By Dwight Hobbes
It’s said you can’t change the world but you can do something about the few square feet you occupy. Try telling that to educator-motivational speaker Daphne Brown, who utilizes both practical life experience and academic education to make a difference for African American youth.
Her full professional title, Daphne E. Brown, M.A., M.A., EDD (2014), and the fact that she’s on the Upper Iowa University faculty needn’t throw you off. A refreshingly accessible, down-to-earth take on empowering the young, Brown’s thorough, enlightened curriculum is grounded in elemental nuts and bolts.
“My concentration and dissertation,” Brown states, “[is] dedicated to making [Black children] successful academically.” There, of course, could not be a more crucial issue for Black America in general and Black Minnesota in particular.
Since the mid-1980s with the advent of crack and related influx of gang activity from Detroit and Chicago, the Twin Cities has seen a drastic effect on youngsters. Even many who don’t join gangs have died as victims of stray gunfire. Add to this the ongoing disparity between how well White students are learning and how poorly Black students are learning in public school systems.
Education, long a stepping stone for Blacks to get a leg up in life, couldn’t be a more valuable commodity these days. All the more important, then, that Brown’s approach does not view education as being in a vacuum, something that because it takes place in a classroom it isn’t impacted by what else goes on in a child’s life.
“What I’m concerned about,” Brown says, “is they also have to be successful spiritually, emotionally, economically.” She is speaking first hand, reflecting, “I grew up in the housing projects of Peoria, Illinois” — a fact of life that never held Richard Pryor back. Brown was determined it would not hold her back, either.
“My experience in the school I attended, especially in elementary school, you didn’t get the education the White kids got. We had used books, used-up everything. Even used-up teachers. I said to myself, ‘There’s something really wrong.’” And she concluded, “I need to help make a difference in [the lives of] our children.”
Toward said end, via Daphne Brown Management Consulting ([email protected]), she has, since 2000, designed, developed and continues to successfully implement inclusion plans at educational organizations, namely, North Hennepin Community College and the United States Census Bureau, entailing in her seminars informed oratory fostering and nurturing youth development.
“Academic achievement,” she underscores, “is a huge issue, for our youth and our families. Students are not getting the tools they need [in order] to be successful. That begins in early childhood.”
Pursuant to which, Brown effects intervention as early as possible — beginning before kindergarten. After all, the sooner you get a young mind intelligently thinking, the better you help him or her start mapping out whether he or she winds up with a dead-end future on the streets or a way out of a lifetime limited to society’s sidelines. Among her credits, it must be mentioned, is tenure at child welfare agency Generation’s Inc., specializing in mental health services, counseling, family integration and foster care.
“I want to build infrastructure [that brings in] policymakers, churches, community leaders to increase education. So we can help our children. So we can change the lives of our children.”
In dealing with formative, environmental effects, Brown takes it to basics. You can’t expect a child to fully concentrate, to learn as best they can, if they come to class after missing breakfast at home. It is, someone said, hard to feed a mind on an empty stomach.
“The environment, nutrition [are important],” Brown attests. “We need reading programs. We also need to help at home. Parents, they build the empirical involvement.”
She acknowledges, “It’s difficult.” If educational change, the root of social empowerment, is going to come, there can be no doubt, it has to originate where children originate — in the home.
It is hard to argue with Daphne Brown when she unequivocally states, “We need a total turnover. [If] we keep doing what we’re doing, our kids will continue to fail. We need to change how we pursue education.” Hard to argue.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.