Talking about the elephant in the room at The Georgetown
By Amanda Tonoli
Juniors and seniors from Chaney High School, East High School and Choffin Career and Technical Center crowded into an overflowing room of prestigious and successful black American role models at The Georgetown, 5945 South Ave., to join the 98th annual celebration of the Freedom Fund Project.
George Freeman, president of the Youngstown Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the theme, bridging the education gap present in the area’s minority populations, ties into a bigger mission part of his vision as president – talking about the elephant in the room: race.
“I want to start getting people talking about how to eliminate ignoring that,” he said at Friday night’s fundraising dinner.
Freeman said it’s important to discuss black Americans specifically and stop treating an entire race of people with such ignorance.
“What happens in the schools that we found out here locally is that the teachers, a lot of them, are not familiar with African-American students,” he said. “We are just a little bit different than some of the other people. When we talk, we talk a little louder and a little stronger, and some of the teachers – they think somebody is getting ready to fight.”
Freeman said the start to fixing the problem is understanding that black students are different. The next step would be to discuss how to adjust to accommodate them to provide a better learning environment.
Lois Jean Haynes-Paige, district internship director for the Youngstown Business & Education Community Connections Program at Choffin, said a lot of importance lies with teaching the students about success and giving them tools to achieve it.
Another key aspect the Freedom Fund Banquet provided was learning success from speakers who also could teach them about their backgrounds.
The speakers were Herman J. Felton Jr., president of Wilberforce University, the nation’s oldest private historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio; Krish Mohip, CEO of the Youngstown City School District; Thomas Humphries, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber; and Michael Beverly of Youngstown State University’s Multicultural Services.
The primary goal of the YBECC program is to teach students their value in history and help provide them opportunities in the real world.
Makayla James, 17, is in her second year in the YBECC program and said when she comes out, she will feel prepared to conquer the adult world.
“There’s not a lot of the programs in the inner-city area, so we need programs like this are trying to help the inner-city kids succeed,” she said.
Kemoni Bailey, 17, a YBECC veteran, said the program helped him grow into the store manager he is today.
“I came in being fired from a job,” he said. “The program helped me mold myself as a store manager and mold my staff of 10, too.”