• Tell Ohio Senate: No More Pre-K Suspensions
    I am a parent of two Black children. In schools across America, Black children account for 18 percent of preschool enrollment but almost half (48 percent) of children suspended more than once in a school year. My son was one of these students. My son was expelled from school at age of 5 years old, as a pre-schooler, his very first year of school. From the beginning, children are being taught that they deserve the harsh and punitive treatment that first experience in the classroom and will soon confront in the world. We are here to say that Black children matter. For the first time, the state of Ohio has an opportunity to be a leader in changing these policies by passing HB 410 with amendments that would begin making it possible for parents like me to finally have a say in what happens to their children. Several other states are leading the way in banning the suspension and expulsion of students in early grades. From New Jersey to Oregon, states have eliminated suspensions for pre-schoolers and students up to 5th grade. We know that even this is not enough to mitigating the negative impact on children as young as 4 years old. In addition to Amendment 2629 to end pre-school suspensions, we support provisions in HB 410 that prohibit the use of suspensions and expulsions for truancy as well as the following: Amendment 2630 – Tiered discipline: Students should not be suspended for issues that could be easily resolved with a phone call home. Amendment 2639 – Make up work: It goes without saying that suspensions cause students to get behind on work. Education is a human right. No students should be denied classroom instruction because of racist disciplinary policies. Amendment 2605X4 – Tolling of suspensions during the summer: Students who were suspended at the end of the school year should be able to start the new school year with a fresh start. Rather than applying remaining days suspended to the new school year, students will be allowed to participate in community service over the summer instead. We urge you to include language in this amendment stating that participation in any community service or alternative consequence will not require families to incur additional costs, such as transportation costs. The same year my child was suspended, Kylen English, a 20-year-old lost his life while in custody of Dayton police. He was handcuffed in the back of a police car the last time he was seen alive. Within a few months, we started Racial Justice NOW! because we knew that unless we built real political power for Black students and families to change the written and unwritten rules, our lives would continue to be at stake. It will be 5 years this November that I co-founded and became Executive Director of Racial Justice NOW! I also serve as Co-Chair of the Dignity In Schools Campaign, a coalition of over 100 organizations from 27 states dedicated to dismantling the school to prison pipeline. And while we have made strides towards dismantling the school to prison pipeline, the rate at which change is happening is killing our children. My hope is that in this political moment, even more people will join the fight to fight for the futures of Black children. The fight for Black children is the fight for the future.
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    Created by Zakiya Sankara-Jabar
  • Stand up for students protesting racial injustice
    I am a proud Pirate. My professors at East Carolina University challenged me to think critically about the world and helped me feel like I could have a real impact. It was at ECU where I learned that my voice is powerful. ECU is why I have a successful and fulfilling career at the intersection of politics, activism, and social change. Usually, I represent Pirate Nation with pride, but right now, I am disappointed in my alma mater’s decision to crack down on protests from the university’s marching band. Last Saturday, several members of the band took a knee during the Star’s Bangled Banner in peaceful demonstration against police brutality and racial injustice. As a former student activist at ECU, I couldn’t have been more proud to see these young people carrying on the tradition of peaceful protest at my alma mater. These young people are carrying on the proud legacy of agitating for social change on ECU’s campus.  In 1969, Black students were fed up with a hostile racial climate on campus and had a tense confrontation with then President Leo Jenkins. These brave students successfully got the university to stop playing Dixie and waving Confederate flags at games and to hire more Black faculty in the name of campus integration. No one would disagree that these brave people standing up for what they believe in made the university a better place. Today as students around the country are ridiculed or worse for speaking up on issues they are care about, we need to show our them that we support their right to protest.  