Our Attitude on the Question of Chicago Violence

By Frank Chapman
Field Organizer, Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Over the July 4th weekend 10 people were killed and 55 wounded. As usual this opened a one-dimensional discussion on “Chicago violence” that focused exclusively on violence in the African American community and “Black on Black Crime”. If a Black person kills a Black person, and particularly if it involves gang rivalry, then that always provides an opportunity for the Mayor, the Anti-Violence Movement and Police Superintendent McCarthy to come out and hold our community in moral contempt for allowing this state of affairs to exist. In fact the Opinion section of the Chicago Sun-Times (July 13, 2015) has an op-ed by Laura Washington that says, “My people are committing genocide”. Raphael Lemkin, an authority on the subject, defined genocide as “a coordinated strategy to destroy a group of people, a process that could be accomplished through total annihilation as well as strategies that eliminate key elements of the group’s basic existence, including language, culture, and economic infrastructure.” So clearly Laura Washington does not understand the gravity of her statement or is unaware of the genocidal policies perpetrated against Black people in America from slavery to the present.

As organizers who are fighting against police crimes and for community control of the police we are constantly challenged by defenders of the status quo to focus on Black on Black crime. How do we respond to that challenge?

First, we start with the objective conditions of oppression in our communities that exist independently of anyone’s opinion. These conditions include high unemployment rates and below poverty wages, massive evictions and foreclosures, inadequate delivery of health services combined with an epidemic of alcohol and drug addiction and high infant mortality rates, miles of dilapidated housing, school closings, and scarce or non-existent recreational facilities. Add to these a phony war on drugs combined with a massive influx of drugs and deadly weapons, mass incarceration, 70% or more of gang related homicides unsolved and the active role of police in some of these murders (never censured, much less prosecuted) , hundreds of innocent victims of police torture and families whose children have been murdered by the police. All of these above-stated conditions are the result of existing government policies (such as austerity programs and institutionalized racist practices) and are the breeding ground for the violence in Chicago focused on by the media. The conditions that breed violence are never honestly discussed by the Mayor and his official and unofficial supporters. In fact, the status quo power relationships in the city are maintained and perpetuated by not addressing the root problems.

The reason why we are agitating, educating and organizing in our communities is because we know that this system of racist injustice that habitually blames the victim is incapable of solving this problem of Chicago violence. We are constantly delivering the message that we must enact an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) that will hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit and the way they police our communities.

Police crimes and corruption are related to all crimes. That is why when we are petitioning/recruiting in the neighborhoods for CPAC and the response is overwhelmingly “Yes, I’ll sign”! “Yes, I’ll volunteer!”(To date we have about 500 volunteers). We see what the police do every day, and we experience the racist contempt they have for us first hand. The news media, the Mayor, Police Superintendent McCarthy and all their concocted schemes of community policing cannot and have not changed the harsh realities we face on a daily basis.

Finally let me say that the best response to those who would make us responsible for the breeding ground of violence that they created is to continue to build for a Mass March on City Hall this August 29, 2015. On that historic day we must make our voices heard like they have never heard before.

[For more information on the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, see http://naarpr.org .]

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No Education No Life: How the Algebra Project Is Educating for Insurgency

By Paul Lauter
AlterNet

June 6, 2015 – Much of the debate going on in educational circles today concerns differing ideas about how students can accomplish certain agreed-upon goals. Mainly these consist of the 3 R’s—reading, riting and rithmatic—with a touch perhaps of American history. Some wish to provide teachers with greater scope, better resources, and fewer students in the classroom. Others, the multimillion dollar “reformers,” promote a regime of ceaseless testing, managerial authority, privatization, and “teacher-proof” curricula.

But suppose you conclude, based on observing the thousands of segregated Ferguson’s and Baltimore’s throughout the USA, that the huge number of students in schools of poverty are ill-served by these very goals, that poor, often black and Latino, students, even if they pass every test and climb into community colleges, will never—a few tokens aside—get an even break in 21st-century America.  What then?

Can the goals of schooling themselves be transformed? Can schools become sites not of failure and exclusion, but of insurgency and transformation? Can the young people now marginalized, enraged, and trapped in disastrous institutions become agents of creativity and growth—and real learning?

