Community Rights Campaign
Spring Break Take Action
From April 6th-10th, the Labor Community Strategy Center held its third annual Spring Break Take Action volunteer internship where students spent their spring break vacation learning about the history of the expansion of the prison system over the last thirty years, most specifically in California, and the impacts that the largest prison system in the world has had on our communities. Along with understanding the conditions that have allowed for a 700% increase in the California prison population in less than 25 years, the students also studied successful models of intervention and prevention that reduce crime and the prison population without using incarceration and community suppression as the first and only solution.
Spring Break Take Action 2009 increased this capacity to 25 students this year from five different schools: Westchester, Cleveland, North Hollywood, Crenshaw and University High Schools. This Spring Break Take Action was also a unique year because students organized on the buses of South Los Angeles, Korea Town and Vermont for a community wide meeting, on April 23rd, to bring together students, teachers, parents and concerned community members to discuss a plan of action to change current truancy policies and other disciplinary practices that use tickets as a form of punishment.
The students found organizing to be challenging, intimidating, exciting but most important necessary to build real campaigns that stimulate transformative change in the system but also within our own people:
“I was expecting just to be taught several issues pertaining to Black and Brown communities but I was also given tools, strategy and confidence in fighting the oppression in our communities.” (Gabriela Vidal, Cleveland High School student, 12th grade)
“I feel like my confidence has gone up and I am now able to talk to someone about things that matter to me and how as a whole we are able to make a difference.” (Laura Guiterrez, Westchester High School, 11th)
Students left Spring Break Take Action feeling stronger and more confident in talking about the issues that they care the most about and felt energized to return to their campuses to organize their peers into Taking Action and the Community Rights Campaign!
As a young black womyn, I think back to my experiences attending public school where I was often the only person of color in the honors or advanced classes. I think about what it would have meant to have a space with other working class and students of color to discuss our concerns about the future of our people, our histories from a womyn’s and oppressed nationality perspective, build camaraderie and support with my fellow peers and most important gains the skills and knowledge to shift our conditions and history. Spring Break Take Action was designed with that intention.
But instead, like many womyn of color, I went through high school and much of college feeling extremely isolated and marginalized for my ideas and my difference in worldview. As a result, I developed very low self-esteem and began to internalize the hatred that I was taught and blame myself for the social problems in my life (most specially my family’s long history drug and alcohol addiction and poverty). Spring Break Take Action and other youth organizing programs want our students to have an emotionally safe space to express themselves and share their experiences of pain due to various forms of oppression. But most importantly, we want our students to leave with the ability take their individual experiences of trauma and raise them to a level of theory—understanding that one’s experience with drug addiction, depression, or poverty, for example, are not isolated experiences that just pertain to that individual but are connected to larger systematic issues of inequality and oppression.
About Kendra Williby
- Jan 22 2013