FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 05/11
Caustic Political Speech
STOP THE DAM
8 Years of Occupation
Hezbollah in Lebanon
The Master's Plan
Kristen L. Buras
30th Years of FNB
War, Prisons, Torture
Angola 3 News
What Happened in Wisconsin
A Serious Fight
The Libya Intervention Debate
Stop Bombing Libya
On Libya & Crises
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
A Q&A on Libya
Stephen Shalom and Michael Albert
Civil Wars U.S. Labor
Guide to Green Politics
Toward Climate Justice
Zaps - 05/11
NOTE: Z Magazine subscribers and sustainers have access to all Z Magazine articles here and in the archive. The latest Z Magazine articles available to everyone are listed in the Free Articles box at the top of the table of contents, and are starred in the list below. Questions? e-mail Z Magazine Online.
Challenging the Master's Plan for Lower 9th
The media opined that New Orleans was back when the Saints won the Super Bowl in 2010. A few months later, news organizations featured special programs about what things were like "Five Years after Hurricane Katrina." While struggles remain, the media told us, the events of August 2005 allowed the building of a better city, including one with successful public schools. Adding to the blitz was NBC's Education Nation Series where white leaders, such as Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Recovery School District Superintendent Paul Vallas, and Tulane University President Scott Cowen continued the storytelling, describing the city's schools as a shining example of education innovation.
Like many works of fiction, such fantasizing about revitalized public schools in New Orleans inspires the imagination. But the reality is many poor and working-class black communities don't even have public schools. They've never been rebuilt.
The School Facilities Master Plan (SFMP) for Orleans Parish, which the state-run Recovery School District (RSD) issued in August 2008, specifies which schools will remain open, be closed, or receive funding for reconstruction. Revealing the close relationship between racism, education, and urban geography, it has strategically neglected to fund the reconstruction of public schools in historically black neighborhoods downtown.
Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents downtown neighborhoods on the City Council, affirms: "The reality check is that the schools below Canal Street were crossed off the map." For example, three of the five schools that existed in the Lower 9th Ward prior to 2005 have either been demolished or are slated for demolition and a fourth has been closed indefinitely. Meanwhile, RSD has received millions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for damage to these schools—$47,019,836 million to be precise. This money wasn't allocated to rebuild schools in the Lower 9th Ward, but was instead put in a general fund to support school construction in largely white neighborhoods uptown—all of this despite the fact that the vast majority of students in the city's public schools are African American and live downtown.
Despite historic government failure to invest in adequate public infrastructure throughout this part of the city, the 9th Ward as a whole had one of the highest rates of black working-class homeownership in the nation before 2005. For white leaders (and a segment of middle-class black allies), the breaking of the levee along the Industrial Canal, which resulted in 20 feet of water surging into the Lower 9th Ward, represented an apparent opportunity to "cleanse" the city of these particular homeowners.
Residents of the Lower 9th Ward, however, have challenged the plan. Martin Luther King Elementary School, which predated Katrina by a decade and is the sole public school in the neighborhood, stands now because of the determination of its principal, veteran teachers, and community members who fought to rebuild it. One such teacher said: "I guess a lot of people thought if you keep us down so long we'll surrender. It doesn't work like that here. This is all we have. This is home. We're not going nowhere."
Battle to Rebuild MLK Elementary
RSD showed little intention of supporting the return of any of the five schools originally in the Lower 9th Ward—including Louis Armstrong, Thomas Edison, Joseph Hardin, and Martin Luther King Elementary Schools, as well as Alfred Lawless Senior High School. A veteran teacher recollects: "We told the RSD that our school was coming back. They said, 'Oh yeah, well, you all come back in five or ten years.' We said, 'Oh, no. We're coming back in 2006.'"
Principal Gaines and a number of teachers affiliated with King Elementary proceeded with writing a charter school proposal—the only means they saw for possibly reopening the school in a newly reformed, charter school-driven policy environment. Ultimately, King was the only charter submitted solely by a grassroots group that the state approved; other charters were granted to schools collaborating with management organizations. Building on its pre-existing history, King Elementary aimed to continue its legacy as an open access, community-run school.
Despite the immense work required to get the charter, approval was only the beginning. King Elementary still needed a building for the 2006-2007 school year, while the original site in the Lower 9th Ward was being renovated. This, too, proved to be a battle. RSD offered the dilapidated Charles Colton Middle School, which it promised to renovate as a temporary home for King Elementary students. Problems with asbestos, termites, and other hazards, however, were not remedied and deadlines for building repairs were repeatedly missed. Members of the King community demanded access to a safe, alternative school building—an uptown site in much better condition—but RSD said it had other plans for that building.
By September 6, King Elementary personnel decided to hold school on the front steps of Colton to let the world know that teachers were ready to teach. In consultation with leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), they decided to march to RSD offices about two miles away. Robin Jarvis, RSD superintendent at the time, wasn't there, so the students took a seat and the teachers continued to teach. Jarvis finally arrived and agreed to a closed-door meeting with five or six key members. As a result of this mobilization, a well-maintained building uptown became available and that's where students were taught for the remainder of 2006-2007.
On August 13, 2007, the King school returned to its original location in the Lower 9th Ward, where renovations had occurred the previous year. On that momentous day, Principal Gaines declared before an exhilarated community: "Dr. King said, 'They dared to dream.' And after the disaster that devastated this area and our school, we dared to dream. We are glad to be home and indeed this is a homecoming."
Funding for A High School?
