Letter to Atlanta on Juneteenth:   Celebrating Freedom When We Still Ain’t Free by Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools

 

Free Minds Free People is swiftly approaching. As a youth-centered space for liberatory education, FMFP prioritizes listening to and supporting youth-led visions for education justice. In this blog entry, we hear from one of the youth organizations who will be at FMFP, Rethink out of New Orleans on their thoughts this Juneteenth. 

 

Dear Black Students in Atlanta,

I’ve started this letter five times, at least. I keep thinking about all you brilliant Black minds in Atlanta, disenfranchised by many of the same type of people as we are here in New Orleans. I could see unskilled MBAs licking their chops, bored white 20-somethings looking to fail upward in your city, millionaire supporters of charterization lining up to fund the takeover of your schools, and no people in power considering the wants you, your families, and the communities you’re rooted in.  They see any your educational reality as an opportunity for free market. We’ve seen how this plays out and it is my imperative to warn you. They are lying and scheming for their own benefit, and there is so much at stake if you don’t stop them.

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You have been fighting already for your school system and as you continue to fight, don’t lose sight of who you are. The ways your communities and families love and support you not wrong because your teacher or administrator cannot comprehend them. Your culture is not a commodity or in need of refinement; your people’s history must not be repackaged by those who have everything to gain from obscuring it. Don’t listen to their lies about how innovation and choice will save hordes of hopeless, helpless youth. And know that when they say hopeless and helpless they are referring to you.

 

I know what they’ve done to you so far and how damaging they’ve been to you. They’ve already changed the rules of the game so they win and blamed you for losing, all to obscure the fact that the state disinvested in certain schools and areas of the city long ago. Agents of gentrification and displacement have staked their claims to housing and land since the ‘70s, and are looking to bring this unapologetic entitlement to privatizing public schools.

 

People will tell you what I’m saying isn’t true. This letter is to tell you how to handle them when they try to hoodwink you again and again. No matter what they say, a public charter does not provide public education in ways traditional public schools do. It’s a loophole for taking public funds and massive private donations to privately manage public schools like corporations, where profit for those in power always comes before people.

 

I’m seeing what they’ve done, what they’re doing and how similar our experiences are. The powers that are pushing for this Opportunity School District in Atlanta act innocent, but let me tell you something—they’re trying to pull us down into the Sunken Place.

 

New Orleanians remember when Hurricane Katrina decimated the poorest, Blackest parts of the city and policymakers took this opportunity to fast track the plan already in place to privatize public education. We remember the mass firings (7,000 teachers and 500 school employees) to intentionally bust unions while putting out a call to “human capital” organizations (Teach for America, TeachNOLA, City Year, Americorps). We remember amendments and bills being passed with swiftness like never before to allow the takeover and justify it by changing the scale used to determine which schools were considered “failing.” We remember being denied access to enrollment after their own schools after a charter takeover, or watching the local/state authorities close schools while funding new schools in other neighborhoods. While the Recovery School District was already in place before Katrina, it got a huge breath of new life while hundreds of thousands of New Orleanians were trying simply to recover their old lives.

 

In realizing crucial elements of this their master plan, drafted by these architects of reform, you gain a strange perspective on time and human pain, and effort. Other cities cannot hear what I hear whenever I hear about new nonprofits, millions for “school choice” and “charter autonomy.”

 

Watch the ways policymakers are moving, investigating strange bedfellows and cross-sector alliances at local, federal, state levels. The bevy of policies passed in the months after Katrina and the informal group of pro-charter government officials are eerily similar to the State Charter School Commission, and their ability to find loopholes and push legislation to realize their vision. Pro-charter government officials in Atlanta, just like in New Orleans, have money and people lined up to support their cause. Moreover, they can manufacture and organize information in their favor, convincing masses that they (should) have power and control over public education because they know what’s best for success.

 

 

And as is typical, people are leveraging the manufactured success of schools in New Orleans as rationale for privatization of school systems (and housing) in Nashville, Detroit, Reno and Las Vegas, and across North Carolina. When some of the same players are involved, you know it’s time to get out. We must know our collective history lest we walk the same paths again, falling into the same traps and being fooled by the same type of folk.

