I hope those of you who were able to attend the Women’s March over the weekend enjoyed it. Let’s keep talking about how feminism and racism are intertwined and how those intersections can be strength and opportunity for centering POC in these conversations. If you attended, please feel free to share your observations and thoughts with the group. For example, was the vast majority of the attendees white?
Our county has many advisory committees and I found out that the Community Development Citizens Advisory Committee has a vacancy. Check it out for more information and to apply. One of our members linked me to the County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development’s list of Affordable Housing in the county. It’s interesting to see where these are located and that there are available units.
I’m working on learning more about how the County budget works and I’ll share what I find out with all of you. It looks like that will be one of the places where we can apply some pressure and understanding how it works will help us be more targeted and potentially helpful in making suggestions or making proposals that might be considered.
I attended the local chapter of the NAACP meeting this week, along with one of our other members, and it was a great experience. We were fully welcomed, given a chance to share why we had chosen to attend the meeting. Representatives from the local Democrats organization and Our Revolution were there and seemed to be regularly in attendance. I was very encouraged to see that these organizations are prioritizing the voices of people of color in our community in their work on inequality. The meeting centered around priorities for the year and I look forward to hearing more about how those develop and how our group can amplify and follow those efforts. Topics discussed included the importance of the upcoming elections in November, policing and criminal justice, education and scholarships, and the need for more members. I will certainly keep you posted. Anyone can attend the meetings and anyone can become a member.
Language Immersion Programs: One of our members asked about the role of language immersion programs in schools in relation to segregation and I found the following resources that I wanted to share:
(1) Huffington Post article: particularly, “Experts say that if implemented properly, dual language programs not only encourage students to appreciate other cultures as well as their own, but can even help desegregate districts where minority students and their white counterparts attend separate and unequal schools.” and below that, about half-way down when it discusses how immersion programs are good for improving diversity at that school.
(2) Educational Linguist article: particularly, “During this conversation we both reflected on how deeply racial hierarchies shape our society, the difficulties in challenging these hierarchies even in programs where two languages are used in instruction, and the ways that providing privileged White students language skills that will make them marketable without instilling in them an awareness of their White privilege may inadvertently serve as a tool for maintaining the very hierarchies these programs were originally designed to dismantle.”
My overall takeaway from these articles is that immersion programs can be equalizing for their students, but only if those programs are not simply to give white students marketable skills and ignore the culture and value of the native-Spanish speaking students. I know some of you have children in immersion schools in our community. What has your experience been? How do you think our county is doing on this? What challenges/successes have you observed/experienced?
PTA Fundraising and Inequity: I also came across two articles from the Center for American Progress (CAP) related to PTA fundraising and its impact on inequity within a school district. I actually spoke to a couple of CAP’s analysts and they were very excited to hear that our county has a grant fund to address inequities and I’m hoping to learn more from them as we refine our best practices for the county-wide PTA fund.
I heard from the NAACP chapter that the local Food Assistance Center is in need of food donations primarily, and also volunteers. That organization currently serves 2200 families a week. You can organize a food drive at your school, workplace, place of worship, etc. and there are wonderful tools available on their website. Please consider supporting them — you can check on the kinds of foods they are in particular need of on their website.
I’m also slowly learning more about how our county budget works, especially in terms of how the schools are funded. If you own property in the county, you probably received your Real Estate Assessment information recently. There is some really helpful information included with that about the budget and the current challenges of slower than expected growth. Additionally, schools are funded by a majority of our local taxes, not just real estate, and the county gives the school district a set $ amount, which the school district then decides how to distribute. There will be budget shortfalls in the near future and we will need to advocate, but we should also understand that there will be cuts.
I hope you have all had a great January! On to February and Black History Month! Please let me know if there are events/opportunities that I can share with the group or feel free to send them out. Thanks!