by James Manning
I am not an advent supporter of Dr. Umar Johnson. He has views on social issues where I vehemently disagree with him, especially pertaining to women and gay rights. There are times where I believe he is unnecessarily bombastic and hyperbolic. Overall, I would say that twenty percent of the time I hear him speak I find myself wincing. The 80% where I agree with him. On this issue of the school, I REALLY AGREE WITH HIM.
His in pursuit to purchase the now closed St. Paul’s College located in Lawrenceville, Virginia. He plans to rename the school the Fredrick Douglass and Marcus Garvey International Leadership Academy for Black Boys (FD&MG Academy). It is an ambitious project but one worthy of our support regardless of how much we agree or disagree with the man.
We know the statistics haunting black youth and the myriad of challenges facing them. Many of our young black men are trapped in a cycle of failure and the schools, communities, churches, governments are either indifferent to this plight, ill-equipped to help, or are themselves part of the problem. There are no shortage of organizations and individuals attempting to turn the tide, but there is nothing available on par with what Dr. Johnson is proposing.
Studies show that there are many advantages of gender specific education. Chicago Urban Prep is a great example of this success. Dr. Johnson can take best practices from this school and other around the country. What he can do that most schools cannot is immerse black boys in a culture of success and high expectations. The students will not face the challenge of living up to high expectations in the classroom, thug mentality on the streets, and socio-economic challenges in the home. If Chicago Urban Prep, a school whose students face those aforementioned challenges, can graduate 90% of its student body, then FD&MG Academy should exceed those results.
This is not to say that success is guaranteed. I am a realist and we know that the school has several hurdles on the horizon; primaryly, finding parents willing to send their children away to school. Going away to boarding school is not something that happens very often in the black community. Currently, there isn’t anything to suggest the tuition for each student and how parents are expected to cover that cost. Being a private school, Dr. Johnson will not have state funds to help sustain the school. Therefore, the cost to parents may be considerable unless private donations are enough to offset tuition for students in need.
Challenges aside, this is a great opportunity. This initial step is something that the black community should get behind if only to gain a better understanding of the pitfalls in trying such an ambitious endeavor for future reference.by