The Dignity in Schools Campaign – California (DSC CA) held its first extremely successful Regional Parent Exchange in Fresno, CA, guided by the theme: “Me to We” “Yo a Nosotors”.
The well attended convening took place on July 13 for the purposes of developing a collective understanding of what parent engagement is, and what it means to be a part of DSC CA. Other objectives included:
- Create an understanding of everybody’s work
- Learn about the work that is happening across the state of California
- Create solidarity across the state
- Gain understanding that parents are change agents
- Incorporate healing as an intentional practice for the entire conference
It was beautiful to see a conference room of approximately 90 activist parents and staff members of various organizations share stories of their accomplishments, challenges, and visions for educational justice in schools across the state. The convening also included childcare so that parents wouldn’t have to leave their children behind.
Education activist organizations and DSC CA partners included the Black Organizing Project and Coleman Advocates out of the Bay Area; Building Healthy Communities Salinas, MILPA and Youth Alliance from the Central Coast region; Tower of Youth, Black Parallel School Board, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Fathers and Family of San Joaquin, and Fresno Barrios Undios from Central Valley region, Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement (COPE) of Inland Valley, and out of Los Angeles, the Community Asset Development Re-defining Education (CADRE) and Public Counsel. These organizations advocate on the part of parents and students throughout the California regions by bringing attention to systemic discrimination and school pushout of Black And Brown students in California schools.
Many of these organizations include parent organizers, organizational staff members and community supporters who attend and speak out at school board meetings, make recommendations to LCAP plans, advocate the removal of SROs on campuses, and help students and parents confront the harsh discriminatory schools policies and practices that push out Black And Brown students, foster youth and youth with disabilities, and even formally incarcerated parents who are often denied the right to visit the schools their children attend.
Because the convening consisted of both Spanish and English speakers, every part of the conference included translators. While most presentations and sharing were done in English and translated through headsets for Spanish-speaking participants, presentations and feedback was also done in Spanish and translated in English. This was truly empowering to make sure all voices were heard.
Tia Martinez and Manuel Criolla
The conference was honored to have Manuel Criollo give a powerful presentation, “Educational Justice & Parent Organizing,” about the history of education injustice, racism, and discrimination in the U.S..
Tia Martinez, who has provided numerous data presentations throughout the state about school suspensions and police arrests, gave an equally well received presentation about the School-to-Prison Pipeline, with a particular focus on how job closures starting in the 1970s and forms of racial discrimination have led to mass incarceration of particularly Black and Brown parents and workers.
Parent organizer, Roslyn Broadnex, of the Community Asset Development Re-defining Education (CADRE) out of Los Angeles gave a powerful and personal presentation on the meaning of parent organizing and the importance of Black and Brown parents and communities fighting together for systemic change.
Roslyn is senior core leader of CADRE, an independent, community-based, organizing and social justice-driven parent membership organization in South Los Angeles, founded in 2001.
Saturday’s conference was even more honored to have the iconic labor union organizer and civil rights leader, Dolores Huerta speak about Black and Brown unity, dismantling systems of oppression, the importance of voting, and taking over the school boards.
Ms. Huerta now heads the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a community benefit organization headquartered in Bakersfield, which recruits, trains, organizes, and empowers grassroots leaders in low-income communities to attain social justice through systemic and structural transformation. DHF hires and trains full-time organizers who form neighborhood organizations called Vecinos Unidos (United Neighbors).
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The Parent Organizing Exchange ended the day with breakout sessions of the five regions of California to discuss and strategize ideas for continued parent organizing in their communities.
Parent participants shared how they not only advocate for they own children, but other children in the schools and communities who are targeted by discriminatory racist policies and practices that lead to high rates of school suspensions, particularly of Black and Brown students.
Partner groups of DSC CA include parent organizers who visit schools and observe classrooms, attend Special Education IEP meetings with parents and their child, make demands for increasing the literacy rate of elementary students, push for government legislation to end suspensions for willful defiance, call for the removal of and ending district contracts with School Resource Officers (SROs, and support useful programs like Restorative Justice and PBIS in schools.
The success of the Parent Organizing Exchange left no doubt in everyone’s mind that the conference would be annual gathering of grassroots organizers who fulfill the mission of Dignity Schools Campaign-California.