May 17, 2014 marked the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Broad of Education. There were rallies, marches and workshops organized across the country to not only celebrate this victory, but to highlight the ongoing struggle to provide each student with the equal opportunity to a quality education. A YOI member, Sanyu, was fortunate enough to be among the crowd of students, teachers, parents and family members of the original plaintiffs in the Landmark case. They gathered on May 13th on the steps of the National Supreme Court to hear from people of all corners of the US including New Orleans, North Carolina, Chicago and the DC area.
This rally kicked off the week of action and set the tone for the rest of the week. The speakers highlighted the racial disparities that still exist in our community such as underfunding black and Latino schools and leaving them with very limited resources. A few students from Chicago brought a chart that compared the resources at their predominantly black high school to that of a predominantly white school in their area. Compared to the predominantly white schools, the black schools lacked a myriad of resources ranging from lack of Honors/AP classes and to lack of a functioning gym. In fact, their gym classes are taught online.
After the rally, we marched to the Department of Justice to deliver a report released by the Journey for Justice Alliance called Death by a Thousand Cuts: Racism, School Closures and Public School Sabotage, Voices from America’s Affected Communities of Color. The report illustrates the racial disparities that this exist school systems across the country. Later that week, Sousa Middle School hosted a series of workshops about the School to Prison Pipeline, bilingual education and school closure. Sousa was also one of the schools involved in the Brown v. Brown of Education case. The Week of Action for the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Broad of education reminded everyone that although our nation has come a long way, the fight for equal opportunity to a quality education rages on.
May 19 was the first “Moral Monday” of 2014. While NC has continued to pass regressive policies it has not demoralized the movement, rather it has made us stronger. NC HEAT members went on stage to join two youth speakers as they demanded the NCGA listen to the youth and the issues affecting their communities including the school-to-prison-pipeline. Once the rally ended the crowd of several thousand all put tape on their mouths and entered the general assembly in response to the new building codes adopted behind closed doors. This Monday marked the beginning of what will be weekly demonstrations at the general assembly while they are in session.
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On Tuesday, April 22nd, NC HEAT students mobilized to the Wake County School Board meeting to reiterate their demand for community inclusion in the process of revising the memorandum of understanding between the school system and Wake County police departments. Youth spoke in support of passing the budget proposal that would increase pay for school system employees and include a line-item for a restorative justice pilot program. NC HEAT will be meeting with the school board Chair next Monday, to communicate their concerns and have a dialogue about how students and their communities can have a meaningful and leadership role in the development of a new MOU. We will keep raising our hands and our voices until we win schools that are safe and supportive of all students!
April showers did not stop the Youth Organizing Institute as we held our Spring Training day April 18-19. Over 15 youth from the Triangle to Warren County spent the weekend in Raleigh at the AFL-CIO office for workshops, story sharing, and community building.
The first half of the weekend focused on the power of storytelling, while the second half addressed the importance of building strong ties to different communities through canvassing. Youth created audio recordings of each other’s stories and made plans about how to share those stories with their communities in creative and powerful ways. After sharing our personal histories with each other, we talked about the stories we can tell with data and the power of canvassing as a tool for connecting communities to the issues that impact them.
We knocked on doors Saturday afternoon, gathering data on people’s experiences in schools and having conversations about how we can improve our schools. The spring training prepared youth to take action against the school-to-prison pipeline and share their experiences through creative and emotionally compelling as well as research-based methods.
The Youth Organizing Institute is now a member of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance. Monserrat Alvarez traveled to Detroit, MI as a representative of YOI and met with over 100 organizers throughout the nation. The location of the assembly was chosen by GGJ as a means to further discuss the framework of “No War, No Warming”. Detroit has been facing environmental and economic issues that by no surprise are mostly affecting communities of color. Innovative community organizing and new economy projects have emerged in Detroit are inspiring. They have been rooted in indigenous and communities of color’s struggle to reclaim their land and history. Along with YOI, the NC contingent also included member of Black Workers for Justice. At the national meeting we had valuable discussion around environmental, economic, and gender justice in the rural South.
