Teach For America: 25th Anniversary Main Event — Memphis Lift

(applause) – Good evening. My name is Natasha Kamrani and I’m a 1991 Houston corps member. For far too long, there has been one voice that has been shockingly
absent from the conversation about education in our country. It’s a singularly important voice, perhaps the most important
voice about education. It’s the voice of parents and grandparents from the communities we serve. Tonight I am beyond honored
to introduce you all to some incredible
parents and grandparents whose work I am so
lucky to get to support. Teach for America, oh, Teach for America. Meet the parents and
grandparents of the Memphis Lift. – Fire it up – Ready to go – Fire it up – Ready to go – Fire it up – Ready to go (lively cheers) Good evening everyone,
my name is Elijah Sledge and we are the Memphis Lift. We are Straight Outta Memphis, and we are Parents with Attitude. Now our team envisions
a day when every child, no matter what neighborhood
he or she lives in will attend a high-quality
public school system. And as a parent outreach
organization, it is our mission to educate, engage, and empower
our city’s priority parents. And we educate, engage,
and empower our community towards the goal of
steadily and aggressively eliminating a high number
of children who attend these really low-performing schools. Now, to explain to you
what a priority school is, a priority school is
a school that performs in the bottom five percent. So in our state, the state of Tennessee, there are 81 of these
low-performing schools in which 55 are in our city. So this means that we
have 1 out of 6 children who can read on grade level. This means in our community we have 3 out of 10 children who
perform math on the grade level. So in our communities, around our homes, in our churches, we have
schools where four percent of the children are college ready. This is ridiculous, and we the
parents and the grandparents of the Lift know that our kids are better than these horrific statistics. We feel like this is criminal
and we know this is injustice. And we won’t stop and can’t
stop until our mission is to pass beyond ours. – Good evening. My name is Dianechia Fields. Thank you. I’ve got fans! And this group of 20 people
you see up on this stage. We all met in a fellowship
in the spring of last year, and we decided that we wanted to educate, engage, and empower
parents in Memphis to demand. Not ask, not plead, but demand, for better schools in our
city for our children. We started on June 1st, and from June 1st to December 8th of 2015, this team of 20 people you see, we knocked on 10,249 doors. We did that. We did that. Of families in priority
schools in the communities, that Mr. Sledge told you about, shockingly only 89% of parents had no idea they were sending their children
to these priority schools, these failing schools. But not so surprisingly,
95% of these families believed that our children can
and should be doing better. So after this 20 man team, I keep saying 20 people
because this is huge. We’re not a big organization
like Teach for America, where we can fill the Verizon Center, but us 20 people, after
we knocked on these – (all) 10,249 doors, – let me tell you what we did. We hosted school tours. We held community meetings,
where we helped parents to learn how to hold
their schools accountable for their children’s education. We worked for parents. Let me say that again, cause
somebody up top didn’t hear me. The Memphis Lift works for- – (group) parents! – And we exist to lift up our city. Something big is happening
in Memphis y’all. It’s starting with us. We’re organizing parents to
demand more for our children, for they are our future. – Good evening, my name
is Sarah Carpenter. And I wanna tell you, – Sarah got fans! – And I just wanna tell
you why we do this work, for the last past 30 years,
we have lived in the city where if you are poor you
have very little chance of getting the sort of education you need to be successful in this country. In Memphis for generation
after generation of families, where no one gets a quality education, no one gets an opportunity. This is America’s modern day slavery. And we’re sick of it and
we’re going to change it. We don’t work for charter schools. – No! – We don’t work for district schools. – No! – We work for parents
and we work for children. – Yes! – We’re starting the
movement to demand better. And if you don’t provide,
we coming after you! The time is now and our children
don’t have any more time. We believe that the people
from our communities should lead this movement. This movement should be
for parents, by parents. But guess what? We know we
can’t do this work alone. And we want to ask all of you tonight – to join us in our work
and together we rise. – We rise! – Everybody stand up. Everybody up. We can do this work together, so we want everyone to link up. Everyone should link
up right now, together. Y’all ready? – Ready. – ♫ Who’s got my back? – ♫ I got your back. – ♫ Who’s got my back? – ♫ I got your back. – ♫ Who’s got my back? – ♫ I got your back. – ♫ Who’s got my back? – ♫ I got your back. – ♫ Who’s got my back? – ♫ I got your back. – Memphis Lift on three. – (all) One. Two. Three. Memphis Lift! (cheering)

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  1. Absolutely powerful! Memphis the house. "FIRED UP AND READY TO GO". Every child deserves a high quality edu education. Movements for Change always start with community and organizing. Parents are sick tired of our children attending the lowest performing schools across this country. This has been going on generation after generation. Enough is enough. It is way past time to DEMAND change and to disrupt systematic inequities in education for our children. Thank you Memphis Lift and you know the Oakland REACH in Oakland, California "GOT YOUR BACK.

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