The following is a letter to the editor to the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer written by SARN Board Chair Theresa El-Amin.
The February 16 piece by Mark Rice on suspensions received the attention it deserves — Sunday, front page.
I first requested the out-of-school suspension data in May 2011 after seeing young, black men frequently on the front page of the L-E charged with serious crimes. I was given over 330 pages of records. After going through the sheets, I realized there was a sheet for every grade in every school. The disaggregated data (race, gender, etc.) also showed the 28 reasons a student could be suspended. The list included everything from the use of alcohol to homicide as well as sexual assault, sexual battery and other crimes. The list struck me as a form that might be used by law enforcement rather than a school. Yes, fighting was on the list, too.
However, many students were suspended under a category called “other.” After a few conversations with parents, I learned that “other” could mean the boy didn’t wear his belt or he was “talking back” or otherwise “acting a fool.” The school-to-prison pipeline was never clearer.
Durham Public Schools is a similar district to MCSD. The student population is about 30,000 and about 60% black. A few years ago, black males were about 80% of suspensions. During that time, one child had been suspended 27 times in a single school year. The struggle continues.
I dream of the day when parents, teachers, principals and assistant principals will function as a team to help children understand their legal right to an education and the shared responsibility to make it happen.
An out-of school suspension is “a failure to communicate.” Cultural competency seminars might help teachers and principals recognize the internalized oppression of black males growing up in poverty. That includes disciplinarians who look like the students suspended the most.
SARN held a Parents Assembly themed “Against All Odds: We Will Succeed” on Saturday, November 2, 2013 from 10:00am-2:00pm at the Mildred L. Terry Public Library. Dr. Kevin Rome, President of Lincoln University in Jefferson City Missouri was the special guest speaker. Mayor Teresa Tomlinson also made a presentation.
Parents spoke out on challenges they face and the tools they need to support high academic achievement and positive behavior for their children in school.
We watched and waited for the legal system to work in the case of George Zimmerman using deadly force on Trayvon Martin. There is no dispute that George Zimmerman stalked Trayvon Martin because Trayvon fit his stereotypical profile of a young, black male. Zimmerman used a stereotype to “take charge” even after being told by police not to pursue Trayvon.
The right to self-defense first belonged to Trayvon against the aggressive actions of Zimmerman. Why did Zimmerman feel bold enough to approach a person he didn’t know? What made Zimmerman feel duty-bound to act in a situation that could result in an altercation? Did he size up Trayvon as a young man he could “take” in a fight?
It seemed obvious to me that shooting an unarmed juvenile in the heart at close range goes well beyond self-defense. With the whole world watching and knowing what Zimmerman did, the obvious is not the reality we woke up to on Sunday morning.
Even in the “Wild West” of the 19th century, shooting an unarmed man was murder. If you’ve ever watched Matt Dillon, Wyatt Earp and movies about the Western frontier, using a gun to kill an unarmed man even in a bar brawl was murder.
Race is a factor in the legal system that’s become our reality in the 21st century. Is that not obvious?
Despite the fact Trayvon Martin is dead, and George Zimmerman stalked Martin, Martin is the one judged to be responsible for his own death. And Zimmerman, based on his observed reaction when the verdict was read, expected it.
Sadly, so did I.
What crystalized my thoughts, apart from 71 years of observing, and experiencing at second hand, U.S. racial relations from the side of the minorities, was a comment (which I can’t quote exactly) by Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and director of the Institute for African American Studies at University of Connecticut, on MSNBC just prior to the verdict. He said black people learn to expect the worst outcome from the legal system. And as civil rights attorney Maya Wiley said, “[Our] justice system is not a just system.” The system is stacked in favor of whites, or more properly, non-blacks.
All this boils down to the fact the person on trial really was Trayvon Martin. And he was judged guilty posthumously and in absentia, not represented by counsel. The prosecution let the defense get away with it by limiting the range of discussion to the scuffle and the shot, not including Zimmerman’s precipitating actions. And no consideration of whether Martin had the right to stand his ground. Was that because he didn’t have a gun to stand his ground with?
We need to move back from every-person-a-vigilante. Let’s stop enabling everyone’s living in a castle wherever they go, and return our gun laws to some form of sanity
Treasurer, Southern Anti-Racism Network (SARN)
I am willing to bet you have used the words
without even thinking where they come from,
without even thinking there is a question
about where they come from
that you should be thinking about:
“I’m not just whistling Dixie.”
