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Last month student leaders, elected officials, researchers, educators and community organizers from California and beyond gathered in San Jose to discuss “Integration for Liberation.” While our conversation was rooted in our schools, we quickly saw that transformation and liberation must also ripple out to our communities. 

Schools today in New York and California are more segregated now than before Brown v. Board of Education’s landmark decision. Public schools with majority Black and Brown student bodies often see more suspension, lower graduation rates and fewer honors or advanced course offerings compared to schools with majority white students. But while this segregation plays out in our classrooms and at school, it’s also reflected in our communities. 

As resources and investment dry up in our schools, opportunities also disappear from our neighborhoods. Right now, many of our families and communities are facing housing instability and homelessness, gentrification and cultural erasure, unemployment and job scarcity, immigration and climate injustice, fear of state violence and limited access to health care. 

CFJ San Jose youth leader Alex Stattion sharing hpw they’ve seen their community change rapidly over the last few years.

Alex’s story:

“I watched as my little sanctuary in downtown San Jose, full of joy in the Cesar Chavez fountains, and rich with culture in the global cuisine present on every block, became an area of despair and disillusionment with people begging for shelter, for financial security and for the most basic amount of food…

[At school] I am in band, I play the trumpet and I had hoped to be a high school music teacher in order to introduce people into the intricacies of music and the methods in which you can express yourself through it. But upon realizing the salaries teachers have, and understanding that a vast majority of my school’s staff, my music teacher included, had to move out of this beautiful city because they couldn’t afford to live here, I’ve abandoned my dream of becoming a music educator in the hopes of finding a career I can enjoy just as much that will allow me to reside in San Jose while continuing to help my community.”

Our communities and schools need youth leaders like Alex to stay and fight for our liberation. But how can we empower folks when so much of our culture, power and resources are at stake? We urge you as educators, policy makers, elected officials and community to consider how we can #LeadTogether for real integration of our schools. How can we empower our communities rather than keep them apart. Because the answer to this also helps us unlock the potential and liberation of all students, regardless of race or zipcode. 

Take Action:

  1. Learn about Relationship-Centered Schools and how to support students and teachers to build together on your campus.
  2. Help restore $11 billion to CA schools and communities each year through the Schools and Communities First Initiative. 
  3. Push the conversation forward: check out our conversation starters below so you can share with your networks and colleagues

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