When I read ECU Chancellor Cecil Staton’s statement on the protest, I was elated because it underscored the power of civil discourse and the importance of believing in something bigger than yourself, two values I learned during my time at East Carolina:  “While we acknowledge and understand the disappointment felt by many Pirate fans in response to the events at the beginning of today’s football game, we urge all Pirate students, supporters and participants to act with respect for each other’s views. Civil discourse is an East Carolina value and part of our ECU creed.” Sadly, this feeling only lasted a day because ECU Chancellor Staton reversed his decision saying that further protests “would not be tolerated:” “College is about learning, and it is our expectation that the members of the Marching Pirates will learn from this experience and fulfill their responsibilities. While we affirm the right of all our students to express their opinions, protests of this nature by the Marching Pirates will not be tolerated moving forward.” To make matters worse, it seems that the racial climate on campus has gone from simmering to a rapid boil. Many students felt threatened when a professor responded by promising to carry a gun around campus to demonstrate her Second Amendment rights, seemingly forgetting that doing so is against the law. A racial slur was found written in the library. In a climate where racial tensions are escalating, trying to muzzle students who are clearly trying to start a dialogue on the issue is not the right move. Not talking about it won’t make it go away. As a Black woman, I’ve felt the sting of racial injustice on campus at ECU. I’ll never forget the night a pack of drunk guys shouted a racial slur at me out of a moving car. That night, as hot tears stained my face, I made a silent promise to myself that I’d never live in the South after graduation; I just couldn’t take it anymore. What’s worse is that nothing has changed; knowing that students are still having to putting up with this same racial animosity on campus that I did ten years earlier feels like a knife in the heart.  This is the wrong message to be sending to Pirate Nation. These students have a Constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression. This freedom doesn’t end when students put on their uniform. If it wasn’t for my time engaging in activism during my time at East Carolina, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Chancellor Staton should give these students that same opportunity.
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  • Education Justice is Racial Justice
    The United States promises our children equal access to a free public elementary and high school education. But too many Black and Brown children have been denied schools good enough to make this promise meaningful. Instead of honestly acknowledging the root causes of struggling schools and investing in real equity in public education, today’s policymakers and deep-pocketed corporate education “reformers” offer misguided strategies that fail to address the central problem: a failure to invest in Black, Brown and poor children, the educators who teach them and the communities in which they live. This is a crisis in values, in what we believe and who we believe in. It is a crisis of civil rights — and of human rights.
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  • FCC: Keep Black and Brown Media on the Airwaves
    Right now, media ownership by people of color is on the brink of extinction. Howard University Television, the nation’s first and only Black-owned public TV station, which has broadcast for more than 30 years, is auctioning off their airwaves. Of more than 1,500 full-powered television stations, only 42 remain under Latino ownership and 7 under African American ownership. If the FCC does not immediately act to improve diversity on the airwaves, a federal court has threatened to make the current media ownership limits--that create an opening for people of color--a thing of the past. We need the FCC to take a hard look at how they can inform the public in a way that allows us to protect the outlets that have kept our voices in the conversation. People of color cannot afford to lose any more of the platforms we speak from at such a critical moment in our national conversation -- we must act now to tell the Federal Communications Commission to support current and future media owners of color. I am a Howard University PhD Candidate working together with Howard Media Group, a team of faculty and graduate students from Howard University’s School of Communications, because of our shared believe that scholarship and education have a role to play in shaping communications policy to better serve the public interest. It is critically important that the FCC continue to limit corporate control of our airwaves, which has crowded out diverse owners who are forced to compete with huge companies for programming and advertising revenue. We also need a better understanding of the challenges of the historic barriers that continue to disadvantage Black and Brown media, so that we can dismantle them. Given that the FCC has failed to provide timely data and analysis for several years, the public still lacks a meaningful opportunity to weigh in and ensure we can reach millions of households with diverse programming not hosted by other majority-owned stations. The FCC has an opportunity to stand with media owners of color to increase viewpoint diversity on the air--enforcing strong rules against media consolidation and providing timely information on why broadcast ownership remains so often out of reach for our community—and they must use it now before more of our platforms disappear. For more information, please visit: http://nhmc.org/blog/join-us-tell-fcc-support-current-future-media-owners-color/
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  • Tell Dayton City Commission to End Censorship and AntI-Blackness!
