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Education Justice Groups Demand Police-free Schools, Highlight Importance of Investing in Community Solutions

For Immediate Release

June 9, 2022

WASHINGTON – Black Swan Academy, Dignity in Schools, Center for Popular Democracy, Communities for Just Schools Fund, Education for Liberation Network, Gwinnett SToPP, LA Students Deserve, and Advancement Project held a media call in the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. The leaders cautioned against school hardening proposals that call for arming teachers and increasing police in schools. They elaborated on their concerns in a June 8, media call: https://youtu.be/E1uzPx_18NU.

“There have been a series of horrid acts of violence this past month alone,” said Cierra Kaler-Jones, director of storytelling for Communities for Just Schools Fund. “No teacher, child, administrator or loved one should fear violence when sending a child to school.”

In the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, many are wondering where we go from here. Education justice groups are calling for the removal of police in schools and the creation of a culture of connectedness in schools.

“I want to take this time to lift up the victims, survivors and people who are holding the grief of loss to the horrendous act of violence that took place in Uvalde,” said Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, executive director of the Education for Liberation Network. “We have been here before. We have seen countless times when children have been murdered in our sacred places and this speaks to the foundation of violence at this nation’s founding and grounding. The violence that made this country will be the violence that destroys it unless we wake up and act. We must be collectively invested in creating a world where children are unapologetically cared for. The presence of police is a public health issue because they add to the violence.”

“I want to emphasize that the hardening of schools, the militarization of schools and increasing school police will not work,” said Ashley Sawyer, senior attorney at Advancement Project. “Police do not keep us safe. “Police do not prevent or end school-based shootings. Studies show that increased police and increased training for police does not stop school shootings. Instead, we should invest robustly in the types of things young people need to feel safe, whole, and invested in at school is the key. Police are purveyors of physical assaults and sexual assaults of students in schools.”

The groups shared their vision for holistically safe schools and communities.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the victims and survivors of the mass shooting epidemic that has gripped this nation,” said Marlyn Tillman, federal strategies co-chair for the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the executive director of Gwinnett SToPP. “Our ‘Communities not Cops’ campaign calls for safe, supportive, police-free schools. We are calling for the removal of all law enforcement from schools and the creation of safe schools through positive safety and discipline measures such as restorative and transformative justice. Police are not and will never be the answer to preventing violence in schools. We must work to prevent violence before it happens. Relying on police to stop violence in schools does not work. Mass shootings stop when the shooter decides to end them, not police. There were at least three police jurisdictions on the scene, and they did not stop the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Police in schools lead to a criminalizing environment, targeting of Black students, LBGTQIA+ students and students with disabilities. There are alternatives that don’t rely on policing or hardening of schools.”

“Since 2018-2019, young folk have been calling for city leaders in D.C. to love us not harm us,” said Samantha Paige Davis, founder and executive director of the Black Swan Academy. “This includes a broad vision calling for investment in all polices, procedures, and resources to create safe, healthy and equitable learning environments. We also called for a divestment in policies, practices, procedures and resources that caused violence, harm and fear in our students in school buildings. This is what led us to call for police-free schools. In D.C. when we look at the impact of police in schools, we see that 100% of school-based arrests in our last school year prior to the pandemic were of students of color, 92% of arrests were of Black students and 32% of arrests were of students of color with disabilities. When we say police-free schools we are centering the most marginalized students in our schools and communities.”

“So many of us from across the country have been pushing for police-free schools for decades, said Joseph Williams, director, LA Students Deserve and organizer with Black Lives Matter in LA. “There has been a long history of organizing against school hardening and school police within LAUSD. We ended daily random searches where students were taken out of class and searched and criminalized. We ended ‘willful defiance’ as a category for discipline. We stopped the Los Angeles Police Department from receiving tanks and grenade launchers.”

Kaler-Jones added, “we’ve seen time and time again that police do not protect us but do the exact opposite – enact physical and psychological harm on Black people, students with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ students and others. Schools should be safe spaces where young people can learn and grow. This is not possible if police and policing infrastructure are present. Police cannot just be reformed or simply receive more training because their very existence was designed to preserve the system of enslavement. Policing as an institution has always operated in lockstep with its origins – to terrorize and control Black people.”

“We’ve done it your way – metal detectors, bullet proof doors, more police, surveillance – and the killings keep happening. How many more babies must die? It’s past time to try our way, with fidelity,” Tillman said.

