The Second Line Blog

Citizen SHE United

Change is made when Black women in Louisiana set the policy agenda, build their leadership capacities to lobby for that agenda, and mobilize voters to support candidates who are aligned with that agenda. SHE works with and holds accountable decision makers and elected officials to deliver policy victories from SHE’s policy agenda. SHE implements a multi-pronged strategy to advance Black women’s issues in Louisiana and works with influencers to ensure that their work improves community members lived experience.

• All women are deserving of access to quality healthcare. To provide it is not only a commitment to the individual, but to families across Louisiana;
• All women have the right to economic freedom and equity so that they are not forced into making unhealthy decisions about their personal well-being or the well-being of their families in order to survive;
• The criminal justice system should not treat any member of the community differently than the other. To do so based on race or gender identity has a disparaging impact on already marginalized communities, their family members, and families across Louisiana as a • whole;
• Universal access to quality education is a community commitment to sustainable households;
• Strong voter engagement allows all members of the city and state to be represented and heard in an effort to ensure that all of our Constitutional guarantees are safeguarded
Programs

 

Fatherhood is a matter of recognition

Louisiana is still the worst state nationwide for children.

Now, I know you’re thinking, “What does that statement have to do with Fatherhood or Father’s Day?”

As I thought about writing a post for Father’s Day,  I didn’t want to sound mundane or say something that was cliche with no substance at all. As I scrolled my Instagram timeline, I happened upon the article, “Louisiana is still the worst state nationwide for children, reports say.” After thinking about the study from the international aid group Save the Children that was included in the article, I came to some conclusions.

The article did present some solid reasons to support the title. The article included the infant mortality rate, homicide rate, and high school dropout rates. Data was pulled from several different government agencies. To save the children of the great state of Louisiana, Save the Children concluded that federal, state, and local governments should,  “respond and invest accordingly.”

If Save the Children thinks solutions are going to come from the government then they have a warped sense of reality. I’ll tell you where solutions are coming from!  The answers are in fathers and they amazing support systems in our community When I think about fatherhood, I think about all of the people who allow us to strive, thrive, and stay alive in spite of. Fathers and the family, friends, and community members who still instill values, morals, and goodness into their children day after day. Now don’t get me wrong, I do acknowledge there is a need to be active and engaged in your community, but, when you create a study from data collected, you leave out the very soul of a people and community who are moving forward progressively each and every day. We are our own government who give unto the lives of our children and citizens daily and my Father’s Day gift to myself is recognizing all of the love, support, and caring that comes from one another. I love you all and be blessed.

A Young Woman’s Right To Speak

At the very least, I remember school as a nurturing place that works along with home to instill the foundation that a young person needs to function in life. Schools should mirror home and reinforce the positive life building lessons that we learn as well as nurture our personal growth all within a space that we all feel protected in. At times, many of our youth blossom from the experience and the lessons that are being taught at school. Then, there are times they blossom in spite of our efforts.  At Petaluma High School, one young lady excelled in her plight to be the best she can be. Lulabel Seitz is the granddaughter of Filipino immigrants and was raised in a two parent household where the parents left high school early, she succeeded in becoming the valedictorian of her high school with a GPA well over 4.0 and acceptance into Stanford University where she will study applied mathematics and economics. It is evident that this young lady is capable, confident, and courageous for what she has overcome and accomplished.

This past week at her high school graduation, Lulabel Seitz took the opportunity and platform during her Valedictorian speech to address sexual assault on school campuses, an ordeal that Lulabel Seitz says happened to her personally. She said she was suppressed and her voice silenced. As she in fact deviated from her submitted speech and addressed the cover up, her mic was cut off and the delivery of the rest of her speech was denied which eerily seems like the silencing and censoring that she has accused school administrators of.

Though details of the alleged sexual assault are said to be protected by school officials, it seems to me that something on the straight and narrow isn’t going on her. The principal claims that Lulabel Seitz mic was cut because she deviated from the script and that Lulabel was warned and repeatedly instructed not to speak against the faculty in anyway during her speech or else.

I, as a father of a young girl, see these events by the school officials and power that be as worrisome and threatening. If we don’t for one protect our daughters to every extent possible, then we are being a detriment to their livelihood and existence. If we do not intentionally go out of our way to provide not only a safe space for our children to speak out and a viable and amplified platform to speak out against injustices, these injustices will continue.

