San Antonio’s newest school is opening its doors for kindergartners to fifth graders this fall. Essence Preparatory is a culturally and academically focused public school helping Black and brown students get better opportunities they often don’t find in other school settings.
The tuition-free public charter school, partially funded by the state, has a temporary location at 4535 Lord Road on San Antonio’s East Side. The school’s permanent location nearby Lord Road is slated to open in 2023.
When students start their classes on Aug. 22, they will see a diverse staff, which includes Black male teachers and smaller class sizes of about 15 students to one teacher. Texas state law requires a 22-to-1 student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through fourth grade, though districts can apply for waivers to exceed it. Essence Prep has a two-teacher per classroom model and anticipates enrolling 360 students.
Students will also learn from an innovative curriculum focusing on project-based, social-emotional, STE(A)M learning and a student conduct system concentrated on positive outcomes rather than disciplinary actions.
Essence Prep Superintendent Akeem Brown, who is the catalyst and founder of the school, has personally experienced how the education industry can be limiting for students of color.
“Although I attended some of New York City’s top schools as a student, access to that level of education was not available in my low-income community. This experience has led me to my mission to build and lead a high-performing school that directly serves students living in some of San Antonio’s most distressed neighborhoods,” Brown said, who began his career in education as a social studies teacher in Brooklyn, NY.
Brown has since managed programming and communications for the City of San Antonio’s Office of EastPoint and served as the director of operations and interim CEO of San Antonio Growth on the Eastside, where he supported STEM instruction in the San Antonio Independent School District and oversaw a $23.7 million Promise Neighborhood grant. Brown has also served as director of communications and policy for San Antonio’s City Council District 2 and was the director of people operations at Compass Rose Academy. He holds a Bachelor of Science in political science from South Carolina State University and is pursuing a master’s in organizational leadership from Our Lady of the Lake University.
. . . achieving a passing score is commendable, but it is not our gauge for overall student success and pursuit of excellence.
For parents unfamiliar with public charter schools, Essence Prep has to follow strict curriculum guidelines to prepare every student to not only “pass” but excel on the annual state STAAR test.
According to Essence Prep, “achieving a passing score is commendable, but it is not our gauge for overall student success and pursuit of excellence. At Essence Prep, all of our scholars know and understand that education is a privilege and a necessary tool for success in life.”
Brown emphasized that Essence Prep seeks to provide students with the pathways to an opportunity lacking in many areas of the city. Students will grapple with real-world issues and develop the skills necessary to be effective agents of change. The school will adopt community-building traditions like morning circle meetings and weekly family gatherings and use a “whole self” curriculum to teach social and emotional learning skills.
“Our school should be an environment where children learn the skills they need to advocate for themselves and the needs of their communities after graduation,” Brown added.
Essence Prep is currently accepting students entering kindergarten through the fifth grade and will scale to serve students in the 8th grade in the near future. The school will also provide free transportation within a five-mile radius of its location.
Families who do not have their own homes or have been displaced and students in foster or kinship care may register without certain documents. Contact Essence Prep for more information at (210) 446-9882 or visit its website at (www.EssencePrepSA.org).
Black Chamber of Commerce Uplifting Businesses
August is #National Black Business Month and this is an opportunity for Black businesses to be celebrated, supported, and promoted for the milestones Black-owned firms have accomplished.
Being a business owner is hard work and luckily entrepreneurs have national and local chambers of commerce looking out for their best interests.
Recently the United States Black Chamber of Commerce (USBC) came out with its 2022 BlackPrint publication that lists some of its main priorities. The annual publication is provided to give the U.S. Congress and corporate decision-makers a blueprint to support Black-owned businesses.
Some of these priorities include reforming the federal 8(a) program, which was created to give opportunities to minority businesses. However, the program has been dominated by female-owned firms. USBC said if Alaska Native Corporations in the 8(a) program are given an advantage in Alaska over other underserved business owners then this model can be used for Black-owned businesses in other states. USBC would also like to see the expansion of opportunities for Black-owned cannabis businesses. Although cannabis dispensaries (medical and recreational) are fully legal and operational in over 33 states, an overwhelming majority of cannabis businesses are white-owned.