    John Crawford was 22 years old when he was shot to death by Beavercreek police officer Sean Williams in a Walmart near Dayton, Ohio when a white customer called 911 on him while in the store. He was holding a toy gun. In Cleveland, Tamir Rice was murdered by police after a neighbor called 911 on him for holding what was “probably a fake gun.” He was only 12 years old. Ohio grand juries declined to indict both of the cops responsible for stealing the young and innocent lives of John and Tamir. And just weeks ago, 35-year-old Kiesha Arrone was shot 15 times by Dayton police because she was seen as a “threat.” This was only months after she was married to her partner in a ceremony that was officiated by Mayor Whaley. No justice has been served. This is what the 9th grade students from the STEM school powerfully uplifted in their artwork, only to be censored by the City. The City’s removal of the student’s artwork from the Dayton Convention Center after only two days on display because it depicts ‘Black Lives Matter’ and remembers the lives lost by police murder is part of a bigger injustice- the persistent anti-Blackness and continued disinvestment of Black communities in Dayton. Dayton is the fourth most segregated city in the state of Ohio. West Dayton, a Black community, has been disinvested from for decades, with no public health facilities and the total absence of economic development as the city allocates ample resources elsewhere. With the history of injustice against Black people in Dayton, it is no surprise that the city has an issue with publically displaying art that asserts Black Lives Matter in the convention center. The city of Dayton has never taken a stand against the state-sanctioned violence, police murder and police brutality of its Black residents. City officials have never stood in solidarity with Black Lives Matter and Racial Justice NOW! The city continues to demonstrate that to them, Black lives don’t matter. These students found a creative and productive way to express their frustration and trauma of seeing these killings happen right in their own communities. We will not stand by and let this happen, we demand their artwork be put back on display and the city works with grassroots organizations like Racial Justice NOW to co-create a community dialogue that encourages students and disenfranchised community members to speak up and actively engage in the decisions that directly impact their lives.
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    Created by Zakiya Sankara-Jabar
  • Tell the Louisiana House Education Committee to Support House Bill 372
    State laws substantially contribute to the overuse of school suspensions and expulsions in Louisiana, where students can be dismissed for a wide range of minor misbehavior and Black students are far more likely to be penalized. In the 2013-2014 school year, 61,201 students, including students in grades pre-kindergarten through 5, were suspended out-of-school. Under current state laws, minor infractions have resulted in children losing a tremendous amount of instructional time and falling behind in their academic progress. School policies on “willful disobedience” are vaguely defined, arbitrarily enforced as a ground for suspension, and disparately used. Black students are suspended at disproportionally higher rate than their white counterparts. Data shows that “willful disobedience” has been used as the reason for 13,535 suspensions in the 2013-2014 school year that includes 8,000 suspensions of children in grades pre-kindergarten to 5. HB 372 solves the problems of excessive, racially disparate, and arbitrary use of student suspension. While disruptive behavior should be addressed, we need to ensure repercussions are the most beneficial and effective for our children. Alternatives, such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, are not only more effective discipline methods, but they also result in higher attendance rates, improved student behavior, higher academic performance, and more positive overall school climate.