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Black Southern Women’s Collaborative Urges Unused ARPA Dollars to Go to Community-Centered Public Health and Gun Violence-Reduction Strategies

For Immediate Release

May 16, 2022

Contact: press@spotlightpr.org

ATLANTA – The Black Southern Women’s Collaborative (BSWC) today called for trauma-informed and culturally relevant mental health services for Buffalo, New York, following the white supremacist terrorist attack at a Tops grocery store. Members of the group also urged local officials to direct American Rescue Program Act funds to community-centered public health and gun violence-reduction strategies. The entity issued the following statement:

“Healing doesn’t happen overnight,” said the Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida, organizer for LIVE FREE Florida and member of the BSWC. “It is a day-by-day process. I know this from losing a loved one to gun violence and also from supporting the Parkland community in the aftermath of the Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida. We need to be mindful that everyone coming into our community is not safe. We must also be mindful of the impact of this trauma on young people, who are hurting. We need to be conscious and patient with them. We don’t want our young people arrested for reacting to trauma – we have to offer them trauma-informed support.”

BSWC joined the gun violence intervention and prevention group LIVE FREE in making four demands:

  • Provide fully funded mental health and healing services for Buffalo’s Masten neighborhood, prioritizing Black therapists and doctors.
  • Activate Victims of Crime Funds to support families and residents in impacted neighborhoods that are coping with gun violence.
  • Leverage unused American Rescue Plan Act dollars for public health and community-centered peace and public safety strategies.
  • Call for New York Governor Kathy Hochul to fully fund violence prevention strategies.

“We join our LIVE FREE partner in noting that there is currently no apparatus for culturally relevant and culturally competent mental health services for Black communities,” said Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change and a BSWC member. “It does not exist. There is no coordinated network of Black mental health networks although our communities are being devasted. There may be a two-day response, but healing doesn’t happen overnight, especially given the compounded trauma of COVID-19, job loss and trauma related to gun violence in our communities.” Greer is also a peace pursuer with LIVE FREE in Memphis, Tennessee.

 

The Black Southern Women’s Collaborative is a network of Black women executive directors in the South who share resources, insights, communications and other strategies to improve the material conditions for Black people in the South. The group is designed to be a soft space for Black women leaders where members are valued not only for what they do but for who they are.

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LIVE FREE, Life Camp to Hold Virtual Space to Lament White Supremacy, Racial Terror in Buffalo, New York

For Immediate Release

May 16, 2022

BUFFALO, NY – LIVE FREE, Life Camp and several members of the Black and Brown Peace Consortium again expressed condolences to victims and their families who were killed or impacted by the white supremacist domestic terrorist attack at an upstate New York grocery store. The groups decried the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people – all Black – dead and three people wounded. In a virtual space, leaders from the organizations vowed to marshal mental health, food and physical resources to members of the Buffalo community.

“To show up at my neighborhood grocery store and see my neighbors victimized by this racial terror is devastating,” said the Rev. Denise Walden, executive director of Voice Buffalo, the local chapter of LIVE FREE. “My son’s best friend lost his father yesterday. Adding to the pain is that families have yet to see their loved ones who were killed. I am with families who are still trying to identify their loved ones who are among the slain. God help us.”

Voice Buffalo delivered death notifications to the persons impacted by the massacre until 11:00 p.m. Saturday night.

Life Camp, LIVE FREE and Voice Buffalo held a 9:30 a.m. vigil on Sunday. Life Camp also plans to bring its peace mobile to Buffalo to provide on-the-ground trauma assistance. Additionally, the organizations held a virtual space where more than 50 organizers and clergy with Voice Buffalo, LIVE FREE and Life Camp lamented together on Sunday night. They will hold a second virtual space on Monday, May 16 at 3:00 p.m. ET. Registration is required: bit.ly/standwithbuffalo2.

“After such a traumatic event, we are wondering how to shift back into normal life tomorrow, and I don’t have clear answers. I am trying to hold the people that I love close and be there for them. We need prayers and culturally competent support,” Rev. Walden said.

“This is very overwhelming,” said Tyrell Ford, a LIVE FREE organizer with Voice Buffalo. “We are in a state of shock and panic. The community is mourning.”

The shooting comes at a time of increasing mass shootings. As of April 2022, there were already 140 mass shootings in the United States. “This latest crisis comes amid Mental Health Awareness month, and the significance of that is there is a shortage of Black and Brown and culturally competent mental health professionals in Buffalo,” said Rana Ryan, a licensed certified clinical psychotherapist with Life Camp and a Buffalo resident. “Even before this tragedy, there was a dearth of resources to help Black people in Buffalo process grief and trauma. Now, the situation is likely to get worse.”