. . . Texas has the largest Black population among the 50 states and the third most Black-owned businesses.
Another priority includes increasing Black-owned companies in radio and TV. According to the Federal Communications Commission in 2019, 77% of AM radio stations were owned by white operators, while only 3% were owned by Black operators, 7% were Hispanic-owned, and 3% were Asian-owned. Only 2% of commercial FM broadcasters are Black compared to 77% of stations owned by white broadcasters. The figures for television ownership are no different. USBC says without Black representation in the media, Black voices and stories cannot be elevated to the extent of those that white-owned stations receive.
USBC adds the Federal government should institute a nationally-recognized Black-owned business certification which they believe would help federal and local governments increase their business with Black companies, contractors, and suppliers. USBC also wants the Black business community to lead global trading initiatives throughout Africa to capitalize on burgeoning economic opportunities in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
At the state and local levels, Black businesses also can turn to the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce (TAAACC) and two San Antonio Black chambers of commerce.
TAAACC is a 32-year-old organization formed by 24 Black chambers of commerce operating in Texas to advocate on their and their member’s behalf. TAAACC says Texas has the largest Black population among the 50 states and the third most Black-owned businesses. Despite this presence and the huge sums of money expended to deliver government services to Texans, Black-owned businesses come in virtually last in contract awards from state agencies. TAAACC said that’s why it’s important to have a network of Black business organizations to combat these glaring disparities.
In San Antonio, it’s estimated that only 5% or a total of 9,985 firms in the San Antonio-New Braunfels metro area are African American-owned. The overwhelming majority (95% or 9,500) of Black-owned firms are non-employer firms without paid employees. Only 485 Black-owned firms or 1.5% have employees – which is much lower than the 7% share of the population that is African American. Thankfully the city has two chambers of commerce encouraging Black entrepreneurship.
The Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce was founded in 1938 as the Negro Chamber of Commerce when 12 men and one woman, Miss Euretta K. Fairchild, decided to form an organization to address the business needs of the Black community in San Antonio. The San Antonio Negro Chamber of Commerce was formed as an outgrowth of a program by the local chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity’s “Bigger and Better Business” week.”
The African American Chamber of Commerce of San Antonio (AACCSA) was founded in 1993 by a group of African American business owners and consumers seeking to improve the economic status of Black business owners and the African American community. The vision was to form an organization that would advocate on behalf of emerging and established businesses, help to create new market opportunities, provide access to capital, and revitalize African American communities.
Both these organizations, along with the national and state Black chambers of commerce, play a pivotal role in uplifting Black business. Alamo City and African American chambers host many events and learning workshops for San Antonio businesses to compete at higher levels.
To learn more about the Alamo City Chamber visit (AlamoCityChamber.org) and to learn about the African American Chamber, go to (AfricanAmericanChamberSA.org).
Moses Using Tech
to Bring Water to Those in Need
Flint, Michigan and Puerto Rico – what do these areas have in common? They both have benefited from atmospheric water generation machines by the Most West Foundation and AWG Contracting.
Thanks to US Army Veteran Moses West’s compassion and innovation, these communities were able to access clean water. One eco-friendly AWG machine, which pulls water out of the air, can supply water to a minimum of 500 people and is small enough to transport in the back of a pickup truck. Through West’s military contacts, he’s able to quickly deploy from his base in San Antonio to weather-related disasters.
While AWG contracts with the Department of Defense in support of U.S. troops serving around the world, the Moses West Foundation has brought clean water to Flint, and worked with FEMA as part of relief efforts following Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The nonprofit foundation was able to supply an estimated 15,000 people with water via an AWG machine operating on solar power. West is hoping he can bring his machines to war-torn Ukraine.
Flint (a highly-publicized water contamination crisis) represents what the future could look like in many US cities if the government and municipalities don’t make it a priority to fix aging infrastructure. This crisis is not new to Texas either. In Sandbranch, a small community outside of Dallas, residents are forced to use contaminated wells and rely on donations of bottled water to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, as well as to drink.
