Community Rights Campaign
Dignity in Schools: National Week of Action
So why is it important to know your rights?
We are at Central High School, an LAUSD continuation school in the Mar Vista Gardens, fifteen students staring contemplatively at their notebooks. It was not for a loss of words, rather, a moment in which a flood of memories came rushing back. For all of these students, police interaction has begrudgingly invaded the narrative of their lives for as long as they can remember. It's Day 1 of the Dignity in Schools Week of Action at Central High School and our focus was to prepare the students to know how to deal with police, and eventually this training could expand and reach the entire community.
As former student and graduate of Central High School Elmo Gomez said, "We are constantly- all the time- being harassed by the police in the projects. Knowing your rights is more than just about defending yourself. It is literally about our freedom. We have to learn how to fight back." The training lasted for three days, each student taking vigorous notes, asking great questions, and engaging in thoughtful conversations. It was inspiring to see the students' confidence level shift, knowing they now walked out with more tools to defend themselves with.
Students and teachers speak out against over crowding
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) hosted an early morning press conference to expose the impacts of overcrowding in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). They were joined by Community Rights Campaign members and Manual Arts students who provided their poignant testimonies about having 40 students in a 30 person classroom, teachers being fired, and not having a full time staffer in the library, limiting students access to the library overall.
Student Andrea Leyva, who is a currently a senior at Manual Arts spoke passionately about the growing strain on students. " Now instead of focusing on college applications and maintaining good grades, I find myself worrying about the lack of resources I have in order to do that. I was issued a 10th grade book, due to the deficiency, when I'm taking a 12th grade AP Literature course"
Students and teachers joined together to demand LAUSD to take action now and follow AB 114 (mandates schools to hire staff at or above the rate of the previous year) and invest in students by hiring teachers and critical support staff with LASUD's $55million dollar surplus from last year.
Cleveland High School used art as their choice of weaponry in tackling the school to prison pipeline.
After a week of classroom presentations and organizing drives, the students coordinated an event during lunch called "Art is Resistance". The idea was for students to share their stories through their chosen art forms, around the pre-prisoning conditions they have been experiencing at Cleveland High school. Nahuitochtli Rios, a 17 year old senior, described the event as, "A beautiful compilation of art, creating a space for students to vent their frustrations."
Poets performed their pieces around the school push out, visual artists created work around the criminalization of student discipline, and dancers mobilized folks through their powerful movement. A variety of clubs came out in support of the event, such as Women in Today's Society, Metapoets, Urban Arts Club, and Make Trade Fair. Cleveland's Taking Action alumni also came out in solidarity with the current students, recognizing the importance of continuing the fight against the high school to prison pipeline. After reading his poem, Michael Ricasio, a 17 year old junior stated, "The event was very successful. It helped spread the clear message to everyone that change needs to start happening not only for the betterment of our schools and communities, but also ourselves."
Learning about the legacy of resistance
On Friday, October 7th, Community Rights and Roosevelt Taking Action hosted a Movie Screening of "Precious Knowledge" at a local Boyle Heights Café. We mobilized at least 45 students, parents and community members to watch the film and take part in an engaging conversation and discussion about the connections we saw occurring in Tucson, Arizona and the once we face daily here in Los Angeles. Being witnessing the fight and importance of education in the film, gave fuel to those in the room to fight and protect our rights as students. The room was filled with a sense of solidarity and excitement to continue the legacy of resistance of our ancestors and our comrades from across the city and nation.
About Carla Gonzalez
- Jan 22 2013