“What is most troubling about this situation is that this community was already under-resourced,” Ryan said. “The grief and healing work that will be required is massive.”

Part of a Larger Problem

“The Black and Brown Peace Consortium has worked for years to address gun violence in Black and Brown communities across the country,” said the Rev. Michael McBride, executive director of LIVE FREE. “That another instance of white racial terror has been introduced to an already traumatized and under-resourced community is as appalling as it is frightening.”

LIVE FREE and other members of the Black and Brown Peace Consortium have been active in Buffalo for years. LIVE FREE held a Justice & Belonging Lab in the city on May 6 to offer strategies for ending gun violence and promoting stronger communities. “We had no idea that one week after our Justice & Belonging event our community would be once again mourning, this time due to white racial terror,” McBride said.

“As we have spoken to elected officials at the state and federal level, we have been clear that we must get resources to the ground to help people heal,” said Erica Ford, executive director of Life Camp. “We also must ensure that we do not enforce the message that it is OK to attack Black people.”

LIVE FREE organizes communities directly impacted by gun violence and mass incarceration to build the necessary power and influence at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that these solutions are being implemented.

Life Camp is a frontline gun violence prevention and intervention team making our communities.

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LIVE FREE Mourns Another Instance of White Racial Terror

For Immediate Release

May 14, 2022

Buffalo, NY – LIVE FREE, Life Camp, and several members of the Black and Brown Peace Consortium today expressed condolences to victims and their families who were killed or impacted by a domestic terrorist attack at an upstate New York grocery store. The groups decried the mass shooting in Buffalo, NY that left 10 people, all Black, dead, and three people wounded.

“To show up at my neighborhood grocery to see my neighbors victimized by this racial terror is devastating,” said the Rev. Denise Walden, executive director of Voice Buffalo. “I am with families who are still trying to identify their youth and family members who are among the slain. God help us.”

Life Camp, LIVE FREE and Voice Buffalo announced a 9:30 a.m. vigil on Sunday, May 15 at the Tops grocery where the massacre occurred. The event will be led by Rev. Charles Walker. Life Camp will also bring its peace-mobile to Buffalo on Sunday to provide on-the-group trauma assistance.

“This is very overwhelming,” said Tyrell Ford, a LIVE FREE organizer with Voice Buffalo. “We literally do not know if our loved ones or friends are among the impacted. We are in a state of shock and panic.”

The shooting comes at a time of increasing mass shootings. As of April 2022, there were already 140 mass shootings in the United States. “It also comes amid Mental Health Awareness month, and the significance of that is there is a shortage of Black and Brown and culturally competent mental health professionals in Buffalo,” said Rana Ryan, a licensed certified clinical psychotherapist with Life Camp and resident of Buffalo. Even before this tragedy, there was a dearth of resources to help Black people in Buffalo process grief and trauma. Now, the situation is likely to get worse.

“What is most troubling about this situation is that this community was already under-resourced,” Ryan said. “The grief and healing work that will be required is massive.”

“The Black and Brown Peace Consortium has worked for years to address gun violence in Black and Brown communities across the country,” said the Rev. Michael McBride, executive director of LIVE FREE. “That another instance of white racial terror has been introduced to an already traumatized and under-resourced community is as appalling as it is frightening.”

LIVE FREE and other members of the Black and Brown Peace Consortium have been active in Buffalo for years. LIVE FREE held a Justice & Belonging Lab in the city on May 6 to offer strategies for ending gun violence and promoting stronger communities.

“We had no idea that one week after our Justice & Belonging event, our community would be mourning, this time white racial terror,” McBride said. “Additionally, the city of Milwaukee is also reeling from a mass shooting there that resulted in 17 people wounded.”

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LIVE FREE Celebrates Historic Partnership With the University of Chicago to Not Just Respond to Gun Violence But Prevent It

For Immediate Release

May 13, 2022

OAKLAND, Calif. – LIVE FREE today celebrated a new partnership with the University of Chicago Crime Lab. The gun violence prevention group and 15-19 other Black and Brown-led, community-based groups worked with the university to launch Community Safety Leadership Academies (CSLA). The academies will offer first-of-their kind programs to train the next generation of policing and community violence intervention (CVI) leaders from across the country.

