Reviews | Duke Ellington is an unparalleled school. That should not change.

Tyra Wilkes is a DC-based social equality writer.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts saved my life, and after the news of possible school management changes brought together decades of alumni, I know I’m not alone.

Duke Ellington School of the Arts is known for its famous graduates, including Ari Lennox, Dave Shappel, Laman Rocker and Samira Willie. For students, the historical institution has helped them leverage the arts as a sustainable path to success. The negligence of adults – especially the DC government – is undoubtedly guiding DC Public Schools’ current decision to acquire Ellington. Should generations of young black artists suffer as a result?

Ellington is the public art school in DC. It is currently operated by DC Public Schools, the Canadian Center and George Washington University, but the municipality has announced that it is going to get the full operation of the school. This is a grave concern for students and adults, who fear that full control of the city will erode school-based arts programming.

Nearly all of Ellington’s students – about 70 percent black, with 30 percent coming from low-income families – travel by public transportation to the school’s rich Georgetown neighborhood. Some take two buses and a train to get a 50 percent longer-than-average school day to study alongside other black artists. Any significant change in the arts program will adversely affect black students during one of the most turbulent periods DC has seen in more than a decade.

In early 2010, the DC government faced a backlash from Ellington’s parents who opposed plans to move the public arts school near Union Station and return the existing site to public school use. The Ellington community was vocal about its belief that the move proposal stemmed from the neighborhood parents’ eagerness to use the school for their children. In District 2, the population is 70 percent white. The DC government has agreed to maintain the Georgetown site and has made progress on renovations that exceeded the initial budget by at least $ 100 million.

When we talk about compensation for the descendants of people enslaved in this country, black cornerstones like the Duke Ellington School of the Arts should be included. Despite the extreme failures of adults, Ellington has benefited generations of young blacks, and maintaining her arts program should be a top priority for anyone who holds that power.

Ellington promises free education that cultivates interests beyond the traditional academic landscape. It ensures that all students have access to the future beyond what their environment has chosen for them. This is extremely important for those in neighborhoods with a lack of funding whose education is largely neglected by city officials.

DC has surpassed 200 homicides in 2021 – the highest number of homicides since 2003. In a nutshell, DC officials’ plans to address escalating violence highlight programs and resources for young DCs that direct their focus to activities that contribute to their growth and development and reduce decision-making or impairment opportunities. By 2020, 17 of the 20 schools that received budget cuts were in low-income wards in DC, and studies are proving the correlation between the environment and the overall track. Ellington gives those black students, DC children who need it most, an opportunity to get an education equal to that of their neighbors.

“Since I entered 3500R Street NW for an audition in the theater department, I have achieved a whole family full of Ellington students, alumni, teachers and supporters,” he said. Micha Green, A DC digital content editor for the African-American newspaper and a former student and guide to Ellington. “Ellington is Ellington outside of her address in Georgetown. I was a witness to that when the school was displaced from place to place.”

Green was an instructor throughout the renovation, as the school moved to the U Street Corridor. She continued, “It replaced his physical location, because Ellington lives in every person who walks through his doors. Nothing can erase the legacy of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts founded by its founders, Mike Malone and Peggy Cooper Caprice, and is worthy of appreciation and protection.”

If the lives of blacks are important in DC, this has been proven when resources that serve primarily black communities are at risk. For me and many artists I have met through the Duke Ellington School of the Arts community, creativity is the motive of our existence. For most of my life I thought I was alone. In Ellington, it was normal to hold a notebook full of words or recite lines from August Wilson’s “fences.” It was the unintentional strangeness that when nurtured, paved the way for much more. Every day, the essence of Ellington reaffirmed our existence through his art curriculum and showed us that it’s okay to be out of the ordinary way because in the end, there will be more like you.

Leave a Comment