Though the aging town only has about 100 residents (mostly African-American), it’s a community that could use the water technology from the Moses West Foundation.
. . . the aging town only has about 100 residents (mostly African-American), it’s a community that could use the water technology . . .
“Sandbranch should be the model for what other people can do with this technology.” Moses said. “The Sandbranch project is 100 percent funded by donations. The stainless-steel water storage tanks will provide enough water to support residents, livestock and an organic community garden. Locals will be trained how to operate the technology so that the system is sustainable.”
West says there are at least 40 other communities in Texas dealing with similar issues. Many state and city leaders understand the dire need to fix the country’s water infrastructure.
In June of this year, the federal government just allocated up to $6.5 billion in total funding to support $13 billion in water infrastructure projects. Priority will be given to water and wastewater infrastructure in underserved communities. A portion of that funding will also be utilized to address PFAS and emerging contaminants. PFAS are harmful chemicals that break down slowly and can be found in the blood of people all over the world and at lower levels in foods and products.
While AWG is not the first company to use atmospheric technology, West is one of the few Black entrepreneurs making space for himself in the environmental business category. What also makes him standout is his vast military experience and his willingness to go to remote areas to help water-stricken communities. West is a prior member of the 75th Ranger Regiment, the 2nd Armored Division, the 2nd Infantry Division, the 7th Cavalry Regiment and the 101st Airborne Division.
In Ukraine, it’s estimated that damage to the water and power systems have left more than 6 million people without adequate access to safe water.
“Water is one of the issues that’s going to make a big difference in the lives of women and children in Ukraine,” adds Moses. “Their basements are full of moisture, wet and unhealthy. The AWG machines can pull pure water out of the air and, by doing so, keep people protected from small arms and artillery fire by decentralizing the location of where water is made.”
Currently the Moses West Foundation is raising at least $1 million to send five of the AWG machines to Ukraine and another five to Sandbranch, Texas.
Donations are being accepted online at the Moses West Foundation at (www.MosesWestFoundation.org). Just scroll down to “Donate Now.”
4th of July Joyous Day for Some
Day of Outrage for others
As we approach this year’s annual Fourth of July celebrations it will be quite different for a large segment of America. On Friday, June 24, nearly half the country’s population was shocked by the United States Supreme Court’s announcement that Roe V. Wade had been, for all purposes, overturned. For the past week women, with some men joining in, have demonstrated against that decision. They feel that one of their rights have been taken away from them. Not the right to have an abortion. That was never the issue. But their right to make private decisions about how they control their own body. Whereas, the Fourth of July is supposed to be a day of celebration, women all over this country will turn their backs on that day because they sincerely believe the United States Supreme Court has failed in their responsibility to protect the rights of all the people.
This year will not be the first time, the celebration is not viewed as a time to be joyous. The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass challenged that day on July 5, 1852. Much like the women today who feel betrayed by their government, Douglass also expressed that same betrayal from a government that celebrated freedom, while enslaving over four million of his fellow Black men, women, and children, as well as babies just born to slave mothers. Speaking before the Rochester, New York Ladies Anti-Slavery Society, in his strong resounding voice, he asked,
. . . your celebration is a sham, your boasted liberty, an unholy license, your national greatness, . . .
“What to the American Slave is the Fourth of July? I answer a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham, your boasted liberty, an unholy license, your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless…your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy…There is not a nation on earth, guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.”
Despite Douglass’s glaring condemnation of the July 4 celebrations, he did ultimately hold out hope for the future of the country. He continued:
“Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work…The arm of the Lord is not shortened, and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered.”
Thirteen years after delivering that speech, Douglass’s confidence in the institutions of the country were fulfilled, and President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation brought an end to that terrible institution of slavery and provided the country with a much better outlook for the future. The women of this country who feel their liberties have been diminished by the Supreme Court decision in Roe, can hopefully find the same kind of confidence in this country’s ruling documents and institutions that Douglass held over 170 years ago. The question is, will their final outcome be a positive one as it was for Douglass. Time will tell.
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