November 27

Colleges and universities begin looking at, and making amends for, their ties to racism and slavery

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-1-49-23-pmIn the recent past, a number of schools, including but not limited to, Harvard, Brown, Princeton and the University of North Carolina have begun making reparations for their ties to racism and slavery.

Of most recent note, Georgetown is making reparations for the University debts that were paid off through the sale of slaves, and just last week Rutgers published a report  detailing how some of the university’s most prominent figures participated in the slave trade, and how Rutgers benefited from the displacement of Native Americans from their lands.

May the conversations stay honest and courageous, and the amends authentic and long lasting.

 

http://www.wnyc.org/story/rutgers-university-recognizes-historical-ties-racism-and-slavery-new-report/

http://www.wnyc.org/story/georgetown-university-makes-amends-slavery/

November 24

Revisiting our countries’ Thanksgiving narrative….

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While Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday for so many, the irony of the violence at Standing Rock, that has been on going for the past several months, and has been particularly atrocious this week, can not be overlooked.

There are so many levels or social injustice encompassed in this situation.

As you investigate class struggle, consider the similarities between the water crisis in flint and the one the building/rerouting of the  Dakota access pipeline presents.

As you investigate environmental racism, consider the issues to rerouting of the pipeline presents in terms of treaties broken, religious rites being compromised and sacred sites being destroyed.

As you investigate the demoralizing and inhuman treatment of the protestors/protectors, revisit the  recent standoff of the Malhuer NAtional Wildlife Refuge.

 

 

From class struggles and racial bias, to environmental issues and religious freedom…

This urgent crisis among the peaceful water protectors needs more awareness, support and action.

 

 

http://www.wnyc.org/story/tensions-rise-over-violence-standing-rock/

November 19

Liberty Project at North

Students in North’s Gay-Straight Alliance continue to notice the all too common signs of homophobia plaguing our society and our school.  As human rights advocates, they have decided to take a stand once again at North.  The GSA will provide each staff member who asks with a rainbow sticker that reads, “With liberty and justice for all” or a sticker that reads “Safe Space.” These stickers are symbolic reminders of our staff’s commitment to :

  • create a safe school community by stopping biased comments when they happen
  • recognize that harassment can be physical, verbal or implied
  • make himself or herself available to students as a non-judgmental, safe source of support and listening
  • report incidences of harassment to administration
  • treat harassment about sexual orientation the same as if it were about race
November 17

Let America Be America Again – Poem by Langston Hughes, 1935

As we work together to navigate this post-presidential election season, a first generation female student told me she has been speaking the lines of this point to herself as a path to healing and understanding. Thank you for sharing Rebecca:

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!
Langston Hughes

Click here for a summary/analysis of the poem

November 11

Courageous Conversations

Today we welcomed back Simone Gamble to work with student leaders around the topic of Safe Spaces and Courageous Conversations.  Student leaders from VAASA, Student Council, Student Advisory Committee, the Gay Straight Alliance and World of Difference were invited to sign up for this 2 1/2 hour workshop.  52 students came together sharing experiences, concerns and ideas around the topic of diversity and specifically race relations at North.  Students had the opportunity to speak, question, and brainstorm.  They also role played different scenarios of things that have happened within the school, modeling how to be a good ally in those situations.  Most powerful, perhaps, was their verbalization of what they need/want in terms of support from their teachers, such as, continued focus on the creation of safe spaces.  They would also like to have more assemblies that are small and intimate like this one and open to all students.

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We continue our journey to open dialogue in respectful and meaningful ways….

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November 1

Time Magazine reports John Oliver on Segregation in Schools

John Oliver Looks at Racism and School Segregation on Last Week Tonight

Melissa Locker

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver turned his gimlet eye on racism, or as he called it, “the problem that Crash failed to solve.” Instead of tackling the topic of racism at large, Oliver looked at the specific issue of modern-day school segregation. While the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was supposed to do away with institutionally mandated segregation, schools across the nation have continued to be segregated due to discriminatory housing policies and economics that helped create segregated school districts. As Oliver noted, “Even as our society has grown more diverse, nearly 7,000 schools have the same racial makeup as the audience at your average Tyler Perry movie.”

Perhaps surprisingly, according to Oliver’s research, the South is the leastsegregated region of the U.S. for black students, while New York City is almost the worst. Oliver was not surprised by the findings, though: “Of course racism exists in New York. Have you never seen West Side Story?”

Predominantly black schools tend to be in high-poverty areas, staffed by inexperienced teachers and less likely to offer college-prep courses, all of which can have a long-term deleterious impact on the psyches and lives of children. “Classrooms should teach children the importance of self-esteem, not rip it from them — that is what prom is for,” said Oliver.

November 1

Undoing Racism Workshop

With the help of a Student Impact Grant from the PTSA, teacher, Nancy Diamond attended the nationally renowned conference, Undoing Racism. Working alongside other educators, health professionals, legal professionals,  the history of racism was studied, and honest discussions had.

For more information on future workshops, click here

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Overview from PISAB:

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond focuses on understanding what racism is, where it comes from, how it functions, why it persists and how it can be undone. Our workshops utilize a systemic approach that emphasizes learning from history, developing leadership, maintaining accountability to communities, creating networks, undoing internalized racial oppression and understanding the role of organizational gate keeping as a mechanism for perpetuating racism.