Local Actions with Broader Impacts

Hi Friends!
A reminder of our meeting tonight with the chair of the School Board — please come! Topics include the recent new high school discussion, unequal resources among our schools, option/choice schools, and integrating schools.
There’s a nationwide protest planned on June 30 regarding the administration’s family separation policy. Please attend if you’re able to and keep contacting Congress about this horrible, inhumane practice. I also have a contact who is trying to help find families to host asylum seekers (individuals and families) while their cases are pending. If you are interested and able, please let me know and I’ll get you in touch. I’ll let everyone know more details about the rally scheduled for June 22 as soon as I know more.
I attended the local chapter of NAACP this week and one of their efforts (supported by National NAACP) is to focus on voter registration, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision on Ohio’s purging of voter rolls. This is not a good trend and making sure people are able to vote is more and more important.
Please familiarize yourself with Juneteenth (June 19), a celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the US. There are events scheduled all this week, so if you’re interested and able, check one out!
One of our members is working on coordinating a backpack food program at her child’s school and shared some upsetting information about our community’s economically disadvantaged statistics. There are families in our county who qualify for the free/reduced lunch program who choose not to participate because it counts as receiving assistance and can affect their immigration status. This means that there are far more families who live in our community who are not only economically disadvantaged, but are also not receiving assistance and their children are trying to learn while hungry. Some schools who are aware of this issue with some of their students have food pantries and other supplies to help address this in a sensitive and confidential way. Ask around at your child’s school and see if you can support one!
I came across Richard Kahlenberg and the Century Foundation recently. The foundation works on inequality issues and Kahlenberg works particularly on educational inequality and integration. You can read more about him and this particularly relevant article that he wrote recently.
I have been moved by Theresa Vargas’ new column in the Washington Post a few times already. The one this week was particularly relevant for our group. I have raised this issue before, I think, and it makes me wonder what in the world I can do to help. One of the things I have thought of is raising the issue with my OB/GYN and/or GP when I see them and ask about where and how to put pressure on people who might be able to change this dynamic. If anyone else has ideas about how to advocate for black women (pregnant or not) and their health, please share!
EmbraceRace posted their latest Talking Race & Kids episode, called “Unlocking the Potential of Parents in Fighting for Racial Equity in Schools” and you can watch the video here if you weren’t able to attend in person.

Listening and Believing Others’ Requests for Equality

Hi Friends!
I’m starting to pull together the topics of conversation for our meeting with the chair of the School Board. Some of our attendees have given me some ideas and I’d love to hear from any of you (whether you can attend or not) about what you’d like the group to discuss. I’m hoping to focus on a few topics in depth rather than having a broader Q&A session and I’d like to give her a list of topics. Please email me your questions/topics/ideas and I’ll put together some prompts for her over the weekend.
I wanted to follow up on the recent information about the push for equal amenities at any potential new high school in our community. I re-read my response to that last month and I realized that I might have unintentionally undermined the argument made. That was not my intent. I also want to be completely candid and honest and identify my own bias in hesitating to amplify and follow this effort right away. The argument for equal facilities should be an easy one to support, no matter the complications of the site or whether or not a new high school is needed, etc. But I hesitated. I thought I didn’t know enough to support this effort. What that really was, I think, in myself, was a hesitation to follow voices with which I was unfamiliar. As I heard more and more people in my acquaintance circle talk about the rally and the effort to advocate for equality, I became more comfortable with supporting the effort wholeheartedly, but it should not have taken familiar voices to stand up for equality. I should have trusted the voices of experience, the voices calling for change and fairness, and I should not have hesitated. I will move forward from this experience with a greater knowledge of my own biases and I will work to address those in myself. If you had a similar experience, I would encourage you to do the same.
I have reached out to those community members who have been advocating for this effort and I have learned more about the group’s goals, which I would like to share with you: “Our effort … is really look to build a wide coalition. It’s been tough going. We’re hoping to expand the constituency tapping into 3 aspects that are involved: 1) recognition that there are county-wide implications for this development, 2) arts/athletics advocacy and non-profits that want to expand access, and 3) equal access/civil rights concerns.” They are paying particular attention to upcoming School Board and County votes. They have also asked for help finding “contacts in the civil rights legal world” who can help to “put the county on notice” so please let them know.
Good news from the school district about their naming policy — one of our high schools will be renamed (effective September 2019) after a committee has a chance to evaluate potential new names. The committee will also be in charge of naming many new sites that do not currently have names.
I reached out again to VACOLAO to get better connected to their efforts in our community. I’ll be having a conversation with them soon, hopefully, but in the meantime, their FB page has community education info, advocacy updates, and relevant news.
A connection shared information about CAIR’s efforts to send books to detained immigrant children (there are six such facilities in MD and VA). To learn more, go here.
Keep pushing!

Updates and More Resources

Hi Friends!
Thanks to the few of you who wrote back with updates and offers to help — I really appreciate it! I’d love to hear from the rest of you when you have a chance. Also, please RSVP to our meeting by June 11 with the Chair of the School Board on June 20 so we can get a better sense of numbers and confirm with our venue.
Last week, I had a meeting with a School Board member, and I was pleasantly surprised by my conversation with her. She actually worked to make her child’s PTA more inclusive and reflective of the school community back when she was on the PTA board and I picked her brain about her experience and recommendations for others who may want to do the same. If you’re interested in her thoughts on this, please let me know and I’ll write it up for everyone. I hope to implement actions in this direction as I have the opportunity and I’d love for you to do the same.
I have some helpful resource articles to share this week:
(1) First, an article about the everyday occurrences of bias and outright racism POC face in our communities. There was a follow up yesterday — a group is requesting a congressional hearing on racial bias. This is a good opportunity to LISTEN, to continue to break out of your bubble, recognize your white privilege, and resolve to use that power to address the system that upholds and reinforces white supremacy.
(2) Here’s an interesting take on income inequality.
(3) And here’s an article about the impact non-profit support can have on public services like education, especially:
“Most of the philanthropy directed at public schools is local, meaning that wealthy school districts enjoy a philanthropic advantage and few people are paying attention to fairness and balance. And, indeed, we found clear evidence that across the nation private philanthropy for public schools exacerbates rather than eliminates budgetary inequities across school districts. Specifically, although most school funding still comes from taxpayers, we found that wealthy school districts are able to provide more dollars per pupil overall through this philanthropic “bonus.””
The first half of the article focuses on the impact on K-12 schools. The main takeaway is that parents should be advocating for all students at all schools to encourage adequate funding and not simply focusing on the schools one’s child attends. Expand your voice!
(4) For those who are involved in the Wear Orange campaign and who are working on gun violence issues, please remember disproportionate effect of gun violence on communities of color as you do this work.
(5) I also came across a study on economically and racially inclusive cities, including how more cities can follow this model. It involves INTENTION and explicit actions to incorporate the goals of inclusion in plans forward. We need to encourage our community to do the same, in the schools, and in the county as a whole.
Have a great week!