18 Cities to Converge in Washington, D.C. to Fight Public School Closures Across U.S.


Laurie R. Glenn

Phone: 773.704.7246

E-mail: lrglenn@thinkincstrategy.com






National Movement Forms In Wake of Mass School Closings & Turnarounds That Violate Civil Rights & Promote Divestment in Low-Income Communities of Color

WHAT:  Students, parents and advocacy representatives from 18 major United States cities will testify at a community hearing before Arne Duncan (in attendance for early portion of hearing) and the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C. on the devastating impact and civil rights violations resulting from the unchecked closing and turnaround of schools serving predominantly low-income, minority students across the country.

More than 10 cities have filed, or are in the process of filing, Title VI Civil Rights complaints with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, citing the closing of schools and the criteria and methods for administering those actions as discriminatory toward low-income, minority communities. Representatives from 11 cities will testify at the hearing on the impact of school closings including the civil rights violations and the destabilization of their children and their communities resulting from the criteria used for school closings and the current accepted movement to privatize schools.

Demands of the Department of Education include a moratorium on school closings until a new process can be implemented nationally, the implementation of a sustainable, community-driven school improvement process as national policy, and a meeting with President Obama so that he may hear directly from his constituents about the devastating impact and civil rights violations.

 The community hearing will be followed by a candlelight vigil at the Martin Luther King Memorial to continue to raise the voices of those impacted by the destabilization and sabotage of education in working and low-income, communities of color.

WHO: Approximately 500 students, parents and community representatives, impacted or at risk of impact by school closings, representing 18 cities across the country will attend the hearing including: Ambler, Pa.; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Cleveland; Detroit; District of Columbia; Eupora, Miss.; Hartford, Conn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Los Angeles; Newark; New Orleans; New York; Oakland, Calif.; Philadelphia; and Wichita, Kan.


WHEN/WHERE:    Community Hearing & Rally

                Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

                2:00 p.m. – 3:55 p.m.

                U.S. Department of Education Auditorium

                400 Maryland Ave. SW

               Washington D.C. 20202

Candlelight Vigil

               Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

               5:00 p.m. EST

               Martin Luther King Memorial

               1964 Independence Ave. SW

               Washington D.C. 20024

WHY:  Cities across the country are experiencing the results of neglectful actions by the closing of schools serving predominantly low-income students of color including displacement and destabilization of children, increased violence and threats of physical harm as a result of re-assignment, and destabilization at schools receiving the displaced students.

Despite current research showing that closing these public schools does not improve test scores or graduation rates, closings have continued primarily because current federal Race To The Top policy has incentivized the closing and turnaround of schools by supporting privatization. However, the privatization of schools has resulted in unchecked actions and processes where the primary fallout is on those in low-income, minority communities. The devastating impact of these actions has only been tolerated because of the race and class of the communities affected.



By the Time I Get to Arizona: Public Enemy and MLK Day


By Nick Westbrooks

As an admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a fan of Hip-Hop music, I reflect on the classic 1991 Public Enemy song “By the Time I Get to Arizona.” The song and video is a response, and to me a diss track, to former Arizona governor Evan Mecham’s opposition to observing Dr. King’s holiday.

Music website Song Facts provides the background:

“The song deals with former Arizona governor Evan Mecham, who faced harsh criticism during his time in office after he refused to recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday as a national holiday. John McCain was an Arizona senator at the time, and in 1983 he opposed creation of a federal holiday to honor King. He later admitted that this was a mistake, and in 1990 supported the holiday. The music video stirred some controversy, as it depicts the group assassinating the governor with a car bomb. The song and the video are Public Enemy at their most militant, implying that they will use force to advance their agenda.”

In addition to the assassination, the video depicts the racism common in the Jim Crow south along with the acts of resistance executed by African Americans in response. It’s a polarizing song/video. On one side, Gov. Mecham’s refusal to observe the holiday can be seen as racist, and Public Enemy may be applauded for speaking out. On the other hand, Dr. King’s philosophy emphasized nonviolence, and the depictions of PE’s militia, the S1W’s, performing target practice and placing an explosive under the governor’s limo may be perceived as hypocritical.

Chuck D raps:

“Wait I’m waitin’ for the date
For the man who demands respect
‘Cause he was great c’mon
I’m on the one mission
To get a politician
To honor or he’s a gonner
By the time I get to Arizona”

I also notice genealogical undertones in Chuck’s threats to the governor. The renderings of violence in the video are reminiscent of the 1968 riots in reaction to King’s assassination. Since, Arizona was merely one of two states refusing to observe King’s birthday as a holiday (New Hampshire was the other), I doubt that Public Enemy would incite national riots on a similar scale.

One may consider assassinating Gov. Mecham to be extreme, but as appreciators of Hip-Hop, we should commend PE for applying its musical genius and aesthetics to this social and political cause. The group should also be recognized for its conscious lyrics and its attention on matters important to Black people while appealing to the youth. Just like any issue affecting Blacks, we may agree that we’re there’s injustice, but we usually disagree about how to go about implementing solutions. Watch the video below.

(PHOTOS) MLK Holiday Peace and Freedom Walk 2013 — Washington, D.C.

Article and photos by Nick Westbrooks

TIMG_0628he 35th annual Martin Luther King Holiday Peace and Freedom Walk was held on Saturday, Jan. 19. Prior to the parade’s departure, marchers assembled at the United Black Fund at the intersection of Martin Luther King Avenue and Howard Road SE for a program of speakers and performances.

Several groups led by the Wong People paraded from the United Black Fund and traveled down Martin Luther King Avenue until they reached Shepard Park at Malcolm X and MLK Avenue SE. The groups included but weren’t limited to the Cass Technical High School Marching Band of Detroit, Total Sunshine, the A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, Men in Motion and Empower DC.

Several speakers from around the District community engaged the crowd with reflections of Dr. King’s life, songs, poems as well as calls for action for issues affecting D.C. such as gun violence, statehood and the proposed public school closures.

Actor Nick Cannon addressed the marchers at the UBF. At Shepard Park, the community sang along with the DC Labor Chorus and heard words from DC Mayor Vincent Gray and Washington Informer publisher Denise Rolark Barnes amongst many others. Barnes’ parents, Calvin Rolark and Wilhelmina Rolark along with TV and radio personality Ralph Waldo Petey Greene, started the MLK holiday parade tradition in 1977. View the pictures from the holiday parade below.

[VIDEO] DC Action Summit Prepares Community for Forthcoming School Closure Announcement


By Nick Westbrooks

Today [January 15], DC Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Kaya Henderson is announcing which public schools the city will be closing. Ahead of the announcement, the empowerment grassroots organization Empower DC held a citywide summit on school closures featuring a panel of community experts. The panelists included DCPS school counselor and education blogger Candi Peterson, education finance lawyer and researcher Mary Levy, DCPS parent Julianne M. Robertson King Esq., River Terrace Support Committee member and Empower DC Board chair Diana Onley-Campbell and DCPS student Renard Gray.

The Jan. 12 program brought about 80 DC residents from all of city’s eight wards to Guildfield Baptist Church in Northeast. Attendees voiced their concerns on issues ranging from the threat of privatization of the public schools to the accountability of the mayor and the city council. Movement catalyst Max Rameau gave a presentation on action planning and how grassroots activism and agitation may be applied to the fight against closures.

Education activists planned their next steps and announced events relating to the cause including tonight’s vigil at Mayor Gray’s house, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday parade on Saturday which will meet at 9:30am at the United Black Fund, and the Department of Education public hearing discussing the impact of school closures slated for two weeks from today on Jan. 29. See the pictures and video below highlighting the summit.