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I am writing about the Loose Lips column that ran in your last issue (8/25), specifically the final section, concerning the candidacy of Peggy Cooper Cafritz for president of the Board of Education. Erik Wemple clearly wrote his column lazily and without any research. His errors bring into question his journalistic credibility and the credibility of the paper that chose to print his column. I could do nothing but laugh as I read the paragraph discussing the significance of my mother’s being a white woman on the election and on Mayor Williams’ policy. I have known my mother for 15 years, and, to the best of my knowledge, she is a black woman.
Wemple’s other striking error was the statement that the mayor “rang up” the candidate and told her to run. This came along with the insinuation that she is an unqualified Williams flunky. (There was the implication that she had been awarded a University of the District of Columbia board position because of her campaign donations.) As Councilmember Sharon Ambrose said, my mother is “not running out of the blue.” She has been working in education for more than a quarter of a century. She founded the Duke Ellington School of the Arts as a summer program while she was in law school and continues to work at the school. She was on the Board of Higher Education, which merged D.C. Teachers College, Federal City College, and the Washington Tech Institute into UDC. (This, not her campaign donation, is the precedent for her UDC board appointment.) My mom was one of the authors of Coming to Our Senses, which was the first in-depth look at the value of the arts in education. She is the vice chair of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities; she has served as a State Department educational consultant. More important, she’s a D.C. public-school parent.
I’m sure that if I asked a lot of people, I could list a million qualifications, but I’m really qualified only to write about what I know. She has devoted her life to children. Legally, my mom has eight kids, but she has helped raise many more. She is a wonderful parent and is clearly devoted to usand to children in general. She has 48 godchildrenwhich says something about what people who really know her think about her and children. It’s clear to me that my mother is running not because of a mayoral request, but because of the apparent problems in our public schools, her belief that she can change the system, and her ingrained desire to help kids.