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

Recapping HKONJ: NC HEAT featured

The NAACP-sponsored civil rights rally Historic Thousands on Jones Street, or HKONJ, celebrated its 5th anniversary on Saturday. Thousands came together to march for immigration rights, economic justice, worker rights, and to speak out against the educational policies that are threatening to re-segregate North Carolina schools.

The decision to end Busing-for-Diversity in North Carolina’s largest school district made national headlines last year and was recently satirized by Steven Colbert on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. You only have to look at how the state’s second largest school district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, to understand that this is not a laughing matter! With North Carolina in a budget crisis and education money on the chopping block, Charlotte-Mecklenburg closed the doors on nearly a dozen mostly non-white schools AFTER deciding to end it’s busing policy. NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous joined Rev. William Barber, NC NAACP president to speak out against the direction the district and state is heading.

“We ‘re still fighting old Jim Crow,” he said. NC Heat Co-Chair Monserrat Alvarez was a featured speaker at the rally and was interviewed by NBC-17.

 

Don’t let North Carolina push nonwhite students to the back of the bus! Join us for a Student and Parent Panel with the Anthony Tata at a To Be Determined location on March 3rd 6:30-8:30 p.m. Food, childcare, and Spanish Interpretation will be provided.

North Carolina day of action demands end to attacks on education

Young people from across at NC rally at the legislature on Jan 26 to say: "Education is a right!"

Young people from across the state confronted the North Carolina General Assembly when they convened their opening session on Jan. 26. The youth demanded, “Education is a right, not a privilege!”

The “Day of Action to Defend Education” was organized by a coalition of youth-led groups who are involved in education struggles around the state, from fighting back against budget cuts and tuition hikes to winning full and meaningful access to higher education for undocumented students and pushing back the growing tide of resegregation in the state’s public school systems.

Despite the cold and rainy weather, nearly 100 young people, including many high school students and immigrant youth, came out for the day, which began with a press conference and lobbying in the morning, followed by a march and rally in the afternoon.

The spirited march through downtown Raleigh filled the air with chants of “No cuts, no fees, education should be free!” and “Education, not deportation!” as it hit three targets: the governor’s mansion, the Department of Public Instruction and the NC Community Colleges offices. At each stop, speakers raised the connections between these education struggles and the need for young people in the state to fight back to stop the slew of cuts and reactionary bills being proposed by the new, Republican-led legislature.

Monse Alvarez, of NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens), stressed: “This day of action was important because we can’t just let this new legislature come in without making some noise about it. … They want to take us back to a time of Jim Crow segregation where immigrants and people of color are treated like less than human. They want to push through their anti-immigrant, anti-worker, anti-education, anti-everything-that-people-need agenda, unless we do something about it.”

Education on the chopping block

Like many state governments across the country facing budget shortfalls, politicians have placed every public service on the chopping block to deal with the state’s nearly $4 billion hole. The Republican majority, which recently took over both houses in the legislature for the first time in 112 years, has promised to manage this with spending cuts alone. Thousands of state workers could be laid off. The university system is facing a 15 percent cut as public school systems around the state are facing cuts of nearly $100 million. Entire health programs face elimination, and every social good is under attack.

The GOP wasted no time in proposing reactionary pieces of legislation. On their session’s second day, they introduced an anti-immigrant bill modeled after Arizona’s SB 1070, a bill that would ban undocumented students from community colleges and the university system (HB 11), a bill requiring voters to show IDs, and more.

“We made our voices heard that day, and it was important to be there and speak out about issues in our community like education. They were afraid of us being there. They sent out cops to try to stop us. Unfortunately, they introduced HB 11 the next day, but this was only the beginning, and we are going to keep fighting around this,” said Raul Arce.

Groups across the state are mobilizing to fight back against the legislature’s proposed, massive cuts and to stop the growing racist attacks on the immigrant community. Activists plan many different actions and demonstrations for the coming weeks.

Workers and students all over the world — from Egypt to Tunisia, from Yemen to Jordan, from Britain to Puerto Rico — are showing the only way forward out of this crisis, which is to take their destiny into their own hands and fight back. Continued, determined action is exactly what is necessary to stop the attacks on education and the public sector and to push back the reactionary forces that have risen in this period.

With a national Month of Actions to Defend Public Education set for March, youth and students can only expect to see more of these types of actions throughout the country.

