Lilo J. Leeds was a passionate champion for equity.
No doubt this resolve was instilled in her as a young girl when her family escaped Nazi Germany. Lilo often spoke of how she fled Nazi Germany and the painful signs that dictated NO JEWS, only to land in France with signs that read NO GERMANS, and finally arrived in the United States to a Jim Crow culture of “No Coloreds.”
Lilo and her late husband Gerry Leeds, who also had to flee Germany, were able to start promising new lives for themselves and their children in this country.
Her tenacity was critical in all the family’s business ventures and their abiding devotion to social justice, including their work fighting for equitable and quality education for all. Lilo had a passion for supporting the rights of all children to have access to a high quality public education regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or zip code.
How far would you go to ensure that your child has the right to a great public education? Would you risk your health? One year ago, 12 community members in South East Chicago did just that. After exhausting all other options in attempts to reopen Walter H. Dyett High School, National Director of Journey for Justice Alliance, Jitu Brown, led a hunger strike with 11 other community members that lasted for 34 days. Yes, you read that right, 34 days!
Over the past decade, philanthropy has become increasingly responsive to the needs of young boys and men of color. The philanthropic community has mobilized to coordinate and partner on efforts like the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative. More recently, the field has turned its attention to addressing the needs of girls and young women of color. While I applaud these efforts, I'm reminded daily of the pressing and unmet needs of Native communities. And that invariably causes me to think about how much more needs to be done to ensure that all youth — regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender — have equal access to quality education and health care and the opportunity to grow up in safe and thriving communities.
Netroots Nation [link] is 10 years old, and over the past decade has become a preeminent gathering point for people at the intersections of progressive politics, social change, and technology. As such, it’s been interesting to watch various aspects of the conference shift — from keynote speakers, to panel topics, to vendors — as the larger progressive movement has shifted.
Nowhere is that more stark than education. Writers like Jeff Bryant point out how for many years, education wasn’t even on the radar of many progressive activists and organizations — and when it was, they would usually gravitate to the well-funded outreach of corporate reform outfits like Students First and Stand for Children.
What will it take to ensure that all children have an opportunity to learn, regardless of their background or which school they attend? This is the question we discussed during our latest webinar, “Strategies for Lifting All Children Up," part of Schott Foundation’s Grassroots Education Series on July 28.
During the webinar, Executive Director Kevin Welner of the National Education Policy Center and Executive Director Taryn Ishida of Californians for Justice discussed the importance of systemic reforms, not just school-centric reforms, when working to close the opportunity gap — and both are urgently needed.
As part of the Schott Foundation’s Grassroots Education Series, we moderated a webinar on July 7, featuring our grantee partner Dignity in Schools Campaign, a national network that challenges the systemic problem of pushout in our nation's schools and works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
During the webinar, “Beyond the First Look: Turning Local Data Into Action”, approximately 200 participants joined a discussion of the results of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights 2013-2014 “A First Look” data, which surveyed all public schools and school districts in the United States. Webinar participants included Citizens for a Better Greenville (MS) Director Joyce Parker, Racial Justice NOW! (OH) Co-founder and Director Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, and Gwinnett SToPP (GA) Founder Marlyn Tillman. The briefing allowed time to explore the data and to discuss how the advocates involved in the webinar can use this data to drive organizing work grounded in racial justice.
Parent engagement can take on many forms within schools. Helping a child with homework, attending after school activities, cooking for a bake sale, and volunteering in the school’s office all fall under our general understanding of typical expectations for parent involvement in schools.Parent engagement, however, is often not defined by parents, which sometimes leads to negative narratives about a “lack of engagement” of parents of color or low-income parents. Parents and communities are critical to catalyzing and sustaining improvement in schools, but one of the biggest challenges can be finding ways to engage and support the powerful involvement of parents.
“If you have a friend of a friend with a kid – even a stranger – remind them that they’re worth something.”
Student Karoline Jimenez urged this of her audience after an hour of tears and testimony at the Philanthropy New York (PNY) June 17th screening of Stepping Up, a glimpse into the world of college access by filmmaker Julie Dressner. This feature-length documentary will highlight the woefully high 250:1 student-to-guidance counselor ratio in New York City. Guidance counselors have little time, says the film, to spend with their assigned students on college guidance, and there are deep disparities between students from low-income and high-income backgrounds who succeed in obtaining a bachelor’s degree. In an effort to close this guidance gap, then-high school students Karoline and friends Christine Rodriguez and Enoch Jemmott commit to helping their peers navigate the college application process. Stepping Up follows the three young people, trained by College Access: Research & Action (CARA), on their journey as high school peer counselors, even as they themselves undergo the intensive process of applying to schools.
The Schott Foundation for Public Education joins the country and the international community in mourning all of the lives lost and injured during the recent shootings in Orlando targeting members of the LGBTQ community specifically, and our humanity more broadly. The hatred exhibited in Orlando calls into question what more our country can do to limit unnecessary gun violence and to ensure the safety and well-being of LGBTQ individuals where they live, work, learn, play, worship, and govern. During this difficult time, Schott reaffirms its commitment to resource advocates and campaigns to institutionalize the policies and practices that create healthy living and learning spaces for all.
We recognize that the threat of homophobic and transphobic violence is very real for many of us, including our children.
Earlier this year, I received news that Valorie Johnson, a program officer at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, was planning to retire. As one of the few Native Americans working at a foundation, I celebrated her many accomplishments in the philanthropic sector. But I also grieved the impending loss of one the few Native influencers in philanthropy.
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