Eleanora M., YOI Freedom School graduating sharing their experience with school push out. Kick out cops, not kids!
Almost 600 people have been killed by the police in the United States just since the beginning of this year. This month we witness the senseless, horrific killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, and Alva Braziel in Houston. In our own state, earlier this year police killed Akiel Denkins in Raleigh, Deriante Miller in Kinston, and Jai “Jerry” Williams in Asheville less than two weeks ago.
We have seen the murder of Black people at the hands of police over, and over, and over. Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Mya Hall, Mike Brown, Rekia Boyd, John Crawford. It is time for us to unapologetically speak this truth: Cops and prisons do not keep us safe. Police regularlyharass and kill Black and Brown people with little to no repercussions or arrest them so prisons and jails can make massive profits.
We say enough is enough.
Across the country community members are dreaming and implementing community based solutions that do not include police or prisons. We demand a Durham Beyond Policing.
We say NO to a new $71 million police palace scheduled to be built in Durham this year
We say NO to an annual police budget of nearly $60 million when the Durham police department has demonstrated to be racist and violent.
We say NO to any local complicity or cooperation with ICE: ripping immigrant families apart and violently detaining and deporting children.
We demand meaningful investment in restorative justice programs, and community needs that actually keep people safe like jobs, healthcare, and housing.
We demand the City Council disarm, defund, and disempower the police, and instead fund Black futures!
From Baton Rouge to Oakland, people are mobilizing across the country. It is necessary that we stand together in struggle against the state-sanctioned murder of Black people as we organize our communities.
It’s Day 1 of Freedom School in Raleigh! This morning we soul mapped with Carly, then did radical journaling with Des. Now Babette and Bryan are leading a workshop on dismantling oppression.
What are the roots of oppression? Check out our tree: colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism!
Thanks to everyone who has helped make this happen!
We are writing as members of the Durham Association of Educators in NC. As teachers, it is our job to make sure our students can learn and grow. And when they can’t, it is our duty to fight for that to change. We have received disturbing news regarding one of our students, Wilden Guillen Acosta (206 799 049), who is being held in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. On Tuesday, June 7th, he was placed into solitary confinement for minor administrative violations, the last of which occurred while Wildin was helping a fellow inmate translate a letter from Spanish to English. Along with Wildin, we are unsure why he was issued this third citation for an act of kindness and sharing knowledge- something we highly encourage in our classrooms.
More troubling is the fact that this sentence occurred the day before his high school graduation from Riverside High School- something we know was on his mind after working so diligently in our classes to ensure his graduation before he was detained and repeatedly requesting his school work while in detention. The psychological effects of solitary confinement are debilitating and we worry about the impact on Wildin as he faces such a long time alone, especially after just having missed his high school graduation. The timing couldn’t be worse.
We are disturbed to learn from Wildin that on his first day in “the hole,” all of the restricted housing units were full and so Wildin was placed in a cell with a detainee who was mentally unstable and violent. In addition to the threat this posed to Wildin’s safety and well-being, it is troubling to see evidence that suggests solitary confinement is being used in the absence of mental health support for inmates.
Moreover, the sequence of events leading to this disproportionate sentence lead us to believe that Wildin is facing retaliation from CCA and ICE for being a high profile detainee who is an outspoken advocate about the conditions of confinement in Stewart and his own prolonged detention. These citations come after Rep Butterfield’s visit to Stewart and during a week of action for Wildin. Furthermore, these citations are very minor and punishment in solitary confinement is grossly disproportionate. We do not believe that community support should result in mistreatment, and as teachers, we are committed to continue fighting for the safety and rights of our student until his release.
We are concerned that this sentence was originally for 45 days in restricted housing, and that it was only reduced to 15 days due to the advocacy of our Congressman Butterfield. The severity of Wildin’s initial sentence leads us to believe that he will continue to be targeted for retaliation by CCA personnel and ICE. As a result we are calling for his immediate release. Wildin is clearly not safe in this jail and retaliation will continue as long as he is detained. We are also calling for the immediate release of the 12+ other young people currently detained at Stewart and Irwin Detention Centers, as we believe they are facing similar conditions and their mental well-being is at risk.
To Wildin and all the youth in detention: We see you, we see what is happening, and we will fight until all of you are back in our classrooms and communities where you belong.