NC HEAT Greets Investigators from the Office of Civil Rights

On Tuesday, December 7, representatives from the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights visited Raleigh as part of their investigation into the Title VI complaint filed against the Wake County Board of Education by NC HEAT and the NAACP. Read more about the complaint by clicking here.

The investigators from the Office of Civil Rights spent the day meeting with different community members and organizations about the impacts and consequences the new board majority’s push for neighborhood schools has and will have on Wake County students’ education, particularly for low income and students of color. They were taken on a tour of neighborhoods in the county to get a sense of what the racial composition of these so-called neighborhood schools would be. Throughout the day, they were accompanied by members of the Wake Education Advocates (WEA), including two members of NC HEAT.

At the end of the day, a final meeting was held between member organizations of the WEA and the OCR investigators at the YWCA in Raleigh. Members of NC HEAT began arriving at the Y for a planning meeting before the speak out action that was called for at the school board meeting later in the day. As the OCR investigators were leaving, NC HEAT lined the hallway with signs they had made for the school board action and spoke with investigators about the organizing they had been doing and why they were speaking out for just and equitable schools for all students.

Donate to the Fall Fundraising Drive!

This year, the recently elected anti-diversity caucus on the Wake County School Board thought that they could push their backwards agenda onto our community. What they found was a community determined to act to not only stop them from re-segregating education , but to work for more just and equitable schools for all children, from parents, members of the faith community, civil rights activists, and high school students. Students formed their own organization, NC HEAT, to amplify their voices in this struggle, and the work they did was an inspiration to all.

Now, we need your help to build off of the successes of this year and to be able to continue to do this important work in the new year. Can you help us meet our $4,000 Fall Fundraising goal?

Students and staff at the Institute this summer

This summer, 10 dynamic high school students from across Wake County who wanted to organize to save our schools and stop the re-segregation came together for the Wake Youth Organizing Institute. During the course of the nine week program, students gained the skills and tools to cultivate their leadership, organized several community outreach days, mobilized students and parents to the July 20 NAACP demonstration in Raleigh, and produced four video pieces documenting the struggle in Wake County.

Students formed their own organization, NC HEAT (Heroes Emerging Among Teens), which now has active members at nearly ten high schools in Wake County. They partnered with NC Equals to increase youth voting, played a leading role in organizing the October 7 National Day of Action to Defend Education march in Raleigh, and have continued to engage their peers in the work to create more just and equitable schools. On November 20, the differentTwo members of NC HEAT speak from the main stage at July 20 rally chapters of NC HEAT convened at the YWCA for a Fall Training Institute to develop their organizing skills and lay out campaign plans for the spring semester.

In order to continue to be able to do this important organizing, we need your help. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation that goes directly to support youth-led organizing in Wake County. Every donation, no matter the amount, will go a long way in helping to ensure that we have the resources necessary to continue this work.

You can make a donation one of two ways. Either click the “Donate” button on the side of this website, or you can write a check payable to “Action for Community in Raleigh” and write “Youth Organizing Institute” in the memo line, and mail to:

Action for Community in Raleigh
331 W. Main St, Ste 408
Durham, NC 27701

With your help, we can keep raising the temperature in the struggle for more just and equitable schools into 2011! Thank you for your continued support of youth-led organizing Wake County!

NC HEAT & the Youth Organizing Institute to Hold Fall Organizing Training for Wake High School Students on November 20

To continue to build youth leadership in to fight for just and equitable schools, NC HEAT and the Youth Organizing Institute will be holding a day-long Fall Training Institute at the YWCA in Raleigh on Saturday, November 20.

Throughout the school year NC HEAT has been working to build chapters at a number of Wake County high schools. There have been many students who have begun to work with NC HEAT and who participated in the October 7 Day of Action to Defend Education. Through the training day we hope to deepen our understanding and commitment to the work that we’re involved in and engage in a strategic planning session to lay out our campaigns for next semester.

The day-long training will be held at the YWCA in Raleigh. It will consist of four parts, beginning with an anti-oppression training to gain a better understanding of the broader social systems of power. We will learn more about the history of our movement and the legacy that we are carrying on with a workshop on the Civil Rights movement, specifically the role of young people in creating the historic change that was ushered in by the Civil Rights Movement. Building off the trainings from the summer and this fall, there will be a media training to equip students with the skills to talk to and work with the media. Finally, we’ll end the day with a strategic planning workshop to build creative and thoughtful organizing campaigns for the new year — to keep putting the HEAT on the school board and raise the temperature for more just and equitable schools.