The struggles for racial justice and educational justice have been interlinked from the beginning of our nation’s history. It was under Black leadership during Reconstruction that the South saw the first state-funded public schools. The long, arduous work to win and maintain school integration was a keystone struggle during the Civil Rights movement. And today, the most powerful and energetic movements for education justice — fighting for fair funding, strong neighborhood public schools, and restorative justice — are those that take an intersectional approach to organizing.
Our speakers included:
- Keron Blair, National Director, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools
- Jitu Brown, National Director, Journey for Justice Alliance
- Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, National Field Organizer, Dignity in Schools Campaign
- Edgar Villanueva (Moderator), Vice President of Programs & Advocacy, Schott Foundation for Public Education
The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) is an alliance of parent, youth, community and labor organizations that together represent over 7 million people nationwide. As Keron Blair put it: "Our strongest work is really around how we help to build and engineer local alliances that can drive successful campaigns at the intersection of racial justice, sustainable community schools, and giving voice to concerns of parents and students with the support of educators." Since the election of Donald Trump and the appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, AROS has been working to highlight the dangers the White House's new policies pose to schools and communities. This past spring's "Build Schools, Not Walls" campaign was an intersectional, nationwide push to connect "an awful and racist immigration agenda" with the fight for equitable public schools.
For more than a decade, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) has been working to build movements for education justice and to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Zakiya Sankara-Jabar described how DSC brings together its member organizations "through direct action organizing, public policy advocacy and leadership development to fight for the human right of every young person to a quality education and to be treated with dignity." DSC recently completed its annual Week of Action Against School Pushout, which featured actions in towns and cities across the country as well as a two-day national event in New Orleans with several of its partners
"We understand very clearly that we cannot win this alone. So we are building multi-racial coalitions... that have the strength to resist privatization policies but also advance a vision of what public education should look like," Jitu said. "People will fight for what they help to build. We can't build a movement saying what we're against, but we can build a movement advancing our own vision."
Journey for Justice's major work currently is with the #WeChoose campaign, which active with partners in over 30 cities across the country. With the slogan "Education equity, not the illusion of 'school choice'," the campaign is pushing hard against privatization policies and in favor of more equitable investment in public education and the creation of sustainable community schools (see the full agenda here).
Watch the entire webinar above, which includes detailed insights in organizing for racial and educational justice, as well as immediate concrete steps that local and school board policymakers can take.