 

Don’t believe false prophets like John White, Doug Harris, Scott Cowen, Leslie Jacobs, and Paul Vallas. They will speak to you of improving their test scores to convince you that the experiment is working. When you ask them why expulsions are up, they won’t answer you.   When you ask them to explain the phenomenon of disappeared students they don’t there-will-be-no-miracles-hereacknowledge your question.   They are invested in white supremacy and will protect it at any costs. Children of color are not whole or human to them—how can we trust them to construct a school system rooted in their dignity? Paul Pastorek (Superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans, 2007-2011) consulted with Rick Snyder (governor of Michigan, 2011-present) immediately before Snyder recommended the state takeover of Detroit’s public schools. Pastorek is currently the co-executive director of the Broad Center, funded by a foundation that funnels millions of dollars to charter school development across the country.

 

Don’t trust those who voluntarily leave elected or appointed positions to enter into the private sector. Always question those that appear to be voluntarily giving up their institutional power. Trust and believe that they’ve found more power with less accountability elsewhere. Michelle Rhee recommended the takeover and charterization of four Atlanta public schools, the same schools Erin Hames recommended for takeover after she left a position in the Georgia governor’s office to open an educational consulting firm focused on state seizure of public schools. Her plan includes mass firings, school closures, and charter takeover of public schools. People like her are reminiscent of Leslie Jacobs, who spent time in the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Orleans Parish School Board before a failed bid for mayor of New Orleans; that same year, she opened two nonprofits with her own wealth (one focused on keeping transplants in the city by connecting them to economic opportunities, the other focused on pushing pro-charter policies). Two years later, she was the recipient of the New Orleanian of the Year award. Follow the money, and you’ll find a charter mafia. Keep a running list of all the major players and the types of decisions they make to inform your strategy; the first time they show you who they are, believe them.

 

Don’t let them convince you that you are to blame for schools deemed failing. Over the last 15 years, Georgia’s governors have cut over $9 billion from the state education budget, and are blaming school struggles on local, often Black leadership. Meanwhile, the College and Career Readiness Index is rife with many of the same fallacies used to grade New Orleans schools. They will consistently change the rules of the game in their favor, and blame you for losing. The narrative will never be about their architecture, but about failures and shortcomings of traditional public education.

 

They’ll secretly court “education service providers” to bring “innovation and choice” which is code for “largely white operators who will run public schools like private companies.” These companies will get the red carpet rolled out for them and a pile of money to support their rapid growth, all the while manufacturing data and mobilizing people who exemplify their so-called success. But we know we can’t trust any of it. At no point is real education the highest priority. Once they take over, you can expect pressure on teachers to cheat or teach only to the test or just leave the school entirely. You can expect harsh discipline and zero tolerance policies, all meant to tame the wild animals they claim us to be and keep us away from the so-called jungles we’re growing up in.  You can expect to be turned against your own parents.   The power brokers will tell you that your parents don’t know and never knew how to raise you. How to love you. How to see you.   The trick, you see, is that they want you to hate yourselves. They want you to see yourselves and people who look like you as worthless.

 

You know how gentrification works, right? Of course you do.   First you have to be convinced that what you have and where you live is worthless.   And the very same house, the same section 8 apartment, the same land that they say is too far gone to be restored is bought out from under you or taken with no compensation.   The same thing happens to Black bodies and Black minds.   They want to convince us that we have no value while our entire lives are snatched away from us.

 

Don’t be fooled by public meetings, requirements or suggestions of community involvement, or any space for resistance to charterization or school closures. By the time you hear about these meetings, the powers that be have likely already made their decisions. Alert your people of the ways in which they manufacture consent for whatever their original plan was to begin with. They’ll get Black folks from Atlanta to tell you how they understand your concerns, your struggle, your experiences; they’ll trigger you, gaslight you, and manipulate you to support them. Be wary—not all of our skinfolk are our kinfolk.

 

They’ll tell you that you’re better off with young white teachers. They’ll explain that you have more choice than ever, while they warehouse-shuffle at least—abuse and miseducate at most— you from charter to charter. They’ll assure you the secret lottery they use to place students does not give preference to certain types of students, and ask you not to worry about the white public charter school’s hidden requirements (to start: exorbitant extra fees, infallible code-switching skills, and unwavering willingness to be tokenized) all at the ready.

