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BLACK Lemonade For All:  An Essay




From its beginning in 2006, the Black Lemonade Project (BLP) was conceived and designed theoretically as a niche program targeting parents of African American children. Inspired in response to controversial commentary on national platforms in 2004, the BLP aspired to offer asset-based programming to address issues surrounding the parenting of African American children. Implicit in the design, however, was the recognition and awareness that while most parents of African American children share the same racial identity and heritage as their progeny, there are many biological and adoptive parents of black children who may not be African American.  Therefore, in actual practice, participation in BLP always has been open to parents of all races.   In fact, whether or not their children were black,  past white, Hispanic and Asian parent participants have not only valued and embraced their BLP experience, but promoted it to others as highly beneficial.  Consequently, the need to tout an obvious programmatic truth is not only long overdue, but correlates the realignment of BLP theory with actual practice.  Ultimately, the BLACK Lemonade Project-- that blends leadership, advocacy, culture and knowledge-- is, and always has been, for all!


Given the many lessons learned in the implementation and evolution of the BLP, there is so much more than the obvious to consider.  First and foremost, there is a universality of parenting realities that makes the unique BLP approach transformative for all parents, regardless of race. In the eight years of BLP’s existence, much change has occurred in our nation and the world.  From the proliferation of technology and the spread of social media to the uncertain economic environment and test-driven accountability movement in public education, American families have been, and continue to be, impacted in a variety of ways.


School as Arena of Change


Today’s schools are so much more than communities of learners.  While changes in pedagogy and instructional practice are embedded within their traditional mission to educate, schools also play a major role in the socialization and enlightenment of students.  In so doing, they serve as mirrors of society in general.   Popular trends in communication, technology, fashion, sports and cuisine find common ground in our schools.  In this context, a school is literally a public arena where change is showcased.  Students and educators are players in the spotlight whose roles and repertoire of interactions with each other depict the every day drama of civilized society. Most parents and guardians, then, are script writers who furnish the expected and accepted school community narrative to their children, rehearse it with them routinely, and are not satisfied until flawless performance occurs on cue. Should their student go off script, these parents are prepared immediately to revise and rehearse it anew until mastery is attained.  In most schools most of the time these behaviors are the norm.


Taken collectively, however, student behaviors manifested in schools mirror the diversity of parenting realities.  Nevertheless, the broad range of parenting styles that exist in America today array themselves along a continuum that spans from permissive to restrictive.  Depending upon the kinds of styles in which children are raised, their behavior as students tends to reflect the nature of that nurture. 


Since the school is truly an arena--a central focal point within a community where the impact of parenting can be readily observed through the lens of student behavior--opinions and attitudes are formulated.  Rightly or wrongly, conclusions are drawn based upon how little or how much information is available about students’ families that may differ from most by race, acculturation and sophistication.


Over time, such conclusions have a cumulative effect:  they create the perfect storm for misunderstanding, misconceptions, faulty assumptions and innuendo.  These factors not only impact the climate of a school, but can disrupt the optimal atmosphere for effective teaching and learning to take place. Left unattended, conclusions based on little more than assumption, hearsay and rumor can become destructive and undermine the ethos of a school, the image of a neighborhood or the cohesion of a community. 


BLACK Lemonade Project


In the 21st century, such storms may occur, but they can be weathered constructively. The BLACK Lemonade Project (BLP) provides an invaluable opportunity for meaningful dialogue between parents of school-age children to occur in a non-judgmental environment where differing views can be expressed and respected.  It is a proactive experience designed to maximize shared experiences and beliefs in pursuit of mutual goals for the success of children in school, the community and life.

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