Acting UP for Justice: FMFP in the Streets

 

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On a hot Sunday, July 9, hundreds gathered in front of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, blocks away from Baltimore’s Patterson Park.

Like in many cities across the United States, we gathered because the park, embedded in Baltimore’s Latinx community, continues to be targeted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids. We rallied because we oppose not only these raids, but like national organization Mijente, we know our neighborhoods are stronger and safer without policing, borders, immigration bans, and ICE raids.

Reminded of the importance of taking care of our people and called to action by Mama Victory, local organizer and the mother of Victorious Swift the 19-year-old Baltimore art student killed in March weeks before his graduation, we headed to the park.

Core local organizers, including fierce leadership by young Black and Brown folks with The Baltimore Algebra Project, led the chants, and the local and national participants marched with signs like ICE-FREE BALTIMORE, We are VICTORIOUS and NO ICE RAIDS IN OUR COMMUNITIES.

With a federal administration that continues to champion white supremacist policies — immigration bans and border walls — our political moment is like too many before. Resistance isn’t futile, rather across the country, it is our only pathway, together.

Also notable, this march was the first time, and hopefully not the last, that the Free Minds Free People gathering ended with an action, and with delicious cupcakes and cakes, made by the amazing Christina “V” Villarreal.

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Our Power is in Our People: Dr. Laura Ramírez

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Laura co-leading a March for the Ayotzinapa parents and survivor -Victor Cortes and Antonio Zavala – when they visited Chicago in April, 2015.

  1. Who are you, where do you work, and why do you do what you do as an organizer for education activism?

I am a mother of two Chicago public school students, and hold a doctorate in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Chicago. I am also the co-founder of Justicia en Ayotzinapa Comité Chicago. For over 12 years, I have been actively involved in the fight to preserve public education in Chicago, including the 2011, 43 day sit-in for a library and Fieldhouse, known as “La Casita.” I have also organized transnationally to demand accountability from the Mexican government in the enforced disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa students. A Spanish teacher by training, I have taught in Chicago area public schools and I have also been a youth worker. In my paid and unpaid work, I continue to share my knowledge with communities of of color to build our capacity to fight for our human and education rights. Additionally, I helped to pass the Chicago city council’s ordinance ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2009.

My work is grounded on the belief that in our society it is the duty of all people to hold our government and other state apparatus accountable by standing up against injustices and advocating for solutions to problems that plague our communities. I believe that education is a necessary tool for people to develop their full capacity and ability to think, as well as to love more fully. I know firsthand the power of transformation in the development of a critical consciousness.

  1. What keeps you up at night or worries you (we hope everyone gets healthy sleep, of course)?

What keeps me up is knowing that we continue to operate under a flawed and crumbling paradigm. The capitalist, gendered, patriarchal and racialized system that we exist under can no longer sustain life on this planet in a just and equitable way. We need to bring forth systems that not only respond to the present conditions but that also challenge and provide an alternative to the ways we have been taught to exist. Our public education system can and must be a potential site for this deconstruction and recreation of society – but only if we are able to liberate ourselves from the current purpose of education – simply as a site of hierarchal reproduction.

  1. What misconception about education would you like to correct?

The greatest misconception about the education system, especially in the United States, is that it serves the best interest of all. We know, through years of research and testimonies that the practices of schooling in the United States has actually aided in the colonization, dehumanization, and assimilation of young people of color and their families since its very inception in the 1830’s. The history of schooling in this country is one that has allowed for the economic self-sufficiency of a very few at the expense of the rest of our children. It is built on a paradigm of competition and of cementing the ideas of human beings as capital that can be sold and traded in the marketplace of degrees and titles. It has denied and erased most of our history and continues to brainwash us into believing that to “make it” means to be the best, which in essence means that our existence has been shaped by our ability to beat others at the empty game of academic attainment.

  1.      What five books have been essential to your formation as an education activist?

The most important books have been: Let Me Speak by Domitila Barrios de Chúngara, Pedagogy of Hope by Paolo Freire, Protean Literacy by Concha Delgado-Bernal, The Long Haul by Miles Horton and the Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Aldous Huxley.

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Laura with the Comité Justicia en Ayotzinapa Chicago during the 43 hour hunger strike in Chicago, September 2015.

 

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!

 

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