And if you’re not just whistling Dixie
what, precisely, have you been doing?
Yes, that is how deep the racist culture goes:
Even you do not stop to think
what this expression means
before you use it.
How about: “Keep your cotton-pickin’ hands off my . . . “
Tell me: Just what, precisely, is wrong
with “cotton-pickin’ hands”?
As for me, therefore,
I will keep searching for those
who are not just whistling
“John Brown’s Body.”
SARN had a great event on Friday, April 26, 2013 at Liberty Theatre from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m., which raised funds to support the 5-year strategic plan for “Building a Village” in Columbus, Georgia. Everyone enjoyed cultural presentations of music and poetry and as well as the auction items.
The Building a Village project aims to support high academic achievement for all students in Muscogee County schools and to support positive behavior to minimize out-of-school suspensions.
SARN, along with Health Care for All – NC, NCCU Department of Public Health and Occupy Health and Wellness NC held a forum on racial disparities in health care on Thursday, January 31st at 6pm at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, NC. The event featured Jonathan Kotch, MD, MPH, FAAP, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and Gayle Harris, MPH, RN, Director, Durham County Health Department. Community responses were given by Mary White of Occupy Health and Wellness NC and Bill Jenkins, MPH, PhD of Community Health Analytics. The forum was moderated by David Jolly, DrPH, MPH, Associate Professor and Chair of NCCU Department of Public Health Education.
This event was sponsored by Health Care for All – NC, NCCU Department of Public Health, Occupy Health and Wellness NC, and Southern Anti-Racism Network.
Almost three hundred community leaders gathered in Lowndes County, Alabama on September 22, 2012, and we are regenerating the Southern Freedom Movement.
Large delegations of young people from every state in the South, migrants living in Alabama and beyond, Black organizers and leaders from 10 states, and LGBTQ organizers from five states came together to declare:
We All Count – We Will Not be Erased.
The Southern Movement Assembly produced a shared, regional plan of action – The People’s First 100 Days. Leading up to November 6, over 25 Action Sites throughout the region will continue to register voters, engage communities, and defend the right to vote. While false policy solutions are debated in DC, we will kick off our 100 Days with a call to action on November 7 – N7 – where we will take the streets and commit to real solutions for our communities – by the people and for the people.
Why did we camp?
In 1965, Tent City in Lowndes County marked the height of the voting rights movement. Black residents built it after being forced out of their homes for registering to vote. SNCC elders informed the crowd on Friday night that people fought back, launched a successful independent political party, and ran candidates for local positions. Tent City was not a tactical retreat; it represented resilience, community governance, resistance, and offensive strikes. At a time when the right wing hate machine divides our communities, we camped in solidarity with our history. We experienced the vitality of meeting in our own space, resourcing our own travel, and gathering on historic grounds to regenerate the power of Southern Freedom Movement.
While the two parties market their divisive messages to narrow constituencies in 7 to 8 so-called battleground states, 25 grassroots Southern delegations from Louisiana to Appalachia declared that our voices matter, despite voting restrictions like Voter ID laws and redistricting. We stood together under the banner of Fannie Lou Hamer’s call, “Nobody’s Free till Everyone’s Free.”
Though the South has always played a major role in fighting for freedom, democracy, and voters rights, the region is often left for “red” by most of the U.S. during election years. If even a fraction of the 30 million voters who are being discouraged or prevented from voting were able to vote this year, the misleading blue-red electoral map would look very different
The Southern Movement Assembly represented a turning point. Despite our exclusion from the national debate, over 40 organizations representing 25,000 people most affected by poverty, racism, the lack of healthcare, crumbling education systems, and rising violence came together and found unity in our multiple struggles.
It was never just about a vote, and the Southern movement will amplify our vision for a just world in the People’s First 100 Days.
Join the Southern Freedom Movement, see photos from the Assembly, and learn more at www.southtosouth.org
Make your own sticker for the We All Count Campaign at weallcount.tumblr.com – more added every day!
Share the movement on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – Make it your profile pic! #weallcount #peoples100days
Video, audio, and more pictures from the Assembly on the way!