This week, we spoke with Deshae Lee, a student activist in Fresno, CA. Deshae joined Californians For Justice 1 year ago as an incoming high school senior, and is already a central leader within our organization. Every week Deshae is in our Fresno office, setting up meetings with school officials, preparing to speak on behalf of her community, and educating herself on new measures and school policies.
Deshae is also on the principal’s advisory council at her school (a group where students meet with the principal and make recommendations for school improvements), is the Black Student Union club president, and a part of youth court – where students use restorative justice to resolve issues peer-to-peer. In her free time she is also a talented artist!
Around 250 youth of color have participated in our year-round organizing training program this year, fighting to make schools and communities spaces of hope in California. Maria Ortega, an Organizer that works closely with Deshae, strongly values Deshae’s leadership within CFJ.
“Deshae has definitely shown me that as long as we provide support and encouragement and opportunity, students will succeed. She’s also been an excellent example of how one’s lived experience is all that is needed to understand and take action against systems of oppression”
We texted Deshae about what she’s proud of from 2019, and what she’s ready to tackle in 2020. Here’s our Text Thread with Deshae Lee.
Text Thread W/ Deshae Lee
Miciah: What changes would you most like to see in you school and/or community?
Deshae: In our community I would like to change the population of homeless people
Miciah: Wow, that’s really powerful. Why do you think seeing the population of homeless people decrease is important to you?
Deshae: It’s important so people in their neighborhood feel safe. Because when people think of homeless people they tend to think they are crazy or on drugs and I’m not gonna lie I sometimes think that too but really some of them have been kicked out and never got back on their feet or just never had the right support.
Miciah: I was literally talking about that with my friends this weekend. There are a lot of misconceptions around the homeless community.
What’s 1 action that you were a part of this year with CFJ, that you’re proud of?
Deshae: When we went down to fashion fair mall to get signed petitions for schools and communities first.
Idk if they had a specific name for it
Miciah: Yes! The Schools & Communities First Kick Off Rally!
Why was that important to you?
Deshae: It was important to me because if I weren’t involved with CFJ I wouldn’t have known about the bill so I just wanted to give other people the chance to know what it’s about
Miciah: Yeah, I feel the same way too.
*Schools & Communities First is a ballot initiative for 2020 that demands that big corporations pay their fair share in property taxes. Once the bill passes, an anticipated $12 billion will be distributed annually to California schools & communities to make the improvements that community members have been fighting for.
Miciah: Can you tell me about a moment where you were working with your school or community and you felt like your voice had power?
Deshae: Right now me and Maria (Lead Organizer for CFJ Fresno) are trying to prepare the students at McLane for the presentation on Relationship Centered Schools and were kinda going over our parts and I just felt like I was heard.
Miciah: That’s amazing! Ok- last question
Miciah: Going into 2020- what issues do you want to be top of mind for your local leaders?
Deshae: Like, what should be our main focus?
Miciah: Yes! What do you want local politicians to make a priority?
Deshae: Getting the bill passed for schools and communities first.
Miciah: Cool. Thank you Deshae! I’m really grateful for your input.
Deshae: You’re Welcome