How to Advocate and Connect with Your Community

Hi Friends!
I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday. I’d love to hear about any conversations that took place around race or racial justice issues with family and friends — even if it wasn’t productive, feel free to share your experience trying to discuss these topics.
I had time to do a little digging about the County Board meetings. They are held monthly on Saturday mornings and Tuesday evenings with different agenda items at each meeting. Members of the public who wish to speak must follow very detailed rules and fill out a slip to speak on an agenda item. I think the most important part right now is that in February the Board will be reviewing the proposed budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year and will have a Public Hearing that month. Unless someone knows otherwise, it sounds like we should make a point of being very vocal during this time, both in person and by email. I’ll keep this on our radar.
I had missed this before from our county, but they put out a strong statement after Charlottesville regarding actions the Board will be taking to combat racism and bigotry, especially related to their desire/ability to rename roads/schools that commemorate Confederate leaders.
Some good news on the role of SROs in our schools and the connection to the school-to-prison pipeline. The county-wide PTA has put together a recommendation to the School Board regarding the pending MOU renewal and new Student Rights document, which will be voted on soon. The summary of the position is: “The Virginia Department of Justice created a Model MOU balancing school and police needs, considering the statewide problem of a school to prison pipeline. Specific delineations in this Model MOU reflect that generally SROs not be involved in administrative searches or school discipline, and that interviewing and questioning students by SROs at school should be limited to potential criminal activity at school or specific exigent circumstances. Parental notification should be provided when such questioning must occur.”
I heard back from the local chapter of the NAACP, which meets monthly on the third Monday of every month at 7:00 pm. I will be finding an opportunity to attend. Please let me know if you’re interested in attending — meetings are open to all, so no need to make a special arrangement.
I also heard back from SURJ DC, which Black Lives Matter DC connected me with rather than responding directly, which I completely understand and support. They work closely in collaboration and I’m hoping to have a phone call with them this week to see how we might coordinate our efforts.
I also heard back from the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) and the Legal Aid Justice Center. Many of their efforts are statewide advocacy, like their annual Immigrant Advocacy Day in January in Richmond. The person who responded to me also works to distribute food in our community early on Thursday mornings and the next one is this week. If you’re interested, please let me know right away and I’ll connect you. Otherwise, we can plan on the December one, perhaps.
I hope to put together a quick survey of everyone’s interests going into the new year so we can plan some further meetings/actions and so I can try to find resources related to those topics to share with everyone. I know that this time of year is very busy with the holidays, so I’ll try to get the survey out in the next couple of weeks before Hanukkah begins.
Thanks for reading!

Talking to Family and Kids About Racism

Hello Friends!
First, I want to extend a welcome to several new members who have joined after an engaging conversation on the local schools Facebook page. The conversation there was about the failure to address diversity issues with the middle school boundary proposal moving forward. Please spread the word if you see others who are on board with working on this issue!
I read a very useful article called “Six Things White People Can Do To Reach Friends and Family Members to End Racism” by Kimberly Dark on Medium from August 2017. The article was written right after Charlottesville, but that context doesn’t change its very practical suggestions and it has some clarifying insights that I found helpful.
You might find the webinar from Embrace Race about helping children develop cross-racial friendships a helpful read. The takeaway is that kids model what their parents do — food for thought.
Since we’re focusing currently on school-related issues, here are some school district updates for which input is needed: School Naming Criteria, Middle School Boundary Changes — a public hearing is scheduled for the next School Board meeting.
If you’re nervous about awkward conversations with friends and family over the holidays, SURJ emailed some resources and suggestions. And if you’re feeling really motivated, you might want to check out their podcast at The Word is Resistance about how complicated this holiday is (Episode 35).
I attended a county-wide PTA meeting recently and it was very clear that if we want our schools to be fully funded, we must advocate beyond the School Board and the Superintendent. We must bring our concerns to the County Board and advocate for the schools. Has anyone in the group done this before or is anyone familiar with the process for providing feedback/input to the county?
I have reached out to several POC-led racial/social justice organizations in our community to find out whether there are any meetings/events that I could attend with the goal of listening to and following their priorities locally. I’ll keep you posted about what develops. And again, if anyone has suggestions of organizations or connections, please let me know.
Please think about your goals in your work for racial justice in our area, especially as the new year approaches. I welcome your ideas and input as we move towards an action plan and set up more small and large discussion groups. Thank you for your participation in this group!

Maybe Don't Call the Police

Hi Friends!
First, HOORAY HOORAY for the fantastic election results in Virginia! I took a day or two to just feel good. Now, back to work. Especially because the demographics about voters is a clear sign of the systemic problems we face (more here).
Also, on November 8, our school district posted new middle school boundary information. They have eliminated Option B and have updated Option A. They heard us on demographics and I understand the reasoning for moving forward the way they are. We need to work beyond school board issues to address the stratified demographics in our county — most families want to go to school close to home, so our communities need to diversify.
One of our members passed along some great info. The image below is worth discussing in terms of ways the community can respond differently (instead of calling the police) in certain situations. I have wondered about this often since an incident that happened in the last few months at our house and I’d love to discuss this, maybe at our upcoming meeting.

I read a really helpful and insightful article (which I found through Embrace Race) at The Daily Beast called “Why Do White People Feel Discriminated Against? I Asked Them.” It might help give some insight when you’re talking to anyone who might feel that way. Maybe some ways forward there.