Spring Training a Success!

Image

On April 14th the Youth Organizing Institute held a spring training. Former and new participates of the YOI came together to build upon previous knowledge, share skills, and meet new people. The participants had the opportunity to share with each other and engage in meaningful conversation about current political topics.

Events from the day included a canvassing training from Jobs with Justice where participants were able to role play canvassing about Art Pope. These skills were then put into practice when students went to a rally about coal in downtown Raleigh. A picture from this event is above.

A workshop by Spirithouse focused on the prison industrial complex. This allowed the students to role play different situations people may experience, teaching participates the about the prison system.

In addition to workshops, participants had lunch and a political conversation about Trayvon Martin and the impacts of racial profiling in America. The last workshop of the day was put on by the Sacrificial Poets This focused on the role spoken word and art can have in creating social change. The youth were able to write and share their own spoken word pieces about meaningful experiences in their life. The spring training was a full day of youth empowerment and a great leeway into the work that will go on into the summer.

Open Letter to the Community: YWCA

Open Letter to the Community:

Our thoughts, love and hearts are with the YWCA of the Greater Triangle. We were told that overnight this wonderful organization was being shut down, leaving hundreds of people in the dark. Children, students, teen parents, adults, and seniors depend on the programs and comraderie of the YWCA. The YWCA is home to many communities. It is home to NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens). NC HEAT was born in the summer of 2010 as part of the Wake Youth Organizing Institute, housed in the YWCA in the heart of SE Raleigh. We have learned, organized, and grown in that building. It is a piece of us and was torn away.

We demand that the attacks on our communities stop and we ask the National YWCA leadership to step up and and stand with us. We see this as part of larger trend of undermining the leadership and organized voices of women, youth, and people of color. These programs and advocacy efforts are necessary for our survival. Dismantling this organization is a direct attack on women and communities of color and we demand accountability.

NC HEAT is asking that everyone call and email the board to express outrage for their lack of concern for the staff and community. Pay your staff now! Reinstate the programs! Save the Hargett St. YWCA!

An attack on one community is an attack on all communities.

Sincerely,

Current and Former NC HEAT members:

Art Pope Boycott: NC HEAT Pickets Maxway

Over 40 people gathered in front of a Maxway store on February 18th to support the ongoing boycott of Art Pope’s stores. The picket was called for by NC HEAT. Community members from all across Raleigh showed up to participate. Signs and chanting brought awareness to customers going into the store resulting in some turning around. A video can be seen below

http://youtu.be/1bOzlYJb3ik

Art Pope, who owns stores such as Maxway and Roses, has been the leading financial donor behind many local elections in NC including the school board. The boycott has been launched to hit Art Pope’s wallet and tell him to stop funding candidates that hurt communities with poor policy decisions. You can read more about Art Pope and how his money is hurting out communities at artpopeexposed.com.

HKonJ Mobilization

On Saturday February 11th 2012 members of NC HEAT gathered for Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ). This was the 6th annual march sponsored by the NAACP. Thousands came together to march for immigration rights, economic justice, worker rights, and education policy.

The youth used this as an opportunity to represent their agenda and advocate for the Justice  in their communities. Students wanted to expand the scope of the Art Pope boycott. The boycott of Art Pope’s stores, which include Maxway and Roses, became a conversation point throughout the day.

NC HEAT gathered signatures and explained the connections between Art Pope and the education policy in Wake County. In addition NC HEAT members promoted their upcoming picket of Maxway on February 18th.  The overall event was a success as it expanded the Art Pope boycott and brought awareness to issues impacting youth in Wake County.

Join NC HEAT at HK on J on February 11 in Raleigh

NC HEAT will be marching with thousands of people from across North Carolina on February 11 in Raleigh for Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HK on J)! We’ll be marching for fully funded, diverse, and quality public education, against racism, against Amendment One, for workers rights, and standing shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people behind the 14 point Peoples’ Agenda. Join us!

 

Summer 2011 Newsletter

Second Summer Organizing Program a Big Success!

The Wake Youth Organizing Institute just completed its second successful summer training program for youth organizers who want to create more just and equitable schools in Wake County.  This newsletter gives a glimpse into what we did this summer, and peak at what lies ahead for the 2011-2012 school year.

