Chicago’s deportation blockade. (Credit: Sarah Jane Rhee)
1. On Deportation Day, Youth Blockade the Bus
On November 19, twelve undocumented immigrants and allies temporarily stopped a bus that was headed toward O’Hare Airport to drop off a group of people set to be deported that day. Six of the participants, including myself, stopped the bus by attaching ourselves to one another and to the vehicle with lock-boxes. Inside the bus was Octavio Nava-Cabrera, who several participants in the action had gotten to know through the work and support they had provided for his anti-deportation campaign. Also on the bus was Brigido Acosta, who has a decades-old removal order. After an hour, the participants were detached and the bus made its way to O’Hare. Octavio and Brigido, along with the others on the bus, were deported. We will continue to support our families and continue to demand deportations stop.
2. As UC Stalls, Grad Students Strike
On November 20, graduate students in the UAW Local 2865 Academic Workers union at the University of California held a statewide strike in solidarity with striking service workers. AFSCME 3299 represents custodial staff, shuttle drivers, nurses’ aids and other workers throughout the UC system, and has been in contract bargaining with the UC for more than a year. Last Spring, AFSCME 3299 patient care workers at UC medical facilities held a two-day strike to draw attention to dangerous short-staffing. According to workers, UC managers engaged in a number of unfair labor practices in the run up to that action, including threats and intimidation; the November 20 strike was a response to those tactics. The tutors, teaching assistants and instructors of the UAW 2865 stood on the picket lines to denounce management’s actions. After UAW members announced our intent to walk out in solidarity, management began to harass us as well. In such moments, the truth of that old slogan really shines: an injury to one is an injury to all.
3. In Albuquerque, a Reproductive Justice Majority
This summer, out-of-state activists gathered signatures to place a measure on the Albuquerque ballot that would ban abortion after twenty weeks, the first of its kind to be introduced in a municipal-level election. Alongside other organizations, Young Women United lead the Respect ABQ Women campaign, reflecting the experiences of New Mexican communities of color, people of faith and young people. Leading up to November 19, when voters rejected the measure, young women of color played a key role in mobilizing the student population, leading the campaign’s social media strategy, canvassing and coordinating rides to the polls. Now, with growing energy and support from our communities, we are launching a public education campaign to decriminalize substance use in pregnancy.
4. In Honolulu, a Generational Alliance for Equality
“Hawaii can either be the fifteenth state (to legalize gay marriage) or the fiftieth.” This line stuck with me throughout the many days of legislative testimony from the people of Hawaii. On November 2, after days of waiting—I was 3,942nd in line—I joined other Gay-Straight Alliance members to speak in front of the House, the most liberating experience I’ve had in my life. Although the battle for marriage equality is over, barriers to full equality in Hawaii remain, especially for young people—from social media bullying to derogatory language in daily conversation. In my GSA Club, we are working to address these problems by holding weekly meetings for members of the LGBTQ community, and straight allies, at my school.
5. Athlete’s Death Sparks a Southern Groundswell
In January, 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson walked into Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia, with a book bag and came out in a body bag. The star athlete was found headfirst in a rolled up wrestling mat. From the beginning, the details of the case have been murky. In the initial autopsy, Johnson’s death was labeled “accidental”—he fell into the wrestling mat and choked. But a second autopsy revealed there was definite trauma to his body. Two weeks ago, the coroner’s report was released, stating that the evidence was compromised. Meanwhile, Johnson’s family has been sitting outside the courthouse for ten months, Monday through Friday, demanding the truth. On November 8, Dream Defenders journeyed from Tallahassee to Valdosta to meet with Justice For KJ, a group that formed at Valdosta State University. The following week, some Dream Defenders returned to Valdosta to document the faces and factors involved, which will be pulled together to create a video.
6. Dean’s Resignation Puts Race on Trial
On November 15, a coalition of students rallied for racial equality at the University of Cincinnati. For the first thirty minutes, ten students held signs expressing concerns about racial tension. Within the next hour, fifty more joined them. Among the 42,000 students at UC, 9 percent are black and 84 percent of the newest class of incoming students are white. Racial tension has always existed, but it became more palpable in the recent case of Dr. Ronald Jackson, the first black dean of UC’s largest college, the College of Arts and Sciences. This fall, Jackson resigned amid constant scrutiny, a lack of support by university officials and a racist cartoon.
7. Oregon’s Agenda
On November 15 and 17, more than 500 students from across Oregon, as well as a delegation from Washington, came to Eugene for the annual Oregon Students of Color Conference, this year themed “Opening Eyes in a Colorblind World: Connecting the Dots Between Shared Oppressions.” We addressed violence against women of color, the history of OSCC, grassroots organizing strategy and our statewide legislative agenda. Following this year’s passage of tuition equity, OSCC will be moving forward with public safety reform, focusing on reforming mandatory minimum sentencing, finding more funding for victims’ services, fighting recidivism and implementing cultural competency training for K-12 faculty and staff. We are also supporting the Oregon Students Equal Rights Alliance to add teeth to K-12 bullying policies.
8. CUNY’s Charade
From skyrocketing tuition, to the appointment of General Petraeus at the Macaulay Honors College, to the eviction of the Morales-Shakur Center from its student and community-run space at City College, CUNY students are facing an increasingly militarized, less accessible university. Throughout the fall semester, campus leaders have been working across the CUNY system to build alliances that target the Board of Trustees and campus administrators for their complicity in these policies. This week, students from across CUNY launched a week of action against debt, corporate power, militarism and racism. On Monday, November 25, this will culminate in a direct action at the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, where we will theatrically crash the wedding between our administrators and corporate interests.
—New York Students Rising
9. When Will ED Act on Gender-Based Violence?
Student organizers continue to push the US Department of Education to improve enforcement of civil rights law regarding gender-based violence. The ED ACT NOW campaign kicked off last July with a rally in front of department headquarters in Washington, where student activists delivered a petition signed by more than 174,000 supporters, followed by meetings with officials from ED, the Department of Justice and the White House. We’ve seen some important initial victories: in August, ED instructed regional investigators to speed up their work so that survivors don’t have to wait years for justice, and just this month, department officials promised to post the findings of future investigations online. But this is only a start. This winter, ED ACT NOW is ramping up demands for transparency regarding current and past investigations into colleges and the results of those investigations; and a guidance to improve universities’ responses to same-sex violence and male survivors. We are calling on students and supporters to take further action online.
—ED ACT NOW
10. What Can Congress Do About the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Over the past six weeks, North Carolina students have marched, spoken out and mobilized at school board meetings to end the school-to-prison pipeline. On November 21, Ramiyah Robinson, a 14-year-old member of NC HEAT, joined organizers from across the country to brief Congress about school pushout policies. The Dignity in Schools Campaign organized the speakers for a Senate briefing sponsored by Dick Durbin and Chris Murphy. As more students than ever are being suspended, expelled and arrested at school, students will continue advocating for federal policies such as the Youth PROMISE Act and the school discipline provisions of the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, as well as local policy that promotes restorative justice.
—Youth Organizing Institute