A Note from Hope Katz Gibbs, producer, Black Lives Matter Radio Show — How does a young woman go from a small town in Southern CA to rock stardom in Sweden? What makes her trade that in for a career as an educator and academic?
First, our back story: I had the privilege of meeting Suzette Love when we took a graduate class in the fall of 2019 at Claremont Graduate University. Called “Good Work,” it was taught by world-renowned positive psychologist Dr. Jeanne Nakamura. Since we were two of the oldest students in the class (by far), we’d huddle together when it came time for break-out class discussions. I was always fascinated to hear Suzie’s perspective on topics ranging from “what is good work?” to her term paper’s presentation on black educators’ history and powerful impact in America. Tonight, we have the privilege of interviewing Suzette for our show!
As you’ll learn during the Q&A with our host, Tony Farmer, Suzie is studying for her Ph.D. in educational studies at CGU. In addition to having been a classroom teacher for much of her career, she also spent more than a decade of her life as a professional singer, songwriter, and music producer in Sweden. Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and raised in Southern California, Suzie admits her claim to fame is the years she spent as a rock star in Europe.
In this podcast, you’ll discover:
- How Suzie made Sweden her home — and how she became a pop star in Europe
- Why she chose to return to the US to pursue a career as an educator
- What she’s accomplished and observed as a teacher
- The future that Suzie sees for black children post-pandemic
- Who this academic wants to be in the years to come
Check it out!
- Download the podcast now!
- Stream it on BlackLivesMatterTV
- Click here to read more about Suzie, who was the cover story of the July 2020 issue of Inkandescent Women magazine.
- Click here to listen to her popular tune, Black Magic Soliloquy.
- Scroll down to read Suzette’s essay!
From Emancipation to COVID-19
We’ve Come This Far by Faith: The Evolution of Black Education
January 2021 — The Civil Rights Movement leaders of the 1950s and 1960s were moved to create a world in which their children could take advantage of the economic opportunities so endemic to the American dream. With the precedent established by the Brown Vs. Board decision barring segregation in public schools in 1954, and the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination in public accommodations, most Black people believed that they were well on their way toward achieving the Movement’s aspirations. Martin Luther King Jr. and others’ egalitarian ambitions were firmly rooted in a prescient desire to ensure equality of access for Black children to America’s education system.
When Emancipation occurred in 1865, nearly 4 million illiterate men, women, and children had to be nurtured, cared for, and educated. Among Blacks, the task was taken on through a more collective approach. Well educated Black men and women answered the call and courageously migrated from the North to the South to uplift their people.
They understood that educating the nation’s population of newly freed slaves would take more than just teaching them to read and write. For more than 150 years, Black children have been participants in the American educational system. However, the shocking disparities of their socio-economic standing in comparison to White children could leave one speechless. Today, those disparities encapsulated in a history of persistent institutional inequities have become even more apparent with the intensive impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic and its disproportionate effect on the Black community.
In the U.S., the disparities related to COVID-19 begin with the wealth gap between Blacks and Whites. Existing socio-economic inequality has become even more exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic. According to the Federal Reserve, in 2019, the yearly median wealth reported for White families was nearly $190,000. Simultaneously, the yearly median income for Black families was reported at less than $30,000. In 2016 a similar study indicated that the ratio of wealth between White families and Black families was reflected in a margin of 8:1.
According to The Pew Research Center, the reason for such wealth inequality is related to several economic factors. They include advances in technology, the increase of globalization, a diminished influence of unionization, and most importantly, Black families are the “eroding value of the minimum wage”. Not only did the rate of aggregate income increase for the top-earning households between 1970 and 2018, but the aggregate income for the lowest-earning households during the same period of time also diminished significantly.
The connection between wealth and income inequality and the pandemic’s effect on low-income families has become a persistent observation of late. The consequent impact on the education of the children of low-income families, nearly 24% of Black, is dealing with a devasting blow to the community. One blatantly apparent example of the ever-widening economic gap is the fact that predominantly White public schools today receive 20 billion more in public funding than those public schools comprised predominantly of students of color.
According to Tufts University sociologist and public-school educator Natasha K. Warikoo, the pandemic has created significantly more challenges to Black families. It has increased the disadvantages that already existed. She cites “increased economic hardships,” “food insecurity,” and a lack of access to technology-based learning platforms.
Since Emancipation, the school has played a significant role as a protection mechanism in the Black community. As an institution, the school has often shielded Black children from some of the devastating impacts of discrimination and poverty by providing daily nutrition programs, access to educational resources, and most importantly, the presence of teachers who provide love, care and act in a supplementary parental role. Teachers of poor children, especially those teaching in Black communities, have long played this role in the effort to ensure the developmental, physical, and safety needs of the vulnerable children in their classrooms are met.
Economic struggle is not new to communities of color. But the access to critical resources provided by the school cannot be overlooked as a key element in fostering an ability to thrive in difficult times. Resources provided by daily school attendance include two to three meals per day, access to special needs services, daycare and after school care, health services, and social interaction with adults who play an important role in overseeing young students’ welfare.
It was the Civil Rights Movement’s vision to utilize the American educational system as a buffer against the winds of socio-economic disparity. Local school districts’ capacity to provide a social safety net for young school children and their families is the result of decades of progressive work.
When you add to the current issues, other problems that plague the Black community today like high incarceration rates, disproportionate placement in foster care, pervasive health disparities, and limited access to quality health care, one can easily see why the pandemic is having such a devastating impact on Black children. The COVID-19 crisis will not be the last experienced by communities of color. However, without intervention, this crisis is destined to have a lasting impact on the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable and their pursuit of the American dream.
 Linda M. Perkins. The history of blacks in teaching: Growth and decline within the profession. American Teachers: Histories of a Profession at Work. (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company Donald Warren, 1989). 347
 Neil Bhutta, Andrew C. Chang, Lisa J. Dettling, Joanne W. Hsu, and Julia Hewitt. FEDS Notes: Disparities in Wealth by Race and Ethnicity in the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances. September 28, 2020. The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/notes/feds-notes/disparities-in-wealth-by-race-and-ethnicity-in-the-2019-survey-of-consumer-finances-20200928.htm
 Juliana Menasce Horrowitz, Ruth Igielnik, and Rakesh Kochhar. Trends In Income and Wealth Inequality. The Pew Research Center. January 9, 2020. https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2020/01/09/trends-in-income-and-wealth-inequality/
 John Creamer. Inequalities Persist Despite Decline in Poverty For All Major Race and Hispanic Origin Groups. United States Census Bureau. September 15, 2020. https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2020/09/poverty-rates-for-blacks-and-hispanics-reached-historic-lows-in-2019.html
 EdBuild.org. 23 Billion. February 2019. https://edbuild.org/content/23-billion/full-report.pdf
 Angela Nelson. How Does COVID-19 Create Inequity in K-12 Education? Lessons from a Pandemic: Amid COVID-19, sociology professor Natasha Warikoo says educators and parents must keep equity as their focus. Tufts Now. October 6,2020.https://now.tufts.edu/articles/how-does-covid-19-create-inequity-k-12-education#:~:text=%E2%80%9CThe%20COVID%2D19%20pandemic%20has,their%20access%20to%20remote%20learning.%E2%80%9D