YOI 2011: Finding our voice and using it!

It has been an incredible summer! Our ears are still ringing with movement songs, our minds are buzzing with new knowledge and questions, our hearts are thumping with the belief that we have the power to change the world. This summer, we had the opportunity to connect with new and old friends, and to meet incredible leaders from organizations like Southerners on New Ground, the Advancement Project, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, among many others.
We traveled to Durham and found that youth in public schools are dealing with issues similar to the ones we face in Wake County. We felt the Civil Rights movement come alive in Greensboro, as we visited the lunch counter where students sat down and changed history. In Raleigh and beyond, we discussed and analyzed the current situation of our schools, and dreamed and visioned for a school system that uplifts and educates every single student regardless of their background. We spoke with lawyers from Advocates for Children’s Services about discipline in schools and our rights as students. We learned about the history of youth in movements in the US, and how we are their living legacy.
At the heart of the Youth Organizing Institute is the belief that students are experts on our own lives. The Institute is a space of learning, questioning, connecting, and exploring. As youth organizers, we are actively engaged in the process of acknowledging our experiences as valid and important, finding our voices, and then using them! We are leaders, we are visionaries, and we are change-makers. In the words of Hopi elders, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Spotlight on the Students

“This summer I learned about human rights and how to advocate for ourselves and others.  I especially liked going to Durham, meeting with SpiritHouse, and talking about the School to Prison Pipeline.” — J’Mario Carter (pictured left)

 

“I enjoyed my experience at the organizing institute. I learned so much about the history of organizing and the civil rights movement. I had the opportunity to travel to Greensboro and Durham and learn about the movements there. It’s amazing to see people in different parts of the state working towards the same goal. I hope to apply some of the strategies that I learned in several workshops in other endeavors, such as working with NC HEAT.” — Lexi Antoncich (pictured right)

Program Highlight: Advancement Project Meeting

On July 28, 2011, the YOI Summer Youth Participants gathered with young people from Durham-based SpiritHouse’s Choosing Sides program to discuss the impacts of high stakes testing with Caitlin Swain and Jasmine Harris from the DC-based Advancement Project.

The Advancement Project is a civil rights organization that aims to inspire and strengthen movements that expand opportunity for all by partnering with community organizations and providing legal advocacy and strategic communications tools to reframe public discourse around and dismantle structural exclusion.
This summer the Advancement Project conducted a series of community meeting with parents, teachers, and students in order to create a report that will include data and anecdotes that highlight the consequences of reliance upon high stakes testing in public schools and present alternatives for North Carolina to consider as it reimagines its accountability measures.
On a Thursday afternoon, the students from Wake and Durham Counties gathered. Although those in attendance haled from eight different area high schools, they found many of their individual experiences were similar and they echoed each others’ frustrations when they spoke of their challenges with high stakes tests.
The group agreed that high stakes testing creates a learning environment that is hostile to children and students and narrows learning opportunities. The Youth Organizing Institute hopes to continue to engage in education around the impact of high stakes testing, particularly in how it contributes to the school to prison pipeline and other policies that push out students and keep them from reaching theirfull potential.

What’s up next and ways to support

The new school year is beginning and the students from the YOI 2011 are busy making plans to put all the lessons of this summer into practice.

Last summer, Wake County high school students that participated in the YOI formed their own organization, NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens), which has become a prominent force in the struggle for more just and equitable schools. They have held community meetings, organized their peers, spoken out at school board meetings, participated in rallies and demonstrations, and initiated a broad boycott campaign targetting the funding and ideological motor behind the Resegregationist 5–Art Pope. We’ll continue to send out announcements about upcoming events through this newsletter.

Another important way you can support youth-organizing in the Triangle is to make a tax-deductible donation that goes directly to organizing costs. You can click here to make a donation online or mail a check to our office, located at 331 West Main St, Suite 408, Durham, NC 27701.

We’d like to thank all of the different community organizations and individuals who have supported us in a variety of different ways during this summer and throughout the past year. We look forward to this upcoming year of struggle and seeing all of you in action!

Thank yous!

There are so many people and organizations without whom the YOI 2011would not have been possible. We’d like to take a moment to thank some of the different folks whose skills, expertise, resources, and guidance helped make it all happen.