 

For those resisting privatization from inside schools, they’ll make you decide between staying in your school building, and having a school at all. As soon as they shuffle you out, they’ll renovate so that the school suddenly has air conditioning after years without it, or is no longer overrun with structural flaws that couldn’t be prioritized earlier. The largest Charter Management Organizations in New Orleans and the predominantly white charter schools do not coincidentally have the most coveted school buildings.

 

You can only be destroyed by believing that you are really stupid, violent, too much to handle, too dumb to learn, too ghetto to exist, that you belong in a cage, that you should be enslaved.

 

What we’re left with after school reform is a bunch of shiny warehouses where truly educating our youth is the lowest priority and antithetical to their goals. Those of us who can’t or simply won’t to survive a white supremacist, zero tolerance, testing-driven, dehumanizing school environment staffed by droves of unskilled, untalented transplants to the city are pushed out. We’re locked in Behavioral Intervention rooms with no windows, seating, or teacher supporting their learning. Meanwhile, those of us who are considered particularly dangerous are pushed out to diversion programs masquerading as job training programs or “alternative schools,” and jails masquerading as “study centers.” Sometimes we’re lucky enough to be pushed out to our own homes, where we’ll receive four hours of instruction because we’re struggling with our mental health or are unwilling/unable to attend school.

 

I tell you this because I love each of you figuring out how to handle the situation they’re constructing, and I am invested in your…   no.   our liberation. Please don’t forget it. I know they’re going to say I’m exaggerating, but I know Black folks.   I also know what those in power do to make us believe there isn’t a system built on our backs, to destroy us. Take no one’s word, but trust your experience. Know where you came from to know where you’re going.

 

The world is deliberately constructed so you believe what they say about you.   Fight it with the truth.   I know and you know the invisible labor we’ve poured into our own education throughout history. Black people have always educated ourselves and each other for protection, for survival, and for freedom.

 

We must resist.

 

We must dismantle these systems built to destroy us and transform the ways in which power is held.

 

I see your resistance. Over 50 school districts have already announced their stance against charterization. I see y’all fighting today across all types of connections to the school system.

 

Do not forget love, and how you must survive. Do not forget that liberation is what we’re fighting for, and that true education is an essential part of our path to freedom.

 

We can’t be free if y’all ain’t free. If y’all still fightin’, so are we.

 

Here in New Orleans, we see you. We feel you. We got you.

 

Your Cuz,

 

Rethink

Dispatch from FMFP Fundraiser in Providence

Fighting for Our Lives is this year’s Free Minds Free People conference theme. As the 2011 host city, Providence understands the power that is behind and results from FMFP. When the idea of a backyard Get Out screening was thrown out there by this year’s fundraising and finance committee co-chair, Dulari Tahbildar, other Providence-based planning committee members knew we had to make it happen.

Get out intro

A disturbing movie in distressing times, Get Out depicts the violence of white supremacy and shows the viewers the terrifying depths of our society’s commodification of Black bodies. Chris, the movie’s protagonist, must literally fight for his life amidst this violence.

 

Over 50 people came out to support FMFP youth scholarships, raising nearly $400. This money will support youth from four Providence-based organizations to attend FMFP: Providence Student Union, Providence Youth Student Movement, Young Voices, and Youth in Action. Shout outs to Adeola Oredola for graciously offering her home with backyard movie screen andChristina “V” Villareal for her signature cupcakes, kettle corn, Rice Krispie treats, and special Get Out Edition Fruit Loop treats.

get out cupcakes

 

 

A special thank to the young people of Baltimore Algebra Project for their original video sharing their excitement for FMFP, which was shared before the feature film.

Thank you Providence for showing your love. Thank you FMFP fam for all that you do.

See you in Baltimore July 6-9. Register here!

 

Connection and Creativity at the NYC Fighting for Our Lives FMFP Film Night

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by Gabriela Fullon

 

The FMFP Conference is a re-energizing space for many and while it takes a lot of work to put together, seeing people from across the country connect, celebrate and breathe together is well worth it.