At present, King Elementary is beyond capacity with 800 students and a waiting list of over 500. Although granted permission to operate a high school beginning in 2008-2009, no additional funding for facilities was provided. As a result King's 9th and 10th grade students occupy the last remaining space on campus, with 11th and 12th grades to be added in 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. Capacity remains a pressing but unresolved issue due to systemic failure of RSD to invest in school development for the Lower 9th.
In August 2008, RSD released the School Facilities Master Plan. The plan was presented as the product of community input solicited during the previous months. In reality, many communities had little voice in determining which schools would remain open, be closed, or receive funding for renovation and construction.
The master plan indefinitely closed or "landbanked" approximately 60 schools, with buildings subject to sale for alternative public and, most alarmingly, private use. Yet such selective shuttering of schools—most of these schools are in working-class and middle-class communities of color on the downtown and eastern side of the city—is only one troubling aspect of the master plan. The plan also specifies six phases for school rebuilding, but only Phase 1 was funded.
While the draft master plan indicated that a new high school would be built in the Lower 9th Ward, it was the only school in Phase 1 that had no specifically designated site. This, of course, prompted concerns about RSD's commitment. What's more, an "addition" to King that would enable the accommodation of some 500 additional elementary students was delegated to Phase 5.
Amendments to the master plan were issued in November 2008. At this juncture, a high school for the Lower 9th Ward was no longer designated for Phase 1, but instead a high school in the Upper 9th Ward was planned. Although both neighborhoods are largely black and working class, they're on opposite sides of the Industrial Canal and have distinct histories. Phase 2 now includes a Lower 9th Ward high school for approximately 275 students, but it was planned as an "addition" to King for a meager $5 million. "So now it's a fight between [the Upper and Lower 9th Ward] because that's where the [RSD] wants it to go," Mr. Preston, a community activist, worried.
Despite RSD claims that the master plan used demographic information to create neighborhood "recovery profiles," which were then presumably used to determine where schools should be restored, a demographic profile prepared at the behest of L9SDG in 2008 revealed a strikingly different picture: within a two-minute drive of King, there are 493 school-aged children—meaning children ranging from age 0 to 19. Within a five-minute drive of King, there are 4,752 school-aged children.
L9SDG continues to collect petitions from families for a proposed high school in the neighborhood. It has also written to Congress requesting a federal investigation of the use of public monies by RSD, urging: "We have endeavored to work in tandem with local and state school officials, but it has proven to be to our community's detriment. After five years of trying to rebuild schools and other essential infrastructure in our neighborhood, we feel that we have exhausted our options. We can no longer trust our state and local school officials."
Preston asked, "Who made a decision that we didn't want a school back in this area? To take my money and place it in some arbitrary fund and say we're going to do whatever we want to do is criminal."
As of July 2010, FEMA acknowledged an obligation and disbursed the monies to RSD for damages to the Lower 9th Ward schools.
L9SDG does not believe the Lower 9th Ward is the only community that's suffered from either a lack of representation in educational decision making or a lack of allocated resources for rebuilding neighborhood public schools. Attempting to speak out, veteran teachers and students have documented other examples of educational injustice in the book Pedagogy, Policy, and the Privatized City: Stories of Dispossession and Defiance from New Orleans.
Meanwhile, L9SDG has crafted architectural plans for a high school where Lawless Senior High once stood in the Lower 9th Ward. The proposed school would accommodate 800 students, consisting of classrooms, a library-media center, technology wing, art facilities, band and choir room, auditorium, gymnasium, and football and baseball fields. The anticipated cost is $45 million. The school curriculum would revolve around environmental sustainability and prepare students to contribute to the community through the health sciences, technology, and the arts. In this regard, the school would build on the legacy of King, for example, extending the work it has done through its Wetland Warriors Program. More specifically, students would focus on the critical investigation and resolution of pressing community problems such as:
· race- and class-based health disparities
· the relationship between communal health and the destruction of the environment, including the loss of wetlands due to the petrochemical industry
· the role of the musical, visual, and performing arts—including New Orleans indigenous cultural traditions—in sustaining and advancing the overall health of the community
· students would be exposed to a college preparatory curriculum, while the school would also respect an array of vocations
During summer 2010, L9SDG sponsored a billboard demanding RSD funding for neighborhood schools. It read, "Lower 9th Ward Stakeholders Ask Where's the Money?" Prompted by their ongoing activism, current RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas reportedly "promised" to seek funding, but said the school couldn't be completed until 2014-2015. Despite the community's request that the school accommodate at least 800 students, RSD envisioned only 500. Whether or not such promises will come to fruition remains to be seen.
In late August 2010, FEMA announced it would provide a $1.8 billion grant to RSD. This has only intensified grassroots concerns over the racial politics of the district's decision-making. A member of the school community responded: "We're not going to let this force of impoverishment, of racism...determine whether or not we can return; whether we can function; whether we can educate our children, our community. If they can take a stand after that total devastation and loss, then I certainly can join them, and I can take my stand in support of trying to break the back [of injustice]."
Along these lines, L9SDG welcomes an alliance with community groups who are committed to the restoration of public schools in all areas of New Orleans as well as the solidarity of similarly oppressed communities, whether in Chicago, New York City, and elsewhere. Educational inequity must be collectively challenged. Unlike the Super Bowl, the education of African American children is not a game.
Kristen Buras, born and raised in New Orleans, is assistant professor of urban educational policy at Emory University and co-author of Pedagogy, Policy, and the Privatized City: Stories of Dispossession and Defiance from New Orleans. She is also co-founder and director of the Urban South Grassroots Research Collective for Public Education.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.