On Saturday, April 12th, The Youth Organizing Institute, iNSIDEoUT, and QORDS held Queernival: a Southern Celebration of Youth Liberation. This was our first joint event as NC Queer Youth Power Coalition, the entity that emerged from Teen Convening of 2013.
Queernival was an outdoor community event featuring performances by youth bands, young drag performers, an open mic, and over 12 booths by queer youth-centered organizations from around the Triangle. High school queer-straight alliances as well as community organizations, like the Pauli Murray Project and Youth Against Rape Culture, hosted booths with carnival games and interactive activities as well as informational literature about their organizations.
NC HEAT and the Youth Organizing Institute co-hosted a booth featuring a wooden target with words like “racism,” “homophobia,” and “school-to-prison pipeline” on it and invited visitors to throw water balloons at it. NC HEAT members also performed in the drag show and MC’ed the event.
Our own liberation is bound by the liberation of others. We will continue to build coalitions and build the movement until we have true youth liberation
Friday, April 18, 2014 – 5:30pm – 9:00pm &
Saturday, April 19, 2014 – 10:30am – 4:00pm
NC AFL-CIO OFFICE
1408 Hillsborough St.
Raleigh, NC 27605
FOOD WILL BE PROVIDED
The Youth Organizing Institute is a popular education leadership development & youth organizing program centered on empowering the lives and experiences of young people. Participants of the Institute have completed a multitude of trainings, including: know your rights in school, designing buttons and t shirts, student walkouts in the Chicano movement, social movement history, power analysis and anti-oppression, and building an organizing campaign.
This year’s training will focus on story collecting and community engagement. An oral historian will lead a story collecting workshop that’ will prepare participants to collect SUSPENSION STORIES – or stories that allow young people to tell the circumstances and experiences of discipline in schools. We’ll also learn how to engage community members through a neighborhood canvas.
Please register by Monday April 14th if you want to attend this training. If you have any questions feel free to contact Amina Bility email@example.com or Bryan Perlmutter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share this with any teen who has a passion for and love of justice!
On Thursday, March 27th, the Youth Organizing Institute and NC HEAT mobilized approximately 30 of Selina’s community members to pack the courthouse on her court date, wearing green to show our support. It was clear that our efforts to uplift Selina’s voice and her powerful story had the judge, the social workers, and the SRO on their toes in the face of a demand for accountability from the strong community and media presence in the room. Selina, in a courageous statement on her own behalf before the judge, said she wanted to set a good example for other youth in foster care, “especially if I’m preaching and fighting for things to be right.”
She was released from criminal custody immediately after the court date, and NC HEAT members along with YOI staff came to the jail to welcome her home with open arms. We came to the Division of Social Services building and stood behind Selina as she demanded to be housed in Raleigh, where she would be able to finish her studies without the disruption and displacement of having to start over at a new school in a group home environment.
By the end of the day, we had won demands one and two from our petition, with Selina released from jail into a family-based placement in Raleigh where she can finish her senior year at Southeast Raleigh high and graduate with her friends! With almost 1,000 signatures on our petition
pressuring the Wake County School Board, the Division of Social Services, and Raleigh PD; we are on track to win all nine of our demands. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until we have mechanisms for oversight and accountability from SRO’s and discipline policy that is transformative, and not punitive in our schools. We believe that we will win!
On March 21 YOI, EJA and NC HEAT members headed to DC to join over 150 people for the Dignity in Schools Campaign Annual Membership Meeting. We completed a movement-building overview in which we reflected on what it takes to build a movement, discuss our current roles and where we need to grow. The experience allowed us to meet with other groups from around the country and build strategies and skills we will implement back in NC.
Not only did we build our own skills, we were able to share our experiences with others from across the country. Ramiyah Robinson, Letha Muhammad and Sanyu Gichie who were there representing NC HEAT, EJA and YOI respectively, teamed up to co-facilitate the workshop on intergenerational organizing. The workshop had over 40 people attend and it is evident our model of organizing is spreading.
While many of us had to make the journey back home, a myriad of members and allies stayed to prepare for meetings on with the Obama Administration and Members of Congress that lasted for the next two days. Ajamu from NC HEAT spoke with White House officials and at a national press conference. We know that the school-to-prison-pipeline is a national issue and we will continue to build our power through engaging in our national networks.