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Updated: 5 hours 13 min ago

Free DC Preview Screening of Black Cop!

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 08:59

As I write this, there are only 34 seats left available. Don’t register if you can’t make it, but if you can REGISTER NOW!

 

 

 

 


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Anacostia River Festival

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 19:48

So, you want to enjoy the arrival of spring.  You’re thinking about checking out the cherry blossoms this weekend before all the petals blow away but aren’t thrilled about the crowds.  Consider the Anacostia River Festival at the 11th Street Bridge Park instead.

Take a canoe out to explore the River, ride in our bike parade, play lawn games with your family and experience Southeast D.C.’s local arts scene at this special FREE event. This year we are throwing a birthday bash for the 100th Anniversary of Anacostia Park.


The post Anacostia River Festival appeared first on Grassroots DC.

What’s the NEAR Act and Why Is It Necessary?

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 12:37

Tired of endless community meetings about violence in our community that do not end in solutions? Come learn about the NEAR Act, something that’s new to some folks but has already proven to be effective in other regions.  You can help make it a reality in the District of Columbia!

There are very real concerns about the violence occurring in our community. Thankfully, the District has a very promising opportunity to reduce this violence significantly with the Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act of 2016 (NEAR Act).

The success of this effort depends on the involvement of the community. Only WE can save us.

We will be joined by:

Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie who championed the NEAR Act as former Chair of the DC Council Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety

Del McFadden, Executive Director, Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement

Marcus Ellis, Chief of Staff, Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement

This will be an interactive space, we don’t plan to talk AT you all night. We learn best as a community when we learn together.

The NEAR Act is one of the most innovative violence reduction efforts in the country. It is an evidence-based approach that embraces a pioneering program in Richmond California and builds on violence interruption models from cities as diverse as Chicago, Baltimore and New York. It addresses issues of community violence without resulting in the criminalization and mass incarceration we have seen since the 1980s.

Take Back Our Streets:  NEAR Act 101
Thursday, April 5, 2019
6:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ
3845 S Capitol St SW
Washington, District of Columbia 20032


The post What’s the NEAR Act and Why Is It Necessary? appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Black Lives Matter DC Hosts Intergenerational Community Conversation on Gun Violence

Mon, 03/19/2018 - 10:43

In the weeks following the mass shooting in Parkland, FL, communities called on their legislators and school administrators to effectively address gun violence. In addition to conversations about gun violence, the Parkland shooting sparked dialogue about mental health, safety, police in schools, and the alarming move to arm school faculty. To the detriment of Black and Brown students, the national conversation fails to acknowledge that an increase in police and guns in our schools harshly impacts young people of color. Many youth also wondered where was this support when they were protesting for their lives against police gun violence and for solutions to intra-community violence. While thousands will flock to the District for the March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter DC wants to uplift the concerns of DC youth. So lets come together and discuss the real solutions for DC.


The post Black Lives Matter DC Hosts Intergenerational Community Conversation on Gun Violence appeared first on Grassroots DC.

How Progressive Is the DC City Council?

Fri, 03/16/2018 - 15:35

We often think of the District of Columbia as a liberal enclave but have the liberal positions of the city’s council members led to the justice and equality sought by the residents they represent?  This Saturday’s candidate forum and a political scorecard provided by Jews United for Justice might shed some light on those council members whose positions lean left of center.

It’s An Election Year! Candidate Forum On Education 3/17 & Political Scorecard

Cross-Posted from Education DC
written by Valerie Jablow

Tomorrow, Saturday March 17, the Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) is holding a candidate forum starting at 10:30 am in room 150 at McKinley Tech high school (151 T St. NE). Sign up is here, with an information sheet here. Candidates are expected to speak about issues surrounding public education in DC.

Council candidates from wards 1, 5, and 6 are slated to speak between 10:30 and 11:30 am. Then, at 11:30-12:30 pm, candidates for the two at large council seats will speak.

From 12:30-1:30 pm, candidates for the council chair will speak, followed at 1:30-2:30 pm by candidates for mayor.

[Confidential to DC voters: Our mayor has challengers! Now, maybe we will see whether politically “credible” = something other than a few million $$ in the bank.]

And just in time for primaries, the Jews United for Justice Campaign Fund has created a handy political scorecard for the DC city council, wherein the votes of council members on a variety of social justice issues (affordable housing, economic justice, etc.) are tallied.


The post How Progressive Is the DC City Council? appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Citizen Reader: Information about DC’s Schools, March 2018

Mon, 03/12/2018 - 13:31
For those following the ins and outs of District of Columbia Public Schools, here in it’s entirety is the March 2018 edition of the Citizen Reader. I  PUBLIC EDUCATION

The Association of School Superintendents (www.aasa.org), joined by more than twenty other national education organizations, is hosting the National Public Schools Week March 12 through 16, 2018. The week’s events are being co-chaired by six members of Congress who will give speeches in the Senate and House of Representatives and hold a press conference.

A statement on the above website explains the purpose of Public Schools Week saying “With the mounting changes in the education landscape, this campaign creates a platform for Americans to join together and express their strong feelings toward public education and why its success is a key determinant when it comes to our country’s future.”

The senators and representatives are Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Rep. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator John Testor (D-MT).

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS WEEK March 12 – 16, 2018

● Morning of TUESDAY (3/13): Speeches on the floor of the Senate celebrating the great things happening in public education.
● Evening of TUESDAY (3/13): 1-minute speeches during which House Members share a story about the great things happening in a public school or with public schools students in his/her Congressional District.
● Afternoon of WEDNESDAY (3/14) at 2 pm in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 430: Press Conference for Public Schools Week. House and Senate Co-Chairs of Public Schools Week will share their support for public schools and specific legislation that supports public schools.
● Morning of THURSDAY (3/15): Speeches on the floor of the Senate and House if applicable celebrating the great things happening in public education.
● THURSDAY from 1-3 pm (3/15): Tweet storm using #PublicSchoolsWeek! We will be lifting up the floor speeches via social media.
● FRIDAY from 10-11 am (3/16) at the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2044: Panel Discussion “Understanding the funding streams that impact public school students” featuring: Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus; Stan Collender, Executive Vice President at Qorvis MSLGroup; and Sharron Parrot, Senior Fellow and Senior Counselor, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Moderated by Lauren Camera, National Education Reporter U.S. News and World Report.

For more information, including social media resources, visit http://www.aasa.org and/or http://lovepubliceducation.org.

More Important Dates

Monday, MARCH 19, 10 am in Room 412, at Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The Committee on Education will hold a Public Oversight Roundtable on The Future of School Reform in the District of Columbia. The purpose, according to the announcement on the Council’s website, “is to focus specifically on improvements to the D.C. Public Education Reform Amendment Act and other cross-sector issues.”

In addition, “it will be the first in a series of roundtables that will be scheduled during both daytime and evening hours to get the full engagement of the public.”

To testify, sign up online at http://bit.do/educationhearings or call 202-724-8061 by 5 pm Friday March 15. Written statements for those who can’t testify in person can be submitted by email to astrange@dccouncil.us or postal mailed to Committee on Education, Council of the District of Columbia, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW 20004. Closing date for written statements to be determined.

On March 24, the kids and families of March For Our Lives will take to the streets of Washington DC to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. March with us in Washington DC or march in your own community. On March 24, the collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard.

See https://marchforourlives.com/ for more information and to sign Petition.

 

 in conjunction with Ward 6 DC Council Member Charles Allen
Ward 6 Representative Joe Weedon, State Board of Education, and
Capitol Hill Public Schools Parent Organization
Monday, April 9, 2018
6:30 to 8:30 pm at the North East Neighborhood Library, 330 7th Street NE
The information in this workshop will be provided in three ways.
1–Know Your Rights Discussion–lead by the Office of Student Advocate Team. 2–Individualized Mini-Sessions–to help answer your specific questions about the needs of your student(s).
3–Special Education Resources–list of special education resources including 504 plans v. IEPs (Individualized Education Plans), how to make a request for evaluation, annual reviews, and connections for organizational support.
RSVP at http://bit.ly/2g4BeJU For more information, email student.advocate@dc.gov or call 202-741-4692.

