Hear Us Now: Emergency Education, Abolition, and EdJustice Movement Building in the Time of COVID19

La versión en español aquí.

Querida Education Justice Community,

We are in a moment. 

This moment was made possible by the indomitable energy of those who came before us, and made necessary by those who still refuse to move.

This newest generation of organizers, activistas, students, parents, and community members have the audacity to dream of a world where our lives don’t just matter, but that they are sacred. Deserving of the best this world has to offer. Deserving of power. Deserving of grace.

The videos, protests, and stories that have followed the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, Vanessa Guillén, and too many others, may be illuminating to those who have ignored or avoided the glaring injustices of Systemic Racism in the United States for hundreds of years, but for us they are again a call to action. For those who have experienced exploitation, marginalization, and cultural genocide since colonizers first set foot on this soil, a showing of mass solidarity for justice says we have a unique moment to push our collective future into new places on the path to liberation.

The least possible action is not sufficient.

Educational Injustice: Behind by Design

Our children are the easiest to advocate for in this moment, and yet deeply rooted Anti-Blackness makes even the lives of our most “innocent” subject to review.

CREDIT: Monique Clayton

When faced with questions about resources pillaged from communities and devoted to policing and punishment, political leadership scoffs at the implication that restoration is possible, or even suggests that involving more police or better training is an answer.

When faced with concerns about safety on campuses, police are given carte blanche, even when the evidence suggests that this makes no difference in the real safety of families, but makes Black and Brown youth more likely to be arrested, making them less likely to graduate, and more likely to end up incarcerated later in life.

When faced with inequities in testing outcomes and grades, the disparities are labeled “Achievement Gaps”–individualizing the results of what clearly reflects ineffectual systems of delivery and evaluation.

When faced with inequities in discipline, teachers, administrators, legislators, and other deliberative bodies have needed mountains of research and years of strategic movement to hear the call of parents and families to unravel the systems that make such inequities possible.

When we offer alternative solutions, such as Restorative Justice, Arts Education, Culturally Relevant and Reflective Curriculum, or Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, we are told budgets are short, that our kids are irredeemable, or that some obscure and outdated policy prevents reparation.

Even now, after so much hard-won progress, our systems so advantage the status quo that the slightest disruption to normalcy–an election, a natural disaster, a pandemic–can uproot decades of incremental political wins.

And yet we hope the winds are changing. There have always been those who love us, who fight for us, who support us, who show up for us. And as the momentum of this Anti-Racist moment builds, our bodies grow larger, our voices louder, our message stronger. We have had wins across the country for Police-Free Schools, racist monuments and policies are tumbling down, and communities are mobilizing one action at a time.

We must not be pacified by pretty words or gestures. We have been down this road before.

Our kids need and deserve Education. To be awakened. To discover and believe in their value and futures. For us, this is the key to our collective Liberation.

The Role of COVID19

The fact that we are currently in a once-in-a-lifetime Global Pandemic facing incomprehensible levels of death, unemployment, houselessness, domestic violence, and a slough of other growing concerns has only further devastated our communities, but also provides us with a unique opportunity to completely rebuild what is possible.

As cities, districts, and states consider the impending budgetary, social, and economic crises coming our way, we can use this opportunity to envision what Just Schools might look like.

Rather than investing millions of dollars in criminalizing youth and families, these entities can invest instead in what folks really need in this moment. For our families, housing is safety. Healthcare is safety. Economic security is safety. Freedom is safety.

Abolition in Schools

For five years, we at Central Valley Movement Building have dared to dream that something better is possible. We recognize this moment, and all of the pain, joy, and work over decades that has gone into bringing our people along with us.

Our friends and partners at Dignity in Schools Campaign California have also been building a powerful statewide coalition of parents and organizers to address our biggest social problems and envision an Education System that works for us.

Our friends at Californians for Justice have gathered youth and organizers for the same reason.

Both of these coalitions–and more, including the Movement for Black Lives–have called for the abolition of school police, and long-term systemic change with community at the center:

  1. DSC-CA Parent Racial Justice Demands
  2. DSC-CA State Policy Framework for Abolishing School Police
  3. Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom: Fighting for Black Youth in California #Cali4BlackYouth

The very least of these is the removal of police from all campuses. But there is so much more.

When we talk about abolition, we are talking about valuing the freedom of our young people and the opportunity for a better future than has ever been.

For many, this vision of a Free Future is terrifying. Such drastic shifts always are. But we believe a better world is possible.

Our vision has never been clearer. 

We need sustained, intentional, collaborative movement for the long haul. To support and love each other through the pain of recognizing and naming the scope of these failures to protect our children in a world of systems that weren’t built for their survival, much less success. And we must have the courage to dream, grow, and build together.

Our families deserve freedom.

For many years, the leading political parties of this country have battled it out to see who could best criminalize, incarcerate, and demoralize us. From Zero Tolerance policing that bled into our school discipline policies, to the War on Drugs which robbed our communities of parents, siblings, cousins and leaders, to the Prison and Military Industrial Complexes that bleed our budgets and communities dry.

Let this be the last days of leadership asking our kids to carry the weight of the worst of us.

The evidence exists. The evidence has always existed in the stories passed down of those with courage to fight for our collective futures.

From Tecumseh to Harriet to Cucunuchi to Huey P. Newton, our people have fought for the right to thrive on this land.

There has never been a shortage of people telling these stories, studying the bigger picture, amplifying the true nature of American Culture, and demanding more.

CVMB will continue to provide space for those most-impacted by Educational Injustice in the Central Valley, to build solidarity across the intersections of oppression, and to amplify the stories of the harms and the victories. On calls, at convenings, in board meetings and at demonstrations, we will continue the calls for Education Justice in the Central Valley and beyond.

Are you listening?