The South Beach community gathers two months after the killing of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez. (Credit: Reuters)
1. At the Border, Dream 30 Hand Their Fate to ICE
With a record 2 million deportations under its belt, the Obama administration shows no intention of stopping. In response to the numerous families who continue to be broken by deportations, the National Immigrant Youth Alliance launched its #BringThemHome campaign. In ongoing waves, DREAMers, and now undocumented parents and families, have been presenting themselves at a US port of entry asking for permission to return “home.” In July, the #Dream9 entered through Nogales, Arizona, and were detained for seventeen days before being released to their families. On September 30, the #Dream30, representing twelve states, presented themselves at the Laredo, Texas, point of entry and were detained and sent to El Paso Processing center. Who are these people? Each had a different story of how they had gotten to this point, but they all shared a dream—a desperation—to come home. They were gay, straight, jocks, nerds, junior ROTC, evangelical, Catholic, atheist—all raised in the US, all undocumented, brought here as young children by their parents, and all unafraid. So far, nine have been paroled and sent home; communities across the country are mobilizing for the rest to join them.
—National Immigrant Youth Alliance
2. On Capitol Hill, Undocumented Youth Get Arrested for Citizenship
On October 8, along with more than 200 people, including members of Congress, I participated in civil disobedience in front of the US Capitol. We were detained and arrested, demanding that Congress act now on immigration reform. I was arrested along with my colleagues from United 4 a Dream, a United We Dream affiliate based in North Carolina fighting for equal access to higher education, civil liberties, jobs and opportunities. I’ve always held myself back, and this was the first time I felt that no one was controlling me. Since I have a final order for my removal, my mother was worried that I’d be arrested and deported back to El Salvador. But I told my mother that I did it for her. I did it for my friends and for everyone else who understands the importance of passing immigration reform this year, one that grants permanent protections for our families and that honors the dignity of our community.
—Juan Carlos Ramos
3. After Deadly Tasing, Miami Youth Mobilize
On August 6, 18-year-old Colombian-American Israel “Reefa” Hernandez was fatally tased in the heart by Officer Jorge Mercado while tagging a shuttered McDonalds in Miami. As of yet, no results have been released regarding the autopsy or the investigation; Officer Jorge Mercado, who has a history of alleged misconduct, has not been held accountable for the tasing; and no Miami Beach Police policies or practices have been changed, or even assessed in light of this incident. In response to inaction from Miami elected officials and police, the community created a #JusticeForReefa coalition, which includes the Dream Defenders. The coalition launched a week of action on October 3, with a gallery opening featuring art by and in honor of Reefa, who saw art and skating as part of a culture of resistance; the unveiling of a community-built skate ramp with performances by a local children’s breakdancing group; and a hip-hop concert featuring Miami rapper The Pharcyde. The events culminated in a massive march through the heart of Miami–South Beach, where Reefa’s family spoke in his memory. A Dream Defenders member also spoke about how a movement of black and brown youth against racial profiling and police brutality is rising.
4. After Zimmerman, Florida Comes to Ohio
After George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the killing of Trayvon Martin, youth discovered that Republicans were attempting to bring the same “kill at will” Stand Your Ground legislation to Ohio. Since then, young people across the state have jumped into action, collecting petition signatures, helping to pass city resolutions against the bill and taking the fight to those responsible for spreading the legislation across the country. In August, the Ohio Student Association Black Youth Power Network joined other groups in DC to march on the headquarters of ALEC. Last Wednesday, the OSA led a die-in outside the Ohio Statehouse with Stand Up for Ohio and other organizations in the state. In Ohio, where mass incarceration, voter suppression, the school-to-prison pipeline and the attack on public education rage on, resistance to Stand Your Ground shines a light on widespread racial injustice.