In New York City, our activist community is constantly pulsing and pushing at an oftentimes relentless pace and we wanted to bring folks together to pause, prepare and connect through a film night that would touch upon some of the major topics being addressed at #FMFP2017:

  • Water is Life
  • Intersections of Racism and Ableism
  • Radical Healing

It was a wonderful screening and discussion of the films and we wanted to share the curated films and our matching curriculum with everyone, in preparation for FMFP in Baltimore.  

What I Learned To Be True is a beautiful piece by Elizabeth Acevedo about how she processed the recent election:

Youth Violence -Choose Life is a powerful piece highlighting the contrasts between life and death for young people in Baltimore.

Mni Wiconi: The Stand at Standing Rock is a visually stunning intro to some of the basics behind #NODAPL and the fight at Standing Rock.  

Nubuke is a moving story and a winner of the Benpaali Young Filmmaker’s Festival in Accra, Ghana.  

Deported is a five-part documentary series following the global movement to end deportation of Cambodian refugees from the United States.  

Episode I of the series, A Grassroots Movement, focuses on the work of advocates and organizers here in the United States.  

Episode IV of Deported. Beyond the United States, follows the experiences of organizers in Cambodia who have been deported from the United States.

Our last film, Keep Ya Head Up, is a student produced piece about profiling and harassment specifically of Muslim and Black communities, from our friends at the Global Action Project, who will be at Baltimore this July!  

In addition to the fantastic films shown, Dr. Susan Wilcox compiled a wonderful Fighting For Our Lives Film Night Curriculum that we wanted to share as well.  

We hope you’ll enjoy this mine of creativity from the different communities that will  be represented at #FMFP2017 and we encourage you to share the films and curriculum with your people!  See you in Baltimore!

Our Power is in Our People: Whitney Richards-Calathes

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

 

I’m Whitney! A fan of cats, Bronx born and raised, Mother Earth loving, slightly nerdy but still trying to keep it cool Black girl. I am an organizer-healer-scholar-youth-worker-educational-justice-prison-abolitionist-fighter. And my work is a tad unconventional! Right now, I work between two coasts, Los Angeles and New York City.

 

In LA, I work closely with an organization called the Youth Justice Coalition, which is a direct-action organizing space to address issues of mass incarceration. We operate within a community-center called Chuco’s Justice Center, which is home to host of organizations, groups from our surrounding communities of Inglewood and South Central, and is also the space for our high school, FREE LA! (Fighting for the Revolution to Empower and Education Los Angeles). Our high school serves young people who are system-impacted, young parents, neighborhood affiliated, and many other intersectional identities that often get cuffs instead of diplomas in the City of LA. I’ve worked as a teacher here, a community organizer, the Board Chair, and an overall supporter of the work!

 

In my NYC work, I am Co-Founder of Sweet River, a small team of women of color working at the cross section of education, prison abolition, cultural work, and restorative and transformative justice. (We are still growing, so no website yet, but coming soon!). Currently, Sweet River partners with a Brooklyn public school in implementing racial-justice focused restorative justice (through a Brooklyn Community Fund initiative), while also providing trainings, program support, and workshops on transformative justice, peer mediation, abolitionist education, and restorative practices. We are proud to be a team led by women of color in a current moment where funding is opening up for “restorative practices,” but is often not trickling down to people of color led organizations, grassroots based institutions, or spaces led by system-impacted individuals.

 

The last component of my work (yes, I swear I get sleep, 8 hours if I can, here is why ), involves being a PhD student. I’m in the last phase of doctoral studies at The Graduate Center at The City University of New York. I write, think about, and do research on transformative justice and Black radical imagination. Through my student status, I use research as a movement tool, collaborating with organizers and young people to do research on issues of women’s incarceration, restorative practices in Bronx public schools, and housing rights for tenants in El Barrio. (Here are some of the incredible organizations I’ve worked with: Community Connections for Youth, New Settlement Parent Action Committee, Movement for Justice en El Barrio).

 

I do all of this work – weaving between schools, organizations, and coasts – because I believe that justice work is the greatest type of education. Learning, questioning, thinking, and imagining is what education should be, and it’s critical to reclaim that. Plus, I think we can do this reclamation creatively, with radical joy, and in the most intersectional way possible. (Or maybe I just don’t like working 9-5, who knows!) Educational spaces in all their forms, as institutions, are intertwined intimately with histories of power, colonialism, prison and punishment – and our duty is to always work to undo and abolish these so the next generations can get a little bit more free.

