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Solutions from Young People

“To me it’s like … if we don’t try and go make that change, who’s going to do it?” – Denis Estimon

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Segregated Schools and Inequality in Funding Is Destroying Us

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.30.14 PMFrom The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having by 2016 National Teacher of the Year Finalist

“As a nation, we’re nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we’re ignoring the immutable core issue: much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding. We have the schools we have, because people who can afford better get better. And sadly, people who can’t afford better just get less–less experienced teachers, inadequate funding and inferior facilities.

Middle class America would never allow the conditions that have become normalized in poor and brown America to stand for their kids.

The images coming out of Detroit Public Schools: buckled floors, toilets without seats, roaches, mold and even mushrooms growing in damp, disgusting, mildewy classrooms. Like the images of American torture and abuse last decade in Abu Ghraib, these images should have shocked the nation. Instead, they elicited a collective national shrug, stretch and yawn.

The View from the Burbs is Sweet. Through white flight and suburbanization, wealthy and middle class families have completely insulated themselves from educational inequality. They send their kids to homogeneous schools and they do what it takes, politically at the local level, to ensure they’re well-funded, well-staffed, with opportunities for enrichment and exploration.

I spoke to a veteran teacher (17 years in the classroom) from Maryland. Her school is located five miles from the nation’s capitol and in her career, she has never taught a white student. Never. Her county and its schools are completely segregated. We aren’t in this together.

“61% of Blacks, 55% of Hispanics support gov’t intervention to address school segregation. Vast majority of whites (72%) say nope!” They’re perfectly satisfied with situation as is.

Our most needy students need our best teachers, yet our highest need schools have the least experienced teachers, the most turnover and are becoming burnout factories for those who remain. All the existing structural incentives for effective educators push them toward work in suburban schools, where they’ll be better supported and the workload is sustainable. Nobody wants to talk about this.”

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Social Emergency Response Centers (SERC)

Yes. Yes. Yes. THIS!

 

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Asheville’s African American Community & Systemic Oppression

Keeping certain people invisible, not letting them speak for themselves, not letting them be a part of (or lead) important conversations that effect their future… This is oppression. This is racism. This is whiteness. This is white supremacy. If the words ‘whiteness’ or ‘white supremacy’ turn you off or make you feel uncomfortable, please look at how I am using them in this situation below. It is not about the color of any particular person’s skin. It is not about violent or aggressive racial slurs. It is about perpetuating histories and behaviors of oppression, subordination, marginalization and silencing that continue a narrative that keeps those with power as the ones with power and those who have been stripped of their power, continuously subordinated, disregarded, and often harmed.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” came to Asheville and hosted a panel about “what happens when a town gets hot and becomes highly attractive to outsiders.” The panel discussed how the city’s popularity “has placed a significant burden on many of the city’s oldest communities by accelerating a gentrification process that prices out older residents in favor of new and more affluent residents.” The panel acknowledged that “the communities that are most impacted by gentrification are largely African-American.” However, no one from the city’s African-American or Latino community was invited on the panel.

Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 10.47.37 PMDarin Waters, Ph.D. points out, “As a native of this city’s African-American community, I found the absence of these voices troubling. In the case of the African-American community, this experience of exclusion from important conversations has deep historical roots. Throughout the period of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, our community was kept on the social, economic and political periphery. Only in those instances where we were willing to assume great risk were we allowed to speak for ourselves. In most instances, our lives, interests and aspirations, if it was even acknowledged that such existed, were expressed for us, and in most cases by those who were responsible for our community’s marginalization in the first place. The failure to include African-Americans in a conversation that addressed issues that impact their communities so directly only reinforces this history.”

When the audience brought attention to this issue, it was glossed over with justifications that there were people of color on the panel. As if the presence of some minority voices should be seen as representative of all minority voices.
Dr. Waters points out that “by failing to include a representative from the (Asheville) African-American community on her panel, Martin, whose show attracts a weekly listening audience of more than 13 million listeners, not only reinforced false notions about the region, but also perpetuated the sense of marginalization and invisibility that African-Americans have been combating for a long time.”

All quotes from this article, “Were All Things Considered” by Dr. Darin Waters

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Being A Sanctuary

What I learned at Sanctuary: A Partnership Between Immigrant & Faith Communities in Asheville. The call to faith communities was to:
1. Provide sanctuary for the most vulnerable (including those who are undocumented, Muslim, Blacks, LGBTQ, Trans folks)
2. If you can’t provide sanctuary, be the people who are supporting those who are providing sanctuary
3. Listen to the immigrant communities and other communities impacted — ask THEM what they need. Tell others what they tell you they need.

Police Chiefs and Sheriffs in others cities have made public commitments to not have their law officials collect data and do the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Buncombe county Sheriff and Asheville Police Department have not been explicit or transparent about what their position on immigrants is. They have not been willing to make a formal statement saying that they support immigrant communities, and have been asked.

Core components of what a Sanctuary is now:
1. Sanctuary is now about shared political fate.
2. Sanctuary is not single-issue.
3. Sanctuary can be created through policy and through community.
4. Sanctuary cannot be based in paternalism or a white savior mentality.
5. Sanctuary is no longer about four walls.
6. Sanctuary will require local organizing to converge nationally.
7. Sanctuary will require clarity, courage and spiritual fortitude.

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Asheville Youth Voices & Leadership

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 2.39.15 PMOur youth deserve dignity and respect as they ARE our leaders. The premier issue of the Word on The Street/ La Voz de Los Jovenes teen magazine just came out. I’ve met some of these youth and they are AMAZING. These are the voices of leadership we need to be listening to NOW. Read. Learn. Share what touches your mind or heart.

This is Asheville.

Our youth deserve dignity and respect and one way we can show that to them is by being real with the conditions they are facing right now, recognizing that some youth do not have access to some opportunities as fairly as others do. We must face how opportunities do or don’t prepare youth to navigate the world. We can shift that narrative that is playing out and create a new reality… This is Asheville.

 

Footage for the film, Beneath the Veneer, a documentary currently in production about opportunity, success and inequity in America?

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Listen to and Follow Young Leaders

Me2WeYoung people want, deserve, and need spaces where it is safe to voice their opinions and where they can talk about the issues that are relevant to their daily lives. This event on MLK day was powerful because it was designed by young people, for young people. The adults collaborating were in service to helping the students create an agenda that allowed them to have the conversations that they thought were most important. CAYLA (City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy) high school students generated a list of over 20 topics and then narrowed it down to the 7 table discussions that they hosted (safe sex, housing shortage, police brutality, discrimination in school, leadership, dealing with stress, and gender equality/HB2). In the closing circle the power of the event was felt as participants shared that they were feeling educated, empowered, inspired, motivated, hopeful, connected, that their voices mattered, and grateful for the opportunity to talk about things that don’t get talked about in regular conversation. Asheville’s young people have so much wisdom, insight, and clarity about what our community needs. It was an honor to get to learn from them. Let’s keep listening to them and giving them opportunities to lead themselves and us.

Media Articles

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