[caption id="attachment_22866" align="alignleft"]Jason Sole (Photo by Regina Wamba)[/caption]Jason Sole realized he had become a statistic when he was convicted for a felony for the third time. Since then, after a life of selling drugs, gang activity and losing close friends, Sole decided to turn his life around.
[caption id="attachment_21056" align="alignleft"]Don Samuels (Photo courtesy Don Samuels)[/caption]After giving up his Minneapolis city council seat, which he had held since 2003, to run for mayor last year with an ambitious education platform, Don Samuels now throws his name into the ring for at-large school board member. He hopes to bring his deep connections within local and state government to support the superintendent’s agenda in fighting the achievement gap. “I’ve been staring this monster in the face forever with two hands tied behind me,” Samuels said of education issues. “I’ve been on the sidelines of this thing for a long time, and I just want to be in the middle of it.”
[caption id="attachment_20981" align="alignleft"]Erica Mauter (Photo: TCDP)[/caption]Since beginning graduate school, blogger Erica Mauter has gotten more involved in the political process by volunteering for different campaigns, but now she’s ready to take her civic engagement to the next level by becoming an election judge. We talked to Mauter about her reasons for making the decision, and what she expects.
[caption id="attachment_20933" align="alignleft"]stockvault.net[/caption]Members of the Parents of African American Students Advisory Council (PAASAC) met in Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) district headquarters Thursday, June 12, for a listening session with three school board members about issues they hoped to address with the board. Attended by about 18 people, including board members Keith Hardy, Mary Doran and John Broderick, as well as Chief Executive Officer Michelle Walker, the listening session focused on a need for more African American-focused curriculum, more African American and teachers of color, and stronger steps toward ending the achievement gap.
[caption id="attachment_20812" align="alignleft"]Nekima Levy-Pounds (Photo courtesy of TCDP)[/caption]Lawyer, professor, scholar-activist, preacher, mom, volunteer and blogger, Nekima Levy-Pounds has a lot on her plate. The recent Star Tribune blogger (in addition to her writing for MinnPost and TC Daily Planet) is being thrown accolades left and right, but she takes it all in stride.
[caption id="attachment_19737" align="alignleft"]Lydia Apartments houses formerly homeless individuals – Photo courtesy of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative[/caption]When 27-year-old Simone Brooks’ job as a school cafeteria worker ended last June, her family slid into homelessness. Their apartment rented for $650/month. Leroy, her fiancé and father of her six-year-old son, was just making minimum wage. “It was obvious that we couldn’t pay for such a high rent,” she said. They could afford the apartment when they were bringing in two incomes, but once the summer hit, it was too much.
I met Isaiah Campbell in early December at a minimum wage rally in front of a McDonalds and Burger King in Northeast Minneapolis. Organized by Minnesotans for a Fair Economy and SEIU, the action called for an increase in minimum wage.
It was a bitterly cold day, one of those days where you dread leaving your house. I was running a behind that day because of the cold and got to the rally 20 minutes after it was supposed to start. Unfortunately, that meant I missed the speakers, one of whom was Campbell.
[caption id="attachment_19409" align="alignleft"]economist.com [/caption]When I look back at the stories I’ve worked on this year, there’s one theme that appears over and over. From black baby dolls being hung from a noose at a high school, to protests over Miss Saigon, to a professor being reprimanded after teaching about institutional racism, race and racism keep coming up.
Maybe, just maybe, we as a society are ready to start having meaningful dialogue about privilege and racism in a way that will actually bring about changes — from our educational system to transportation to housing and the criminal justice system. Although simply talking about it will not necessarily bring about the needed changes, at least it’s a start.
[caption id="attachment_19328" align="alignleft"]b.vimeocdn.com[/caption]Swati Avasthi is a novelist and creative writing professor. When we asked for people to tell us about their experience with classroom discussions of structural racism, here’s what she told us:
Recently, Professor Shannon Gibney was reprimanded by Minneapolis Community and Technical College after three white male students complained about her classroom discussion of structural racism. That’s not the only classroom where structural or institutional racism or white privilege are discussed, or where such discussions spark protests or anger. The consensus of professors and students who have responded to requests for interviews is that, while these discussions often can be painful, investing in this type of curriculum is essential in the long run. We invite readers to share their own experiences and points of view, either through comments or through articles submitted for publication.