Resource Review: Don’t Be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks

by Brian Galaviz

As a public elementary and middle school counselor in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, Don’t Be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks has an important message for all educators, students and counselors.

In schools there is a focus, by some, on “bullying.” But too often, “bullying” is used as a sanitized term devoid of its often-underlying sentiments of whitesupremacist patriarchy. While it is vital to address harmful behaviors, it is just as important to name specific behaviors – homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, abelism, etc… If we simply label these behaviors as bullying, it is easy to turn away from the underlying discrimination. Using specific language potentially like islamophobia might cause discomfort, not only for the student causing harm, but also for school personnel. Educators may not feel qualified or ready to address these issues. However, it is our ethical obligation as protectors of safe spaces to name and address the root cause of violence. If students do not feel safe, learning is difficult if not impossible.

Another nugget of wisdom for those of us working and learning in schools is the value of resisting the urge to call police when bullying or other threats of harm occur in schools. In Chicago, the corruption within and harm caused by the Chicago Police Department is well documented. Will calling the police really make our communities safer? However, educators may not feel comfortable discussing the intersectionality of young people’s safety and the trauma caused by police. Yet the fact that many educators have family, friends and loved ones who are police officers is an unacknowledged tension and often a major barrier to addressing police violence against young people of color, mainly black and brown youth. Yet having open, honest, restorative conversations regarding police is essential to implementing creative, non-punitive responses to harm in schools.

I recommend watching and discussing: Don’t Be a Bystander: 6 Tips for Responding to Racist Attacks. 

Don’t Be a Bystander, running time approximately 4 minutes, is directed and produced by Lewis Wallace and Hope Dector, conceived by Mariame Kaba and Sarah Jaffe, with support from the Barnard Center for Research on Women. 

Brian, his partner Gloria Ortiz, and their son Diego. 

Brian Galaviz has been an educator for ten years in Chicago Public Schools. He has taught high school science and been a counselor in high school, elementary, and middle school, including in alternative settings for youth who have been pushed out of traditional schools. Both Brian and Gloria are fierce Chicago political and cultural workers!

 

DeVos, now what?

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A few hours after Betsy DeVos confirmation as the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, Professor Wayne Au posted a commentary to Facebook that provided a quick historical context to this confirmation and some ways to dust off and acting. By the next day, Professor Au’s post had been shared over 1200 times. Below is Prof. Au’s thoughts on why and how the comments were helpful as well as the comments he posted.

On the morning of February 7th, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the Trump Administration’s Secretary of Education. The travesty of the DeVos nomination is well documented. She is completely unqualified to head up our public schools – having no public school experience herself and having played a key role in the dismantling of Detroit public schools. She is also an advocate for private school vouchers, with the expressed intention of using those vouchers to spread her form of Christianity. Ultimately DeVos’ nomination was just another in a long line of cabinet picks in the upside down bizarro world of Trumpistan: An official federal leader of public education who hates public education (and a bunch of the people in it).

News of the DeVos confirmation flooded my Facebook feed immediately after it happened. The vast majority of the response was disbelief, despair, and cynicism, especially given the fairly large mobilizations of mainstream and progressive education activists calling their state representatives and urging them to vote “no” on DeVos (side note: DeVos was one of the only nominees that Democrat politicians voted against, with many of those same politicians voting “yes” to confirm Trump’s other upside down bizarro world cabinet picks). Given the despondence of I was seeing, I spent a few minutes writing some quick points in reflection, trying to give some broader, activist perspective on the DeVos confirmation.

I didn’t expect it to, but my post went viral (well, viral for me at least), getting almost 1,200 official shares on Facebook. Friends reported that it was spreading with unofficial attribution in places like Oklahoma or that they were talking with colleagues and family members about it in meetings and over dinner tables. In the end what I think happened is that so many folks were depressed by the DeVos confirmation that they found my little post to be helpful in making sense of it all, and even a little healing in these trying times.

So here is the post, slightly edited and with some additions to clarify my points.

 