Jay Gillen’s essential book, Educating for Insurgency: The Roles of Young People in Schools of Poverty shifts focus from the adults fighting about schooling to the students themselves as the key actors in their own education. The question Gillen addresses is how might we think about the ways students can, indeed must, organize themselves, those close to them, and the many others with whom they contend for a future.

At the center of Gillen’s treatise is his and his students’ experience with one of the three r’s, rithmatic, in the form of the Algebra Project. The Algebra Project was first devised by Bob Moses, a key figure in the efforts of the young organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to challenge and eliminate racial segregation in its most intransigent bastion, Mississippi, in the 1950s and 1960s. The Baltimore version of the Project has been highly successful in providing what Gillen calls a “crawl space” in which students begin to learn how to mobilize the organizational resources necessary to confront the school boards, politicians, and courts that stand in the way of their educational development.

Because educational and political authorities see math as vital to 21st-century schooling, they are willing to provide some funds to those who succeed in teaching it, and they interfere less with the process. Gillen puts it: “Math hides the student insurgency as it learns how to walk.”  This approach differs from the admirable Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson, which was banned by Arizona lawmakers despite—or perhaps because of—its success in motivating and educating students to confront injustice.

A project seriously devoted to teaching math is insulated against the charge sometimes registered against radical education projects that they are indifferent to students of poverty learning the basics. Mathematical knowledge is, of course, a goal of the Algebra Project, just as the vote was the goal of SNCC organizing in Mississippi. The brilliant analogy between voter registration and learning algebra in school, which Gillen has derived from Bob Moses’ work, is apt, first, because young people are key to implementation.  (Continued)

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How A Ragtag Group Of Lefties Mainlined Debt-Free College Into The Democratic Primary

Could Progressive Change Campaign Committee help ignite the youth vote for Democrats?

By Sahil Kapur

Bloomberg Politics

May 8, 2015 – A group of two dozen young activists working out of homes and coffee shops around the country has achieved something rather unusual: mainlining an idea into the upper echelons of the Democratic Party—including its top presidential contenders—in just four months.

The phrase "debt-free college" was hardly present in the national political lexicon until the Progressive Change Campaign Committee launched a campaign in January to push Democrats to support the idea of federal assistance to help Americans graduate from college without debt.

Why this idea? The group concluded that the abysmal Democratic turnout in 2014 was due to a lack of bold ideas in the national debate that excited progressives. So it did some polling and found not only strong support but that helping lower the cost of college was the number one issue that would have moved Democratic turnout, said PCCC spokesman TJ Helmstetter. It’s easy to understand younger voters’ interest: Outstanding student loan debt is currently $1.16 trillion and rising, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, averaging $28,400 per college graduate.

"I’m hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea." –Senator Chuck Schumer

The PCCC partnered with the left-leaning think tank Demos to write a white paper on the idea, which featured three components: federal aid to states to lower tuition costs, federal need-based aid to students, and other patchwork reforms to cut costs such as putting textbooks online.

Then the gears started turning.

In March, the 70-member Congressional Progressive Caucus endorsed debt-free college education in its budget blueprint. On April 21, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader-in-waiting, cosponsored a resolution embracing the idea with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz and the House progressive leaders.

"When it comes to making college affordable, I’m hopeful that debt-free college is the next big idea," Schumer said.

The presidential hopefuls also jumped aboard. On April 13, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders came out for making four-year public colleges free of tuition. Ten days later former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley e-mailed supporters to say that Democrats’ "ultimate goal should be simple: every student should be able to go to college debt-free." And this week Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager touted the idea—down to the exact phrase. "What voters are looking for is someone to be a champion for everyday people. For young people, that’s debt-free college," Robby Mook said Wednesday on CNBC.

Outdoing Obama

The plan is more sweeping than recent Democratic proposals. President Barack Obama in March signed a "Student Aid Bill of Rights" to order federal agencies to explore ways to offer students more repayment options and help them better understand their loan plans. On the legislative end, he has proposed two years of free community college, at a cost of $60 billion to the government. Warren has pushed a bill to slash interest rates for undergraduates and post-graduates. Both have gone nowhere in Congress. (Continued)

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