January 20, 2021

Princeton Parents Launch Black Students’ Advocacy Organization in Public Schools

By Donald Gilpin

A group of local parents has initiated the Princeton Parents for Black Children (PPBC), a nonprofit organization to support and advocate for Black students in Princeton Public Schools (PPS).

Citing “unique challenges faced by Black students in Princeton Public Schools,” a January 14 press release from the organization stated, “The PPBC is the outgrowth of decades of advocacy by families and allies seeking to improve educational opportunities and conditions for Black children.”

Co-president Rhinold Ponder pointed out that PPBC is well underway in pursuing a full slate of goals as it works with the district and its Black students. Student achievement, fundraising, community building, and political action are the focus of several PPBC working committees, he said.

“We have already been aggressive in establishing collaborative relationships and permanent lines of communication with the district office to address issues which impact all of our children, including racial literacy, the unconscionable fact that 50 percent of Black children in the district have IEPs [independent education programs], and diversity in hiring and promotions,” he wrote in a January 19 email.

In addition to Ponder, executive committee officers, who were elected at a recent organizational meeting, include Veronica Foreman as co-president; Lanniece Hall, secretary; Teri Boyd, treasurer; Raphael Aryeetey as Princeton Community Village representative; and Valerie Henry as Griggs Farm representative.

“We are proud that we have leaders representing communities in Princeton Community Village, the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, and Griggs Farm, in addition to the community at large,” Ponder said. “We have a large, diverse membership with many concerns and needs which we plan to address strategically.”

Foreman added, “We believe that everyone benefits when all of our children are provided the opportunity for academic success and a healthy, encouraging environment. The families of Black children in this district, and their allies, are prepared to persistently and collectively advocate for justice and equity for our children.”

Among many programs and events planned for the future in collaboration with local partners, the PPBC this month worked with the Arts Council of Princeton on Martin Luther King Jr. Day events and will continue to offer informative sessions on the transition to high school for member parents of eighth graders.

“This is a critical juncture for the school district,” Ponder said. “The hiring of a new superintendent and a principal for the high school gives the district an opportunity to make great strides in matching its rhetoric regarding diversity and equity with its priorities, practice, and measurable results.”

The district’s 2018 Equity Audit Report noted “racially-predictable disparities in achievement data, a perception of disparities in discipline and academic expectations, a difference between various identities’ sense of welcoming and belonging, challenges in addressing incidents of oppression and bias, and a strong sense of academic pressure and competition.”

During the past two years the district has increased efforts to address equity issues and to implement recommendations presented in the 2018 report.

Membership in the PPBC is open to all PPS parents and guardians of Black children. There are no fees to join. Adults interested in supporting the PPBC’s mission are encouraged to participate. Inquiries about membership and programming may be made by email at princetonpbc@gmail.com.