The Black Alliance for Educational Options is a national organization, but in order to fulfill their mission — to empower low income and working class Black families to increase high quality educational options for all black students — BAEO knows to work really locally. “BAEO is an organization that believes in organizing both at the city leaders level as well as the parent level,” says Ethan Ashley, the director of community outreach for BAEO in New Orleans.
Ashley says when you put city leaders together with parents, there’s the potential to create real change. “We believe you can’t do it without one or the other, and when you bring them together, there’s power there.”
BAEO tries to connect the dots between innovative things happening in education — anywhere — and better educational choices happening here, in New Orleans, for all black children. On a regular basis, Ashley meets with community leaders and parent liaisons, like Travis Chase.
I joined them for one of their meetings.
“I wanted to talk to you briefly,” says Ashley to Chase, “and just get your sense of what you thought about the school tour we were able to take you to go visit schools in the DC area to see the difference between the charters here and the charters there.”
“What I found most impressive on that visit,” replies Chase, “is the massive peer to peer learning cohorts.” Travis Chase works in the development office of his alma mater, Dillard University. And in case you did not catch it, his last name is Chase — as in Dooky Chase Restaurant, which his grandma runs.
Travis Chase is talking about the charter schools he saw in DC, run by Friendship Charter. Chase loved the culture these schools created among students: “Let’s influence each other to study, let’s influence each other to be better, let’s take pride in: we’re going to college.” Travis Chase was impressed by the robotics and engineering teams, but most importantly, it was how these DC schools followed up with their graduates even after they left high school.
“If they say, hey this is our mission, this is our core vision to get you to college, they see them through college not just to,” emphasizes Chase. “Not just here we’re going to get you to Tulane, Loyola, Dillard, UNO, and Xavier. No, we’re going to stay in touch with you until you graduate from Tulane, Loyola, Xavier, Dillard, or UNO.”
While Chase talks, Ethan Ashley scribbles notes. “We were really keen on making sure that we took certain leaders to go see that,” says Ashley.
Then Ashley asks Chase if some of the things he saw in the DC charter schools could be implemented here in New Orleans. He talks about a specific new charter BAEO is helping to start, called NolaTech. “I would love to be able to link you with that,” Ashley tells Chase, “and be able to really speak highly of what could be done and what could be seen on this front, here in New Orleans for this Charter Management Organization. You know we don’t want to keep spinning our wheels with some of this stuff. If you know something works, you see it working, you’ve seen it work, let’s do that.”
This is just one way BAEO helps support educational reform. BAEO also tries to make sure parents know what educational options already exist.
Kaleshe Garrison is BAEO’s Family and Community Organizer in New Orleans. She wants parents to know that vouchers, or scholarships, may also be a choice. “BAEO wants people to understand just like you see this charter school application — here’s all your choices for charter schools — however here’s the scholarship application. It’s right behind the re-enrollment page. So take a look at it.”
Take a look at everything, says BAEO, which might improve the futures for Black Children.
Written by Eve Abrams for the Community IMPACT Series and produced by WWNO in partnership with the Greater New Orleans Foundation.
Learn more about the Black Alliance for Educational Options here.