 

DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing Government Witness, March 1, 2018

Interim chancellor Amanda Alexander gave the government witness testimony on the performance of DCPS during Fiscal Years ’17 and ’18 to date. In her prepared statement she spoke of her experience in DCPS beginning as a kindergarten teacher in 1998 and going on to serve as principal of Bunker Hill and Ross Elementary Schools. She also led the redesign of DCPS’s principal supervision structure and served as an instructional superintendent of a group of elementary schools. From there she became deputy Chief of Schools, managing literacy initiatives and a district-wide task force to identify and implement strategies to improve student performance. Most recently, she served as chief of the Office of Elementary Schools leading the system’s elementary support and early childhood programs.

She gave three examples of changes in DCPS over the past decade—the overhaul of all aspects of the teaching corps, implementation of Common-Core aligned curriculum to determine if students were mastering basic skills, and increasing enrollment and opening of new schools.

While acknowledging the many problems that still exist, she said “DCPS is definitely not the

same district it used to be.”
In response to a question from committee member Robert White as to how, in light of

recently revealed problems, people can be confident that DCPS is on the right track, Ms. Alexander reported some information from a recent meeting between her team and the Instructional Superintendents.

The purpose of the meeting was to review the middle of the year (moy) literacy data. She explained that the data is viewed in quintiles, or five segments, that range from Well Below Average to Below Average to Average to Above Average to Well Above Average. They found that 23 schools had hit the Above Average and Well Above Average mark.

The schools are: Brightwood EC, Burroughs ES, C.W. Harris ES, Dorothy Height ES, Drew ES, Houston ES, Ketchum ES, Lafayette ES, Lasalle Backus EC, Malcom X ES, Marie Reed ES, Patterson ES, Payne ES, Ross ES, Seaton ES, Simon ES, Smothers ES, Thomson ES, Trusdell EC, Tyler ES, Walker-Jones EC, West EC and Whittier EC.

She concluded her response by saying that those increases in students’ literacy skills are the basis for her confidence that DCPS “is on the right track.”

Her full testimony can be read at www.dcps.dc.gov under the Testimonies tab at the bottom of the home page. In addition to the Oversight Hearing, the Committee on Education also sends questions to DCPS each year which it then responds to in writing and sends them back to the Committee where they are posted on the Council’s website www.dccouncil.us near the top of the home page. They provide many pages of detail on the inner workings of DCPS.

 

Recent education blog must reads

● At educationdc.net, https://educationdc.net/2018/02/28/gun-violence-our-dc-schools/ by blog master and DCPS parent Valerie Jablow and https://educationdc.net/2018/03/02/this-is- not-a-boat-accident/, a guest post by school advocate Peter McPherson comparing the mayor in the town depicted in the 1975 film Jaws with DC mayors’ needs for a certain narrative on school reform.

● From Guy Brandenburg at https://gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com/. Retired DCPS math teacher in a March 10 post entitled Ten Years of Educational Reform in DC—Results: Total MathCounts Collapse for the Public AND Charter Schools recounts his recent experience as a judge for the math competition for 7th and 8th graders which has dwindled to two students from past times when teams of four were common and won over private schools such as National Cathedral and Sidwell Friends. In addition he provides links to more than a half dozen articles detailing DCPS’s problems. One of them was written by Natalie Hopkinson, DC resident and writer, in the Atlantic magazine of September 15, 2010.

Also not to be missed

The Public’s testimony on the performance of DCPS at the Oversight Hearing on February 21, 2018 can accessed by video on the Council’s home page under Watch Hearings Live www.dccouncil.us. Some of the written public testimonies can be read at https://chpspo.org/. Scroll down past the Meeting Notes for February 20, 2018 to find them.

 

Speaking freely… A letter to the editor

Thank you for including the Network for Public Education’s “A Call to Action on April 20, 2018 for school safety against gun violence.” It is in the form of a letter from Diane Ravitch, a former education official in the federal government and the president of the Network.

I agree with the Network that gun violence in this country must be stopped, and I would urge that we, as citizens of the Nation’s capital city, show up on April 20 as Ms. Ravitch recommends.

I recommend, in particular, that those of us pushing for more effective gun regulations

press home the points to Congress and the White House that the crux of our gun problem is the easy availability of guns.

Within the Supreme Court’s guidance regarding the Second Amendment in the Heller v. District of Columbia case, written by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2008, it is legal and possible for the national government to take the following affirmative actions:

(1) Authorize and support research by the Centers for Disease Control into the incidence of death and injury attributable to the number of guns stored in residences, the number sold in a year in particular jurisdictions, or other measures which can inform us of the effects that guns have on our society;

(2) Establish, maintain, and at yearly intervals make available a national database, administered by the Department of Homeland Security with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, of registered gun sales and ownership;

(3) Require background checks for all gun purchasers, irrespective of whether guns are sold by individuals, by stores, at gun shows, or by any other means.

Similarly, I recommend that we focus on the following prohibitions:

(a) Carrying or transport of guns in or near schools, day-care centers, medical facilities, college campus grounds, concert venues, public parks, government properties, shopping malls and areas, and houses of worship;

(b) Interstate transport of guns or other weapons, except by military forces or state or local police forces which are in the process of collaborating in pursuit of one or more suspects across jurisdictional lines;

(c) Sale, possession, or use of AR-15 or other assault weapons, bump stocks, large

magazines (more than 5 bullets capacity).

I believe these affirmative steps and prohibitions would bring down the incidence of gun- related deaths and injuries in this country. They ought to be regarded as a manifesto for our April 20 activities, moving the country in the direction of improved public safety. If enacted, these steps and prohibitions would constitute an effective resumption of our path toward “a more perfect Union” as contemplated in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.

C. Ellis, DC father and grandfather

Citizen Reader is a project of Livingview Communications—a citizens’ information service that is dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of democracy and the honor of all who have fought and died to equally participate in and protect it.

Contact ess.livingston@gmail.com with corrections, letters to the editor or request for email subscription. Thanks!

The post Citizen Reader: Information about DC’s Schools, March 2018 appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Celebrating Black History Month in the District of Columbia

Tue, 02/20/2018 - 12:56

Cross-posted from The Citizen Reader

“Commemorating the History of the United States of America”

Photo of the Carter G. Woodson House National Historic Site at 1538 9th St. NW. The red brick house on the left is the Woodson Home, the yellow buildings on the right were incorporated into the site when the National Park Service, with the help of Delegate Norton and many others, undertook the preservation of this location of American history. Guided tours are offered on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 9, 10 and 11 am and 1, 2, 3, and 4 pm.  

Visit www.nps.gov/cawo or call 202-426-5961 for more information.

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.”

James Baldwin, Black English: A Dishonest Argument”

From Council member McDuffie’s Ward 5 Report of February 8, 2018:

“We have already honored Robert C. Weaver, who was born and raised in Brookland and would later become the first African American to serve in a cabinet-level position in United States history. We talked about Lucy Diggs Slowe, a pioneer in education and women’s rights who was the first dean of women at Howard University and lived on the 1200 block of Kearny Street NE. We learned about Woodridge resident William T. Fauntroy, a Tuskegee Airman who Councilmember McDuffie honored with a Ceremonial Resolution from the D.C. Council last year. And we highlighted the fact that blues and rock ‘n roll icon Bo Diddley lived and recorded in a home on Rhode Island Avenue NE.”

More commemorations around the city “Malcom, Martin, Medgar” February 22nd at 10 am and 1 pm
THEARC Theater, 1901 Mississippi Avenue, SE
Written and Produced by A. Peter Bailey
Directed and Produced by Carol Mumin of OFTON
& starring members of the Shabazz Family Ticket Price: $15.00. Contact OFTON at 202-387-5100 Discussion: History of Place: Barry Farm/Hillsdale, a Post-Bellum African American Community
Friday, February 23, 2018
11 am to 12 pm
Sumner Museum and Archives
1201 17th St. NW at M St
To register, call 202-633-4844

“Approximately 40,000 African American refugees came into Washington during the Civil War. They were destitute when they arrived, and the majority of them had to settle first on the streets and later on makeshift housing built from discarded materials. Anacostia Community Museum curator, Alcione Amos examines the establishment of the historic southeast community of Barry Farms/Hillsdale by the Freedman’s Bureau in 1867 to help with this problem.”

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. “
                               MLK, Jr.

The post Celebrating Black History Month in the District of Columbia appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Congress Heights Residents Bring Fight Against Slumlord to Cleveland Park

Thu, 02/15/2018 - 09:59

Developer Geoff Griffis wants to turn a rent-controlled Congress Heights apartment complex that he bought from Sanford Capitol into high-end, luxury condominiums.  Before he can do it, he has to force all the current residents out.  They will not leave without a fight.  Residents like Robert T. Greene, who participated in a march to the home of Geoff Griffis on Saturday February 10, is the featured in the video below.

