“Where did you get your button? I love it!”
The six members of the San Luis Obispo County chapter of the NAACP repeatedly heard this question and comment at the August 2017 national training in San Jose on the intersection of Civil Rights and education issues. Those that attended were Steve McDermott, Barbara Levenson, Cheryl and Stephen Vines, Mark Buchman, and Rachel Duchak. We proudly sported our “Embrace Diversity” pins identifying us with our San Luis Obispo County branch chapter of the NAACP as we listened, learned, and shared with colleagues from across the state as well as from the national NAACP office. All of us took away valuable insights from this training event.
From the encouragement for “less Hallelujah and more ‘do’-alujah” by Alice A. Huffman, NAACP National Board Member and President California/Hawaii, to San Jose State University Associate Professor of education Roxana Marachi and her onslaught of unsettling statistics about inequalities in our education system, all the speakers at this training helped connect the education and civil rights dots. The passion of the presenters for protecting our most vulnerable citizens from a compromised public education system helped inspire and motivate meeting participants to leave this training with greater focus and increased determination to protect and enhance our schools. We heard about educating the public on the importance of voting including increasing voter registration, fighting vote suppression, and deploying the Voter Access Network for forthcoming elections, at the local level where our votes count the most. These are not the times for languid philosophical discussions about abstract issues: we must make clear plans on many fronts to battle the inequalities that are increasingly impacting our schools and communities. It’s time to be proactive to help protect the public education system from the forces of greed, indifference, and racial hostility.
We discussed action items to help promote a more fair education system in an era of increased pressures for funding and focus. Some things we can all do:
- Attend local school board meetings to monitor decisions made by school board members that run counter to a fair use of education resources; promote NAACP issues at meetings.
- Document horror stories in how our local education system fails students, families, and the community; review data in your school system on suspension patterns linked to bias; get on the Expulsion Committee for your school and monitor for antisocial patterns.
- Rate your elected representatives in how they address issues related to education as well as overall community health that impacts the ability of kids to learn; share this report card on their performance with the community and connect back to the importance of voting.
- Follow the money and pay attention to where school funding gets directed and spent; review the data and challenge unfair practices that compound inequality in the school system.
- Institute a mentoring program for students of color that promotes cultural respect and self-esteem; get involved in a community-supported tutoring program for youth that helps
students get on track and see that adults in their community care
about their success.
Stephen Vines, President of the NAACP San Luis Obispo County Branch was one of the organizers and did an excellent job at moderating the event. One tenet our branch champions is the Development of Relationships to promote a more fair and functional community. The representatives of our chapter worked on making connections, having conversations, and strategizing to further our collective goal of improving, and protecting the rights of all citizens of every color, especially our country’s youth through the formal education system. We began the training as colleagues but ended as brothers and sisters in the fight against internalized oppression and institutional discrimination. We extend special thanks to Victor Goode, NAACP.