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Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom: Fighting for Black Youth in California #Cali4BlackYouth

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Dear Honorable Gavin Newsom,

we applaud your remarks on Friday acknowledging the historical injustices that have led to this moment, impacts of institutional racism, and harm caused by police, while lifting up the leadership of young people. We appreciate your commitment to taking bold action to address systemic racism including your endorsement of ACA 5 to repeal Prop 209. 

We represent youth organizing groups from Northern, Central, and Southern California that organize with Black youth and other youth of color to fight for racial justice. Our organizations have worked to dismantle systemic racism since the 1990s, and we do so by drawing on the lived experiences, wisdom, and expertise of the young people most impacted. We have led the fight for equitable school funding through LCFF and the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline.

We are living in a unique moment that calls for bold vision and leadership. Young people, especially Black youth, are creating a tidal wave of change from the streets, to city hall and the state capitol, where they are demanding real, transformative change for Black communities. We urge you to stand with the youth who are fighting for racial justice. 

With your support, this can be the turning point that ushers in a world where Black youth and communities are free to pursue their dreams, live and love joyously, and have the power to shape our communities. We can be the generation that turns the tide on systemic racism and anti-blackness, but we must act now. We must lead together — young people, policymakers, community leaders, elders, and more — to usher in a radically different, radically just California built for all of us.

To do that, we are asking you to champion these 3 priorities that will bring real transformative change. They go beyond symbolic policies or change at the margins by addressing the roots of systemic racism in California.

Download the letter.

#1 – Lead the fight to fund our schools starting with Schools and Communities First 

Schools are beacons of hope that spark opportunity for Black youth and youth of color. And now more than ever, it is where many in our communities go to access resources and supports not just for students, but families as well. Yet, California is in the bottom third in the nation when it comes to per-pupil funding. The disinvestment in public schools that started in the 1970’s was fueled by racism and white supremacy. 

As Governor, we have been appreciative of your progress in remedying this disinvestment, and ask you to continue to fight with us for the world-class, fully-funded education system that Black youth and all Californian youth deserve. 

Actions to take include:

    1. Show California’s commitment to equity and righting historical wrongs by endorsing and fighting to pass Schools and Communities First
    2. Place other revenue generating measures on the November ballot that bring immediate relief to our schools and communities
    3. Maintain your commitment to LCFF and equitable funding formulas, while continuing to grow the funding pot to support public education and safety net services

#2 – Immediately outlaw police in our schools

Research shows that police in our schools fuel the school-to-prison pipeline and create a climate of fear and anxiety for Black youth and youth of color. According to Black Organizing Project, a leader in the fight for police-free schools: In the 1980s, Oakland was a testing ground for the state’s first attempts by right-wing legal advocates and pro-prison “tough on crime” proponents to impose police in schools…In the three decades since then, policing, punishment and criminalization have invaded every facet of Black life, driving the Black community out of Oakland. The state and city budgets have sacrificed education and social service programs to ever-growing policing and incarceration budgets. 

Actions to take include:

    1. Prohibit and disband school police departments and contracts and other school hardening practices. Ensure districts reinvest police funding in school counselors, restorative justice and relationships, social-emotional supports and other priorities Black youth and youth of color identify in their community. 
    2. Support communities to create alternatives to police and school resource officers through policies like AB 2054 (Kamlager). 
    3. Follow the lead of groups like Black Organizing Project and Dignity in Schools Campaign California who have deep expertise and a comprehensive framework on what it takes to ensure Black youth can stay in school, learn, and thrive. 

#3 – Give Black youth voice and power in State decisions

The people most impacted by an issue should be the ones who create the solutions. Black communities have faced the brunt of state violence and disinvestment for centuries. We need to follow the leadership of Black communities and leaders when making State decisions. Too often, policymakers drop in to “listen” and then create solutions that do not reflect the needs of Black families and young people, or assume requests they make are impossible or too uncomfortable. The consequence is policymakers often miss what is required for real change to occur.

While it is important that now more than ever, we are listening to Black communities, we also need to uplift the voices and power of young Black, Brown, immigrant & undocumented, queer, gender non-conforming, and transgender people. 

Actions to take include:

    1. Allow young people under the age of 18 to vote in city and school elections
    2. Establish a young people’s task force focused on the State’s “recovery and reinvestment” from the pandemic and economic recession to develop a plan to support young people of color across the State and inform the Business & Jobs Recovery Task Force you have assembled
    3. Endorse and support AB 3121, Senator Mitchell’s bill for reparations for Black Californians
    4. Waive all fees and/or citations incurred by youth who have joined protests; young people should not be criminalized for speaking out

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This is not a comprehensive list of recommendations and there will likely be more demands from Black youth and communities, so we ask that you continue to listen and create spaces for Black youth to lead as new ideas are elevated.

Black youth and families have had to struggle in California for centuries. Our youth and communities of color know what it means to be resilient, in most cases because we don’t have a choice but to be. We also understand that we are in this struggle together, and that one of the strongest weapons against racism and White supremacy is solidarity, and solidarity can look very different depending on who you are. In this moment right now, a week where students are graduating from their living rooms on a Friday because of a global pandemic, and taking to the streets on a Saturday to protest the murders Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and many others, we call on you, Governor Gavin Newsom, to be in solidarity with us by acting on this letter. 

Our ask: we respectfully request an opportunity to meet with you in the next two weeks to discuss policy priorities with Black youth and leaders from across the state. 

 

Community-Based Youth Organizing Leaders Who Endorse This Letter

  • Saa’un Bell, Strategy Director, Californians for Justice

 

  • Jackie Byers, Executive Director, Black Organizing Project

 

  • Maria Brenes, Executive Director, InnerCity Struggle

 

  • Leslie Cooper Johnson, Vice President of Organizational Development, Community Coalition

 

  • Geoffrey Winder & Ginna Brelsford, Co-Executive Directors, Genders & Sexualities Alliance Network

 

  • Lian Cheun, Executive Director, Khmer Girls in Action

 

  • Gina Rodriguez, Interim Co-Executive Director, ACT for Women and Girls

 

  • Youth Liberty Squad student leaders, Youth Liberty Squad

 

  • J. Ishida & Jeremy Lahoud, Co-Directors, Youth Organize! California
  • Neva Walker, Executive Director, Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth

 

  • Jamileh Ebrahimi, Director of Programs & Organizing, RYSE Center

 

  • Ashley C. Rojas, Executive Director, Fresno Barrios Unidos

 

  • Jesus Sanchez, Founder/Executive Director, Gente Organizada

 

  • Danielle Armstrong, Director of Programs, Youth Together

 

  • Janay Eustace, Deputy Director, California Youth Connection

 

  • Le Tim Ly, Acting Executive Director, Chinese Progressive Association

 

  • Jung Hee Choi, Deputy Director, Power California

 

  • Dignity in Schools Campaign California
Advocacy Partners
  • Mark Philpart, Managing Director, Alliance for Boys & Men of Color and PolicyLink
  • Sylvia Torres-Guillén, Director of Education Equity, ACLU-CA
  • Guillermo Mayer, President and CEO, Public Advocates
  • Karla Pleitez Howell, Managing Director of Policy and Programs, Advancement Project – CA

 

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