“Everyone wants to live in communities that are safe and free from violence,” said the Rev. Michael McBride, executive director of LIVE FREE. “And that goal is possible, but officials must rethink the over-reliance on police and invest in Black and Brown groups who have long worked to address the root causes of violence.”

The goal of this initiative is to create the most impactful and robustly evaluated public safety training ever offered in the United States. The effort will bring together data and top academics’ and leading CVI and policing practitioners’ behavioral science insights. Housed at the University of Chicago, the CSLA will include the Policing Leadership Academy and the CVI Leadership Academy. It will offer multidisciplinary and complementary curricula that span six months with the first cohorts for both academies graduating in 2023.

“Black and Brown people are more likely to die from gun violence than their white counterparts, but too often, discussions around how to address gun violence occur without the input of the very communities adversely impacted by it and working to end it,” said Dr. Antonio Cediel, managing director of LIVE FREE. “That is the beauty of this partnership; it involves community-based groups who have worked for decades on this very issue.”

“Part of our task is not just to respond to reports about violence but to build a new public safety infrastructure that allows us to better address the ebbs and flows of violence in our community,” McBride said. “This is one of the most important innovations LIVE FREE has helped develop. These interventions are a more cost-effective way to get what we want, which is keeping our communities safe.”

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Florida Rising: Under DeSantis Plan, Black Voters Would Have Had Steeper Climb Electing Candidates of Choice

For Immediate Release

May 12, 2022

ORLANDO, Fla. – On Wednesday, May 11, a Leon County circuit judge issued a preliminary injunction barring implementation of parts of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ newly drawn congressional map. Judge Layne Smith noted the map was unconstitutional under the Fair District amendment because it would prevent African Americans from electing candidates of choice. Florida Rising, a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought by the National Redistricting Foundation, issued the following statement in response:

“The practice of joining districts to favor one political party over another skews election results and deeply hurts communities of color by restricting access to free and fair elections. For far too long and from every angle, Black voting power has been attacked,” said Moné Holder, senior director of advocacy and programs at Florida Rising. “On Wednesday, the court fulfilled their duty to make this right.”

“From the outset, this process has been fraught,” Holder said. “State legislatures typically draw district lines, but Gov. DeSantis drew his own lines. Were his map enacted, Black voters would have faced an even steeper climb in electing candidates of choice. Politicians should not be permitted to draw districts that allow them to stay in power by silencing voters.”

The way district lines are drawn impacts communities’ future. The drawing of districts gives local people a say in their representatives and determines the resources communities receive – the resources include funding for schools, parks, libraries, hospitals and social services.

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United Women in Faith Voices Alarm at Possible Overturning of Roe v. Wade

For Immediate Release

May 4, 2022

NEW YORK – United Women in Faith today voiced alarm in reference to the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. The organization’s General Secretary and CEO Harriett Jane Olson issued the following statement:

“As a leading Christian women’s organization committed to the needs of women, children, and youth, United Women in Faith must voice alarm at the possibility of women losing the Constitutional right to legal abortion guaranteed by the Supreme Court’s precedent-setting Roe v. Wade decision. Overturning Roe could also endanger the right to privacy that should also protect women from being prosecuted for a miscarriage and affords women access to widely used, safe, and legal contraceptives.

“Over the years, The United Methodist Church has crafted a carefully nuanced position on abortion that calls us to respect both the sanctity of unborn human life and the well-being of the mother, while supporting the legal option of abortion by certified medical providers in cases of “tragic conflicts of life with life.” *

“It is for this reason that, as the nation awaits the Supreme Court’s ruling on this issue, we express our concern for the lives of women and girls as more than 20 states are posed to effectively outlaw abortions in the event that Roe is overturned.

“We know from women’s experiences in the United States that the banning of abortions will not end abortions. While women of financial means will travel to areas where abortion remains safe and legal, many poor and working-class women and girls will resort to unsafe procedures that could cost them their lives, which happened too often prior to the Roe decision.

“We call on federal and state legislators to act to protect the lives of women and girls by codifying their right to privacy, to legal and safe contraceptives, and, in tragic conflicts of life with life, abortions. State-coerced motherhood—like state-coerced sterilization—undermines women’s ability to carefully discern and follow God’s calling in their lives.

“Women are entitled to seek guidance in the privacy of their families and faith traditions or ethical mores in these moments. The United Methodist Church has provided such guidance for members (The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline 2016, ¶161 K). Of course, other faith communities provide guidance as well, as is right and proper. What the court must do is guard this fundamental right of women.”

