ubanda Jr. victoriously as the reports from the state came in. “We had no doubt that we would make it.”


I saw this display of self-confidence in these students when I visited the campus in 2009, contrary to what I saw in 2006, when a group of us unveiled the new GO Center for the school. The Class of 2009 was a different class, with a different aim and different motivations.

WISH ME- I wish that I could capture it and put it in a bottle, so that it could be sold again and again, and released upon a generation like a magic spirit upon the head of each high school student. But the law of physics forbade me by this principal: Something set in motion from rest will gather momentum and lose it over time and distance. Therein is a natural tendency to scale back the force and reduce our effort.

SEEN IT BEFORE- After reaching the state’s highest rating of “exemplary” for two consecutive years after its turnaround, Trimble Tech High School regressed to an “acceptable” rating and has been holding steady for these many years.

When NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND, followed after the Bill Clinton's Teach America 2000 Act, we began seeing an upon trend in academic achievement standards. The logic behind this new educational stratum of milestones was base upon the recognition that we were living in rapid globalization and our kids were falling behind the rest of the world. The Education Department set forth to establish some minimum academic standards, with a key provision to raise those standards annually.

On the other hand, the public education system was stuck in stagnate mode. They were more accustomed to straight line progression, rather than an annual escalating academic target. Our educational efforts were more like trying to hit a moving target by shooting behind it.

The Fort Worth ISD, as of late, has put on its futuristic thinking mode, being the first and largest school district to introduce smart whiteboards into each classroom. The FWISD website is an all-you-can eat buffet of information, programs, times, schedules, schools, and classroom information, and soon mom get be able to pull up her child’s daily attendance and progress report.

The challenge now before is not another Mission Impossible, but a Possible Mission of achieving even greater heights.

Congratulations to the FWISD & POLYTECHNIC HIGH SCHOOL.
You made this history.

Watch the Video at

Monday, June 29, 2009

JENA 6 Case Closes with Resolution

Eddie Griffin

It's taken more than two years, but the "Jena 6" can now put this saga behind them. The five young men whose trials had been on hold pleaded "no contest" to simple battery—a misdemeanor for which they received no jail time. It's the kind of charge that should have been made all along.

Just after the trial, criminal defense attorney Jim Boren—the attorney representing Robert Bailey and a coordinator for legal strategy across the cases—called ColorOfChange executive director James Rucker. His words speak for themselves. You can listen to the core of his voicemail message here:

The Jena Six: Resolution
"None of this would have happened without you"

While this is a great moment, it’s important to remember that if it were not for the extreme nature of this case, most of us wouldn’t have known about it or gotten involved. The reality is that there are countless Jena 6’s: young people–often Black and male–who are overcharged or unduly criminalized, and whose plight is unknown to most of the outside world.

Even in the case of the Jena 6, we need to take stock of what did not happen. While Judge JP Mauffray was taken off the case due to the appearance of bias (a pivotal moment for the cases), District Attorney Reed Walters–the person largely responsible for the problems in the first place–still has his job.

It’s the reason our work cannot just be about identifying and fighting for individuals railroaded by the system, but about creating systemic change in criminal justice in America. We are truly grateful to have the chance to do this work with you, and we’re hoping for your continued engagement and support.

Thanks and Peace,
– James, Gabriel, William, Dani and the rest of the team
June 28, 2009

Excerpts from Eddie G. Griffin (BASG) files: Jena 6 Campaign


One by one, they are picking our children off, out of our hands, out of our control, out of our schools, and sending them straight into prison… the African-American community was so outraged at the Jena 6 case that they sent 30,000 people to Louisiana to protest the injustice…

After a nationwide fight to get young 17-year old Mychal Bell out of jail, and posting a $45,000 bail, we as a people had hardly licked our wound before they sent him back to jail- this time with an 18-month prison sentence, under the technical auspices of probation violation.

So, why did they let Bell out of jail on a $45,000 bail? They took his money one day and put him back in jail the next day, but only because they were ordered by the higher court to give the child a bail hearing. After nine months of incarceration, minus bail money provided by thousands of well-wishers, he was back where he started-in jail- worse, in prison doing 18-months.

Maliciously delicious to the Devil’s appetite because, by law, no one can save the little black boy- don’t call him Mychal, call him Sambo for breakfast.

There is something fishy here. Are the others of the Jena 6 going to be devoured before our eyes also?

Monday, September 17, 2007 11:05 AM

Reed Walters initially charged Bell and five other black teens, who have come to be called the "Jena 6," with attempted murder after the white student was beaten and knocked unconscious at Jena High School last December. The white student suffered cuts and bruises but was treated and released from a local hospital.

Walters later reduced the charges to aggravated second-degree battery, contending at Bell's trial-the first case to go to court-that the tennis shoes Bell was wearing constituted a dangerous weapon.

Louisiana's Third Circuit Court of Appeals, acting on an emergency defense appeal, reversed the aggravated second-degree battery conviction of Mychal Bell, 17, ruling that the youth had been tried improperly as an adult in a case that has raised allegations of unequal justice in the small, mostly white town.

Walters said in a statement Friday that he intended to appeal the reversal of Bell's conviction to the Louisiana Supreme Court.

National civil rights leaders, including Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, had been planning to join African-American celebrities and thousands of Internet bloggers in a demonstration in Jena next Thursday, the day Bell had been scheduled to be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on the battery conviction.

Nearly 200,000 people have signed petitions criticizing the prosecution of the black students and calling on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco to intervene in the case. Bus caravans headed toward Jena have been organized at scores of churches across the country and organizers had predicted more than 20,000 protesters might show up in the town of 3,000

So long as these kids were in the dark without representation, they were all going up the river. When the lights came on and the public pressure flooded in, it began to change everything."

Alan Bean, director of Friends of Justice, a Texas-based civil rights group that was the first to notice the Jena case, said he expected the reversal of Bell's convictions will turn next Thursday's protest into a "celebration" of the power of public opinion to influence the Jena 6 case.

The NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Congressional Black Caucus have all denounced what they view as the harsh prosecutions of the Jena 6.

On Thursday, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama added his criticism of what he termed the "excessive charges" in the case.

"When nooses are being hung in high schools in the 21st century, it's a tragedy," Obama said in a statement. "It shows that we still have a lot of work to do as a nation to heal our racial tensions. This isn't just Jena's problem; it's America's problem."

US House of Representatives Committee Probes Case with Racial Overtones


After last month’s mass demonstration in Jena, Louisiana, you would think that the country would wake up to the plight of African-American youth being routed out of the school system into prisons. But no, there seems to be this mad insistence in prosecuting six black boys for a schoolyard fight that was instigated by nooses looped over a tree by fellow white students. And to make matters worse, nooses keep cropping up all over the country to reiterate the point that black people still cannot get any respect.


I was inspired to write the article after receiving several emails calling for the boycott. In an earlier article, “Beyond Jena”, I wrote: “By now, we should be three miles down the road past Jena, with contingency planning as to where do we go from here.” At the time, I believed that the then-upcoming September 20 mass demonstration would not be enough to change the situation in this part of Louisiana. Therefore, I eagerly endorsed subsequent strategic actions…

Secondly, Jena is David Duke territory. This is where he reigned as Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Third, Louisiana, historically, has had the highest number of recorded lynchings, more than any other state in the union. Considering that fact, the Jena nooses represented a real threat to the black students at Jena High.

FREE AT LAST: Genarlow Wilson

Praise the Lord and Hallelujah! Genarlow Wilson is free. And the scoop has not yet been posted on Genarlow’s blogsite…

In September, presidential candidate Barack Obama said: "Going forward, we have to fix our criminal justice system. Whether it’s Jena 6 or Genarlow Wilson, it’s long past time for us to admit that we have more work to do to ensure that our criminal justice system is fair…”

In an article dated June 29 entitled “Can We Save a Black Boy”, Eddie Griffin wrote: The only way to save a black boy is one child at a time. Today, it is Genarlow Wilson, The Jena Six, and Memory of Ron Pettiway.

Lord, help us. See how much time and energy it takes to try and save one black boy at a time. There must be a more expedient way.

JENA 6 Chronology: From September 6, 2006 to April 29, 2009

The Last Word on Jena 6

We have investigated and flushed out the facts in the Jena 6 case. Together, we have focused international attention upon a case of Unequal Treatment Under the Law. Six black teenagers were being charged with “attempted murder” and “conspiracy to commit murder” in adult court, where they could each receive up to 80 years. This was Jena, Louisiana, but it signified what is happening to thousands of black male youth across America.

Jena 6 defendant cracks, cops plea

After spending nearly a year in jail, Jena 6 defendant Mychal Bell finally cracked and copped a plea to a lesser charge of second-degree battery and an 18-month sentence, with credit for time served.

The case sparked one of the largest civil rights protest in recent memory, bringing national and international attention to the small Louisiana town of 3,000. Originally, the six black youth faced up to 80 years for their involvement in a school fight following months of racial tension that began when white students hanged nooses on a schoolyard tree after black students requested to sit under it.

Paradox of a Guilty Plea

When we advocated school integration, I never expected that we would have to teach our children to accept humiliation and racist threats without fighting back. But obviously that is subtle meaning behind the guilty plea of Jena 6 Mychal Bell. In reaction to the nooses hanging across a schoolyard tree, some people feel that the black Jena High School youth should have gone about their business unperturbed.

It is okay for an old black man like me to turn the other cheek, because I have been around long enough to see why the Lord said, “Vengeance is mine.” He has always avenged me against my enemies.

But I have never taught my children to be docile and accept humiliation, abuse, and violence against them. Never!

Why We Protest

To the critics who have arisen in light of the recent wave of mass demonstrations, let’s get some things clear as to why we engaged in protest.

First, social protest is a means of raising public awareness about situations that may otherwise go unnoticed. Take for example the small town cases: Shaquanda Cotton, Jena 6, and Genarlow Wilson. Lest people forget how these cases arose from obscurity to national attention, review the plight of these youth.

Shaquanda Cotton was a 14-year old girl sent to prison for up to seven years for pushing a school aide in Paris, Texas- note that the hall monitor was not seriously injured.

Six black high school students faced up to 80 years in prison for jumping a school mate- note that the school mate was also not seriously injured.

A 17-year old boy was sent to prison with a 10-year sentence for having consensual sex with a 15-year old girl.

If there is one thing that these three cases had in common, it would be this: The majority of the American public agreed that the punishment for these juveniles were too harsh.

So, what do we do? Do we allow these things to happen and say nothing? Without public awareness, these children would have been condemned to long periods of incarceration and their lives destroyed without even given a second thought.

These are the basic facts. Whatever came afterwards was a reaction thereto.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

HAT TIP to Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman, President of the Children’s Defense Fund, has some answers that addresses the Prison Pipeline crisis. She offers us some valuable insights in stemming the flow of our youth into the juvenile justice system and hence into prison.

As a community activist and child's right advocate, I find Marian Wright Edelman work very refreshing, if not fascinating with hope.

Breaking the pipeline to prison

By Marian Wright Edelman
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Marian Wright Edelman is president of the Children's Defense Fund, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies to help children escape poverty, abuse and neglect and gain access to health care and education. Edelman was the first black woman admitted to the Mississippi bar and was a leader in the civil rights movement. Her latest book is "The Sea Is So Wide And My Boat Is So Small: Charting a Course for the Next Generation."

(Excerpted by Eddie Griffin)

(CNN) -- One of the most dangerous threats facing black America right now is quietly stealing our children at a young age.

Incarceration is becoming the new American apartheid, and poor children of color are the fodder.

So many poor black babies in rich America enter the world with multiple strikes against them: born without prenatal care, at low birthweight and to a poor, and poorly educated, teenage single mother and an absent father.

