Dear Governor Newsom,
My name is Aniyah Story, I’m a junior at Oakland High School and a youth leader at an organization
called Californians for Justice. I’m writing this letter to ask for your continued support in investing in Black youth
and other youth of color in California by supporting AB 331, Prop 15, and the Young People’s Task Force (SB
As a Black and Filipina girl, I’ve always felt overlooked, invisible, and marginalized. I’ve spent my whole
life watching from the sidelines. In school, I never saw myself reflected in the history books. It was always the
people who looked like me on the news fighting for their lives, struggling to breathe, and being slain in the
streets. I am tired. California youth are tired. Communities-of-color have been ignored for years. We’re
exhausted and drained. We’re tired of racial inequality being on the back burner. We’re tired of Blackness
being criminalized. We’re tired of being silenced. We’re tired of having knees on our neck.
The Black Lives Matter movement is the biggest movement to happen in my lifetime and we cannot ignore a
moment like this. It has been too long and change needs to be made now. Racial justice is important to me
because I deserve the same opportunities as everyone, and I know racial justice is important to you and am
calling on you to continue to stand in solidarity with Black youth and other youth-of-color.
There are a couple of ways you can do this right now:
1) Sign AB 331: Ethnic Studies as a High School graduation requirement:
AB 331 is on your desk waiting for your signature. Right now, I don’t know anything about my people and their
culture. You signing AB 331 can help me and other youth across the state understand who we are and where
we come from. It will fill the missing part of our identities. Every time I open a history book, I see my people in
chains and with scars down their backs. I want to learn about my people as people and not just as slaves.
Almost every year, we learn about the same Eurocentric history. We are taught that Columbus discovered the
Americas even though there were already millions of native people living here. We are taught that the
emancipation proclamation freed all the enslaved people when it only “freed” the people in Confederate states.
We are taught that the Fourth of July is our Independence Day but ignore the fact that women and black
people were not included in this independence. Why is that I only learned about Juneteenth this year? I’m tired
of my history being ignored.
Additionally, a course like Ethnic Studies could help dismantle prejudice as it would include history from
a variety of perspectives. Even with the Black Lives Matter movement at its peak, too many people are blind to
systemic racism and the inequalities people-of-color face. With Ethnic Studies we will all have a deeper
understanding of diverse backgrounds and how the tragedies and hardships of different ethnic groups have
shaped our country today. It should also be noted that Ethnic Studies IS American history.
Will you sign AB 331?
2) Endorse Prop 15 – Schools & Communities First:
Our schools need more money. To me, one of the biggest issues overlooked in society is mental
health. Mental health is just as important as physical health and it’s affecting all of us, even youth. Without
counselors and therapists in our schools and no one to talk to outside of school, students of all ages are
hurting. Especially during these times of COVID-19 and distance learning, mental health services are
extremely important. Times like these are stressful and everyone needs space to talk through their stress,
someone who they can trust, and someone who will understand them.
And it’s not just counselors, too many students are struggling at school due to a lack of basic resources. Our
schools expect us to perform at the highest level but fail to provide us with access to counselors, therapists,
healthy food, school supplies, and new books. How can schools demand students to give them their all when
they don’t give us the bare minimum? For students to perform well, it is only fair that we have access to the
things that will help us reach our full potential and prosper. Students are not just another number in this system
and need to be treated like real people.
Proposition 15 will help our schools and local governments fill in the gaps. It would make corporations
pay their fair share in taxes and this would return billions of dollars into our communities. There is no reason
why wealthy corporations should get wealthier while hard-working people are struggling to pay rent and put
food on the table. With more money in our schools & communities, we could have access to better roads,
mental health services, libraries, affordable housing, and more resources in our schools. Improvements like
these would benefit my family and other families across the state tremendously. Support for Prop 15 is support
Will you endorse Prop 15?
3) Prioritize the Young People’s Task Force on Police Free Schools (SB 820):
Californians for Justice, along with our ally organizations were the ones who initially wrote to you about
creating a Young People’s Task Force, which is centered on exploring alternatives to police in schools.
I want to acknowledge the organizing of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as other Black-led
organizing that has gotten us to the point where we can have serious conversations about getting police out of
schools. The Young People’s Task Force is important because we need to center and lift the voices of those
most impacted. It should be noted that Black youth have been disproportionately impacted by state violence
and systemic racism in schools. According to the ACLU, Black students make up 16% of public school
enrollment but 42% of them face multiple suspensions. Students who are suspended or expelled for
discretionary violence are three times more likely to face the juvenile justice system. With that being said it is
important to center Black youth and acknowledge their voices in decision making because those who are most
affected by this system should be the ones to create the solutions.
We don’t want the Task Force to get put on the back burner. Will you make sure State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond make the Young People’s Task Force a top priority?
I hope you can continue to stand in solidarity with Black youth and all youth-of-color in California, and I look
forward to hearing from you.
Junior at Oakland High School
Youth Leader at Californians for Justice
Ready to find out more?
Sign up for our email list.