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*The United Methodist Church on Abortion

“Our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother and the unborn child. We recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases, we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures by certified medical providers.

“The Church shall encourage ministries to reduce unintended pregnancies such as comprehensive age-appropriate sexuality education, advocacy in regard to contraception, and support of initiatives that enhance the quality of life for all women and girls around the globe.”

¶161 K, The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline

Black Southern Women’s Collaborative: We Have Been Summoned to Battle

For Immediate Release

ATLANTA – Following revelations by Politico that the Supreme Court intends to overturn Roe v. Wade, the Black Southern Women’s Collaborative (BSWC) issued the following statement:

“The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is maddening,” said Ashley K. Shelton, executive director of the Power Coalition for Equity & Justice and BSWC member. “All women should have the right to consider the full range of reproductive health options. To take a viable option off the table – and deny exemptions in cases of rape, incest, mental incapacity, financial ability, or medical risk to the mother, etc. – is unconscionable. We cannot allow the continued denigration of basic rights, and then claim to live in a democratic society.”

“We live in a world where race, gender, class, and sexual identity impact a person’s ability to live and live well,” said Rev. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida and BSWC member. “Black women – who already face higher maternal mortality rates, higher incidences of intimate partner and domestic violence, and sexual violence – know this well. While we take great pains to improve our lives, Black women are less likely to be gainfully employed, have access to paid time off or affordable health insurance. This is not for a lack of trying as Black women are among the most educated demographics in the nation.”

“Our society is often anti-Black and anti-Black woman, and that results in serious consequences” said Tameka Greer, executive director of Memphis Artists for Change and BSWC member. “Every policy that restricts a woman’s right to choose will have an adverse impact on Black women who experience intersecting oppressions and multiple on-ramps for violation.”

“One of the things we find so egregious is the reasoning Justice Alito provides that if the consultation doesn’t expressly state something then the right has to be rooted in the nation’s history,” said Kendra Cotton, Chief Operating Officer of the New Georgia Project and BSWC member. “What does that mean for Loving v. Virginia, Brown v. Board of Education or Obergefell v. Hodges? There are certain rights that should not be infringed upon, but Justice Alito is seemingly denouncing that logic. They are saying Roe is an abuse of judicial authority and if that is the case, we are in trouble.”

“This ruling reminds us that in America, Black women and women with limited financial means have never been, indeed are not presently, safe,” said Phyllis Hill, founder of the BSWC. “We should all be gravely concerned. If we allow the court to strip our agency in such a pivotal area, rest assured that no right we currently enjoy is tamper-proof. We are moving towards a dreadful place where the government controls all aspects of our lives.”

“Our response in this moment must be to continue organizing, continue turning out to vote, continue running for office and most importantly, to continue fighting,” Shelton concluded. “We have been summoned to battle; and we cannot relent until justice is won.”

The Black Southern Women’s Collaborative is a network of Black women organizing in the South to improve material conditions for Black people. The members of the BSWC pledge to share resources, insights, fundraising strategies, communications and organizing strategies.

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EVENT: LIVE FREE to Host Justice & Belonging Event in Connection with Justin Bieber’s “Justice World Tour” in Buffalo, NY

For Immediate Release

April 29, 2022

OAKLAND, Calif. – In connection with Justin Bieber’s 2022 “Justice World Tour,” LIVE FREE today announced a series a community conversations on social injustice and belonging. Titled the “Justice & Belonging Labs,” the events will offer concrete ways for community members to engage around social injustice. They will also promote a sense of belonging, bringing together people from all walks of life in a vision for communities where all belong and all can thrive. The next Justice and Belonging Lab will be held today, May 6 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Greater Royal Worship Center, 1335 Clinton Street, Buffalo, NY 14206. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. To RSVP, livefreebuffalo.rocs.online.  

“We must address the development of violence in our city,” said Rev. Denise Walden-Glenn. “As faith and lay leaders of this community, we must ensure that our city’s American Rescue Plan funds are used to truly create the infrastructure to achieve violence prevention. It is time we call for accountability on every side, including the community, legal system, law enforcement and all levels of city government. Though as people of faith we do not condone violence, we cannot ignore the deep cries of our community to have their most basic needs met. To address violence, we must address the lack of equity
and the oppression of systems on communities, especially communities of color.”

LIVE FREE, a nationwide organization committed to ending the death penalty, mass incarceration and gun violence, is hosting these events to bring greater awareness around the epidemic of gun violence. The entity always wants to highlight specific ways community members can engage to address gun violence and other issues.

