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YMEJ @ Justice Teaching Roundtable (with Center for Justice at Columbia)
This week, Prof. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz and I will be representing the teaching team and talking about our YMEJ work — including the seminar, the emerging research, and our public pedagogy efforts (including this blog) — as part of the Justice Teaching Roundtable Series. We are thrilled and humbled to be participating in this dialogue with our colleagues from across the university, and as part of our presentation we will be sharing excerpts from the past years of work with the YMEJ graduate seminar, the collaborative mentoring experiences, and we’ll be engaging the audience in some YMEJ-style inquiry through media-making.
If you’re near the Columbia campus, stop by and check it out. We’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.
YOUTH, MEDIA AND EDUCATIONAL JUSTICE: BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH COLLABORATIVE INQUIRY
Tuesday November 18th, 2014 – 3–5pm
Teachers College, Russell Hall Rm 305
2nd Annual YMEJ Clothing Drive
In conjunction with this year’s YMEJ Exhibition — “Inquiry into Educational Justice” — we are launching a clothing drive to collect new and like-new items of clothing that will be donated to alternative to detention (ATD) programs in New York City.
This clothing drive is our second, and follows on the huge success of last spring’s event in which we collected over 65 bags of clothing and accessories that were distributed to 5 different ATDs in three boroughs. In our work with youth, we have consistently heard from them that a major obstacle to regular school attendance is the fear of being teased or bullied for a lack of clothing. Thus, we reached out to the Teachers College and greater Columbia University community and were overwhelmed by students’ thoughtfulness and generosity. Our ATD partners were similarly touched and Ana Dopazo, a Senior Education Specialist at Choices ATD, shared these thoughts with us:
Usually when people hear of a child who is consistently missing school they think that the child is getting into trouble or not interested in school or lazy etc…but in actuality there are many reasons that a child might not be succeeding academically that are not by choice. The participants that we usually have in our program are living in poverty. We constantly see kids that refuse to go to school because they don’t have clothes that are clean, in good condition, or that even fit properly because they’ve grown out of it or are sharing clothes with family. Sometimes just getting them new clothes is the simple solution to their school attendance…it gives them their confidence, allows them to feel comfortable in a social setting, and it gives them the motivation to go to school. Many people can’t understand why this would affect someone so tremendously because most of us don’t realize that being able to go shopping for clothes is a luxury, and not something that everyone is capable of doing. The clothing drive will help our kids in need to hopefully be able to add a few items to their wardrobe that will allow them at least some outfits they can mix and match to attend school. I don’t think that this is the answer to all our truant kids but it’s a start…it’s an opportunity to allow these kids that actually want to go to school a chance to have a normal educational experience without the worries of whether or not he/she will have something to wear to school. This clothing drive can also be the answer to our kids not getting rearrested for stealing things they need and may also prevent teasing or bullying in school. So its not just giving a kid a shirt or pants to wear its so much more that: you are contributing to this child life.
Please share this information widely and look for donation boxes in both Zankel Hall and Whittier at Teachers College — and please consider making a clothing donation.
YMEJ Exhibition: Inquiry into Educational Justice (May 12th – June 2nd)
If you’re in NYC, come and visit our exhibition, “Inquiry into Educational Justice,” featuring multimodal publications produced by this year’s cohort of YMEJ Seminar graduate students. In these publications, the YMEJ students explore a variety of issues and topics related to educational justice and draw on a variety of media and multimodal resources to bring their yearlong inquiries to life for a broader audience.
The exhibition is part of YMEJ’s commitment to public pedagogy and was made possible by the material and technical resources and support of EdLab at Teachers College, who helped us bring our aesthetic visions into reality.
Where: M. W. Offit Family Gallery, 3rd Floor, Teachers College (525 W. 120th St., 10027)
When: Monday, May 12th through Monday, June 2nd
Learn more about the exhibition here; and please let us know what you think if you do visit.
Note: We are also sponsoring a clothing drive as another element of public pedagogy and social action in conjunction with this exhibit. Click to learn more.
(photos from our opening reception soon to come!)
Does Every Action Really Lead to an Equal and Opposite Reaction?
At the Educational Justice Symposium on March 31st, 2014, Michelle Fine reminded us that people and their actions aren’t necessarily so different; however, society’s reactions vary quite a bit. Although research certainly supports this point, it seems to get lost in all the deficit-based discussions about what’s wrong with kids, families, and communities that lead to some kids winding up being court-involved. A better question might be, what’s wrong with our systems of education, law, social work, etc., that lead to Black kids getting much harsher consequences, including incarceration, than White kids for the exact same behaviors (see, e.g., Michael Rocque & Raymond Paternoster’s 2011 article in The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminolology: “Understanding the Antecedents of the ‘School-to-Jail’ Link: The Relationship Between Race and School Discipline”).
The questions we ask matter because different questions lead to different answers. If we ask, what’s wrong with these kids that cause them to wind up court-involved? then we are likely to find something “wrong” with the kids (hey, nobody’s perfect) that we might easily assume leads to court-involvement. We then try to “fix” the kids in order to reduce their court-involvement. However, the problem remains that, when kids perform the same actions, they receive pretty different reactions from society.
