This Summer our communities of youth activists, experts, and community leaders continued to build towards a more equitable and racially just education system. Students rose to podiums, experts used their platforms to speak about racial justice, and race in education made national headlines. Here are just a few of the highlights from this Summer behind The Movement.
This Summer, high school students gathered in the CFJ offices for our annual Summer Youth Leadership Academy (SYLA). In San Jose, Oakland, Fresno, and Long Beach, dozens of students took part in political education workshops and spent timedreaming about their ideal school climate. This year’s SYLA included key workshops around Anti-Blackness, Capitalism, and Institutionalized Racism as experienced by our youth and communities.
Nhada Ahmed, an Organizer with CFJ, helped lead workshops for SYLA in San Jose. “The youth showed me how much love and compassion they have for one another. I have so much love for the light they bring to our community.”
Fresno student leaders also met with FUSD Trustee Keshia Thomas to talk about racial bias and Relationship Centered Schools in Fresno.
Long Beach student and CFJ leader, Janice Mendez used her voice to call on elected leaders to build a 2020 city budget that is inclusive of youth voice and accountable to the diverse communities it serves.
To round off the summer, 8 CFJ student interns gathered in San Jose, to strategize for the new school year. They asked questions about why they organize, what issues in their communities matter most to them, and how to uplift solutions. We are looking forward to what these passionate leaders dream and build in their schools and communities this year. (For highlights of all of these events, you can visit our Instagram.)
Racial Equity & Reparations Make National Conversation
We saw education as a hot topic in the democratic debates. Candidates talked about student loan debt forgiveness, universal free college, and building an education system built for us all. Senator Elizabeth Warren acknowledged that we must center race in our conversations around improving the education system. “I have a plan for education that says, we have to build a better education system for all our kids but we’ve got to acknowledge what’s happened on race.”
Conversations around reparations have also surfaced amongst democratic candidates- which is a shift from the last election.
This Summer also saw the first congressional hearing on reparations in over a decade. It is seen as a potential step towards a vote on legislature (HR 40) that would formally study reparations for African Americans.
For more about the case for reparations, here is a toolkit created by Movement 4 Black Lives Matter.
This July, California became the first state to ban discrimination against people based on their natural hair. Los Angeles Democrat Sen. Holly Mitchell, who introduced the bill earlier this year, said the law is about “inclusion, pride and choice.”
“This law protects the right of Black Californians to choose to wear their hair in its natural form, without pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms,” Mitchell said in a statement Wednesday. “I am so excited to see the culture change that will ensue from the law.”
New York has recently become the 2nd state pass The Crown Act. Now just 48 more states to go!
Integration for Liberation Learning Day
Last month student leaders, elected officials, researchers, educators and community organizers 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.
Read our key takeaways from our conversations, and grab Conversation Starters to talk about Integration in your community.
Vote at 16
This summer also saw a huge push by youth organizers for lowering the voting age to 16. Power CA and ally groups led an action at the state Capitol this summer, getting widespread attention for their call to allow 16 and 17 year olds in California to have a say in our next elections. Currently, there are more than 200,000 youth pre-registered to vote and youth of color continue to organize locally and statewide around the issue.
Education Built for For Us All
CFJ made an appearance at the third annual Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Professional Learning Institute. This space offers educators and community members a chance to gather and discuss new practices that support the academic, behavioral, and social-emotional success of all California students.
Students from across the state, including CFJ youth leaders, led a workshop for educators at the event. They challenged the audience to imagine “What would schools look and feel like if every student’s name, face and story was known?”
Our Executive Director Taryn Ishida, along with other leaders in the field of education, spoke at the conference as well. Taryn told stories about how student activists within CFJ helped her realize what the single greatest resource for students is; a caring adult. She went on to talk about how to build an education system where all students, regardless of race or zip code, feel supported.
“At CFJ, after 20-plus years of working to improve education, we’ve come to the realization that being able to get comfortable naming and addressing what are sometimes uncomfortable differences is what is going to make it possible for all our students see themselves–their whole selves–in our education system. So regardless of a student’s skin tone, language, zip code, gender expression, religion or ability, they and their families feel that they belong — that we are reconciling and restoring trust with communities that have been harmed by our country’s legacy of racism, and that we are leading together for our collective prosperity and liberation.”
Let’s Shift The Way We Practice Education
This summer we also saw the conversation around racial equity in schools continue to grow. Dr. Pedro Noguera, founder of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools and CFJ ally, published an article about what the practice of equity in education looks like. As we center equity in the dialogue about education, Pedro urges us to take this transformative idea from thought to practice. Here are a few key ideas from Dr. Noguera’s article:
“Many of our traditional educational practices – tracking, labelling, disciplining through exclusion – do not serve our students well, and result in schools doing little more than perpetuating existing inequities. We’re stuck inside an outdated paradigm, one that limits our ability to use education as a means to break the cycle of poverty by transforming children into self-motivated learners.”
“We are overdue for a paradigm shift, one that puts a drive for excellence through equity at the center of American education. Some schools and districts have already done this. We can and must learn from them.”
Snaps to the youth leaders, community organizers, and educators leading the way this Summer!! At Californians For Justice, we are gearing up for new actions and content this Fall, but want to take a moment to celebrate the power of our youth and community voice! Share this blog on your socials, email it to colleagues, and uplift these wins in your conversations. This has been a Summer in The Movement, and we are only getting started.