Delay IS Denial


I grew up in the church and I can remember hearing the phrase “Delay is not denial” all the time. The Pastor would say it when the unexpected came and changed someone’s “plans” and I’ve heard it countless times in my life as the response to the obstacles and setbacks I’ve encountered with opening a school (no small feat to begin!)

While these words can provide comfort and solace for someone going through disappointment - they DO NOT APPLY to our babies who are not receiving high-quality education. For them, delay IS denial!

I sat amongst seventeen 5th graders and listened to their personal reactions to a text we read.  We had just discussed the word “poverty” and they had never heard of it - let alone knew that it had been used to describe them by others.  

Fact of the matter is - in their neighborhood, everyone is poor. There is no reference point beyond poor, as many haven’t been outside of the four corners of their neighborhood. To place this into context, the heart of downtown Memphis is less than five miles away from where they live. The concept of poverty wasn’t one they even thought applied to them.

I asked, “Do you think I have ever lived in poverty?” They stared at me and just shook their heads.

I began to tell them how I grew up heating water on the stove when the water was turned off or sitting outside to do my homework when the lights were cut off. I told them how I didn’t know milk wasn’t a mixture of powder and water shaken in a milk jug until I was in middle school and I shared there were many days where meals were just pork and beans.

Even though these students and I may share similar childhood experiences, we don’t share the same educational experience.

And for that - DELAY is DENIAL!

We need an educational system that doesn’t provide increased opportunities to those who are “Gifted” or in the “Optional” program.

We need all schools to come together and norm what “high-quality” education looks like - not what’s good for the poor kids in the charter schools versus what’s good for the “elite” in the suburbs.

We need culturally competent educators who are presenting culturally-relevant text along with the “classics” to increase the exposure and repertoire of our students.

We need leaders inside and outside school buildings who rally for ALL kids, in ALL schools EVERYDAY!

We need everyone to know the longer we wait - the more we delay - the more we are denying our kids the opportunity to excel beyond their wildest dreams!  If we delay, we deny our black and brown kids, our poor and disadvantaged kids - hell, ALL kids, the opportunity to propel our world forward - innovate and create a world that we would be proud to sit back and enjoy.

If we DELAY, we DENY more than we could have ever imagined!

As I think back, I didn’t know I was impoverished as a child, but I did know there was more to life than what I saw.  I came to this realization from having a great educational experience that opened doors for me and increased my opportunities tremendously.

I owe it to them to continue the work and remove the delay - one day at a time!


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.