“A few quick points on the DeVos confirmation”
1. Yes, she’s terrible and this will hurt a lot of kids around the country. She will be devastating to poor kids and kids in SPED. She will likely take away supports for LGBQT kids and families and try to strip our abilities to protect our Muslim and undocumented students. As others have said, Trump hates us, and so the DeVos nomination is consistent with that hate.
2. If she weren’t confirmed, the next person up would also have been terrible.
3. Don’t romanticize the past: The last 8 years of education policy under Obama have also been about cementing free market reforms, the destruction of public education, and attacks on communities of color through those reforms (charters, “choice,” testing, anti-union, mayoral control, school closings, etc., etc.). So, yes, DeVos is like those reforms on steroids and she has some particularly retrograde cultural politics, but the policy trajectory is clear and the logics are consistent with Duncan and Obama.
4. Upside: Because many of DeVos’ policies fundamentally align with what the Dems and liberals (centrist-neoliberals) have been pushing for the last 8 years, the DeVos confirmation forces them to justify their positions and either distinguish themselves from DeVos or just go ahead and admit that they are in alignment with her – at clearly potentially great political cost (Check out T. Jameson Brewer and Mitchell Robinson’s great explanation of this).
5. The federal DOE has a relatively small budget (relatively speaking) and the Secretary of Education also has very limited power (relatively speaking). Over 90% of our education funding comes from a combination of local tax base and state funding, so the K-12 strings she can pull are relatively short. I don’t mean to suggest that school districts won’t be devastated by losing this money, which in some large urban districts can be well over $100 million, and we know that poor kids and kids in SPED will feel the brunt of this. But, we also need to recognize that federal support for education is limited at best.
6. Because of #4, there is a lot to be said for focusing our organizing at the local and state levels. If DeVos is going to be consistent, then she is going to kick A LOT of education policy down to the states. That is where a lot of the fight will now be.
7. All of that said, DeVos could really mess up higher education by making it more difficult for students to get access to loan programs – particularly if she and the rest of the Trump administration want to punish specific states and specific universities who are resisting him.
8. And all of that said, we’ve been organizing against terrible federal education reforms for decades. All the DeVos confirmation does is shift the terrain, shift our tactical focus, and give us a chance to broaden our organizing base.

 

Wayne Au is an editor for the social justice teaching magazine, Rethinking Schools, and he is an Associate Professor in the School of Educational Studies at the University of Washington Bothell. His most recent book is, Reclaiming the Multicultural Roots of U.S. Curriculum (co-authored with Anthony Brown and Dolores Calderon).

The Pedagogy of Walking Out

Read the original essay written by Keith Catone, reblogged from his website, here:

 

I write this just 15 hours before students from schools across the city of Providence (and some neighboring communities) plan to walk out of their classes in protest of the policies being promoted by soon-to-be President Trump. I write this as an adult ally who has responded to youth leaders’ call for support and who will be working to support young people tomorrow as they exercise their Constitutional right to free speech. While the superintendent of schools in Providence seems to understand that students have the right to free speech, some overzealous and self-righteous adults can’t seem to understand why young people might feel compelled to express their sense of injustice by walking out of school at the moment Donald Trump becomes their country’s president.

Ostensibly, youth attend school in order to learn. Yet, what happens when students feel compelled to teach? Sadly, not enough spaces inside schools recognize the leadership that young people have to offer and the lessons they have to teach us. Too often (and even then, not enough) young people can only find spaces in which they are treated and understood as full human beings–capable of independent thought, innovative ideas, and unconstrained agency–outside of school through organizations such as the Providence Student UnionYouth In Action, and PrYSM. That youth leaders nurtured by these organizations have come together to work with their peers in order to educate the rest of us about free speech, youth rights, and democratic accountability is no surprise.

 

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A President who high school youth had no electoral power in selecting has taken office. This absurd reality is our (adults) fault, not theirs (youth). Grown men and women put Donald Trump at the helm of this country. Ladies and gentlemen (more the gentlemen), it is we who have fucked this up. And don’t think because you didn’t vote for Trump that you’re off the hook because in some way or another we’ve contributed to the conditions that enabled his election. Instead of pretending that I know what young people should do in response to the inauguration of a President who has spewed and sparked hateful and harmful rhetoric toward them, their families, and their communities, I will be out there tomorrow in order to learn. Young people have been leading in Providence for years and have built a culture of accountability to their interests in ways that many other places see as a model. Our civic and community leaders often celebrate this leadership and it is my hope that they (and we) recognize it tomorrow during the youth-led school walkout. I don’t know what the pedagogy of walking out means comprehensively yet, but tomorrow I will seek to find out more about what it might be. The young people of Providence have something to say. We’d better listen. They have something to teach. We’d better learn.

Baton Rouge: Resisting & Building

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“We don’t want to reform the system because it was never made for us.”

This past July, Rethink was asked to join a cadre of folks in support of Baton Rouge youth activists to plan a protest in response to the murder of Alton Sterling by Baton Rouge police.   On Sunday July 10, The Wave youth and Rethink youth lead over 2000 people in a march through the streets of Baton Rouge demanding justice. The three founding members of The Wave are North Baton Rouge residents – Raheejah, Jeanette, and Myra –  who responded immediately to the murder of their neighbor and to the ongoing police brutality they see within Black communities with a call to action— “to unite communities and enact policy changes to stop discriminatory acts against minority individuals,” explained Raheejah Flowers.

Rethinkers lead chants as the youth told a crowd of thousands at the Baton Rouge State Capitol that they are tired—tired of their family and friends being murdered in the streets, tired of their schools failing them, tired of adults constantly telling them “no,” and tired of being tired. And with all of this on their hearts and minds, standing in front of a symbol of the broken system they aim to demolish and transform, they chanted together, “we gon’ be alright!”

“We don’t want to reform the system because it was never made for us,” said Rethinker Ashley Triggs during a WBOK interview following the protest. Rethinkers speak often about their duty to fight for their freedom, echoing the words of Assata Shakur that Rethinkers chant together each time they gather. Young people are fighting every day for their visions of freedom and liberation, and it is past time for adults to love and support them, follow their lead, and champion them as they realize their visions.