Robert and the other tenants have formed the Alabama Avenue/13th Street Tenant Coalition.  The organization intends to buy the property themselves under the District’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).   With the help of nonprofit housing developer National Housing Trust, they would turn the complex into 200 affordable apartments.  But Geoff Griffis is doing his best to make sure they can’t buy the property.

ONE DC explains the case and asks that you join them and other anti-displacement activists like Justice First and KeepDC4Me.  Show up and …

Help the Alabama Ave./13th Street Tenants Association
Secure the Right to Buy Their Building Friday, February 16, 2018
DC Superior Court
500 Indiana Avenue NW
Room 518
Noon – 3:00 PM

The post Congress Heights Residents Bring Fight Against Slumlord to Cleveland Park appeared first on Grassroots DC.

#MeToo in D.C.’s Ward 8

Mon, 02/05/2018 - 08:25

Grassroots DC, in collaboration with Reclaiming Our Bodies DC and Collective Action for Safe Spaces, will be screening the documentary Triggered:  Street Harassment and Rape Culture in D.C.’s Ward 8, because the #MeToo movement is different East of the Anacostia River.

trailer

Since revelations about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein came to light, there has been a​ ​litany​ ​of​ ​men​ ​​accused​ of, or admitting outright to ​being sexual predators.  An alien studying the planet by monitoring the mainstream media might ​believe​ ​that​ ​only​ ​white​ ​women​ ​are​ ​victims​ ​of sexual​ ​harassment​ ​and​ ​assault.​  In truth, Black women and other women of color are valued less in our society and so their stories rarely make it to the airwaves.  But something began in the summer of 2017 that challenges these assumptions about Black women.

On July 23, 2017, community activist Schyla Pondexter-Moore and her two teen-aged daughters attempted to get a meal from a food table in the Bellevue neighborhood of Ward 8.  A local nonprofit, founded by Black men native to the District, set up the table once a month in the parking lot of the neighborhood shopping center.  Instead of getting a meal, Schyla’s 16-year-old daughter was harassed, followed and threatened physically by a group of men.   Rather than stopping the harassment, the men from the nonprofit running the community food table joined in.

The incident led to a Speak-Out Against Street Harassment organized by a group of Black women who came together in the same parking lot where the incident occurred, to speak out against street harassment and rape culture.  Grassroots Media DC documented the event on video, capturing the perspectives of people who were there—those who agreed, those who vehemently disagreed and those somewhere in the middle.  The result is the 30-minute documentary Triggered:  Street Harassment and Rape Culture in D.C.’s Ward 8.  The event itself was both powerful and telling.  Should Black women and girls have agency over their bodies and lives?  ​For many, the answer is not so obvious.

The organizers hoped that women from the neighborhood, being all too familiar with street harassment, would be able to speak about their experiences, validate each other and come together to demand change.  As is clear in the video, it starts out that way but ultimately, the forces in play that keep rape culture firmly entrenched in low-income, African-American communities, overwhelm everyone’s best efforts.

The​ ​premiere​ ​screening​ ​of​ ​Triggered​ ​took​ ​place​ ​November​ ​9th​ ​at​ ​the Greenleaf public housing complex in Southwest​ ​Washington,​ ​D.C.​ ​ The​ ​film’s​ ​evocative​ ​subject ​allowed​ ​many​ ​women​ ​in​ ​attendance to​ ​share​ ​their​ ​personal​ ​stories​ ​of​ sexual harassment, abuse and assault.  ​The​ ​post​ ​screening discussion​ ​lasted​ ​for​ ​almost​ ​two​ ​hours.

The ​dialogue​ ​​needs​ ​to​ ​continue.​  ​Clearly, the Speak-Out touched on issues that reach beyond that one incident.  While most of the media focuses on sexual harassment among the political elites and Hollywood insiders, the rest of us are dealing with it in the streets.  More safe​ ​spaces​ ​must be made ​available​ ​for​ ​women​ ​and​ ​girls​ to discuss not only victimization but also survival. Grassroots DC invites you to join the discussion.  We intend to hold more screenings and discussions starting in 2018.  Together we will uncover the truths behind street harassment and the wider problem of rape culture.

Our next screening will be at Covenant Baptist Church, just two blocks from the location of the original incident of harassment and the speak-out.  Join us.

Triggered:  Street Harassment and Rape Culture in D.C.’s Ward 8
Screening and Panel Discussion
Thursday, February 8, 2017
6:00 – 8:30 Pm
Covenant Baptist Church
3845 South Capitol Street SW
Washington, DC 20032

Scheduled Panelists Include:

Schyla Pondexter-Moore: Affordable housing and anti-harassment activist with Reclaiming Our Bodies DC.

Aja Taylor: Affordable housing advocate at Bread for the City and an anti-harassment activist with Reclaiming Our Bodies DC.

Tony Lewis, Jr.: DC native and author of the book Slugg: A Boys’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Steve Hicks: Co-director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces’ Rethinking Masculinity Program

Dr. Pamela Brewer: Clinical Social Worker and Therapist, and host of long-running podcast MyndTalk.

For more information or to request a screening for your organization contact liane@grassrootsdc.org.

The post #MeToo in D.C.’s Ward 8 appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Community Control Over Police: A Proposition

Tue, 01/30/2018 - 13:53

Cross-posted from The Next System Project

Introduction

While it might be fair to say that the police enjoy support among the majority of the white population, the police enjoy no such support among the majority of Black people, who endure more frequent and harsher interactions with cops than whites.

To be sure, white support for the police decreases proportionately with income. That is to say, poorer whites tend to support the police less because the police interact with them differently than with their wealthier white counterparts. By the same token, support for the police among Blacks tends to increase proportionately with increases in income, wealth and other privileges. Overall and within each economic stratum, however, white support for police is higher than Black support.

Similarly, largely as a consequence of physical or sexual assaults by men against them, many women find themselves in need of protection against assaults and most often turn to the police because there are few other legal or viable options. At the same time, low-income Black, Latina and Native American women can find themselves in need of protection from assault and, simultaneously, fear being dismissed, belittled or even assaulted by the very police they turn to for protection from assault. In instances of familial or intimate partner violence, women often fear that instead of acting as a third party mediator, police will brutalize the person that they want protection from and—simultaneously—want to protect.

This tension between needing an institution for protection and living in fear of that same institution is compounded among gay, lesbian, and transgender people, who experience scorn and sexual assault at the hands of police at even higher rates than cis-gendered women. While these tensions are disproportionately visited upon under- and working-class people, they exist across class lines based on identity or perceived identity.

One’s relationship with the police, then, is not merely a function of personal preference, but is deeply rooted in realities of class, race, sex and gender, or perceived gender, identity. One’s disposition towards the police, then, is not merely an individual choice, or a trend fueled by social media, but rather a consequence of lived class and group identity experiences. The pandemic of police brutality, therefore, cannot be addressed on the individual level, but only on the structural level.

For the majority of American history, the evolution of the structures and institutions of policing occurred not just outside of the participation of Black people, but in a manner and direction that is fundamentally antagonistic to the development of the Black community. The institution of policing in what would become the United States began as private patrols of white men tasked with capturing runaway slaves. Not incidentally, those patrols were often rewarded with the bodies of Black women. After the Civil War, slave patrols morphed into an organized government structure tasking white men with enforcing the Black Codes, a series of laws crafted to criminalize and control the population of former slaves, including any imagined infringement upon the sanctity of white women.

One’s disposition towards the police is not merely an individual choice, or a trend fueled by social media, but rather a consequence of lived class and group identity experiences.

The police are not simply here to stop crime and make our neighborhoods safe. The police as an institution with a defined role in society cannot be properly understood outside of the context of class, race, and gender.

Black Communities as a Domestic Colony and Police as an Occupying Force

In his groundbreaking 1967 “Where do we go from here?” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that beyond the laws and customs of segregation, “the problem that we face is that the ghetto is a domestic colony that’s constantly drained without being replenished.”

That same year, the seminal book Black Power: The Politics of Liberation, by Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) and V. Charles Hamilton forcefully argued that Blacks “stand as colonial subjects in relation to the white society. Thus institutional racism has another name: colonialism.”

While traditional colonies are lands geographically distant from the controlling metropole—think of African or ‘new world’ colonies and their European metropole—the primary aspects of colonialism are not distance, but exploitation and oppression.

