• Betsy DeVos has no place at our HBCU
    My alma mater, Bethune-Cookman, a historically black university in Florida, has invited U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to deliver this year’s commencement speech and receive an honorary degree. But the policies DeVos pushes would have terrible consequences for future generations of Bethune-Cookman students—and for historically black colleges and universities themselves. Bethune-Cookman has historically served students from challenged backgrounds, with the lion’s share of these students coming from public schools throughout America. But DeVos is no fan of public education, calling our public schools a “dead end,” and using millions of dollars of her family fortune to promote private school vouchers; unregulated, for-profit charter schools; and other policies that defund, destabilize and privatize the public schools our communities rely on. DeVos’ ideology and advocacy are especially harmful to students of color—the very students Bethune-Cookman and other HBCUs were created to serve. And the recent budget proposed by President Trump and DeVos would slash billions of dollars in federal funding for programs that help students of color reach, attend and graduate from college. Graduates of Bethune-Cookman’s school of education understand the value and importance of public education, and overwhelmingly return to teach in public schools—a path I took myself after graduation. And it’s not just DeVos’ antipathy to public education or willingness to slash resources HBCUs rely on that raise concerns about this invitation but also her seeming indifference to the history and role of HBCUs in the first place. Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman to provide African-American students with the opportunity to receive the highest level of academic quality at a time when black students were refused entrance into colleges and universities across America. But on Feb. 28 of this year, DeVos released the following statement after meeting with presidents and chancellors of HBCUs at the White House: “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice. They are living proof that when more options are provided to students, they are afforded greater access and greater quality. Their success has shown that more options help students flourish.” At best, this is an outrageous assertion that black students had opportunities to study where they chose; at worst, this is a failed attempt to use HBCUs to push an educational reform movement that continues to disenfranchise children throughout this country, especially in her home state of Michigan and specifically in Detroit. The students graduating this year and their families deserve to celebrate their achievement without controversy—and future generations deserve the opportunity to attend high-quality public schools and reach for their dreams at institutions like Bethune-Cookman. Inviting Betsy DeVos creates an unnecessary and unwelcome distraction for students who have worked hard to earn a degree, and elevating DeVos and her radical ideas threatens the future of public education and the vision and mission of Bethune-Cookman and all HBCUs nationwide. Please join me in asking university President Edison O. Jackson to reconsider and rescind DeVos’ invitation.
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  • Acknowledge and Expose Black History in Schools
    Schools do not go very in depth to the things that actually affect the communities we live in. Without the proper education, our generations of children will loose intelligence over time. Increasing the level of exposure for big topics like Black History will open the minds of students, enhancing their positive skill sets and outcomes. For example, when I was in my World History class at Center High School in Kansas City, Missouri, my History teacher, Mr. Chambers showed the class articles and videos and books that exposed the truth and reality of Black History. When we witness what was shown, we became more mellow, respectful, and responsible than how we were in the beginning of the year. It is very important for our students, (children, and young adults), to know about the slavery, segregation, integration, Civil Rights, police brutality, White on Black crime, and Black on Black crime throughout Black History, and everything that made up the evilness with in the Black communities over time. Doing so will give students a better understanding of what the past was like for Black, (African American), people, and why Black people protest, retaliate, and die in our communities and nation. Students must be taught the truth about all of the things that Black people have gone through and accomplished to be equal citizens of this nation, and to be treated like equal citizens of this nation. Accomplishing these goals of acknowledging and exposing Black History in schools will make a better tomorrow for everyone.
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  • VOTE YES TO TAX PRIVATE PRISONS
    Education NOT Incarceration! California Assembly Bill 43 taxes companies that profit from the prison industry to fund preschool and after school programs that prevent incarceration in the first place. We want our kids to go to college, not jail! But Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas is blocking the bill from moving out of his Revenue and Tax Committee. We're ONE VOTE AWAY from getting this important bill out of that committee. Has Sebastian been bought out by the prison lobby? Call him and tell him to VOTE YES to taxing private prisons and funding school programs that prevent incarceration. BACKGROUND California spends huge amounts to incarcerate prisoners. Current active contracts between for-profit companies and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation total approximately $4.5 billion. In comparison, the state spends relatively little on programs known to prevent incarceration. Attempts to invest heavily in incarceration prevention programs have been stymied by budget concerns. Without a permanent non-budgetary funding source, these efforts are unlikely to experience continued success. Companies continue to profit as a result of high state incarceration rates. These for-profit companies provide necessary goods and services to state facilities, often at a markup. In effect, taxpayers are stuck footing the bill, enabling companies to see large profits for goods and services due to California’s prison population. SOLUTION Assess a tax on companies that contract with state prison facilities to provide goods or services. The tax targets those companies that profit financially from an individual’s incarceration and causes those companies to give revenue back to the state that will be used to prevent and/or reduce future incarceration. Funds collected will be deposited into the State Incarceration Prevention Fund in order to provide prevention services. This tax is structured to come from company revenue and is not simply passed along to the state through increased bid prices. Language has been included that 1) requires contracting companies to certify under penalty of perjury that the cost is not being passed along to the state, 2) calls for oversight and potential audit by the Board of Equalization and 3) institutes a civil fine for companies found to be violators. Fines too will be deposited into the fund, further increasing the amount of available money for incarceration prevention. ENDORSEMENTS California Teachers Association (sponsor) Anti-Recidivism Coalition California Federation of Teachers California Nurses Association Californians for Justice First 5 Association of California Partnership for Children and Youth SEIU California
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  • Free The Children of Kiarre Harris
    In November of 2016, Kiarre Harris, an African-American single mother, chose to homeschool her children and remove them from a failing school in Buffalo, New York. Ms. Harris properly withdrew her children from the public school and fully complied with NYS regulations regarding homeschooling. The Buffalo Public Schools District notified Child Protective Services that the children were not attending school. Without the knowledge or notice to Ms. Harris, Child Protective Services secured a removal order from a Family Court Judge---based on educational neglect. When police first notified Ms. Harris of the removal order (which they did not provide a copy of), Ms. Harris refused to turn her children over to the police. She was arrested for obstruction. Two days later, on January 18, 2017 the children of Ms. Harris were taken away from her and placed into foster care. An ongoing Family Court has now been triggered and Ms. Harris has been granted only limited supervised visitation of her two children. This entire incident began with Ms. Harris' decision to homeschool her children and the Buffalo School District calling Child Protective Services with baseless allegations of educational neglect. Jailing a mother who has complied with the law; taking her children away, and subjecting the family to ongoing legal proceedings can not be allowed to happen. This sends a chilling message to parents who choose to fight for the betterment of their children's education. We need to make it clear: the policies and practices of the Erie County unit of Child Protective Services are racially discriminatory and adversely impact parents of poor and minority children. Kiarre Harris should be admired for doing all in her power to make sure her children have the best education possible. #KiarraHarris #HandsOffHarrisChildren
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  • Protect HBCUs from Biased Policing & Surveillance
    The president of Shaw University has requested a police substation right on the campus of an HBCU under the guise of "public safety." This sets a dangerous precedent for schools, HBCUs, public or private, in Raleigh and beyond. Raleigh Police Department (RPD) disproportionately stop, search, and arrest youth of color for minor infractions. • National studies show that black and white populations use marijuana at about the same rates; yet in Wake County where RPD is the largest law-enforcement agency, black people represent 67% of low-level marijuana arrests but only 21% of the population. • From 2010-2015, black drivers were 2.7 times more likely to be searched by police following a traffic stop but 10% less likely to have contraband. • From 2002-2013, black men under age of 30 were searched at a rate of about 7%, whereas white men were searched at a rate of 4%. As men of color age, the likelihood of being searched significantly decreases. Increased presence of police on campus will not make students safer or improve-police community relations but increase tensions and once again create a pipeline to the criminal justice system. "The university should spend less time trying to monitor student behavior and more time investing in the school," said James Crawford a Shaw Junior from Fayetteville quoted in a January 22nd article of the News & Observer. What Raleigh needs is increased investment in black futures: education, counselors, mental health services, jobs programs, affordable housing, and beyond. For black youth, more interactions with police doesn't mean increased public safety.
