Living for Change News
May 30th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
No one thinks the budget proposed by the White House will get much support. The details will change. Various interests will do their best to protect vital programs and services.
But there is an element of casual cruelty behind these projections that we need to address. Our elders, our children, and the people who care for them are especially targeted as excess expenditures. These projections are a clear articulation of values and polices from an administration that delights in chaos, manipulation, and lies.
Called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget would completely eliminate 66 federal programs, with the biggest cuts aimed at Health and Human Services. Over the next decade the budget projects cuts of more than $3.6 trillion, mostly from Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security Disability and insurance for children. Military spending of all sorts escalates.
No where is the relationship between budgets, priorities and values clearer than in the projections for education. Betsy Devos proposed $10.6 billion in cuts to educational programs. She wants to cut funding for Special Olympics, parent support programs, teacher training, and academic and psychological support for students. While cutting public education, Devos proposes increasing funding for charter schools by 50% and she intends to encourage corporate incentives to support her “school choice” schemes.
These schemes are not some effort to “transform education.” They are a deliberate effort to shift public money to private, primarily religious schools. In the process, they would further enrich the Devos family and friends. As Michael Sainato wrote recently, “Devos’ approach to the United States Education System is to benefit the private corporations that have leeched off it for personal profit at the expense of the public. From the student debt collecting agency she was personally invested in, to the for-profit schools that benefit from tax credits, vouchers, and other financial incentives, Devos is further increasing the polarizing class divide in the education system to benefit those already wealthy and powerful.”
Nor are these schemes motivated by religion. Rather, they cynically use religion to protect and promote white supremacy. The drive to private, Christian Academies supported by Devos has its roots in the backlash against desegregation of public schools. Between 1964 and 1972 hundreds of white Christian academies were set up, “in response to anticipated or actual desegregation orders.”
In an editorial opposing the Devos appointment, Felicia Wong of the Roosevelt Institute, said:
“An estimated half-million white students left public schools between 1964 and 1975 to enroll in schools that were known as ‘segregation academies.’ This move to private schools was part of a larger ‘white flight’ movement. White flight was one of the greatest demographic shifts in American history. Millions of whites nationwide moved out of cities and into racially isolated suburbs. Scholar Kevin Kruse has called white flight ‘the most successful segregationist response to the moral demands of the civil rights movement and the legal authority of the courts.’ The character and quality of most American schools today, like the neighborhoods in which they are found and which they shape, have a racial past.”
Across the country people are organizing to resist this assault on our children. The #WeChoose campaign is now in 35 cities. #WeChoose demands:
“A robust, rigorous and relevant curriculum, support for high quality teaching (smaller classes, teacher aides, effective professional development), wrap-around supports for every child (nurses, counselors, clubs, after-school programs), a student-centered school climate, transformative parent and community engagement and inclusive school leadership. The result: sustainable, community schools.”
The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) are part of this effort. Join us as we begin a summer of growing and learning together.
A quick note from El Kilombo
the EZ communiques announcing “the Candidate” or, that is, the announcement of a proposed indigenous governing council for Mexico with an indigenous woman as its spokesperson.
Dudley Street is Re-imagining its future
After returning from North Carolina where I had the privilege to spend time with comrades and friends like El Kilombo and Nelson and Joyce Johnson of the Beloved Community of Greensboro, I was lucky to visit my daughter, Emma, where she is a second grade teacher at Dudley Elementary-Community School. This school is located in a neighborhood where folks have been “putting the neighbor back in the hood.”
My wife Janice and I spent two days with the class as they engaged in writing, math, recess and shared stories on the carpet. The patience, love and challenges I saw were truly a learning experience. As I read the letters that each parent wrote to his/her child about their hopes, dreams and high expectations, I was again reminded me how deep our responsibility is to keep those dreams & expectations alive.
During the short visit, we had a chance to see the Dudley Community Center and visit the area urban gardens and mural, that demonstrated both history and a daily commitment to turn vacant lots into community safe spaces. Some of the current organizers from the Dudley Street Community Initiative were raised in the neighborhood, as are some of the students from the school.
I learned more about the Community Land Trust initiative, which has proved to be an antidote to the foreclosures which have been rampant across the city for the past decade. Dudley hasn’t been as hard hit because of a commitment of interdependence that states, “The community cares about each other and protects each other.” Almost all the stores in the neighborhood had written signs stating, “No One is Illegal.” These signs were from the children who marched last week in a demonstration welcoming all immigrants and opposing Trump’s Bans and Walls.
As I walked with the second graders in the rain around the Dudley area, it reminded me of Detroit and the community gardens, urban farms, murals, and placed-based schools. It reminded me of the Boggs tour: From Growing Our Economy to Growing Our Souls.
The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s vision was crystallized in a “Declaration of Community Rights.” The declaration, produced by the Human Development Committee, highlights fundamental DSNI objectives in all areas of community development.”
We – the youth, adults, seniors of African, Latin American, Caribbean, Native American, Asian and European ancestry – are the Dudley community. Nine years ago (1993), we were Boston’s dumping ground and forgotten neighborhood. Today, we are on the rise! We are reclaiming our dignity, rebuilding housing and reknitting the fabric of our communities. Tomorrow, we realize our vision of a vibrant, culturally diverse neighborhood, where everyone is valued for their talents and contribution to the larger community. We, the residents of the Dudley area, dedicate and declare ourselves to the following:
We have the right to shape the development of all plans, programs and policies likely to affect the quality of our lives as neighborhood residents.
We have the right to quality, affordable health care that is both accessible to all neighborhood residents and culturally sensitive.
We have the right to control the development of neighborhood land in ways which insure adequate open space for parks, gardens, tot lots and a range of recreational uses.
We have the right to live in a hazard-free environment that promotes the health and safety of our families.
We have the right to celebrate the vibrant cultural diversity of the neighborhood through all artistic forms of expression.
We have the right to education and training that will encourage our children, youth, adults and elders to meet their maximum potentials.
We have the right to share in the jobs and prosperity created by economic development initiatives in metro-Boston generally, and in the neighborhood specifically.
We have the right to quality and affordable housing in the neighborhood as both tenants and homeowners.
We have the right to quality and affordable child care responsive to the distinct needs of the child and family as well as available in a home or center-based setting.
We have the right to safe and accessible public transportation serving the neighborhood.
We have the right to enjoy quality goods and services, made available through an active, neighborhood-based commercial district.
We have the right to enjoy full spiritual and religious life in appropriate places of worship.
We have the right to safety and security in our homes and in our neighborhoods.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Patrisse Cullors and Robert Ross— The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter