If They Come for Us in the Morning: An Open Letter to Detroiters from Elected School Board Members

I am writing to you to fill in the silence of the sheep. The sheep I refer to here are the mass media, printed or electronic, and local elected officials—always with the exception of Congressman John Conyers and of course The Michigan Citizen. Both weary warriors speak truth to power no matter what the price.

Tomorrow, the elected Detroit Public Schools board members head to court to answer the charges levied against us by the State Attorney General. We are being sued for being elected in a State-certified election. We were all sworn in and have served our districts since the election. I was appointed to fill a vacancy and then elected to my seat in November 2011. Although we are under a State-appointed Emergency Manager, and although the Emergency Manager Law has been repealed by the voters of the state of Michigan since November 2012, we remain under this illegitimate authority and our legitimate right to our elected seats is being challenged by the State Attorney General at the behest of the governor.

This means that those in power are abusing their power to remove us from office, while using their power to maintain illegitimate control of what is left of Detroit Public Schools. The schools have been under State control for 8 of the past 10 years, but after looting the coffers and failing our students the same State sees fit to privatize our schools into a separate and unequal district called the Educational Achievement Authority, also known as the “failing district.” It is a State wide district with only Detroit in it.

The voters of Detroit passed a bond to repair and build much-needed schools. Then comes the new phantom “authority” which seized the new buildings and privatized them, forced Detroit students into them by closing other neighboring schools and removed them from the public school system, making them accountable to no one save for those who profit from them. Naturally, Mike Duggan, the mayoral hopeful can be found in this treasure trough. The same Emergency Manager, Roy Roberts, is in charge of the Educational Achievement Authority, which creates a powerful profit motive for failing public school students. The EAA district is a clear violation of Brown V Kansas, but no one is making such a claim. There is too much profit to be made on such misery.

Meanwhile, the elected school board, under the creative and courageous leadership of Lamar Lemmons, continues to stand up to the re-segregation, privatization and looting of the Detroit Public Schools. We have continued to meet faithfully, despite the fact that we do not get paid, withstand constant pettiness and bullying from the little Emergency Manager. We are being sued for continuing to serve. What is the reason for the lawsuit? Why are we the only elected officials facing removal through this clear abuse of power by the governor?

We are being removed because we stand in the way of the warehousing and imprisonment of Detroit’s poorest and most vulnerable children.

Because we say NO to separate and unequal education (EAA).

Because we say NO to arbitrary teacher evaluations that displace experienced African-American teachers who pay taxes and vote and teach Detroit children and replace them with white Teach for America “teachers”.

Because we say NO to 48 students in 5th grade classrooms while the governor/EM bring the good news of budget surplus in Michigan;

Because we say NO to closing the DETROIT DAY SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, leaving hundreds of students to fend for themselves in Detroit schools with no instruction and no support ( aka inclusion);

Because we say NO to the Emergency Manager’s despotic control after being voted out by the people.

Because we say NO to the Emergency Manager’s attempts to LOOT the DETROIT LIBRARY by putting his cronies on the Commission;

I am writing this to you to ask you to come to the Coleman A Young (City County Building) tomorrow at 9:45 in Judge Gillis’ courtroom. If you read the mainstream papers or watch the news, you will never know the truth of why we are being sued with our tax dollars.

We will not step down if the judge removes us; we will not give up our responsibility to self-determination for Detroit. We will not stand idly by while our students are being shoved into a failing district. If they tell us we can’t meet in the schools, we will be outside. We will bring our fire barrels, our tent and our sound system. We will serve the people.

It is a great honor to serve on this Detroit School board with Tawanna Simpson, Herman Davis, Ida Short, Wanda Redmond, Rev David Murray, Annie Carter, Carol Banks, Judy Summers. Most importantly, though, there are no words to describe the dedication and determination of our President, Lamar Lemmons, without whom we would have been removed and silenced long ago.