Majority Black communities in counties or cities are forcefully segregated and provide advantages for those in power and those who identify with that power. These communities are sources for cheap labor in factories or government jobs. They serve as a dumping ground for cheap or unsafe products, such as the meat no longer good enough for nice neighborhoods, used clothing that can be resold instead of trashed, and housing that turns a profit without the need for repairs. They provide the functional equivalent of raw materials in the form of ‘customers’ in for-profit prisons or as bodies to justify government contracts in health, social services, or a number of other sectors. And the residents of Black communities provide the powers-that-be and middle class white communities with an eternally useful bogeyman for any range of social ills.

In form and in function, Black communities are a domestic colony inside of the United States. If Black communities are a domestic colony, then that colonial relationship of exploitation and oppression is maintained by an occupying force: the police.

The harsh reality is that the relationship between US police forces and residents of low-income Black communities more closely resembles that of the US army and citizens of Iraq or Afghanistan than of the police and residents of wealthy majority white gated communities. In both ghettos and invaded countries, residents fear—even hate—the occupiers, but have no say in how that force carries out its mission to ‘protect’ them. In both instances, the job of the occupying force is to defend business assets from poor people. Most telling, when cops or soldiers murder a colonial subject, the entire occupying force protects their own, the media demonizes the dead while humanizing the murderer, the colonial government protects their armed representative from any semblance of justice, and citizens of the metropole, who benefit from this colonial relationship, rally in support of their troops.

In form and in function, Black communities are a domestic colony inside of the United States.

In practice, the police serve as a hostile occupying force, enforcing the colonial status of Black communities in America. The undemocratic nature of policing undermines the ambitions of Black and other communities to exercise self-determination.

Because colonial occupation is inherently unjust, attempts to reform the occupation is inherently futile. This is why proposed “solutions” like community relations boards are fundamentally flawed.

Working at peak effectiveness, community relations boards help the occupiers better communicate the terms of occupation with the occupied. When granted teeth, civilian oversight boards help insure that the occupiers adhere to the rules of occupation established by the occupiers. Even if all police were properly trained to the highest standard imaginable, the result would be an occupation by a well-trained force.

End the Occupation and Shift Power

Virtually all theories of democracy and laws governing international human rights concur that functional democratic institutions must be firmly grounded in the informed consent of the governed. By definition, however, no people grant consent to colonization or occupation. In practice, Black people in America have never been afforded the opportunity to grant consent to an armed force empowered to stop, detain, arrest, and even take the life of members of our community.

This historic moment calls for something more significant than additional training or even civilian oversight boards.

 In the face of protests against police brutality and abuse, the real question, then, is not about community relations, civilian oversight, appropriate levels of training, or even well-intentioned slogans. The core issue is one of democratic power. For all of the complexities of this time in history—and there are many complexities—the underlying issue is one of power.The fundamental function of police in any society is to enforce the will and mores of those in power, whether that will is formally encoded in law or informally ingrained in social custom. Because they are the enforcement wing of the system, any campaign whose primary objective is to convince the police to disobey the will of those in power—to disobey their boss—and, instead, adhere to the wishes of those with no power, is not only illogical, it is doomed to fail.

The only way the police can represent and enforce the interests of the Black community—rather than the interests of outside colonial powers—is to shift power so that the Black communities have power over their own police departments. This historic moment calls for something more significant than additional training or even civilian oversight boards. We must fight for Community Control over Police.

Community Control over Police

Community Control over Police is both a principle of democratic self-determination and an objective of a social movement determined to end abusive practices that are inevitable in the context of colonial domination. However, while most support the concept of local democratic rule, that abstract idea must be converted into concrete proposals around which the Black community, and the broader social justice movement, can coalesce.

Ending the rampant abuses at the hands of police, and the criminalization of entire segments of the population to feed the prison industrial complex, is entirely dependent upon the creation of institutions and mechanism that enable low-income Black communities to control the priorities, policies, and practices of the armed forces patrolling their neighborhoods.

The drive towards Community Control over Police begins by organizing the target city (county or town) into clearly identified policing districts. These districts can be identical to existing commission districts, wards or other political boundaries, or can be drawn up entirely from scratch. The districts should be physically, economically and socially contiguous, enabling Black communities to have their own policing district or districts.

Once each district is delineated, the next phase is to launch a Community Control over Police ballot initiative, wherein each policing district faces a choice: keep their existing police department or start their own. While the rules for launching a ballot initiative differs from one locale to the next, the overall objective is the same in that each community or section of the city has the right to vote for the police department they want.

The process is identical to voting for commissioners, council members or alderpersons for single member districts. Voters in each district receive unique ballots that apply only to their district. Residents of District 1, for example, have no say in the determination of residents in District 5. Residents of the two districts can reach identical or opposing conclusions and one will have no impact on the other.

Do you like how your local police treat you and your neighbors? Vote to keep them. Do you think the police are unfair to you and your neighbors? Vote them out. Both voices can prevail without infringing upon the aspirations of the other.

For the first time, people will have a direct say in who has the right to carry a gun, detain, arrest, and use force in their community in the name of the state. For all of the controversy surrounding this proposal, there are few clearer examples of democracy in action. As such, this is a contest all sides of the debate should be eager to wage.

Do you believe Black communities support the police? Great! This is the chance to prove it and temper the voices of dissent. Do you believe Black communities want self-determination? Great! This is the chance to offer a direct vote on an alternative, a choice never offered by the two-party system. In the end, some communities will vote out the existing police department and vote to build a new one from scratch.

For those who scoff at the vision of multiple agencies, it is important to note that most county police departments already work with multiple city agencies, and that many large jurisdictions already contain a plurality of different police forces operating side-by-side.  For example, in addition to its own police department with jurisdiction throughout the county, Miami-Dade County, Florida has over 30 municipal police departments, at least two university departments, and a railroad police force. Beyond that, there are multiple police agencies with jurisdiction throughout the entire state of Florida, not to mention the federal departments, such as the FBI, with jurisdiction across the country. Far from an exception, the presence of multiple police departments is currently common practice throughout the country.

For the first time, people will have a direct say in who has the right to carry a gun, detain, arrest, and use force in their community in the name of the state.

Because democracy is a process and not a destination, the plebiscite on policing will reinvigorate political participation in many communities as both supporters and opponents of the local police mobilize their bases. Those organizations engaged in electoral politics and ‘get out the vote’ efforts will witness a record number of newly registered Black and Latina voters (“So let me get this straight, you are telling me I can vote out the police?”).

At the end of the vote, districts satisfied with their police will see no difference in their department. In districts that vote for a new department, the police will retreat to within its new boundaries to allow the new force to serve their new bosses.

To be clear, this vote is not to take control over an existing police department, but to establish a new one. No colony seeks control over the occupying army, they pursue an end to colonialism and realization of self-rule. In this instance, the vote is to establish a Civilian Police Control Board.

A Model: The Civilian Police Control Board

The primary institution for the exercise of Community Control over Police is the Civilian Police Control Board (CPCB).

To be clear, the power of this body is to exercise control and power over the police, not review or oversight. This is not a review board: at this stage in history, review boards represent a step backwards and one that further entrenches existing power relationships instead of upending them in favor of the oppressed. We are no longer satisfied with the ability to review abuses of our communities, we are in pursuit of the power to end those abuses.

The CPCB must be empowered to establish police prioritiesset department policies, and enforce practices of the new police force.

Even though they do not make the laws, every police department, and even each district inside of a department, establishes policing priorities. For example, police districts serving downtown areas often prioritize preventing human beings without homes from damaging alleys, sidewalks, and parks with their urine, even though they have nowhere else to respond to calls of nature, and aggressively seek to arrest those who transgress these priorities. The CPCB, by contrast, can prioritize the protection of  human beings without homes over the protection of  sections of cement from those humans.

We are no longer satisfied with the ability to review abuses of our communities, we are in pursuit of the power to end those abuses. 

Policies can include uniform specs, appropriate interactions with civilians, required levels of training around courtesy with people, and a use of force matrix. In order to enforce these policies, the CPCB must have the power to hire and fire individual police who are not serving the public interest.

With such a broad range of powers, the CPCB would likely consist of a bi-cameral board, with one half  dealing with establishing priorities and policies and another with enforcement of these policies in practice.

This is Community Control over Police.

