Members of Dream Defenders sit-in at Rick Scott’s office. (AP Photo)
E-mail questions, tips or proposals to [email protected]. For earlier dispatches, check out posts from January 18, February 1, February 15, March 1, March 15, April 2, April 15, April 26, May 10, May 24, June 7, June 21 and July 9.
1. Dream Defenders Occupy the Florida Capitol
On Saturday, July 13, George Zimmerman was found not guilty. This was the moment Florida showed the world that it does not care about its youth, especially young black and brown people. If neighborhood watch vigilantes are given the license to kill, what instructions are given to black and brown youth such as me? How do I stand my ground when I feel threatened? Am I not allowed to defend myself? Dream Defenders have been joined by community members and students from Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Miami, FAMU, FSU, UF, FAU and UCF, as well as the Advancement Project, Power U and USSA. We are occupying the state capitol until Governor Rick Scott meets our demand to convene a special session of the legislature. During this session, we want a new Trayvon Martin Civil Rights Act to be passed. It will focus on the Stand Your Ground law, racial profiling and the war on youth. This is deeper than just the Zimmerman murder case. This is a movement to unravel the system that allowed Trayvon to be criminalized, profiled and killed in the first place. We will stay in the capitol until the governor meets our demands. We have gotten support from across the country and around the world. This is what the student movement looks like.
2. Black Youth Strategize in Chicago
Black Youth Project 100 is a group of 100 young black activists from across the country convened by the Black Youth Project to mobilize communities of color beyond electoral politics. As we convened for our first Beyond November Movement gathering, we collectively mourned over the Zimmerman trial verdict and produced this video response to affirm the humanity of black life. We are committed to connecting the tragic loss of Travyon Martin and this recent miscarriage of justice in Florida to countless other examples of American systemic racism and injustice. Moving forward, we will be mobilizing a black youth contingency to attend the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington and offering civic engagement training to young people. We are organizing local chapters to build political power nationwide while simultaneously supporting the efforts of other youth-led organizations such as Dream Defenders. As stated in our video, we see the hopelessness of a generation that has been broken trying to find its place in this world, and we understand that we need to turn anger into action and pain into power.
3. Moral Monday, Everywhere
In response to North Carolina’s extreme right agenda that disproportionately harms people of color and the poor, the state NAACP has led twelve “Moral Mondays,” resulting in 900 arrests. The unjust acquittal of George Zimmerman is symptomatic of systems of white supremacy that are enacted both nationally and locally. While people in North Carolina mobilized for Trayvon Martin and against racial profiling on Sunday and Monday, we know that this is only one part of the resistance. Governor Pat McCrory recently repealed the state’s racial justice act, and youth of color across the state are being racially profiled and pushed into the school-to-prison-pipeline. The NC–Student Power Union and NC HEAT will continue massing on “Moral Monday” and “Witness Wednesday”—but also around issue-based campaigns, including a Moratorium on Out-of-School Suspensions and a people’s budget.
—Q. Wideman and Bryan Perlmutter
4. As Congress Talks, Immigrant Youth Hit the Streets
As congressional immigration debates simmer, the Immigrant Youth Justice League and Undocumented Illinois, a state-wide undocumented youth collective, have been staging direct actions targeting the president’s deportation policies at fundraisers and detention centers. Just as black men are consistently and unfairly singled out in the American criminal justice system, a system of intense police surveillance threatens more of our families for the price of misconstrued congressional priorities. IJYL has met with the individuals in deportation proceedings and their families; held press conferences in front of ICE offices and rallies and vigils in their name; and rallied alongside other organizations to fight against immigration officials and local police who have strategically profiled day laborers and flea-market merchants. IYJL will continue to devote vocal, physical and soulful efforts to fight any gross mischaracterization of equity and justice, from DC to Sanford to Chicago. We will step up our efforts to stop the trend of deportations, like that of Octavio.