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    Created by Families and Friends of Louisiana's Incarcerated Children Picture
  • STOP UCSF FROM CLOSING NEW GENERATION CLINIC
    We are asking that members of the San Francisco community and people nationwide to stand with us to save the last full-service reproductive health clinic serving poor Black and Latino youth in San Francisco. After 45 years of serving vulnerable youth, on March 1 the University of California San Francisco gave swift & abrupt notice to staff at New Generation Health Clinic that its doors will close in 30 days due to budget cuts. There was no plan to replace the New Generation clinic; instead the “solution” was to redirect the patients to existing hospitals and clinics. The thousands of young people who rely on the clinic's services were not consulted about this plan. Thanks to efforts lead by 3rd Street Youth Center & Clinic, concerned educators and parents, and most importantly, directly impacted young people from the city-- as of March 17th, USCF announced that they would delay the closure of the clinic to July 31st. After the 31st, they plan to work with the Department of Public Health to "ensure continuity of care for patients." They refuse to commit to keeping New Generation open, citing its " lack of financial sustainability." Meanwhile, UCSF has publicly announced plans to spend $600 million on building brand new facilities alone in the next 3 years, this plan included the new $240 million complex in Mission Bay-- the neighborhood where New Generation Health Clinic is located. Clearly, a lack of funds is not the issue here. The University of California San Francisco constantly emphasizes their commitment to addressing health disparities and making equity a priority. Now is their chance to stand by their word. New Generation is a safe haven in a city where navigating and accessing the health care system is nearly impossible. For young people who are victims of rape and unwanted pregnancy- San Francisco General Hospital is just not an option. Survivors of rape need a place where they feel safe and where youth are welcomed, not criminalized. If UCSF succeeds in their plans to close New Generation, there will be a much higher price to pay. The message the city of San Francisco and the University of California San Francisco are sending is blatant: money matters, not Black and Brown lives. Please sign and share the petition to help us keep New Generation Health Clinic open. For too many, this is a matter of life or death.
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  • URGE THE FCC TO CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE!
    Lifeline is a federal program that has connected millions of qualifying low-income households to telephones for more than 30 years. It was established in 1985 to ensure that every resident in the country could access a telephone in the home. At the time, telephones were viewed as an essential utility, like electricity or water. Lifeline, through a modest subsidy, ensures that every family who can’t afford a telephone connection, can do so through this program. In 2005, the program was updated to include cell phone services. Now, with more and more people relying on the Internet to meet many of their personal needs, Lifeline must be expanded to include broadband access. Low-income communities deserve an Internet that is affordable, reliable, and accessible and supports their ability to participate in society. In a society where it has become a requirement that job applicants, employees, students, patients, bank customers, and consumers use the Internet for basic services, broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessity. That's why we're calling on the FCC to treat it as such and ensure that low-income families have access to this vital service through updated Lifeline rules. As a Lifeline subscriber, I know how important this program is to helping connect people to the tools they need to communicate. I live in New Orleans, LA and have a son who is incarcerated in Texas a 10 hours drive away from me. The only way I can communicate with him is through a landline telephone in my home. He can't call my cell phone because the prison telephone operator won't allow it. With my other expenses, affording an additional telephone was going to be a challenge but then I heard about the Lifeline program. Lifeline helps low-income families by subsidizing a portion of their telephone or cell phone bill. It helped me be able to afford a landline in my home. The Lifeline program is now being expanded to help families connect to the Internet. For me this is important because I use the Internet everyday for school. I'm currently taking online courses and pursuing a degree in criminal justice. The Internet is also a place where I find resources to send to my son. As a mother and a student, the Internet is so important but it is also expensive. I know the Lifeline program can help people like me who need the extra help to get ahead. Please consider supporting this petition because the Federal Communications Commission will soon vote on whether to reform the Lifeline program.