“Gun violence is a public health epidemic,” said Pastor Michael McBride, founder and executive director of LIVE FREE. “And mass incarceration wounds the individual and the community. Thankfully, there are proven, evidence-based solutions to dramatically reduce gun violence that do not further criminalize our communities. Over the course of this tour, our intentional conversations will offer concrete ways for communities to engage with one another, push back on social injustice and create a more inclusive community.”

The intended audience for the discussions is people of faith, people directly impacted by gun violence and mass incarceration, as well as attendees of Justin Bieber concerts.

Bieber, whose “Justice World Tour” began on Feb. 18 in San Diego, has said that a tour goal is to “inspire millions of individual actions, help connect his fans to important causes, and provide participating groups with a new foundation of supporters.”

Light refreshments will be provided at each event.

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Race Forward Launches New Campaign to Organize Against Attacks on an Inclusive Democracy

For Immediate Release

H.E.A.L. Together Event Discusses Anti-CRT, Book Bans, Silencing of LGBTQIA Movements

NEW YORK – Before an audience of over 850 attendees, Race Forward and partners kicked off their much-anticipated H.E.A.L. (Honest Education Action & Leadership) Together initiative. The campaign promotes equitable schools, a quality education and a multiracial democracy. It will also support local and national leaders working to strengthen education and democracy.

In addition to Race Forward, a host of organizations and activists including Emmy-award winning storyteller Sarah Eagle Heart; Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY); Kiah Morris; the National Education Association; Student Voice; Schott Foundation for Public Education; the Alliance for Quality Education; Dignity in Schools Campaign; Red, Wine and Blue; the Women’s March; Moms Rising; Parents Together Action and others attended the kickoff.

“Part of the reason our communities are still suffering is because our history has been suppressed,” said Sarah Eagle Heart, a member of the Lakota Tribe. “It has been suppressed due to the taking of our resources. But there is also resistance to look at the shame of our own history, which means that we don’t move into healing. We have to do it now in order to live.”

“Efforts to curtail progress are a direct response to organizing by grassroots groups to create a more equitable nation,” said Glenn Harris, president of Race Forward. “But let’s be clear: The resistance we see today emerged, in part, following protests over the brutal killing of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. After Floyd’s murder, outraged Americans from a host of races and ethnicities engaged in protests across the country. The June 2020 actions were the largest civil rights protests in American history.”

For over a year, there has been a wave of policies restricting what teachers can and cannot say in the classroom, what books schools will and will not offer, and what employers can and cannot say at work.

“Those policies aren’t about creating environments conducive to learning but rather about limiting multiracial progress,” Harris said. “But we will not be deterred, nor will we be denied.”

Attendees took a pledge to do their part to support good schools and a quality education, which are key components in ensuring a multiracial democracy. Event facilitators shared that local and national partners will offer assistance with district data analysis, curriculum review, best practices for teachers, survey development, graphic creation and policy review. Participants then had the opportunity to pledge their support and advocacy for an honest, accurate and fully funded public education for all students across this country. The pledge was read by Eagle Heart.

“Schools should be a safe place where students can thrive and reach their full potential,” said Beatriz Beckford of Moms Rising. “What is most exciting about H.E.A.L. Together is that we’re joining young people who are stepping up advocating for truth teaching and progress.”

“When we transform systems to be more equitable and fairer, the sum of us wins,” said Dennis Chin, Vice President of Narrative, Arts, and Culture at Race Forward. “This fight isn’t just about parents’ rights and individual freedom. Individual rights and freedom do not live in a vacuum – we are interconnected. We have shared responsibility with one another to ensure everyone has what they need, such as public services and public education.”

Following rousing remarks from education leaders and activists, Race Forward and partners declared that attacks on the teaching of American history, the LGBTQIA community and books would not go unchallenged.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is to create a bigger ‘we,’” said Zakiya Ansari of Alliance for Quality Education.

Maria Dautruche, served as master of ceremony, enthusiastically welcoming the crowd and introducing the myriad number of speakers. She noted the H.E.A.L. Together effort is designed to ensure strong schools, more equitable communities and a more inclusive democracy.

“Regardless of whether you have children in school, the debate around the accurate teaching of American history and contemporary issues of gender, race and sex impacts us all,” said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. “Imagine trying to explain the significance of the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court without being able to talk about the history of race in America.”

For more information, contact Maya Boddie (media@raceforward.org) or Jennifer R. Farmer (jenniferr@spotlightpr.org) for interviews.

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