5. As Obama Ramps Up Policing, Students Strike Back
Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, President Obama introduced a proposal that included increasing funding for more school resource officers and law enforcement grants as a solution to safety in our schools. In response, the Community Rights Campaign organized weekly vigils in remembrance of all lives lost to violence and to honor daily struggles and historical violence, particularly against black and brown youth and communities. Our demands: to direct all funding towards resources and interventions that truly support school safety without harming students, and to set strong limits on the role of police on our campuses. This is a national dialogue led by youth of color who are gathering through regional Action Camps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Obama’s proposal is now a bill that is progressing through the US Senate Appropriations Committee this week. The Dignity in Schools Campaign organized a day of action on July 15 to push back on the idea that police and SROs are the answer to safety on our campuses.
6. In Detroit, Young Workers Take Over the Manager’s Office
On July 12, members of AFSCME’s young worker group, Next Wave, assembled in Detroit. We marched around the Municipal Center and other government buildings with chants and signs letting Governor Rick Snyder—who has put over half of Michigan’s black population under state receivership—and emergency manager Kevyn Orr know that we’re unhappy with the destruction of democracy. Through a variety of sessions over the weekend, we shared experiences and visions as young rank-and-filers. One workshop, “Mentoring for Success,” helped me appreciate being a mentee—and, as someone who is new to Next Wave, gave me the confidence to become a mentor despite having little experience being one. Our next steps for Next Wave include building coalitions with other unions and groups, building leadership among our members and continuing to grow by engaging in direct action.
7. In Ann Arbor, Students Win Tuition Equality
On July 18, the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents passed tuition equality for undocumented students from Michigan. Under the new policy, which takes effect in January 2014, undocumented students from Michigan qualify for in-state tuition. Whereas former university policy effectively denied admission to undocumented students, the new policy dramatically improves financial access. The decision comes on the heels of a year and a half of organizing by the Coalition for Tuition Equality. Through speaker events, silent protests and civil disobedience, we’ve leveraged our status as students to pressure our university to end discrimination against undocumented students.
—Coalition for Tuition Equality
8. At Rutgers, Tuition Spikes—With a Fight
On July 11, Rutgers students staged a protest demanding that university officials stop the yearly cycle of tuition hikes. Loud chants filled the air outside the Board of Governors meeting. During the open session, dozens of students flooded the meeting floor and gave powerful personal testimonies—but to no end. The board was determined to raise tuition to recoup the costs of irresponsible spending, including a $900 million merger with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. As the board moved to raise tuition by 3.5 percent, students held a mic-check to drown out the sound of the votes. Students will be organizing for more state funding for Rutgers and an end to tuition hikes.
—Rutgers Student Union
9. Title IX’s Ground Game
On July 15, campus survivors and activists from across the country converged on the US Department of Education demanding an end to campus sexual violence. Survivors shared their stories and chanted: “Whose campus? Our campus! Whose rights? Our rights!” The rally concluded when boxes containing 112,000 signatures from the ED Act Now petition were handed to ED officials. Rally leaders then met with Secretary Arne Duncan and department staff to present a list of asks: timely investigations of Title IX complaints; proactive enforcement efforts; stricter sanctions and public non-compliance findings; and school guidance on same-sex and LGBTQ sexual violence. At the White House, these were repeated to officials from the president and vice president’s offices, as well as ED and the Department of Justice, with a demand for executive action. In the coming months, activists will push ED to reform its policies and offer legislation improving Title IX enforcement.
—ED Act Now
10. Texas’s Bloody Hands
On July 18, members of Rise Up /Levanta Texas gathered outside the auditorium in the capitol to grieve the signing of HB2 into law. Demonstrators dressed in black, carried wire hangers and covered their mouths with a piece of black tape covered with the image of a coat hanger. With the passage of this bill, many may resort to dangerous methods to terminate pregnancies. Thousands of Texans will also lose access to potentially life-saving services if the affected clinics are forced to shut their doors. The group mostly stood in silence until approximately 9:35 am, when Rick Perry was about to sign the bill. At that time, five women staged a die-in directly below the auditorium. Each held a piece of paper that spelled “SHAME” and led the group in shouts of “The blood of Texas women is on your hands.” Rise Up / Levanta Texas, a coalition of students, community members and organizers, will continue fighting for the human rights and dignity of all in Texas.