If, on the other hand, we ask, what’s wrong with these systems that cause them to punish Black kids so much more harshly for the same actions as White kids? then we will get pretty different answers. So far, it seems like there are problems all down the line, starting from individual teachers making decisions in their classrooms, to school-level responses, to arrest and sentencing rates. And remember, these reactions vary for the same kid actions. If, for example, a White kid and a Black kid are both found in the gym when they are supposed to be in math class, the White kid is much more likely to receive a milder punishment, such as a phone call home. The Black kid is much more likely to receive a harsher punishment, such as suspension; in fact, there have been cases of kids in this situation getting arrested for “trespassing.” Two kids, equal actions, hugely unequal reactions.
Upcoming Event on US Prison System
If you are located in the NYC metro area, come check out this awesome event on Thursday!
Join the NYC Student Collective to End Mass Incarceration for a conversation about the United States prison system. Our discussion will be structured around a mapping exercise used in the conflict resolution field. We will share knowledge about what factors perpetuate or interrupt mass incarceration, in order to try and strategize how the collective can can best engage in anti-prison work.
Letters from Death Row
Many of my posts in the past have revolved largely around the foster care system, however, just tonight, I came across an interesting article on Gawker, “Letters From Death Row: Ray Jasper, Texas Inmate 999341“. As it is said in the article, every year, Hamilton Nolan sends a letter to each person on death row set to be executed in the upcoming year. The above linked letter is the first reply. I don’t pretend to be able to add anything meaningful to Mr. Jasper’s response. It is beautiful and poetic. I also don’t plan to take a stance on the death penalty. However, I do think that there are many, MANY important conversations that need to be happening that are not happening. May I also recommend another book to follow your reading of Mr. Jasper’s letter: Autobiography of an Execution. Learning more about the Death Penalty, setting aside even the question of guilt or innocence and instead engaging in a conversation about justice is something we cannot avoid in the new year, or any year. It’s one I most certainly look forward to having.
Racial Profiling as a Vicious Circle
“In a culture that promises equality but delivers hierarchy, everyone is risk rich, everyone a victim and a perpetrator.”
(Mc Dermott, et al., 2009, p.103)
We cannot talk about youth media and educational justice without pointing out the unbalanced authority and power owned by men in uniform. As it is the case in many countries, ID control based on appearance, often labeled “racial profiling” or “stop and frisk,” is a plague. Some communities are facing this struggle everyday, and consequently develop hostile feelings toward police who do not appear to be protective but to be oppressive.
In France, a magistrate once said: “We don’t realize that this is the ID control itself that provokes crimes. At first, we have a person who did nothing; he was not supposed to be controlled and ID-checked, but then, at the end of the day, he is pursued by justice for a crime directly incited because of the ID control.” (Bonelli, 2003, p.40)
– Black people are 6 times more likely to be controlled than a white person. – North-Africans are 8 times more likely to be controlled. – Youth are 7.9 times more likely to be controlled than adults.
On this topic, the Open Society Foundation started to research and advocate against racial profiling in France. They made a video, Equality Betrayed: The Impact of Ethnic Profiling in France, that voiced the narrative of French people who cannot count anymore the number of times they have been arrested because of their skin colors. (View the video at the end of this post; click on YouTube’s closed captioning for English subtitles.)
Stop and Frisk in France, as well as here and in many other countries, raises never-ending issues. In this atmosphere, only fear dominates. This is a fear from both sides: from the youth and from the police. A loss of trust, from both sides.
This fact raises many more questions: when are we going to exit the vicious circle that puts youth labeled “at-risk” at risk? How can educational technology help us to rethink unequal relationships of power in democracy? How can creative media production link police’s narratives as oppressed and oppressor with court-involved youths’ narratives of oppressor and oppressed?
Bonelli, L. 2003. Une vision policière de la société, In Manière de voir 71. Le Monde Diplomatique, October-November 2003.
McDermott, R., Raley, J. D., Seyer-Ochi, I. (2009). Race and Class in a Culture of Risk. Review Of Research In Education, 33(1), 101-116. Retrieved from: http://rre.sagepub.com/content/33/1/101
New Books on Youth, Justice, & Institutions
To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care is the recently published book by Cris Beam that offers a layered, multi-faceted, and poignant exploration of New York City’s Foster Care System by focusing on the lives of the children and their families — both bio and foster — who are deeply affected by institutional and system-wide policies and practices. Beam writes based on her research — for this book, she spent five years interviewing and spending time with foster families — and from personal experience and positions the texts as an attempt to better understand why, despite the “more than a million adults [who] are directly or indirectly employed to ensure [foster children’s] well-being, and $15 to $20 billion a year [that] are poured into overseeing their health and management,” no one thinks the system is working. Beam’s book does not offer neat solutions. Instead, her rich descriptions and thoughtful prose offer different points of entry into the seemingly entrenched set of challenges that affect the people caught in the system at every level. Read the first chapter of the book here.
Arts, Media, and Justice: Multimodal Explorations with Youth is a volume edited by YMEJ member Lalitha Vasudevan and Tiffany DeJaynes and brings together a collection of chapters authored by practitioners and researchers who worked with youth in a variety of arts-based and media settings. Central to all of the chapters is an emphasis on how, through exploration with the arts and media, young people involved with the juvenile justice system may be engaged as agentive partners in reimagining education in their lives. Ranging from photography and theater to media making and creative writing, the contexts depicted in this volume hold important implications for educators, the field of youth development, and policy makers in how we might better support young people who find themselves embroiled court-involved — the thoughtful and illustrative writings of the authors suggests that rather than emphasizing punitive measures, we might create conditions in which exploration of self and world may occur in meaningful, collaborative, and potentially transformative ways.
(**All proceeds from book sales go to supporting the work of alternative to detention and alternative to incarceration programs in New York City. ***)