The CPCB must be comprised entirely of civilian adult human beings—not corporations or human representatives of corporations—residing in the police district. To be explicit, residing means living in, not just owning property in. And this residency requirement should be evaluated without regard to citizenship status or criminal history.

While some envision an elected board, we propose something entirely different: a board selected entirely at random among residents of the policing district.

There are two main constraints to an elected board. First, elections in the US are thoroughly corrupted by influences of corporate finance on one side and two party electoral politics on the other. Even if multiple communities were to win control over their police, it is not difficult to imagine that after one or two election cycles, your local CPCB would be a corporate board brought to you by [ insert name of powerful corporation here ]. For this board to shift power, instead of becoming another institution to maintain power, it must break through the limitations of electoral corruption.

Second, even elections with minimal levels of corporate or party influence, still occur in a social context. In this social context, elected officials are disproportionately white, male and wealthy—the exact population with the highest level of support for the police. We must devise democratic systems that encourage active participation from those least likely to engage, not those most likely to benefit.

Sortition—government by random selection—is the best way to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to exercise power. The rich and poor, straight and gay, male and female, white and Black all have an equal shot at making decisions through random selection. If we believe that democracy is for everyone, then random selection of officials is the best way to ensure each person can exercise power.

Not incidentally, there are numerous studies on sortition, including a few theories that suggest the practice would instill better government in Washington, DC than the current practice of corporate elections.

However, for those with deep reservations about allowing randomly selected people to judge police or engage on this level of decision making, we are willing to meet you halfway. We are prepared to concede the point, and publicly support the position that ‘randomly selected’ people are not qualified to make these decisions and work to find a viable alternative that does not involve unqualified randomly selected individuals.

Right after we empty the prisons.

Guilt and innocence, imprisonment and freedom, even life and death are determined by unqualified randomly selected individuals that we call ‘jurors.’ Anyone who is not qualified to determine how their taxes are used to arm officers of the state or to decide if those officers have behaved inappropriately towards the people they serve, cannot possibly be qualified to determine if someone represented by an overworked public defender or prosecuted by an unscrupulous district attorney is guilty or innocent in a case with any level of complexity. Empty the prisons and we will work together on a better system for both.

Randomly selected board seats, refreshed on a regular basis, make subversion of the democratic process virtually impossible. Special interests would be forced to bribe entire communities in order to assure some level of voting pattern stability. If bribery is special treatment or rewards for the official in question, randomly selected board members would compel the corrupting force to provide special treatment for every adult in the given community, an act which more closely resembles a perk or amenity than bribery. Kind of like a neighborhood pool or rec center.

Equally as important, the job of ‘qualifying’ community members for board service will fall to social justice organizations. Building robust and wide reaching political education and leadership development programs will make community organizing relevant like never before as we attempt to reach the next board member before their appointment. The person with the deciding vote on the priorities of the police might be the undereducated high school dropout who hangs out near the corner store most of the day. In order to get justice, we would have to politically educate and organize our entire community.

Vision

This movement moment, in which people are rising up against police abuse, presents this generation with a unique historic opportunity to shift powers on numerous levels.

The fight for Community Control over Police has the potential to remove us from the indignity of having to manage the public relations aspects of colonial occupation. A Community Police Control Board holds the potential to not only shift power into the hands of the Black community, but to transform the very definition of power itself. The levers of power will no longer be protected behind velvet ropes, with guards ensuring the exclusive nature of the club by checking for education, diction, and money to make sure only the ‘right’ people get close. Every member of the community will have the power to decide how the armed force of the neighborhood is supposed to act.

Once we are able to secure Community Control over Police and ensure that entire communities are empowered to exercise such control, we will be free to re-imagine and re-envision the very nature of policing itself.

We suspect that this vision, and its implementation, might be so radically different and unrecognizable from what we today call ‘policing,’ that we just might be forced to rename the institution.

 Imagine, a low-income Black community with 100 full time, paid community workers with sophisticated communications equipment, access to government information, and even vehicles. Now imagine those community workers operating under the control of low-income Black women who form the majority of the control board.  By unleashing our power and creative energy, we can build a new vision of what police can do to truly serve and protect our communities.We suspect that this vision, and its implementation, might be so radically different and unrecognizable from what we today call ‘policing,’ that we just might be forced to rename the institution.

But to get there we must fight for power. We must fight for Community Control over Police.

Max Rameau is a Haitian born Pan-African theorist, campaign strategist, organizer, and author. more

The post Community Control Over Police: A Proposition appeared first on Grassroots DC.

D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools

Mon, 01/22/2018 - 16:39

Cross-Posted from DC Area Educators for Social Justice

We invite you to endorse and participate in the D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools from February 5-9 to bring social justice issues into the classroom and empower students of color across the D.C. area. Sign up, download resources, and more: http://www.teachingforchange.org/black-lives-matter-week-action

Teaching for Change, Center for Inspired Teaching, Washington Teachers’ Union, D.C. area educators, as well as community members are collaborating on D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools. This week of action builds on the momentum of the The National Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Our Schools campaign taking place in cities across the U.S. to promote a set of local and national demands focused on improving the school experience for students of color.

In these times of emboldened racism and xenophobia, we must listen to and elevate the voices, experiences, and history of our fellow citizens and communities under attack. The thirteen guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement will be highlighted during this week of action as a means of challenging the insidious legacy of institutionalized racism and oppression that has plagued the United States since its founding. The Black Lives Matter movement is a powerful, non-violent peace movement that systematically examines injustices that exist in the intersections of race, class, and gender; including mass incarceration, poverty, non-affordable housing, income disparity, homophobia, unfair immigration laws, gender inequality, and poor access to healthcare.

Each day will explore two to three of the Black Lives Matter movement thirteen guiding principles. In school, teachers across the district will implement Black Lives Matter Week of Action curriculum designed for pre-K through 12th grade classrooms. In the evening, there will be events for educators, students, stakeholders, and community members to actively engage in the movement.

The goal of the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversations in school communities for people of all ages to engage with critical issues of social justice. It is our duty as educators and community members to civically engage students and build their empathy, collaboration, and agency so they are able to thrive. Students must learn to examine, address, and grapple with issues of racism and discrimination that persist in their lives and communities.

If you are interested in obtaining curricular resources, learning about the events and or exploring the different ways you can get involved visithttp://www.teachingforchange.org/black-lives-matter-week-action

The post D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Third Annual #ReclaimMLK Week of Action!

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 10:50

Guest Contributor:  Black Lives Matter DC

“Martin Luther King Jr’s life’s work was the elevation, honoring, and defense of Black Lives. His tools included non-violent civil disobedience and direct action. Dr. King was part of a larger movement of women, and men, queer, and straight, young and old. This movement was built on a bold vision that was radical, principled, and uncompromising. The freedom fighters who believed in this vision were called impractical, rash, irrational, and naive. Their tactics were controversial. Some elders distanced themselves from what was then a new movement for change. Some of the older generation joined in. Our movement draws a direct line from the legacy of Dr. King.

Unfortunately, Dr. King’s legacy has been clouded by efforts to soften, sanitize, and commercialize it. Impulses to remove Dr. King from the movement that elevated him must end. We resist efforts to reduce a long history marred with the blood of countless women and men into iconic images of men in suits behind pulpits.

From here on, MLK weekend will be known as a time of national resistance to injustice.

This MLK weekend we will walk in the legacy of Dr. King and the movement that raised him. We will #ReclaimMLK.”

                                – Ferguson Action

Three years ago, the #ReclaimMLK Week of Action was the first public event Black Lives Matter DC put on. Every year the week is phenomenal, touching hundreds of people and highlighting issues unique to Black DC communities. Kicking off each new year with a sense of purpose, focus, and a solid group of folks ready for strategic, principled, and organized resistance is amazing. This year will be no different and we hope to see you all there!

In addition to coming out to enjoy the events (listed below and attached to this email), we are looking for volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering please fill out this form as soon as possible. We would love your help collecting more items for the Silent Auction on Friday 1/19. If you or anyone you know wants to donate, please have them fill out this form.

Lastly, critically important events like these cost money to put on. We are an all volunteer grassroots chapter and need your help to cover the costs associated with this week. We have been able to secure many in-kind and other donations through hard work and relationships we have built. However, we still need your support to cover what remains. Please donate generously here today and encourage your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. to do the same! Your help is greatly appreciated.

MLK Holiday DC Theme: Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?