Though she was censored, Lulabel Seitz actions has sent a clear and precise message of activism. Lulabel Seitz later uploaded to Youtube her entire speech. In her speech, she exclaims, “And even learning on a campus in which some people defend perpetrators of sexual assault and silence their victims, we didn’t let that drag us down. The Class of 2018 has demonstrated time and time again that we may be a new generation but we are not too young to speak up, to dream and to create change.”

We, as parents, guardians and influencers of a younger generations, owe them the comfort of knowing they have a voice and an ear if anything happens to them in life. We are instructed to provide and protect them in any situation in life. This is true of home and school which are probably the two most frequented and sacred places in a young adults life. Young adults like Lulabel Seitz who have the courage to call out and address the social and personal injustices of our community, nation and world are the very change agents that we need to protect in our plight to activate change. I appreciate you Lulabel Seitz for your strength and courage. Thanks for your guidance and leadership

Activism is Necessary for Balance; Balance is Necessary for Activism

Activism is defined as a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.

Before learning the specific term “activism,” it’s been known that blacks have historically positioned themselves as activists within our communities in the United States.  Activism isn’t limited to race and it seeks its place among communities all over the world.

Every figure and leader who has exercised their voice and taken action to overturn injustice while educating their oppressors and witnesses to their work have taught us what it means to give voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless, and vision to the blind all in the name of change.

Because of the advances in technology, whether we know it or not, most of us are activists in some form through work within our careers, conversations with friends or strangers and through social media activity-digital advocacy, but how we use our voice and position is what makes the difference.

In a world flooded with group-thought and social media persuasion, it’s easy minimize individual thought and nuance or even become conflicted on whether or not you are “doing enough”.

  • Am I posting/sharing enough current events?
  • Am I up-to-date on what’s happening around the world?
  • Frankly, AM I  EVEN DOING ENOUGH?

I’ve asked myself these questions while examining the authenticity of others (because we all know those folks who do things just for the glory of trend and attention).  But then, I am reminded that the life I live each day is dedicated to doing exactly what people post about.

  • There are those who post.
  • There are those who act.
  • There are those who do some of both.

Both are beneficial, even if the intention isn’t pure because awareness is a significant precursor of activism.

Each day I work within the education system of New Orleans, I face the discomfort of being a black woman working amongst predominately white educators to support both sides and ensure cultural and class differences don’t result in unfair treatment of our students.  Time spent supporting families plagued with systemic educational and economical barriers.

Conversations with young black boys and girls about societal standards and privilege and lack thereof.  Even my time spent as an education blogger shines light on topics that are often evaded because of politics, but need to be said.   This is my fight whether it makes it to the internet or not.

But, do know that this fight does not come without sacrifice.  I’ve experienced periods of anxiety as a result of so much exposure and I worry about worldly occurrences of oppression and suffering; becoming envious of those who don’t operate based on emotion connected to social issues.  I’ve had to be cautious with who and how I bring up certain questions and issues to avoid becoming angry about reception and the like mindedness of my audience. But even with this occasional discomfort, the stress associated with activism is one I welcome because I know that at the end of the day, it does not go without benefit to someone.

Despite the strain, I know that standing on the front lines has and will continue to make me a better human being overall.  It’s challenged me to research more to avoid succumbing to following trends or the majority opinion. It’s made me a stronger thinker and writer, which aids in my confidence while speaking about the plight of my people to others.

Given that this is work one has to decide to opt-in, if done wholeheartedly, it is crucial to know when it’s time to secure your mental and emotional state because fighting on the front-lines gets dangerous and can be a lonely place depending upon one’s support network.

This means ensuring you take time to log-off and unplug. Unplugging can seem like a disadvantage in this work because of the need to remain updated on current events, but in a time where information is so accessible, it can potentially be less harmful than one may think.

Some additional ways I choose to promote balance in my own personal life to maintain the physical and mental strength to continue to work within my community are:

  • Praying
    • It’s essential to my serenity and peace, specifically when I become aware of the increase in being worrisome and restless.
  • Spending time with my son through learning and play
    • The innocence of childhood will forever provide a sense of relief for me.  But most importantly, working to save the world and others can’t be at the expense of creating memories and fostering the emotional, physical and spiritual health of my own seed.
  • Meditating
    • Often done in conjunction with prayer, while I haven’t gotten great at this, when I am still and in the moment before starting my day, it serves a solid preparation for whatever life brings throughout my day.
  • Going outdoors and enjoying the simplicity of nature
    • An inexpensive and calming measure in this fast-paced world.  There are no expectations and this for me is super beneficial.
  • Engaging in adult socialization through dinner, etc.
    • What better way to relax than time spent with loved ones, whether friends, fam, etc.?  Considering that relationships often take a backseat to career and family, remember to take time to foster meaningful friendships and alliances.
  • Being physically active- biking, fitness class, swimming, boxing, dance class, etc.
    • It’s no doubt the mental stress of social issues has damaging physical effects on our bodies, so exercise is definitely necessary for maintenance of health. Plus, most people aren’t engaging in stressful, wordly conversation during this time because they’re too busy trying to keep up and breath!
  • Watching and/or attending sporting events, music concerts, comedy shows etc.
    • I love sports, music, and laughing, so any opportunity to see someone display their talents is another healthy escape of the day-to-day.
  • Journaling-writing down goals
    • As a visual learner, seeing my thoughts illustrated on paper (not the phone) is nostalgic and makes ideas seem easily identifiable and tangible.

So whether your activism is digital or through the work within your career and community,  you are influential, you are important and we need you to be your best and healthiest to continue to fight for those who cannot.

While advocacy is optional.

Balance is not.

 

Our Youth: Author of Their Own Story & Conductors of Their Own Train

I remember Officer Friendly and McGruff the crime dog from my elementary school years. He was a white man the police department had in a community service position to come around to schools and engage with children. I never feared him at all. Then, there was McGruff the crime dog who implored us to “Take A Bite Out of Crime.” These two figures who represented the police force were not intimidating, intrusive, or abusive in nature in any way. They offered coloring books, a badge, stickers, and an interaction with the community that was helpful and refreshing.

So it comes with great reflection and thought as I contemplate the current landscape of events with school children and school resource officers, who are usually actual police officers or trained guards commissioned by the state to carry weapons and subdue criminals. I have concluded they are making the schoolhouse more like the jailhouse. When a school is more like a jailhouse, with it comes an institutionalized way of thinking. I fear our children won’t be able to come back from that mindset. This is evident across our nation, but recently a group of our amazing young people organized and mobilized against language that was set to be put in place in Milwaukee Public School(MPS).  In the MPS school discipline reforms, they wanted to add the language, “mandate schools to involve the police in situations with students where “criminal activity is suspected.”

Wow. This puts our children in danger to say the least. It also brings questions to my mind:

  • Who determines if a student’s behavior is criminal?.
  • Can any student, teacher, administrator, support staff member, parent or officer themselves make this determination?
  • Why are we handling school discipline issues as crimes in the first place?
  • Do we not attempt to circumvent behavior problems anymore by talking, meeting with parents and providing solutions?
  • Why is school behavior nowadays criminalized and brands kids as criminals, thugs and problems?

In Milwaukee a fire was lit. Activism took hold as the capable youth leaders of the group Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), a Milwaukee-based youth organization, went into action to convince members of the Milwaukee Public School board to remove the inappropriate language that would have allowed police to become involved in student matters on the whims and suspicions of various faculty or because of complaints. LIT, along with other youth leaders, called for a no vote on the language as well as more student input to reform discipline policies.

The students also received an ally in their fight when Keith Posley, the new MPS superintendent, never allowed the damaging language to be in the final draft of the policy. He struck that line down while adopting the rest of the policy without it. This action is major because it shows how partnerships and support between Superintendents can work to move education forward for our youth while respecting their input on issues concerning them.

Joya Headley, a youth leader at LIT and a senior at Milwaukee School of Languages, gave moving thoughts around the notion of involving police and the unjust school discipline actions faced around the nation. “We need to stop calling the police on black children in their own schools. Black students are unfairly suspected all the time and already experience harsher discipline. Involving police is the problem, not the answer.” I concur with this sister and believe that this movement is bringing light to the unfair discipline practices that involve black and brown children. What’s ironic is the schools wanted them to respect the police when they introduced them to Officer Friendly or McGruff the Crime Dog. Having that same school system call the police on students unnecessarily after they taught them to respect that same authority damages their view of police.

The students were successful in striking down the language. In hearing their story, I could only smile from ear to ear at the progressive organization, mobilization, and movement that these young people conducted. The beginning is near and they are the authors of their own story and conductors of this train. This is activism and it’s a good look for our world. Thank you youth. You are the past, present, and future!

#ThisIsActivism

“Following her July 2016 arrest during a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge in response to the killing of Alton Sterling. @BlairImani began using her voice on a national stage as a commentator, speaker, and social media presence.”