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  • Stand with Ravi Perry and Luke Harris Against Racial Censorship in Henrico County
    Did you know that school boards across the country have already banned some of the only books cataloguing the experiences of people of color? And it's not just literature that's being suppressed and erased; the African American Policy Forum's “Unequal Opportunity Race” video is the latest educational media suppressed by conservative school boards. As part of Black History Month, the Unequal Opportunity Race, a short animated video produced by AAPF, was shown to students at Glen Allen High School in Henrico County, Virginia. The clip was included as part of a program to facilitate a conversation on structural racism. Despite accurately illustrating historical events and contemporary racial inequities, conservative activists and right-wing outlets, like Fox News, labeled the educational tool as a "white guilt video.” The Board of Education fueled the conservative outrage when it called the video “racially divisive.” Micky Ogburn, the School Board’s Chair, went as far as to apologize to parents and community members who believed the video was "reverse racism.” Let us be clear: labelling multiracial visions of American society as “divisive” is nothing new. The Civil Rights Movement was called divisive. Martin Luther King, Jr. was called divisive. Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court’s landmark school desegregation case, was labelled as divisive. What is truly divisive is a ban that discourages conversations around structural racism, furthering the dangerous myth that Black people’s suffering can be blamed on individual or cultural shortcoming rather than systemic flaws! What is truly divisive is the miseducation of millions of children, leaving them ill-equipped to understand the complexity of race and racism. Join us supporting parents, students and community leaders in urging the Henrico County School Board to lift the ban on the Unequal Opportunity Race! We further call for transparency from the School Board on their decision-making process used to ban the video, and unbiased coverage from the local press on the ongoing dispute. Learning about the systemic roots of modern-day racial inequality is critical for not only Black students, but for everyone. Censorship of this material in response to conservative agitation is a direct expression of racial repression being translated into official policy. We cannot stand by as our stories are labeled as irrelevant to our country’s social reality, while anything that lifts up the struggles of people of color are deemed racist!
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  • #StandUp4Kids NOT Billionaires
    23 years ago a group of determined parents filed a law suit called the Campaign for Fiscal Equity against New York state to prove that the state was discriminating against districts with mostly Black, Latino or impoverished students by not properly funding their education.10 years ago I stood on the steps of the New York State Court of Appeals with my then 10 year old and 12 year old daughters, Rayya and Zaire, awaiting the hearing that would determine CFE and the fair funding of our New York City Schools. I was so elated when the decision was made that our schools did deserve more, because it meant opportunities and dreams would no longer be denied not only for my children but all other Black and Latino students and students living in poverty. Yet here I am, 10 years later still fighting the same fight. Throughout this 10-year fight, I’ve been up in arms with fellow parents, organizers, and teachers alike. All of which, have witnessed the disparity in opportunity afforded to students because of their skin color or zip code. Education should be about accessing knowledge to expand your world but a consistent disinvestment in public school dollars on top of educational cuts limits this and unfairly stints school potential through a lack of resources. These resources could provide programs that have been proven to enhance a child’s learning environment like advanced classes, technology, longer school days, after school programs, teacher supports, and the list goes on. That’s why right now we’re challenging our legislators to #StandUp4Kids Billionaires and hedge fund managers in New York drive the overwhelming income inequity that creates a gap in educational funding. When the 1% is paying less in taxes than our school secretaries, sanitation workers, nurses and truck drivers we must stand up and say change needs to happen, NOW! With just 1% more in taxes from the 1% (those making $665,000 and over) New York State could raise over $2 billion in funding for education. But when Governor Cuomo says there is “no appetite” for raising taxes on millionaires and billionaires—what I hear is that addressing a 50% child poverty rate is not a priority for New York State. And Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is opposing it because his Republican colleagues depend on hedge funds and billionaires to finance their re-election campaigns. We must put our children before hedge funds and political interests. The future depends on it. Sign our petition to demand Governor Cuomo, Senator Flanagan and the legislators of NY to #StandUp4Kids, NOT billionaires! While my 8 children may never get the opportunity to reap the benefits of CFE my 3 grandchildren can. It’s time for legislators to make the right choice. Together, we can protect the promise of a quality education for generations to come.