FACEBOOK EVENTS (full flyer attached):

Blackout 2.0 Party

#BlackJoySunday

MLK Holiday DC Peace Walk, Parade, and Holiday Health Fair

2018 Theme: Where do we go from here? Chaos or Community.

Revolutionary Mothering: Mothers Building Community After Loss

Emotional Emancipation Circle

Resisting Chaos Through Organized Resistance: A Direct Action Training

Where do we go from here? Community Open House Fundraiser and Silent Auction for BLM DC and MLK Holiday DC Committee

#J2018- Year Anniversary of the Inauguration.

In Love and Solidarity,

Black Lives Matter DC

Text “KeepDC” to 91990 for alerts, updates, and urgent actions.

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The Winter Solstice Holds Both Promise and Pain – In Memorium

Sun, 12/24/2017 - 11:14

Cross-posted from the Washington Legal Clinic

Remarks from Patty Mullahy Fugere at the memorial honoring those who passed this year while experiencing homelessness in DC.

In Memorium

Individuals who passed away without the dignity of a home in 2017

Chris Mason

Darius Duncan

Duane “Joey” Henderson

Galaxina Robinson

James King

Lisa Jennings

Mark Jenkins

Michael Kelley

Michael Dunne

“MS”

Mweane Sikuzote

Nick

Norman Anders

Joseph Watkins

Wilkie “Bill” Woodard

And thirty unnamed residents

***

December 21st.  The winter solstice.  I’ve come to look forward to this day with both relief and dread….relief that we have reached the point of maximum darkness and we’ll start squeezing a few more moments of sunlight out of each coming day, and dread that we must once again gather to celebrate the lives and mourn the loss of our brothers and sisters who have passed in 2017 while experiencing homelessness.  December 21st holds both promise…and pain.

When I was a kid, my mom received a phone call on the morning of December 21st, 1970, from her older sister, with whom my grandmother – my beloved “Nanny” – lived.  Nanny, who had spent the evening of December 20th sitting at the kitchen table with her cigarette, her pilsner glass and her crossword puzzle, went to bed, and then never awoke. She had passed unexpectedly during the night…in the warmth of her own bed, after going through her treasured routines, and, if I know my Nanny, after kissing my aunt and uncle good night and getting down on her knees to ask God to bless us all. It was, in a sense, a perfect, dignified, passing.

Placard bearing the names of people that died while homeless in the District of Columbia.

There were 45 deaths this year of people who lived unhoused in the nation’s capital that were very far from perfect passings…deaths of women and men who had no kitchen table, no warm bed, no family members to kiss goodnight, and for some, not even a floor to kneel upon for a prayer at the end of the day.

How is it that this continues to happen? Last year, we read out 51 names. In 2015, it was 41. In 2005, there were 34.

How is it, that in this nation’s capital, in this progressive city that has declared itself to be a human rights city, in this community that has committed itself to “making homelessness rare, brief and non-recurring,” how is it that we can continue to let this happen?

Read the entire article on the Washington Legal Clinic blog.

The post The Winter Solstice Holds Both Promise and Pain – In Memorium appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Investigating Ballou Means Investigating Ourselves

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 10:53

Cross-posted from EducationDC

[Ed Note: On Friday, December 15, the education committee of the city council held TWO related hearings on graduation rate accountability, arising from reporting that students at DCPS’s Ballou high school graduated without earning appropriate credit. Below, DC education activist Peter MacPherson puts the official investigation of what happened at Ballou into historical and civic perspective.]

It’s a big deal in a democracy when two branches of a government decide a third just isn’t working well, needs to depart this mortal coil, and then administers the coup de grace. That’s what happened in 2007 when former Mayor Adrian Fenty and every member of the city council—save one—decided to dispatch the elected Board of Education from this realm. It was a decision made by a small number of actors, with the support of elite institutions like the Washington Post and with no meaningful opportunity for District residents to express whether they wanted one of the city’s few vestiges of democratic life to disappear.

The elected Board of Education has now been gone for a decade. Those who eliminated it made the argument that putting the final authority for DCPS under the aegis of a single person, namely the mayor, would be the antidote for what was commonly described as a failing school system. It’s been a popular narrative in our country: that uninhibited executive power is what’s needed to fix the badly broken. Fire the non-performing and eliminate the bickering and the need to build consensus on an elected board. Develop a bold plan for improvement and then implement it without the barriers that an elected board represents.

After a decade of mayoral control, few would say that the city’s schools are actually fixed. Huge improvements have been made in renovating or reconstructing school buildings. But the benefits of the school modernization program have not been experienced equally, with improvements closely tied to race and class. The achievement gap between white and non-white students remains as jarring as ever.

Nonetheless, there is a persistent narrative that our schools have dramatically improved, that DCPS is “the fastest improving urban school district in the United States,” as the mayor and her lieutenants frequently note. These kinds of statistics are often cited by the editorial page of the Washington Post.

Besides scores on standardized tests, significant improvements in high school graduation rates are also mentioned as evidence of improvement. The latter, if the numbers are to be believed, is a success that DCPS Chancellor Antwan Wilson wishes to build on: In the next 5 years, he wants 85% to graduate from high school within four years and 90% within four to five years.

But it’s difficult to judge that goal, because the current state of achievement in our schools is actually unknown.

For instance, reporting by WAMU and NPR has raised considerable doubt about the actual graduation rate at Ballou in Ward 8. The school had reported an improvement in its graduation rate from 50% in 2012 to 67% in 2017. And the school also reported that all of its 2017 graduating class had been accepted to college. However, the WAMU/NPR reporting makes clear that those numbers are illusory. Evidence of excessive absenteeism on the part of students as well as the massaging of grades indicate that many were allowed to graduate when they in fact were not eligible to do so.

Our mayor and chancellor desperately want this scandal to be isolated to a single school. And if only Ballou is investigated, that’s where it will remain. As it now stands, the Office of the State Superintendent for Education plans to only investigate Ballou.

This is exactly why education reform in the District of Columbia is failing.

Those running education in the District are deeply invested in the reform model adopted a decade ago. Eliminating the elected school board and embracing a high-stakes testing paradigm were supposed to transform our schools. Those brought in to run the schools were sold as pedagogic alchemists who possessed the secret formula.

That narrative is paramount: The political and media class are not invested in all students succeeding academically. Essentially, they care about the perception that students are learning and achieving in our schools. When scandals appear, like the one involving cheating on standardized tests that USA Today uncovered (and even more since then), scenarios have been constructed to give the appearance that what was reported was limited to a few isolated examples. Unlike in Atlanta, where a similar scandal had taken place and a fulsome investigation conducted, much more limited inquiries were conducted in DC. In Atlanta, school system officials went to jail for their role in the cheating scandal.

No such sunlight was brought to bear on events here in DC. Cheating took place that was engineered by adults. And no one in DC went to jail.

District stakeholders have every reason to be skeptical of how city students are faring in our schools. The problem is that the civic bodies in DC that ensure accountability–the mayor, city council, OSSE, the media, the charter board–are so heavily invested in a particular narrative that they have largely forsaken their actual roles.

Before 2007, we had relatively poor oversight, and many schools and educational situations that were demonstrably bad. After the elimination of the democratically elected school board, all that has happened is a continuous storyof improvement. Actual and honest assessment has been abandoned. In fact, challenging the current educational orthodoxy seems as perilous as criticizing Joseph Stalin in Russia in the 1930s. Critics are forced from the system or characterized as dead-enders clinging to a sclerotic old order.

Common sense says we should be skeptical about what our city’s educational agencies are telling us about the progress of our students. The PARCC—and the DC-CAS that it replaced–have consistently shown that many District high school students have low scores on these tests. These test results, where some high schools have single digit percentages of students scoring proficient in both reading and math, should make everyone skeptical that 72.4% on average (the current graduation rate for the city) were able to credibly graduate.

We do not need an investigation just of Ballou. We need a comprehensive investigation of high school graduation rates at every high school.

And, as council member Robert White has asked, this investigation needs to be done by an entity that has no direct connection with the District government. The findings should be released independently and not filtered by the mayor, chancellor, charter board, or the state superintendent for education, all of whom have a stake in ensuring a positive narrative emerges no matter how egregious the treatment of students actually is.

During the past decade, those with direct responsibility for education in the city have placed the credit or blame for levels of student achievement on teachers and principals. The current education orthodoxy, which has been relentlessly defended for the past 10 years by city politicians, the media, and the business community with little questioning, has to be abandoned in favor of a far more rigorous assessment of what our students actually need. Their success or failure is not just a function of the schools or programming or personnel. It’s also very much about the context in which many DC children live their lives. Poverty matters. Food insecurity matters. Domestic violence matters. If we can start having reliable information about how students are actually faring in schools, we can start having honest conversations about how to help kids get the education they need.

