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Al Sharpton and Dr. Boyce Watkins to Rally for Kelley Williams-Bolar in Ohio

By Boyce Watkins, PhD on Feb 16th 2011 2:13AM

Filed under: News, Politics

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This Thursday, I plan to gather with Rev. Al Sharpton and members of the National Action Network to rally on behalf of Kelley Williams-Bolar, the single mother who was jailed for sending her children to a school outside their home district. The gathering is set to take place at the Mountain of the Lord Church in Akron, Ohio, the home city of Ms. Williams-Bolar.

Featured speakers at the event will include Rev. Sharpton, myself, Kelley Williams-Bolar, and various members of the Akron community who are concerned with inequality in the school system. Additional speakers will be Dr. Willis Lonzer, the Ohio President of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Rep. Vernon Sykes, and Rev. Curtis Walker, the President of the Akron School Board.

The gathering was not planned to simply advocate on behalf of Kelley. The most meaningful truth is that Kelley Williams-Bolar is just one person, and crusades on behalf of one individual unfortunately have limited societal value. We are gathering to support Kelley primarily because the Kelley Williams-Bolar case serves as a microcosm of all that is racially wrong with the United States of America. By attacking this injustice head-on with the community, we are working to strike a mighty blow to the walls of ignorance and apathy that keep systemic vehicles of racial segregation alive and well in America.

Our society claims to believe that all men are created equal, but all men and women are not given equal opportunities in our country. Inadequate inner city school systems serve to destroy the futures of millions of black and brown children, and we have not yet expressed enough collective outrage to do something about it. In addition to dramatic inequality in educational access, there is also inequality as it pertains to economic opportunities and the criminal justice system. Kelley’s case got my attention because all three forms of inequality played a role in the efforts to ruin her future and the futures of her children.

Had Kelley not had the audacity to have been born black, statistics show that she is more likely to have been born with a higher family income and wealth level. Therefore, her chances of living in a housing project with an inferior school system would have been slim to none. Additionally, she would have been able to afford better attorneys in court, reducing her likelihood of being incarcerated. Finally, being a white woman from the suburbs would have reduced the chance that the judge in her case would have gone out of her way to make an example out of Kelley by sending her to jail.

If Kelley had access to white privilege, the criminal justice system would have treated her differently. African Americans are far more likely to be targeted by the authorities, more likely to be sent to jail for the same crimes, and also more likely to face a life sentence of marginalization for these crimes once they’ve been released from prison or jail. As a result of this conviction, Kelley, as it stands, won’t ever be able to teach again in the state of Ohio.

Finally, had Kelley not been a black woman, her children would be able to benefit from the fact that white children, on average, enjoy a far better educational system than the black and brown kids of America. She would not be forced to break the law in order to obtain something that should be a fundamental American right. The idea that people of color would have to risk going to jail in order to get the same thing that others are able to freely receive should be an outrage to us all. In that regard, Kelley Williams-Bolar has become the Rosa Parks of the modern day educational system, and has served to help make Black History.

So, I personally am not holding this gathering with Rev. Sharpton as a PhD. I am going to Ohio in order to be a “Ph-Do.” Rather than simply sharing the idea that there is unfairness in our economic, educational and criminal justice systems, we should all be willing to do something about it. I certainly hope that other concerned citizens will replicate the fight in their own communities.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here. To follow Dr. Boyce on Facebook, please click here.

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