When kids decide to change the world, amazing things happen. Subbing at Pittsburgh Langley K-8, I began work with a novel study intervention group. These 8th graders had been working with Mrs. Ebony Lunsford-Evans, who, a week or two into my new assignment, sat at her desk, crying. She had just heard the terrible story about the murder of an 18-month old in East Hills. Marcus Lamont White, Jr. was at an afternoon cook-out with his two Aunties. Somebody started shooting at the group. One Aunt tried to shield the baby with her body. She was shot twice. The other Aunt was shot in her leg. Little Marcus was shot and horrifically, died.
Mrs. Evans was just destroyed. I had heard the news too. We decided to scrap our lesson plans for the day and just talk to the kids about what had happened.
That's when our kids decided they had a choice about how to respond. They decided to do a fund raiser to benefit the family. Working with the most amazing human being on the planet, Mrs. Nancy Burns of CitiParks, they met Tosha Brown, the graphic artist in the video, above. They decided to call themselves F3-- Fighting for Our Future-- or the Langley Justice League. They worked out an equation describing what they are trying to do and who they are trying to be.
Then Nancy brought Chef Odette, Chef Tiny and Chef D to Langley's culinary arts suite. The three experts taught the kids some basic culinary arts skills and helped them to bake many dozen cupcakes, brownies, etc. The sweets were for a bake sale-- manned by the kids. Today was the first day of the bake sale-- and we sold out. We had originally set our goal at $100. We made $285.
Here's the delightful part: lisping Kindergarteners, looking solemnly at the beautiful tall boys selling cupcakes, handing over their dollar bills, awed. Janitors who refused free cookies, demanding to pay for the cause. The teachers who bought their whole classes treats to support Marcus's family. The KDKA reporter who called, wanting to try to cover the story. The reporter from Urban Media Today who showed up, talked to the kids, stayed for the whole sale, and promised to cover the story.
Media attention to these positive stories is so important. It honors the generous impulse of the child in a way that makes them feel powerful. It models and displays positivity and what Dr. King called Soul Force for all Pittsburghers and the world. And it puts public schools and the good they can do front and center.
Tomorrow our miracle worker, Nancy, is going to try to bring donated fancy cakes from bakeries around the 'burgh to raffle. Demands for t-shirts printed with our equation are loud. And our 8th graders are preparing to graduate-- and take their new model of their own power and potential out into the world. With love and compassion-- for Marcus, and for us, in service to our city.