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  • Justice for Oakland Students: Hire Local, Long-term Superintendent
    Please join us in this effort by: 1) Signing this petition and 2) Sharing this link with the hashtags: #newoaklandsuperintendent #justice4oaklandstudents #J4OS The revolving door of Superintendents in OUSD has resulted in the majority of African American, Latino and other under-served students failing to get the supports they need to thrive. We can’t afford more of the same – we need a new kind of Superintendent (non-Broad trained) who will turn this district around so all of our students graduate college and career ready. It is critical our next leader has the courage to take a stand against the anti-Black, anti-immigrant political climate fostered in by Trump and “the Right”. We need a leader who will work to end the criminalization and displacement of low-income, working class youth of color and their families in Oakland. We need a leader who understands that power, resources, support and decision-making – when put in the hands of those most impacted at the school sites – results in better outcomes for students. Our Board of Education needs to know our community is stepping forward to hold them accountable for: 1) Engaging the community in the hiring process: Establish a Board committee with the responsibility to engage all stakeholders (students, parents/families, educators) in defining Superintendent hiring criteria and in the interview process. 2) Selecting a new permanent Superintendent who: • Will bring a vision and system-wide plan for real results for African-American, Latino, and all High-Need students, based on the priorities set by students and families. • Will ensure budget equity by prioritizing direct funding to schools, not in high salaries in Central office. • Is committed to principles of: social justice, meaningful engagement of students and parents, and democratic decision-making and shared governance. • Will end the proliferation of charter schools, provide more oversight of existing charter schools and reinvest in making all in-district schools excellent. • Believes schools are part of community transformation and will work towards transforming OUSD as a quality full-service community school district. • Will retain and support teachers by: Increasing pay, training and diversity. • Will end criminalization of youth by: Divesting from the school police budget and reinvesting in Restorative Justice and real school safety. • Is local (deeply knows and loves Oakland) and will stay long-term (at least 5 to 10 years). • Has a demonstrated track record of improving student outcomes in OUSD and is able to work effectively with the Oakland Board of Education and all stakeholders. We have an urgent need to get this on everyone’s radar. You can do this by: • Signing this petition to make your voice heard now and get updates • Share this information with others! Repost the infographic and petition to your facebook page • Email and call board members to demand accountability to this vision • Mobilize to Board meetings and community forums – to ensure we get the right leader for our district! The Justice for Oakland Students Coalition: Is a group of deeply concerned students, parents/families, educators, and community organizations - including Oakland Kids First, Parent Leadership Action Network (PLAN), Black Organizing Project (BOP), Parents United for Public Education, and other groups – who came together to demand a new Superintendent that will ensure Black, Brown, and all High-Need students in OUSD get the high-quality education they deserve. http://tinyurl.com/hmvb2gk
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  • Demand NY Governor Cuomo End Systemic Racism in School Funding
    We’ve seen atrocious cases of Islamophobia, racism, sexism, and xenophobia and the attempt to normalize these behaviors. This can be traumatic to communities of color, women, religious groups, and immigrant communities. The vulnerability of our children has been heightened by the looming threat of what a Trump presidency might mean for them, their families, and their futures. We are prepared for battle on the federal level, but we still face a significant debt owed to our children in New York State. For over a decade, our schools have been waiting for New York State to honor its obligation to comply with an order from its highest court, the Court of Appeals, to fully fund the Campaign for Fiscal Equity (CFE). The ruling established that New York State was underfunding its schools, especially in black, Latino and low-income communities. With Trump threatening to strip resources from our students, Governor Cuomo needs to finally comply with the court’s decision and fully phase in the remaining $4.3 billion owed to our public schools. From cutting taxes on millionaires to attempting to privatize education, the parallels between Trump’s agenda and some of Governor Cuomo’s policies are obvious. It is time that the Governor stands up for the children of New York and fully rejects Trump’s agenda against our most vulnerable communities. To do so he must fulfill his responsibility to finally deliver the “sound, basic education” required by the State constitution by providing the $4.3 billion needed for classroom resources, art and music, guidance counselors, social workers, student supports and more. Help us in demanding that Governor Cuomo fulfill his promise to stand up for all communities. Demand that he take the necessary steps to provide the resources to ensure safe and supportive schools for all students by fully funding the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte, AD 42, Brooklyn. Assemblymember Maritza Davila, AD 53 Brooklyn Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman, AD 29 Queens Assemblymember Kimberly Jean-Pierre, AD 11 Long Island Assemblymember Latoya Joyner, AD 77 Bronx Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, AD 65 Manhattan Assemblymember Nily Rozic, AD 25 Queens Assemblymember Latrice Walker, AD 55 Brooklyn Senator Marisol Alcantara, SD 31 Manhattan Assemblymember Diana Richardson, AD 43, Brooklyn Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa, AD 72, Manhattan Assemblymember Inez Dickens, AD 70, Manhattan Assemblymember Earlene Hooper, AD 18, Long Island Assemblymember Pamela Harris, AD 46 Brooklyn
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  • Oregon: Fund Education not Executions!
    Oregon is spending millions of dollars on a death penalty system disproportionately invoked against Black people. While Black people only make up 2% of Oregon’s population they make up 9% of the population housed on Death Row. While spending millions of dollars to disproportionately imprison Black people, Governor Brown recently announced a state budget which could increase taxes and cuts services to the same communities who face this unfair criminal justice system. Instead of causing further damage to these communities by cutting vital services, Governor Brown should effectively end the use of the death penalty, save Oregon millions of dollars, and end an unjust practice that disproportionately targets the Black community.
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  • 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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  • 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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