As part of their work to dismantle systems of oppression, Rethinkers have developed a 5ive Point Platform which focuses on five specific systems: mass media, education, criminal justice, food access and healthcare. The Platform lays bare the inequities that youth face in New Orleans, and cities like ours across the country, providing concrete demands from each system to reflect the humanity and dignity that young people deserve.

We choose to remind everyone that organizing and protest isn’t a fad. This is not simply a moment. We have a legacy of resistance at our backs.   The depth of our commitment to our own humanity lives in our bones.

Rethinkers and powerful youth all over are making moves to transform the world—and they know they have nothing to lose but their chains.

In love and in struggle

karen “kg” marshall
rethink | executive director
web: therethinkers.org

Gearing up for FMFP Baltimore 2017!

Hello Education 4 Liberation Community!
Welcome to the blog from the Education for Liberation Network. Keep our blog handy in your bookmarks. This is a space where you can read about events and spaces being organized for educational justice around the U.S., read interviews with organizers about how they try to imagine new and more just worlds into existence. We’ll discuss hot topics in education and liberation and will repost on point essays from other organizations and individuals doing the work for justice in and for education. We hope you find the conversations here useful in pinpointing the areas of injustice in education and how some folks are working to change those realities. We believe that there is no struggle without study, and this blog is part of that ongoing practice.
This first post is to give lots of love, shouts out, and props to the many folks who gathered in Baltimore September 23-25 for the planning retreat to build next summer's Free Minds Free People. The retreat is just part of the work of planning the conference, and lots of opportunities are out there if you weren't able to make it to the retreat. Committees are being formed through the first part of October, so drop an email here if you'd like to get become involved.
The retreat in Baltimore had about 20 folks local to B’More present and about 20 folks from all of the U.S. who gathered together. We were hosted graciously and guided beautifully by the folks at the Baltimore Algebra Project. Over the course of two and half days, we built community by getting to know each other, revisiting the historical origins, goals, and desired outcomes of the Free Minds Free People conference, and imagined together the conference content and how the committees will function. And we ate some wonderful food, prepared with love to be shared in a community, courtesy of Cuban Princess Delights.
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Be sure to mark your calendars for July 6-9, 2017. Announcements for submitting a proposal to present will be out soon. Free Minds Free People!

Young people and teachers from Baltimore traveled all the way to the Oakland conference last year and are ready to bring their BMore best to the rest of us for the next FMFP. Here is a message from the folks in Baltimore:Free Minds, Free People is a national conference convened by the Education for Liberation Network that brings together young people, teachers, researchers, parents and community-based activists/educators to build a movement to develop and promote education as a tool for liberation.  The goal of the conference is to provide a forum for sharing knowledge, experiences and strategies to understand and challenge the injustices disenfranchised communities face. Our most recent Free Minds, Free People last summer in Oakland, CA, drew more than 1200 people.

 

 We’ll plan to see you July 6 – 9, 2017 in Baltimore, MD – mark your calendar, start organizing to participate, and spread the word! And just to give you a taste, check out the video highlights from Oakland!
And below is a message from the local organizers in Baltimore. Buckle up; it’s beautiful in this work.

Greetings from Baltimore, Maryland. We are enthusiastic and eager for the Free Minds, Free People conference to find its way to Birdland! We are very happy to be this year’s host city. Baltimore has a very deep and rich history of being entrenched in struggle. This is especially true for young people in schools of poverty, particularly students of color. These students are routinely disarmed by the institutional racism of white supremacy. By joining us in Baltimore for the conference, we have an opportunity to learn from one another, build bonds through networking, and connect our efforts on a national level. Us Baltimoreans will expose our guests to the ins and outs of a typical young person in the city of Baltimore.

In 2009 at FMFP, young people from across the nation gathered to draft a document that describes a set of students’ education rights which they believe should be federally protected. This document is the “National Students Bill of Rights” and has served as a banner under which a number of modern social justice victories have been won. Among these rights is the right to safe and secure public school facilities, as well as the right to free college education free childcare for students. It is evident that the system currently in place for the protection of students’ rights within school buildings is not only ineffective, but detrimental to the education and physical safety of the students. In the absence of protection for students’ rights, we allow one for profit industry (school police) to prepare and package students for inherent violations of their rights. Each NSBR violation experienced by a student detracts from their ability to actively engage with their education. Simultaneously funding is pulled from schools and poured into prisons.

As a result the path these youth take is diverted: post-secondary education is replaced with prison. While this issue is well known, there is currently no effective method for communities to intervene in this process. Therefore it is our duty as young people, educators, and community members to publicly denounce these structures. Baltimore youth and our allies have provided, and will continue to provide young people and communities with resources to combat and counteract the constant violation of our rights. We will continue to speak out against these injustices. Through this continued support of our communities, we will produce an equitable educational experience for young people of color in schools of poverty. In doing so we, the youth of Baltimore City, will create an environment where students are not afraid of being assaulted by individuals meant to protect them. We look forward to building, working, learning, and fellowshipping with you with all of you in the name of THE STRUGGLE!