Reduce Confusion in School Enrollment Tent City Gone; Central Problem Remains


By Lashundra Hall

I have three kids in school right now, and like many other Memphis parents, I know that some of Shelby County Schools’ optional schools provide a better education than the neighborhood public school.

Too many traditional schools in Shelby County Schools (SCS) are low-performing, so parents do what we have to.

For years in the January cold, we stood in lines wrapped around the corner, even camped out in Tent City, to try to enroll our kids in an optional school.

I was lucky enough for my children to be enrolled, but they were enrolled in different schools. Somehow, I managed three different drop-offs and pick-ups at three different schools.

It is not easy for parents to jump through all these hoops, for some parents it’s impossible. And, if you don’t know what you don’t know— you are left out in the cold again.

Why is it so hard for our kids to get access to something as basic as a good school? Don’t they deserve better?

Until all our schools are great schools, we should be making it as easy as possible for parents to get information to help them choose a school, and to make enrollment straightforward and fair.

The system we have now is about as far from that as you can imagine.

We have to follow different processes, meet different deadlines, and fill out different applications for every public school option, including 1) SCS zoned public schools, 2) SCS general choice transfer options, 3) SCS optional schools, 4) SCS iZone schools, 5) Achievement School District (ASD) schools, and 6) public charter schools.

There has to be a better way.

The Memphis Lift wants to work with the school district and elected officials to create a process that levels the playing field for all families— not just those who can jump through these hoops.

We believe parents and their students deserve an enrollment process that is transparent and fair. So we are issuing a rally cry: Powerful Parents, link up with us and demand change for our children.

No one knows what we need to do to fix this mess better than you.

Join the movement.

Lashundra Hall is a parent involved with The Memphis Lift and also has children who have gone through the SCS Optional School process.


In Love with Another Man…


I’ve been in love with Black Panther since before I can remember, waaay before this weekend!  Believe it or not, I’m a comic book nerd.

I was first introduced to comics as a third grader attending a predominantly-white “gifted center/school”where children from all over the Chicago-land area were taught. It was nothing to see all my classmates, girls and boys, reading and exchanging comics over lunch, recess, and every other social time in between.

When you are identified as “gifted” and an exceptional learner, it’s easier to find solace in the pages of comic books with superheroes who had super powers and super intellect. I wasn’t readingThe Baby-Sitters Club series or a Nicholas Sparks novel;I was reading Black Panther.

Naturally, I was in love with King T’Challa. Yes, King T’Challa is Black Panther, but the man behind the mask was who my pre-teen self admired.

If you didn’t know…

1. T’Challa is a genius! He smarter than Tony Sparks any day. He studied at Oxford University and, obtained a PhD in physics. Although wealthy, he didn’t buy his intellect.

2. The title of “Black Panther” is a hereditary right of the King of Wakanda, a protector of both the land and its resources. It isn’t a title that one can just choose to become because of a suit (i.e. Batman).

3. King T’Challa has more wealth than any other superhero in the Marvel Universe at $90 trillion. Frankly, the net worth of Wakanda’s resources would be worth more than the GDP of our current, real world.  

As ae pre-teen, adolescent and young lady, I loved T’Challa.

But Friday night, I fell in love with Killmonger.

I’m in love with another man.

Before Friday, I loved what Black Panther represented to me. Education. Intellect. Strength. Unity. Pride. T’Challa is the epitome of “Black Excellence,” from his pride in his country, his tribe, to the ways in which he chooses to serve and protect his people. He understands the detriment of colonization and protects his people at any cost. Hiding “in plain sight” is how he’s survived.

He effortlessly demonstrates my motto – Real G’s move in silence.

But as a woman, I have fallen in love with Erik Killmonger.

In Marvel Universe, Erik’s parents are killed by Klaw, who then takes him captive.  Erik escapes to the United States and despite not having a family, let alone a father to be his living example, graduated from MIT. What he doesn’t have in wealth, he has in passion.

Black Panther movie director Ryan Coogler amended this part of the story to provide us with a juxtaposition of T’Challa. Erik is a man who is equally intelligent, equally passionate and equally instinctive – with a completely different foundation. Where T’Challa represents Black Excellence at its finest, one could describe Killmonger as the antithesis.

And if you did so, you’d be sadly mistaken. Erik is completely misunderstood if he is seen as the “Angry Black Man.” He knows from whence he came and who he is. He carries his birthright, hidden in plain sight - literally and figuratively, he is connected to Wakanda. He carries this, knowing he can neither return to Wakanda nor fight against it.

