Youth Guest Post - Black Lives Matter: Stepping Up and Speaking Out

Written by:

Lavancia McClendon, Trenesia McClendon, Kissehanet Tesfa, Bethel Tesfay, Meklit Tesfay, Natalina Shega


When you see me…

You fear me

You wouldn’t like to see me with the weapon of education

But I don’t want revenge

I want equality

I am more than…

An angry Black woman

I am an ocean

I’m as powerful as my words

And I hold my community together.


When you see me…

You see Black

You feel uncomfortable

Like you’d rather stand on the bus than sit next to me

I am more than…

My skin color

I am sand.

No two of us are alike.

I’m an individual.

A small piece of something bigger.


When you see me…

You see juvenile

Like thunder

You feel scared because I’m dark and bold.

I am more than…

My stereotype.

I am the sun.

Shining bright

Educated

And looking for a future.


When you see me…

You think loud

You think my words will strangle you like a rope

I am more than…

the sassy Black girl on your favorite TV show

I am the earth

If you give me respect, I will give you comfort

I am the earth

I am nurturing so you can feel calm.


When you see me…

You see weak

Like I’m a puppet that can’t stand up for myself.

I am more than…

Someone who lets people control me.

I am a waterfall.

I am independent.

I am a powerful force.


When you see me…

You see charity case

You feel the need to help me

But I don’t want to be your cause for a march.

I am more than…

Poverty

I am a mountain.

Standing tall

As I’m climbing up reaching my goals.

We are more than what you see.

Natalina, Levancia, Trenesia, Meklet, Bethel, and Kissehanet wrote the above collaborative piece after coming together as the Teen Advisory Team for  The Eli’s Park Project . They are students at Roosevelt High School in NE Seattle.

Natalina, Levancia, Trenesia, Meklet, Bethel, and Kissehanet wrote the above collaborative piece after coming together as the Teen Advisory Team for The Eli’s Park Project. They are students at Roosevelt High School in NE Seattle.

“Our role in this project is to lead our community to create an accessible, inclusive, nature-based, peaceful, welcoming park for everyone to enjoy. People ask why we care about The Eli’s Park Project. We think it’s important because there are a lot of people who are excluded in our community. Everyone deserves to feel safe, welcome and respected regardless of their race, ability, age, sexuality, gender, religion or socio-economic status.

As we have become leaders of this project, we have realized the power of our voices. We wrote a group poem to show people what we believe about ourselves. We encourage everyone to take the time to get to know us, and others, for who we really are. If we stop at stereotypes, we miss the best parts of each other. A community should be led by its people and we’re taking that responsibility seriously. We’re stepping up and speaking out for a more inclusive world.”

Vote "YES" on the Seattle School District's Capital and Operations Levies

The SCPTSA Board endorses a “Yes” vote on Seattle School District Propositions Number 1 (Replacement for Educational Programs and Operations Levy) and Number 2 (Building Excellence V Capital Levy)

Seattle Council PTSA Board endorses these levies after many thoughtful discussions and much consideration within the board and general membership. Without the passage of these levies, our schools face major cuts in funding for critical day-to-day operations, staff, building capacity and more. Our schools need this funding.

However, win or lose, low income families of color will be most impacted. Successful passage and fulfillment through regressive property tax disproportionately impacts low income families, who are also disproportionately families of color, and are being rapidly priced out of the City of Seattle entirely. These are the majority of SPS families and those upon whom, for equity, we are centering our work. Unsuccessful passage of the levies means even less for the children of those families when they walk into their school buildings, buildings that already welcome and serve them inconsistently and insufficiently.

SCPTSA endorses these levies understanding the following:

  1. Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the country.

  2. The Seattle School District and Board have a very blunt instrument, property tax, with which to raise (insufficient) additional funds. This is the only instrument available to SPS to meet its fiscal needs.

  3. Advocacy at the City to State levels are critical pieces to developing equitable and adequate instruments for education funding. SCPTSA must support this work.

  4. The result of non-passage of the Capital and Operations Levies in February would be a massive funding gap for Seattle Public Schools wherein a significant gap relative to need and funding already exists.

  5. Thanks to community advocacy, the Capital levy for the first time, according to District representative, had priorities set based on measurable equity standards such as free and reduced lunch.

We also know that:

  1. Families of color are not targeted or holistically engaged in the education funding models and applications at the District, nor to inform how the District engages with state lawmakers. For example, the five public Levy meetings in September did not target or authentically engage families of color.

  2. Outside funding sources continue to sustain, create, and mask inequities at the building and central office levels.

  3. Inequities are not visible based on simple per student funding metrics.

  4. Title funds are NOT sufficient to mitigate outside funding inputs. In fact, Title funds are intended specifically to mitigate a disadvantage created by larger societal forces putting our families under economic pressure. Title funds are already insufficient to counteract what economics do not provide and should not be misconstrued to have any impact on deeper institutional inequities borne of historically racially discriminatory practices.

As advocates for all kids, our obligation is to advocate specifically for those who are furthest from justice in attaining equitable access to education. For families of color and those furthest from justice, SCPTSA supports the passage of Seattle School District’s property tax levies BEX V and EO&P with the understanding that we will push for:

  1. A transparent, ongoing and formal commitment with Seattle Public Schools, actively engaging students and families, to acknowledge, resolve, restore and report racial incidents in our schools as they occur. This is a fundamental building block of SPS commitment to creating “welcoming environments” and policy 0030 Ensuring Educational and Racial Equity. Racial Discrimination has no place in Seattle Public Schools. When children walk through the door of SPS, it is not consistently true that they will be cared for in the event of racial discrimination. The “threat” of impact is suitably muzzled when a parent or a child cannot enter a school space and find it figuratively open or welcoming because of who they are.

  2. Formal commitment from SPS Administration to partner with SCPTSA, SEA, Seattle School Board and OSPI in the transparent and rigorous analysis of funding equity in Seattle Public Schools including:

    • Detailed reporting on outside funding sources and their use, including, but not limited to, PTAs, PTOs, foundations and CBOs

    • Analysis and reporting on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in financial modeling and distribution in SPS specifically pertaining to racial equity

    • Analysis of Weighted Staffing Standard based on Equity gap analysis

    • Specific and ongoing engagement with families of color regarding funding equity in Seattle Public Schools

    • Unequivocal commitment to fiscal transparency

  3. Support for efforts such as Capital Gains and Working Families Tax Rebate at state and local levels to respectively alleviate and mitigate the regressive tax burden on our most economically disadvantaged families. While the District can’t control State lawmakers, it can and should acknowledge the burden placed on the families and staff of SPS as a result of limited fundraising mechanisms.

For more information:

https://www.seattleschools.org/district/levy

WA State PTA Focus on Education Day in Olympia is Monday, February 11, 2019 (EDIT 2/9 - CANCELLED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER)

All in WA For Washington is a statewide effort to clean up the tax code: http://allinforwa.org/article/legislative-session-2019-theres-elephant-room

The Washington State Budget & Policy Center prioritizes policies that advance racial equity by working to eliminate systemic and institutional barriers to opportunity for people of color.

From the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy: “States and localities could do more to help undo the harmful legacies of past racism and the damage caused by continuing racial bias and discrimination."

OneAmerica works with parents, educators and allies to make sure that all of Washington’s families have an education system that’s inclusive, responsive and meet the needs of every student.

WA State PTSA Legislative Priorities https://www.wastatepta.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/2019-Legislative-Priorities.pdf

SCPTSA president Chandra Hampson