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    Created by Alliance for Quality Education New York
  • TELL DE BLASIO: STOP PUSHING BLACK/LATINO KIDS OUT OF SCHOOL AND INTO CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
    Last fall, the whole country saw how violent and traumatic the "broken windows" approach to school discipline is when we watched a white police officer brutally attack a young black girl sitting quietly in her classroom. Shakara, the young girl that was attacked, and Niya, the young girl that stood up for her, are still facing criminal charges for "disturbing school." New York City is still using a"broken windows" approach to school discipline that criminalizes us for similar reasons. In New York, every day students receive a criminal summons for "disorderly conduct," which could be everything from refusing an order to leave a classroom to being excessively loud. Our school system must end these policies and practices that refuse to value Black Lives. As young Black women attending public high schools in Brooklyn and Harlem every day we wake up and go to school we feel the impact of the policies and practices that continue to maintain the school-to-prison pipeline. Black students make up only 26% of students, but we account for 53% of all suspensions. Black girls are disciplined at a rate 10 times that of white girls. And Black and Latina/o students account for 67% of all students but at 94% we account for almost all students that are being arrested. Black and Latina/o students do not behave any differently than white students,- but we are more likely to get pushed out of school for minor infractions. Last year, I (Miaija) got into a schoolyard fight. It was the kind of schoolyard fight that happens between young people all over, but instead of sitting down with adults and working through the conflict, I received a criminal summons for disorderly conduct. I was forced to miss school and go to Manhattan Criminal Court to resolve the charge. Students that miss school to attend court are twice as likely to drop out, and if I missed court, or failed to pay a fine, I would have a criminal warrant for arrest out in my name. The disorderly conduct charges against me were dropped, but I was still forced to navigate the criminal justice system when I should have been worried about finals. There are thousands of students that receive criminal summons in our schools and every day and for many of them it leads to them dropping out of school. There are over 90,000 students in New York City that pass through metal detectors everyday, almost all of them Black and Latina/o. Our schools do not have to feel like prisons. New York City spends almost $400,000,000 annually on School Safety for police officers, metal detectors, surveillance equipment and suspension trials. The city’s investment in Restorative Justice in schools is less than $1,000,000. You don’t build safe and supportive schools by suspending and criminalizing students. You build safe and supportive schools by investing in Restorative Justice to develop strong relationships between students, educators, and parents and by adopting policies that create a fair and just approach to discipline. Our city must stop investing in the school-to-prison pipeline and start investing in our future. If all Black Lives Matter it is time for our schools to treat us all with dignity and respect. Thank You, Zaire Agostini and Miajia Jawara Urban Youth Collaborative
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  • Divest from Wells Fargo! University of California (UC) Prison Divestment!
    We, the undersigned community members and justice seekers, are excited by the Afrikan Black Coalition's recent victory in getting the University of California to divest $25 million from the private prison corporations Corrections Corporations of America (CCA), The Geo Group, and G4S. The victory was historic because private prisons have exacerbated America's mass incarceration regime, are implicated in gross human rights violations, and should be outlawed. However, we share the Afrikan Black Coalition's outrage and frustration resulting from the UC system's startling $425 million investment in Wells Fargo, one of the largest financiers of private prisons. According a report from Enlace, Wells Fargo facilitates access to over $1.2 billion capital for private prisons. As of their latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Wells Fargo owned nearly 1.5 million shares in private prisons. It bears noting that Wells Fargo is a bank that practiced discriminatory lending and maneuvered people of color (primarily Black and Latino) into subprime mortgages that led to the financial meltdown of 2007-2008; and in response to accusations of racial discrimination in its lending practices, Wells Fargo settled for $175 million in 2012 with pending litigations from several U.S cities (Los Angeles and Oakland) about discriminatory practices. It is for these reasons that we stand in solidarity with the Afrikan Black Coalition in its call for justice for those who are systematically dehumanized by an unforgiving and unfair judicial system that continues to criminalize Black and brown bodies. We acknowledge these cases illustrate the evolution of America's legal institution to uphold race, gender, and class hierarchies. By investing in Wells Fargo Bank, the University of California is actively supporting a legacy of historical emphasis on profit margins at the expense of human beings, and the continued mass criminalization of Black existence. It is an ethical embarrassment and a clear disregard for Black and immigrant lives for the UC to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Wells Fargo as a financier of private prisons. In the age of Black Lives Matter and a reinvigorated Black Freedom Struggle, the UC should NOT be bankrolling the inhuman mass incarceration regime that has gripped America.
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