5. As Gates and Walton Plot, Students Make Noise
In Philadelphia, education is facing an unprecedented crisis, with approximately one counselor for every 3,000 students, one nurse for every 1,500 students and dozens of programs cut with no signs of restoration. On September 30, representatives from the Gates Foundation, the Walton Foundation, the Gates-funded Philadelphia School Partnership and other major corporate education reform groups held a closed meeting in town. The Philadelphia Student Union planned a noisy action outside the meeting to tell attendees that student voice continues to be excluded by those who claim to be interested in “reforming schools” while funneling millions into privatization. With a piñata as a “school,” student-actors represented the governor, mayor, city council, Superintendent William Hite and the groups at the meeting. The students broke the piñata to symbolize the purposeful disinvestment from public education by elected public officials and foundations that funnel billions into privatization plans.
—Philadelphia Student Union
6. In Mississippi, Youth Confront Ex-Gay Menace
On the week of September 22, members of GetEQUAL MS, OMEGA MS and Walk Fellowship Church of Hattiesburg held a rally of “Love and Acceptance” to protest a conference held by Lakeside Baptist Church. The three-day conference, “Coming Out: A Gospel Response to Same-Sex Attraction,” promoted conversion therapy, a practice opposed by the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association and shown to be connected to severe psychological damage and even suicide. On the final day of the conference, messages of love and acceptance, such as “God loves you just the way you are,” poured in by the hundreds from all over the United States and Canada. The conference was followed by a candlelight vigil to remember those who are no longer with us due to various forms of homophobia, as well as a question and answer session entitled “What the Bible REALLY Says About Homosexuality,” hosted by Walk Fellowship.
7. In North Carolina, Students Win at the Polls
On October 8, election day in Wake County and Pasquatank County, North Carolina, students came out in force. In Wake County two school board candidates previously funded by conservative kingmaker Art Pope lost seats after candidate forums and questionnaires publicly revealed their views. In Pasquatank County, Montravias King, a senior at Elizabeth City State University who was previously denied access to run by the local board, won his race for City Council. NC Vote Defenders monitored polls in both these counties, disseminating information on changing voting laws to make sure that local voters knew their rights. They also helped monitor for instances of voter suppression or intimidation in response to the new “monster voter bill.” Post-election, youth and students are continuing to build power on campaigns challenging new policies at the university level and calling for an end to the school-to-prison pipeline.
—NC Vote Defenders
8. In Virginia, TurboVote Plugs In Thousands More
With Virginia about to select a new governor, voter engagement among students is ramping up. On September 24, National Voter Registration Day, Virginia21, a college student advocacy organization, decided to invest in TurboVote to bring simple voter registration to Virginia’s public colleges for the 2013 gubernatorial election. TurboVote is a new web-based software that enables simple voter registration, absentee voting and election reminders for local, state and federal elections. In our first day alone, we registered nearly 900 students. Our focus has been on minimizing the amount of in-person voter registration that we carry out and instead spend that time using technology to scale our efforts and reach hundreds more students. Both Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates supported our efforts, making it one of the most successful registration efforts in VA21 history.
9. The Pushout Endgame
On the week of September 30, the Dignity in Schools Campaign and allies hosted rallies and events in twenty-two cities for the National Week of Action on School Pushout. This theme bore particular significance in Los Angeles, which passed the Student Climate Bill of Rights, which stops punitive suspensions for “willful defiance” and calls for more balanced and conscientious responses to student incidents, in May. As a student organizer with the Community Rights Campaign, I helped bring together students, parents, educators and activists to understand their rights under the new discipline resolution, especially with regard to school pushout that happens as a result of increased policing on our campuses. CRC also worked with DSC-LA to bring policymakers and legislators on a tour of school sites that have are already implementing restorative justice as an alternative to pushout policies like suspensions and police tickets and arrests at school.
10. The Other Globalization
United Students Against Sweatshops members returned from a delegation to Bangladesh in late August, and are now launching an international campaign in solidarity with workers in Bangladesh to secure safe working conditions for garment workers who produce collegiate apparel. Following the worst industrial disaster in history at the Rana Plaza factory, which killed 1,129 workers, and another factory fire on October 8, which claimed the lives of at least ten workers, students are demanding that brands producing college apparel sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and take responsibility for worker safety in their subcontracted factories. Meanwhile, on September 25, USAS announced a national partnership with the AFL-CIO, the first that the AFL-CIO has made with a student organization, marking a new era of collaboration between the two organizations to tackle domestic and international labor struggles.
—United Students Against Sweatshops