I am in Akron, Ohio sitting at my laptop thinking about tomorrow’s events. Rev. Al Sharpton and I are in the state to rally for Kelley Williams-Bolar, the single mother who was jailed for sending her kids to a school outside their home district. In addition to going to jail for nine days, Ms. Williams-Bolar faces the possibility of never being able to teach in the state of Ohio for the rest of her life.
When we first started to talk about Kelley’s case, not many people knew what was happening. But to my surprise, the news spread like wildfire, with Kelley getting international support from citizens around the world who were outraged at what was happening to this single mother of two. ColorofChange.org and Change.org were able to gather hundreds of thousands of signatures in a matter of days, and the issue was immediately brought to the desk of Ohio Governor John Kasich. Kasich has agreed to have the parole board investigate and we continue to fight to protect Kelley and her family.
But the case is far bigger than Kelley Williams-Bolar, at least that’s not my primary reason for coming all this way. Every single day, my email inbox is filled with messages from citizens around the country who need help in very serious situations, and the truth is that I simply cannot help everyone. So, I decided long ago that I would try to avoid engaging in individual crusades. As someone who strongly believes in our nation’s quest for civil rights, it is my argument that our efforts are best utilized when pursuing matters that have the broadest socio-political implications.
Kelley Williams-Bolar’s case affects millions of people because there are countless mothers who’ve risked the same persecution as Kelley to get their children access to a high-quality education. Too many of our schools don’t have enough books, quality teachers or other resources necessary to prepare our children for a productive future. Others came together to support Kelley because they could feel her pain. Millions also seem to agree that we should not live in a nation where mothers must break the law in order to obtain something that should be a fundamental American right.
If Kelley’s children had been athletic like another Akron native by the name of LeBron James, they likely would have been allowed into the school without incident. It is unfortunate that black children are worth something to others when they are presented as athletic, rather than intellectual commodities. In fact, the idea that the labor of our youth has become such a powerful economic asset for the prison industrial complex has served to make our public school systems into feeders for America’s penitentiaries.
It’s time for this to change. The denial of an adequate education for black and brown children across America is nothing less than a blatant violation of our human rights. The Obama Administration should take the lead on this issue and have the necessary political courage to deal with this persistent and destructive problem. Citizens who care about educational equality should do everything in their power to give our political leaders all the support they need to get the job done. We shouldn’t settle for anything less, and that’s why we’re rallying in Ohio.