AF: As we start working to envision the DNC in a much more fleshed-out way, that will be the focus of the effort: making sure that we are inclusive in the opportunities, not exclusive, especially as it relates to small businesses. We’ve got to partner with the Democratic National Committee on how we execute this vision. It is my intention that this event be a proof point for involving our community in these opportunities and showing that we can and will deliver.
TR: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has been getting slammed in the media and has even been referred to as “terrible” by some. As a product of the school system, what are your thoughts on CMS?
AF: One of the things that Charlotte is not unique in having to deal with is the fact that nationally, there is a significant achievement gap. In fact, if we compare the gap [between] kids in Charlotte [and those in] some major cities along social and economic lines, we fare pretty well. Having said that, the failure rate is still too high. I don’t think it’s terrible by any stretch.
Like anything else, [CMS is] as good as the resources that are placed in it, and it’s as good as the community wants it to be. One of the real developments over the last 20 years has been the extent to which there has been a lot of anti-rhetoric about the schools. It started with some who said resources weren’t the issue — we needed to create more accountability in the school system. Other voices were arguing that you can have all of the accountability that you want, but with no resources, what does it matter? It’s not an either-or situation; our kids need dramatically greater levels of involvement and investment in their future, and we’ve got to reinvent the way education is delivered.
TR: What can be done?
AF: It has to be a joint effort. We need to have more flexibility with the calendar, which means a longer school year. As parents, we need to be cutting off the television and having our kids do their homework before they go out and play. We need to serve as tutors. I tutor a young man once a week at my alma mater West Charlotte High School.
We need to create a culture in this city that does not tolerate mediocrity. To be the pubic school system that we all want to be, we’re going to have to stop arguing with ourselves and pick up a bucket and a squeegee and start working at it.
Nsenga Burton is editor-at-large for The Root. She also serves as cultural critic for Creative Loafing and is an assistant professor of communication and media studies at Goucher College in Baltimore. Follow her on Twitter.