 

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

 

There are so many books! … In addition to conversations, experiences, travel, tending to my own feelings with constructive criticism, mistakes, challenges, and people, all of which have been critical to my work and human-ness. While, there are a billion books, I’m leaving off the list, here are some key ones, accompanied with links to movements that embody the spirit of each book:

  1. Women Who Run with the Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes. A book that has taken me almost five years to go through because each paragraph, line, word is something that speaks right into my spirit, that I need to sit with, savor, mull over, and dream about. Written by a storyteller psychologist, this book is about the inner worlds, fires, and process of women (defined in the broadest way). About what it means to “run with wolves” – to accept, cultivate, nurture our wildish nature. It helped me think about how to be an education activist that is unapologetic, brave, and wild. Sadie Nash Leadership Project is an organization I worked for that celebrated women in a truly authentic way.
  2. Octavia Butler books, specifically: the Earthseed Series and Wildseed. Because both of these remind us of our past and our future. Cause Octavia Butler is an oracle. Because justice work is science fiction in that it is creating another world that does not yet exist. Plus, imagination is key! These folks in Durham, a land collective and a circle trainer are bringing Butler’s work to life.
  3. Robin Kelley’s book, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination. I love this book. And return to it, always. Kelley writes that social movements are places for dreaming and places where new ideas, intellect and thought develop. This speaks to me – maybe because I’m a scholar (gasp, can’t believe I admitted that!), but also because more than anything, being in movements for justice has been my greatest education. And I think it is critical that as educational activists and organizers, we remember that campaigns, policy battles, program implementation – that there is an undercurrent beneath all of these that is about learning, exploding narrow boxes, erasing borders, and expanding boundaries of what can be possible. Thank you to this book for reminding me of that. Shoutout to my movement family at H.O.L.L.A! who embody Black radical imagination in action.
  4. Nikki Jones, Between Good and Ghetto. I read this once, and that’s all it took for it to stick with me. A book where I saw my own experience laid in the pages. A book that is a wee bit academic, but also crystal clear about the relationship between gender, sexuality, race, skin color, education, and criminalization. A beautiful and hard project that gives words to something many people live, know, understand. A New Way of Life in Los Angeles supports women in some of the hardest moments of their journeys.
  5. Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teaching of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. I’ll admit, I’m reading this currently and haven’t yet finished. But wow. This. Book Here. Incredible. Many stories, examples, and threads of wisdom that uplift a plain and simple truth: the natural world – the planet – nature – animals – trees … all of this energy that gives to us everyday, and it is our responsibility, in the most practical and spiritual sense, to return that energy, to pay it forward. May we all remember water is life.

 

  1. What are three things you love about what you do?

 

  1. The relationships. My friends, my chosen family, my peers, my partners, my peoples. In movement I feel the whole spectrum of emotions – love, anger, resentment, celebration, inspiration, silliness, excited, fearful, courageous – everything! And we feel them together. And we get up, everyday and work to hold space for one another. Relationships are more important than any action, policy, or program.

 

  1. Learning to live out freedom. To be in a space where I get to live out the values of equity, and sharing space, and taking action to create change. In my work and in my life I get to constantly think about and try to practice what it means to get free. Sounds corny, but life becomes way more fun when you understand that the boxes that confine us can and should often be broken down.

 

  1. Young people! I love working alongside and in partnership with young folks. They hold space for each other and for me in ways that are challenging, hopeful, hilarious, silly, and loving. The wisdom they carry is infinite, I think that their ability to quickly cut through the rules and respectability that adults get hung up on – well, it allows for space for us to learn together, be our most authentic selves, and engage in transformative, healing, change-oriented work. There are countless young people – especially young women (shoutout to Alba, Gloria, and Maritza!) – that have pushed me to be the best version of myself, and I think there is a lesson in intergenerational learning that let’s us all reflect on better ways to honor everyone’s voice, at all stages of their life. Because freedom really, really is a lifelong struggle.

 

 

 

 

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.

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!