Durham Association of Educators
We send our condolences and solidarity to all LGBTQ people impacted by the mass shooting in Orlando, Fl.
To the LGBTQ youth for whom this tragedy is another confirmation that the world is not made in your image; for the Muslim youth for whom this tragedy offers no room for mourning because the Islamophobic hysteria has already begun; for the LGBTQ Muslim youth for whom this tragedy feels like you must choose between different parts of who you are: we see you, we love you, we will fight for and with you, and we believe that a different world is possible.
We fight back against this anti-LGBTQ violence, against racism, and against Islamophobia. We have nothing to lose but our chains!
I joined the Youth Organizing Institute family in 2013 as a volunteer and community supporter. The first program that I came in touch with was YOI’s Summer Freedom School–a multi-week summer camp for young people who want to fight the power and change the world. I got the witness the magic of high school students who were committing themselves to dismantling the school-to-prison-pipeline, end school re-segregation, and make schools safe for LGBTQ youth. In 3 days, I was completely transformed by the vision of YOI.
In the summer of 2014, I joined YOI staff in a part time capacity, relating to Freedom School, communications, and development work of the organization. In the past 3 years of working with YOI I have see firsthand how crucial it is to believe the experiences of young people of the world we live in. More importantly, how necessary it is to create space for youth to take control of their destinies and strategize for a world worth living in. From “Building Bridges: Teen Convening” that brings together youth leaders across different organizations and issues; to “Queernival: A Celebration of Southern Queer Youth Liberation”; to our” Solutions Not Suspensions” campaign that has pushed for restorative justice programs, ensured bilingual (Spanish-English) access in Wake County schools, to decreasing suspension rates, our commitment is always to our movement and the youth on the frontlines–without their steadfast vision, this work would not be as dynamic, creative, and powerful.
As of June, I am transitioning into the Director role at YOI, succeeding the vision and leadership of Elena Everett, who has committed her greatest love to building this organization along with original co-founder Monse Alvarez. It is with great humility that I accept this role and an honored to be part of a community whose support, love, and fighting spirit makes this work possible. I have a lot of ideas and visions I hope to share later this summer.
In the meantime, nothing would feel more congratulatory than a contribution to support YOI this summer as we enter our 7th year of the Summer Freedom School program. We are running two tracks (one in Durham, one in Raleigh), supporting our friends in Chapel Hill, and organizing an intergenerational Freedom School in Eastern NC this fall.
Our Freedom School program has always operated on a shoe-string budget and with the love of volunteers, donors, and allies who show up time and time again. Please consider making a contribution today to help us reach our goal of raising $2,500 for this summer.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to be part of this work and to lead the Youth Organizing Institute into our next period of work, we will continue to not only defend and protect the gains made by young freedom fighters but push for an even more transformative vision of how young people should be able to participate in and craft our society.
With love and solidarity,
Help us raise $2,500 to support the 7th Annual Summer Freedom School.
Over the past 6 years, YOI has convened the Summer Freedom School program, bringing together young people who dare to change the world.
Youth of color, LGBTQ youth, working class youth, and immigrant youth come together from high schools across the Triangle; from Raleigh to Durham, Greensboro to Fayetteville, Benson to Fuquay Varina, Chapel Hill to Carborro with a common passion for dismantling the school to prison pipeline, ending school resegregation, making schools safe for LGBTQ youth, and much more.
As we enter our 7th year of the program, we feel the gravity and urgency of building youth power to fight the power more than ever before. This year alone we have seen egregious attacks on immigrant workers with HB318, queer and trans youth with HB2, and recently, on HBCUs with SB873. These are not just policies and pieces of legislation, they have real, tangible impacts on the livelihood of young people everywhere.
We also know that young people boldly and bravely resist these attacks on their communities and families and are on the frontlines of our movement. We are called to fortify our commitment to developing youth organizers who take on the most difficult challenge of our time: transforming our society into one free of oppression and abundant with opportunities for everyone to determine and control their futures.
We see our Freedom School program as a key part of this work. Please make a contribution today to get us to our fundraising goal of $2,500. This money goes towards paying our interns, stipending our participants, snacks, meals, and field trips.
We could not pull off Freedom School without the support over our community — from those who donate to volunteers and adult allies to our friends at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church and Carolina Friends Meeting House. Thank you for your ongoing support over the past 7 years.