Saturday, February 7, 2015

Baby Steps into Activism: A Time Sensitive Call to Action

Becoming politically active is not unlike choosing to walk across a mine field. It takes years to figure out how to avoid making regular missteps. And yet, taking action that sparks controversy and upset is bound to happen. No doubt about it, it’s painful to find out that regardless of your best intentions, people you care about think you made an error.

Navigating challenging feedback is tough, especially when there has been a serious attempt to outreach to a diverse set of people before taking action.  What do you do when two of your closest advisers give you different advice? When it comes to issues of race, as a white person, I have frequently felt challenged when two politically-minded friends of color have expressed totally opposite viewpoints and suggestions.

One of my closest friends recently faced this challenge. He’s a white rapper invested in social justice. He just released a song called Listen, and it highlights the receipt of military-grade weapons by a local school district. It’s a good song, and it’s an amazing first step into political activism.

And, it’s not a perfect effort (from an activist's standpoint). There’s a particular phrase that sets things up a bit too much as him being a “protector” for students of color. Since my friend is a white guy, this easily calls to mind the “white savior” idea. We’ve talked about this, and he’s been receptive to feedback.

This one point of feedback, however, should not detract him from forward movement. A large number of people of color in his life are saying: “Yes, you have to do this. Yes, this is a great song. Yes, this is useful. Yes, we are behind you.” A diverse, creative, well-connected set of people have also come together to help produce a video for the song that should help it reach a wider audience and support action steps

But, even with these folks working for free…there is money to be raised to help make the video shoot happen. This is where seasoned activists and caring individuals come in. If you want to help support a budding activist in walking this path, please take a few minutes and contribute even a little to his Kickstarter campaign.

If we can get a bunch of people to contribute even $5 or $10 each, we can demonstrate that taking a risk to put yourself on the line, in the path of critique, is worthwhile. This is a great way to help me send the message to my friend he should continue down this challenging road of learning how to walk the activists’ path.

Please donate whatever you can and share with others who recognize the need to support an emerging activist and all those rallying behind him.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Are We Teachers or Security Guards?

Should a teacher be fired for refusing to search students?

My AWARE-LA colleague, Vitaly, has just written an article explaining how he is being threatened with termination as a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher for refusing to use a metal detector to randomly search his students. Although the policy itself is alarming and implemented unjustly in many schools, this particular situation needs attention because this 21-year veteran educator has created a vibrant, trusting environment for students living in a housing project, a continuation school for students who have been kicked out of traditional schools. These students, attending class in a one-room schoolhouse in the projects with their sole teacher, are inspired to learn and dedicated to the restorative justice and critical pedagogy (a la Freire) this teacher brings to the school.

Vitaly and his students have created one of the most inspiring classrooms I have ever witnessed, and it is likely to be destroyed without outside support and pressure on district officials. Please take a look at the article Vitaly just wrote for the school district's union newspaper about the situation, Are We Teachers or Security Guards?, (article is on page 9 and continues on page 15). It documents research indicating that random searchers have been shown to be destructive and undermine the basic intent, to create safe schools. Please share this post with others to raise awareness about this situation.