Pullen Memorial Baptist Church
The Southern Partners Fund 
IUE-CWA 188
YWCA of the Greater Triangle 
SpiritHouse NC
The Beloved Community Center
Advocates for Children’s Services
The Advancement Project
Southerners On New Ground (SONG)
S.W.A.R.M. (Goldsboro, NC)
NC DREAM Team
Omisade Burney-Scott
Faith Holsaert, co-author of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC
Rebecca Fontaine, Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Peter Gilbert, UNC Center for Civil Rights


Summer 2011 Youth Organizing Institute begins Tuesday, July 19!

We are very excited to announce the beginning of the summer 2011 Youth Organizing Institute on Tuesday, July 19!

Nine dynamic students from five different Wake County high schools will be coming together to help to build a youth-led movement to create more just and equitable schools in our community, to challenge the ongoing efforts to re-segregate our schools, and work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and win an education system that serves the community.

The students will participate in a four week program that consists of organizing trainings, leadership development, historical education, and much more. We’ll be crafting strategy of how to continue to build the growing youth movement throughout Wake County high schools, being led by NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens), ahead of the new school year. Please continue to check back here for more updates as the program kicks off, and please email actionforcommunity@gmail.com if you have any other questions.

Students and Parents Grill Tata at Public Forum

Newly appointed superintendent of Wake County Public Schools Anthony Tata faced a packed house at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh for a public forum organized by NC HEAT and the Parent Advocacy Working Group (PAWG).  Tata fielded a number of hard hitting questions from students, parents, and community members for more than an hour, with the line at the podium seeming to be constantly growing longer. Questions from the community covered a broad range of topics, from the neighborhood schools model being touted by the board majority, Tata’s commitment to creating equitable and diverse schools, the achievement gap, the school to prison pipeline, the budget crisis, and Tata’s background that qualified him to lead one of the nation’s largest school districts. Here’s a sample of some of the questions that were asked:

“…Mr. Tata, Do you think a sound basic education is a HUMAN RIGHT? If it is a human right, shouldn’t it take priority over neighborhood schools? What if, under neighborhood schools become racially and socio-economically isolated? What are your thoughts about research that shows that high minority and high poverty schools are typically low-performing because the best teachers don’t want to teach in those schools? Part of that research also shows that even with additional salary, high quality teachers can’t be coaxed into staying at those schools – like in Charlotte-Mecklenburg — so even pouring extra money into the schools (which doesn’t even exist), doesn’t work”.
“…Mr. Tata, there are huge achievement gaps in the Wake County School System – they are generally larger than the statewide gaps.  Black and Latino students, students with disabilities, English Language Learners, and poor students all perform lower.  What are your strategies to reduce those achievement gaps and which strategies will you prioritize in your first 6 months? Will you come up with a written plan to close the achievement gap and include us parents and students in writing it – and how will you make sure the issue doesn’t become lost”?
“…Mr. Tata, what do you think the purpose of school discipline is and what are your thoughts about school discipline and education?” Part of our Title 6 complaint to the Office of Civil Rights is about the unequal application of discipline for students of color – what will you do to ensure this stops? How will you make sure discipline is being applied fairly and in a therapeutic way? Are you familiar with the school to prison pipeline, especially with young men of color? And do you see a link between suspensions, expulsions, and students winding up in the criminal justice system? How do you think schools could work on cutting that link”?

Throughout the forum, Tata stated over and over again his commitment to diversity in schools and raising student achievement for all students. The new superintendent also stated that he wasn’t necessarily sold on the idea of neighborhood schools, but rather, wanted to create high achieving schools and ensure that no schools became high-poverty–which would be an inevitable result of the transition to neighborhood schools. However, Tata’s answers to most questions were generally vague and he avoided directly answering many of the more challenging questions that came his way.

Forums such as these are important to continue to hold Tata accountable and express the will of the community. And we must continue our organizing in our schools, our neighborhoods and communities, in our churches, and everywhere else to keep building a movement to hold Tata accountable not only to the promises he made at this forum, but to follow what our community wants, deserves, and needs from our public school system.

For news coverage of the forum, please see:

Independent Weekly

WUNC