But doing so requires the grownups–the actual adults in the rooms where these decisions are made every day–to start being honest. It’s hard to imagine anything more pernicious than a willingness to misrepresent what is happening to children in school.

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Organizer & Media Activist Meet and Greet

Wed, 12/13/2017 - 11:31

Grassroots DC exists to support progressive social change activism in the District of Columbia. We publicize events through videos, podcasts, press releases and blog posts. We also hold public education events in public housing communities and other public spaces.

In 2018, we will continue this work but we hope to do more. Unfortunately, as a small conglomeration of videographers, podcasters and bloggers we only have the capacity to support a limited amount of work each year. So we’re looking for a few good media activists to help us expand our reach.

Grassroots DC Winter Solstice
Organizer & Media Activist Meet and Greet
Sunday, December 17, 2017
1:00 – 3:45pm
Dorothy I. Height/Benning Heights Library
3935 Benning Rd NE

Join us and learn how Grassroots DC can support your organization and how you can become a better media activist.

The post Organizer & Media Activist Meet and Greet appeared first on Grassroots DC.

What You Don’t Know About the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017

Sat, 12/02/2017 - 09:50

The Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017 is currently under DC Council review.  After mulling over the latest amendments they will vote on it again December 5, 2017.  Before that happens, we’d like Grassroots DC readers to have some basic information about this bill so we’ve cross-posted the following from the Fair Budget Coalition, which describes what happened during the debate of proposed changes to the bill on November 7, 2017.

“AT SOME POINT, WE HAVE TO DRAW THE LINE”

So said Ward 1 Councilmember, Brianne Nadeau, chair of the Committee on Human Services regarding the time-limit for the District’s Rapid Rehousing Program, a highly criticized program that places families from shelter into temporary housing. When the subsidy cuts off, families often find themselves unable to afford the market rent of the unit they occupy and soon end up in eviction court, and then circle back to the shelter door with a new eviction on their rental history.

During debate on the proposed changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act on Tuesday, November 7, Ward 8 Councilmember, Trayon White, introduced an amendment that would extend the rapid rehousing time-limit and introduce common sense measures to assess whether a family received proper case management services or is financially stable enough to afford their unit. However, this amendment was rejected 6-7, with Anita Bonds casting the deciding vote because, as she put it, “I was told to vote no.” (The Councilmembers who voted against extending people’s time in rapid re-housing under these circumstances were Mendelson, Nadeau, Todd, Allen, Cheh, Evans and Bonds.)

Though earlier this year, Nadeau championed the legislation that ended arbitrary time-limits for the District’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF), she took a hard line on extending the temporary housing subsidy for the 1300 families currently in the program. “I understand your compassion,” she says, “but at some point we have to draw the line. This is a short-term program. We have other programs.”

A quick review of the housing programs funded in this year’s FY18 budget, reveals that this is not exactly the case.

There are currently 1166 families experiencing homelessness, according to the annual Point in Time Count. Additionally, there are over 1300 families in our rapid rehousing program, and an additional 40,000 families on the DC Housing Authority’s waitlist for housing.

In FY18, there was funding to support 174 families in the Permanent Supportive Housing Program and 186 families in the Targeted Affordable Housing Program and approximately 250 families from off of the waitlist. That means that there are permanent housing opportunities for about 610 families of the 42,266 families in the District who are not stably housed.

This basic math problem cuts to the core of our affordability crisis. Families don’t make enough money to afford market rate housing. The District has lost its stock of market-rate affordable units. Our Mayor and Council have not allocated enough money in the budget to provide housing for those who need it.

Rather than voting for solutions that would help solve this problem (funding more affordable housing), the Council took a punitive approach by supporting changes to the Homeless Services Reform Act that would make it more difficult for families to get into shelter, make it easier to get kicked out from shelter, and institute arbitrary time limits for the rapid rehousing program.

And to make matters worse, right before this vote, the Council voted to give $82 million away to developers to build around Union Market, including $36 million to fund a parking lot, with no evidence whatsoever that this huge subsidy was even needed. There was not a single requirement that the jobs created are good quality, or that the developers subsidize affordable housing. All while claiming that we don’t have enough resources to serve the families in our “hemorrhaging homeless services system.”

In reality, it is this kind of unchecked development that drives up the cost of housing and ultimately push people out of their homes either into homelessness or into more affordable regions like Prince George’s County. It is District residents who have been displaced because of publically subsidized development that are flooding our homelessness services systems. By continuing to fund development while narrowing the door to shelter, the Council is exacerbating the problem, not fixing it.

When At-Large Councilmember Elissa Silverman tried to redirect the parking lot funds to support affordable housing and transit options, she only got support from At-Large Councilmember David Grosso, and was repudiated by the rest of the Council. Chairperson Phil Mendelson referred to the affordable housing crisis as “rhetoric,” and the rest of the council rolled their eyes. They funded luxury housing instead of affordable. Then they pivoted to blame homeless people from outside of the District for flooding our system, and disparaged the homeless families who they claim are lying to get into shelter when they have safe places that they could otherwise go.

This post is about accountability. It’s about the fact that the Chair of our Council does not believe that there is an affordable housing crisis and propagates the stereotype that poor Black people are lying to get into shelter, taking advantage of the system, and don’t know what’s best for their families. He re-introduced a harmful provision of the HSRA that was removed during the Committee mark-up that creates a “presumption” that families are lying about needing shelter if they are on a lease or “occupancy agreement” and demands that homeless families provide “credible evidence” that they have no safe housing to get shelter on a freezing night. He believes that the Mayor knows better than they do that they have a safe place to go, and this harmful philosophy was supported by Councilmembers  Nadeau, Cheh, Evans, McDuffie, Todd, Allen and Bonds.

What we saw at the Council was an affront to progressive values. To vote to give away that sum of money to developers while claiming there is not enough money to support homeless families was a slap in the face to every single District resident who has struggled to find affordable housing, who has come out to support homeless services, and who voted for “progressive champions” who would advance an affordable housing agenda. Hundreds and thousands of emails and phone calls and tweets, countless letters supported by scores of organizations throughout the city urged councilmembers to vote “no” on this bill. Elissa Silverman told advocates that she had not received a single e-mail telling her to vote for this bill. Yet, at the end of the day, the bill passed 11-2, with only Councilmembers Trayon White and David Grosso opposing.

In just a few hours, our Council drew the line by prioritizing corporate subsidies over the lives of homeless children.

The post What You Don’t Know About the Homeless Services Reform Amendment Act of 2017 appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Triggered: Street Harassment and Rape Culture In D.C.’s Ward 8

Mon, 11/06/2017 - 09:58

One can make the argument that it began on July 23, 2017, when community activist Schyla Pondexter-Moore and her two teen-aged daughters attempted to get a meal at a community food table in Ward 8 set up by the nonprofit Quest2Change.  Instead of getting a meal, they got an earful about how a tied t-shirt and a leggings justified harassment by the men in the community, including the men who were serving the food.  Schyla and her daughters left when the harassers, seven grown men, threatened them with violence.

The incident led to a Speakout Against Street Harassment sponsored by the newly formed group Reclaiming Our Bodies DC.  I went with my camera, expecting to get a few good soundbites, and to put together a 3-5 minute video about street harassment.  But the footage gathered that day has required a little more attention.  The result is the 30-minute documentary Triggered:  Street Harassment and Rape Culture in D.C.’s Ward 8.

The first screening will be followed by a panel discussion about street harassment.  Details are below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was clear at the Speakout that Reclaiming Our Bodies DC had touched on an issue that was about far more than one incident.  While most of the media focuses on sexual harassment among the political elites and Hollywood insiders, the rest of us are dealing with it in the streets.  Grassroots DC invites you to join the discussion.

The post Triggered: Street Harassment and Rape Culture In D.C.’s Ward 8 appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Black Lives Matter Long-Term Goal: Full Implementation of the NEAR Act

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 16:17

Black Lives Matter activists worked for two years to pass the NEAR Act and get it fully funded.  Now they’re working to see that it’s implemented correctly.   The video above, edited by Malik Thompson, is of a march and rally from April 2017.

By Eugene Puryear
Stop Police Terror Project DC

WHAT IS THE NEAR ACT?