His scars are not ritualistic, yet they resemble those of his people. He dons a reminder of those he has killed, self-mutilating not as a badge of honor, but as a necessity – a means to an end. He seeks revenge for his father, which means destroying a piece of who he is. He recognizes the struggle of the oppressed and is furious that his family has not only abandoned him, but also the people who look just like him.

Erik is not evil or full of hate. He is what we could call “woke.”

As a girl, I needed T’Challa in my life. I loved T’Challa’s mind and his vision. I relied on his pride and emulated that for myself, being in a world that didn’t look like me.  During the day, I went to school with my head held high knowing I belonged among my white counterparts. After school, I returned to my “hood.”

Yet, as a woman, I can no longer be comfortable with simply getting the education and preserving my legacy. I need to help my people who don’t have, give them tools to not just succeed, but fight back. I sometimes tell my students to channel their anger - be angry enough to make a change, be angry enough to use all your time getting the education you deserve that hasn’t been given to you.  Be angry enough to go against your people who aren’t doing what they can.

I almost jumped out of my seat at the end of the movie where we see T’Challa and Erik sharing a moment after Erik’s defeat. T’Challa offers Erik restoration, a sort of restorative justice, to which Erik responds,

“Bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships because they knew death was better than bondage…”

There is no life in bondage – whether by those who look like you or those who do not. While we all may go to the movies, showing pride in our heritage, and #doitfortheculture, let’s ensure that when this movie is done, we are as enthusiastic about honoring our culture and legacy through empowerment, education, and access.

Let’s make sure that more stories are told, more images are seen, not just on the big-screen, but in our living rooms, on the streets, in our classrooms – everywhere. I challenge us all to embrace a bit of Killmonger in our lives, not just T’Challabecause both are representations of who we are.

Because I need to put away my childish things, I must say: I used to be in love with T’Challa, but I’m a woman now and I need me some Killmonger.

Marlena Little

Educator, visionary and leader.

Marlena Little grew up in the inner-city of Chicago in one of the worst neighborhoods of the city. Yet the contrast of her home and school life provided evidence to the statement, “it’s not where you’ve been but where you are going”. Having attended one of the best elementary and high-schools in the country, she was determined to live beyond the poverty and violence of her neighborhood, knowing education was the escape.

Marlena Little, a Memphian by choice, relocated to Memphis to fight for educational equity. As a teacher, it was important for Marlena’s students to see her as an example of that escape. As an administrator, Marlena challenged teachers and staff to illuminate education as the way out, yet as a visionary, Marlena has created paths of escape.

As Founder of Life Prep Academy Schools, Marlena Little has seamlessly merged her childhood with the standard of excellence imbedded in her educational experiences to provide students, regardless of any “label”, the limitless opportunities a high-quality education affords.  Her philosophical beliefs about education are the guiding principles of Life Prep.

In addition to her many roles, Marlena Little is also a mother and forever learner.  She is a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership and has the pleasure of raising a nine-year-old daughter.


Black and Brown Unity and the Poor People’s Campaign that never was


By Gary Hardie

It's safe to say Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was stolen from us much too soon. I have listened to his final speech more times than I can count. His words in Montgomery the night before his murder were too specific and pointed to be a coincidence. I often wonder what he knew or what he thought after he left the pulpit that night. Mostly, I wonder what was next.

One of the misnomers about Dr. King is that he only cared about causes that affected black people, but he lived by his words, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Dr. King reached out to Latino leaders in 1968, hoping to unite low-income communities across the US as he planned "The Poor People’s March."

Dr. King took an intersectional approach to fighting for justice and helped mobilize Latinos of all racial backgrounds. With the Poor People's March and campaign, Dr. King planned to join forces with leaders of minority communities in hopes of bringing justice to poor communities; thus continuing his work across racial lines during a time when he was considered racist for being pro-black.

In 1963, Dr. King pushed for a strong Latino presence at The March on Washington, asking Gilberto Valentin, President of the Puerto Rican Day Parade to bring his supporters and deliver remarks in Spanish at the rally.

In 1968 King, in support of Cesar Chavez during a hunger strike, sent a telegraph that read:

"The plight of your people and ours is so grave that we all desperately need the inspiring example and effective leadership you have given."

While visiting Puerto Rico, he said, "Over and over again it has been proven that individuals of minority groups can, even in the midst of their oppression, rise up and make creative contributions which reveal that there is no truth in the idea of inferiority."

Dr. King stood in solidarity with all marginalized people. What would have happened if he were alive today or if he had lived long enough to see us move closer to realizing his dream? What causes would he have supported and where would his prominence and influence have taken him? What we know for sure is he would have been working to promote the cause of justice and peace for all. He knew there was power in strength in uniting minority communities. More so, he knew that our history and futures were inextricably tied together and he would fight against injustice no matter where it took him.