At crucial points in their development after birth through adolescence, more risks pile on, making a successful transition to productive adulthood significantly less likely and involvement in the criminal justice system significantly more likely.

This is America's pipeline to prison, a trajectory that is funneling tens of thousands of youths down life paths that lead to marginalized lives, imprisonment and, often, premature death.

Nationally, one in three black boys and one in 17 black girls born in 2001 is at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime.

It's time to sound a loud alarm about this threat to American unity and community, act to stop the growing criminalization of children at younger and younger ages, and tackle the unjust treatment of minority youths and adults in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems with urgency and persistence.

We must reduce detention and incarceration by increasing preventive supports and services children need, including access to comprehensive child health and mental health coverage, quality early childhood development programs like Early Head Start, and supports for parents including home visitation programs. And every child has to get an education that prepares him or her to succeed in the 21st-century economy.

The failure to act now will reverse the hard-earned racial and social progress for which the Rev. Martin Luther King and so many others died and sacrificed. The urgent challenge for each of us and for our nation is to prevent this waste of our children's lives and our nation's future capabilities.

Read what is being done to stem the flow of our youth into the Prison Pipeline:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Motivational Teacher Junichi Lockett Unleashes “Soldier Mentality”

As a takeoff: SOLDIER, how do you hit a moving target? A lession from World War II: If you are going to shoot an enemy plane out of the air, AIM AHEAD of the target.

ENTERTAIN this thought: That Time is a moving target. If you are going to solve a today’s problem, you aim at tomorrow.

At A.M. Pate Elementary School, Junichi Lockett, Jr. teaches fourth graders to aim high and shoot for 2017, the year and the day they will hit their target: Graduation from high schools.

When Junichi Lockett, Jr. released “Soldier Mentality” at The Dock Bookshop in a book-signing debut on Saturday, May 30, it drew a crowd mostly of the upward mobile 20-30 crowd, along with teachers, and supporters.

Soldier Mentality is infectious. Even UTA NAACP President, Carla M. Christle, walked away infected with the soldier’s mentality. She hits me and the crowd with a 50-caliber dose of rap-fire reality rap, about what the soldier mentality is all about. She took me to another dimension and another place where education is stingingly entertaining, and leaving a man with bullet-riddle thoughts in the head. Ouch! Carla shoots like a gunner on a mission. Don't get in her way or in her life. She'll blow you away.

I was utterly impressed to the nth and honored to be one of the guest speakers at the roll out of the book, “Soldier Mentality”. It was a launch into a new mode of critical thinking. I was also honored to be dubbed as one of Mr. Lockett’s mentors. Needless to say how proud I am to adopt him as a son and protégé.

I met Junichi Lockett, Jr. when he invited me to speak to a group of students at the University of Texas at Arlington, and talk about the early days of the civil rights movement on this campus. In the year the Old Guard brought Ole Dixie down, we opened the way for organizations like a campus chapter of NAACP. It was Mr. Lockett who connected the dots from his generation back to my generation.

He later graduated from college and went to work in “the trenches”, teaching at the elementary school level for the Fort Worth ISD.

Working in the trenches is something Mr. Lockett knew about. He was also a veteran of the Iraq War, and by right a war hero. He survived, with his mind intact, ready to put his soldier’s survival mentality into action.

SOLDIER, what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?

As a writer and researcher, I challenged everybody in the crowd that appeared infected by the soldier’s mentality with this question. My objective is to provoke the protégé and understudy To Think and Think Critically.

I asked the question of each in the crowd, each one gave me that same hilarious “ding” look in their eyes.

I remember one of Mr. Lockett’s fifth graders attending the ceremony, standing along side her father when I asked her the question.

The “ding look” is when you catch a young person by surprise with a thought-provoking question. The first reaction: The fifth grader’s eyes shot straight toward the ceiling as if a light bulb went off in her head. DING!

She shot back with an answer that caused even her father to laugh and say, “I didn’t know all that was in her.”

I worked the crowd, gathering feedback of this infectious phenomenon known as “Soldier Mentality”.

Promethean Board demonstration