The NEAR (Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results) Act establishes a set of long-term programs and policies to address public safety in DC specifically through a public health lens. These programs and policies have been empirically proven to reduce shootings and violence in cities around the US.

In its fullest form, the NEAR Act would begin to de-emphasize the use of policing and force as the primary tactic for ensuring neighborhood safety in DC. It would protect vulnerable and minority (namely Black and Latino) residents in high-crime areas of our city from further harm. It would support individuals involved in potentially violent situations instead of turning to incarceration or violence to resolve the issue at hand. The policy would thus pave the way for the long-overdue transformation of these vulnerable populations and neighborhoods towards a deeper culture of safety, support, and opportunity.

WHY WE NEED YOU NOW:

After passing the DC Council unanimously in 2016, and being fully-funded in 2017, the NEAR Act is now in its next phase: implementation. Despite being fully-funded, most of the provisions in the NEAR Act have not been implemented. As such, the NEAR Act remains largely unfulfilled as promised in 2016.

In order for the NEAR Act to reach its full potential, it is going to require us as DC residents to make sure our elected officials fully and faithfully implement all of the comprehensive approaches in the NEAR Act. To do so, we want to create a corps of “NEAR Act Ambassadors” to show up to DC Council hearings, community events, ANC meetings, and candidate fundraisers and campaign events. In doing so, we have an opportunity to hold DC Council to their word and to begin the process of protecting the most vulnerable neighborhoods in our city from further violence with a better approach.

We would like to invite you to take part in a training that will equip you with the knowledge and skills to hold our DC elected officials to their word of fully implementing the NEAR Act, to move away from the failed approach of policing and incarceration, and to make DC an example for a better way to prevent and reduce violence while empowering and uplifting all of its residents.

THE TRAININGS:

The Stop Police Terror Project will be running a number of trainings in November for each Ward to provide interested individuals the skills and knowledge they need to be NEAR Act Ambassadors, to let our elected officials know that the NEAR Act is still alive in our minds as a priority for our city. Through these trainings, you will gain the knowledge and skills to mobilize your local neighborhoods/networks to show up to these events prepared to pressure our elected officials towards full implementation of the NEAR Act.

NEAR Act Ambassador Training
Wednesday, November 8, 2017
We Act Radio Station
1918 Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue SE

We encourage you to attend the event for your Ward if possible, as there will be some Ward-specific information covered. BUT, everyone is welcome at any of the trainings, so please come to the one that works best for you even if it isn’t your home Ward. If you don’t know what Ward you live in, you can find out here: https://planning.dc.gov/page/wards-district-columbia.

Please share these events with your networks, and let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you at a training, and to working with you to ensure the promise of the NEAR Act becomes reality.

The post Black Lives Matter Long-Term Goal: Full Implementation of the NEAR Act appeared first on Grassroots DC.

Remembering Big Mike: Line Dance Instructor and Inspiration

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 19:02

I met Michael “Big Mike” Ballard four years ago when Grassroots DC moved into the Potomac Gardens Public Housing Complex.  He made regular use of our Community Resource Center creating flyers for the dance classes he taught and using the computers and the Internet access working for his church and the nonprofit he was involved with Sistahs with Purpose.  He taught at Knox Hill, Turkey Thicket Recreation Center and Potomac Gardens.  He passed on October 10.  He is survived by his mother Linda, sister Theresa and dozens and dozens of students and friends.  He was a kind and compassionate person who will be missed.  What follows is an article I wrote about him in 2015.

Kids can be mean. Few know this better than 36-year-old DC native and Potomac Gardens resident Michael Ballard. Michael Ballard was heavy all of his life. The kids called him Fat Mike. His mother suffered from weight problems also so she understood what it was like to be teased and humiliated at school. It was only natural that they would become extremely close.

Michael continued to put on weight throughout school. By the time he graduated high school he weighed 300 pounds. Many people assume that anyone that weighs that much can’t do anything. Michael proved them wrong by going to work right out of high school. From 2000 to 2005 he worked for Goodwill Industries in housekeeping, a job he enjoyed. In 2005 Goodwill lost their contract with the Armed Forces Retirement Home and Michael went to work for Melwood, a nonprofit that creates jobs and opportunities for people with disabilities, in their housekeeping department.

At Melwood, Michael faced discrimination. His co-workers claimed that he had body odor; that he took up too much space; that he moved too slowly and was unable to complete his tasks because he couldn’t fit into the bathroom. It was high school all over again. Within just a few months Michael had left Melwood and returned to Goodwill Industries. But the stress at Melwood had caused Michael to put on more weight.  He had a different project manager at Goodwill, one who didn’t know him well and he faced discrimination at Goodwill as well.

He was accused of sitting on and breaking Goodwill’s second-hand chairs. To address the problem, the Government Service Administration brought a bench to his job site exclusively for Michael to use. Unfortunately, his project manager, unwilling to find ways to accommodate an employee of Michael’s size, threw the bench into the trash.

Besides the stress of the hostile work environment, Michael developed an upper respiratory infection from working in Goodwill’s Garage. Despite all this, Michael continued to work at Goodwill from 2006 until 2013, when he was let go.

After losing his job, Michael’s health deteriorated. Due to his extreme weight, Michael had for years suffered from lymphedma— a condition that causes swelling in the arms or legs as a result of a blockage in the lymphatic system that prevents lymph fluid from draining well—on the bottom of both his legs. Michael also developed cellulites—a noncontagious bacterial skin infection—which spread from the bottom of both of his legs to his pelvis. This condition landed him in Washington Hospital for a ten-day stretch in March of 2013. From there he was transferred to Saint Thomas Moore Rehabilitation Center where he was bed bound for two months.

Two months of having to eat in the bed, having the bed made while lying in it, having his body turned and cleaned in the bed was more humiliating than years of being teased. Michael’s weight had made him a target for mockery but now it was risking his life. Michael knew that the only way to escape the derision and to save his life was to control his weight.

In May 2013, he went from being bed bound to being wheel chair ridden. Once in the chair, he was able to begin participating in physical therapy. Soon he was able to move around with a rollator. In December of 2013, Michael was well enough to move back home to Potomac Gardens but not without the use of two portable oxygen tanks.

By this time, his mother was in trouble. Being overweight herself, she had a hernia that had grown to the size of a soccer ball. In 2014, Michael’s mother had surgery at Georgetown Hospital. Terrified that he might lose his best friend, Michael’s stress levels soared along with his eating. While his mother was recovering, Michael’s weight ballooned. At 700 pounds, hospitalization was inevitable.

This time, Michael was offered the option of a sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure that removes all but twenty-five percent of the stomach and greatly limits the patient’s food intake. The operation was performed by Dr. Paul Lin at George Washington University Hospital in March of 2015. Seven months later, Michael had lost 301 pounds.

How did he do it? In addition to the gastrectomy, Michael started exercising with regularity and intensity. For three hours, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays he does water aerobics. His real passion is line dancing, which he does from 6:00 – 8:30 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center. In fact, Michael has been line dancing for five years, but this December 1st will be his one-year anniversary line dancing at Turkey Thicket with a group that calls themselves The Line Dance Addicts. Michael no longer needs to use the portable oxygen to get around, although he still uses it at home. He is well on his way to full recovery from a lifetime of weight-related issues.

He is grateful for his second chance and is working to spread what he’s learned to the community around him. He has begun teaching line dancing to Potomac Gardens’ and Hopkins Apartments’ residents. Classes cost only $2 and it’s already proven popular with those of all ages and all sizes. Line Dancing with Big Mike teaches you more than the Nae Nae and the electric slide; line dancing with Big Mike teaches you that overcoming even extremely large obstacles is possible and easier when your community has your back.

The community that has Michael’s back as he continues to lose weight includes but is not limited to: Cheryl Thompson Walker, Kembal Bonds, Russell, Jordan, Miss Rita and Rita from Turkey Thicket, as well as Miss Paula Allen, Miss Reshida Young and the entire Line Dance Addicts family; Dee, Reggie, Adrienne Jenkins and Dr. Cristina Schreiber from George Washington University Hospital; Sisters With A Purpose and the entire Master’s Child Church Family under the leadership of Bishop Melvin Robinson junior and his wife and church co-founder Erma Robinson-Fitzgerald; and last but not least the Lord, his mom and grandparents.

The post Remembering Big Mike: Line Dance Instructor and Inspiration appeared first on Grassroots DC.

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