At the 2012 ACLU dinner in Detroit, Melissa Harris-Perry, author, college professor and host of a weekly news/information broadcast on MSNBC, spoke about the “school-to-prison pipeline” to the progressive mostly white straight and LGBT audience which was sprinkled with a handful of people of color and youth.
After she concluded her remarks, some gay activists asked me if it was true – were students of color more likely to be disciplined, at greater risk of being criminalized, and was it true that, based on third grade testing/observations, future prison beds were planned?
I didn’t have all the supporting statistics as Perry-Harris, but from years working with youth I knew it was true that youth of color – black, brown, etc. – were in fact more likely to end up dead or in prison than their white peers. From my time working with the LGBTQ community and our youth, it went without saying that our youth – our LGBTQ youth – were equally at risk even if statistics did not accurately reflect their peril.
We all recognized our youth were in trouble, but our approaches differed depending on whether you were gay or straight. The bottom-line is that all of our youth are suffering.
We, the “grown-ups,” may be slow to get it, but young people know and are leading the charge. Just as they understood that love was love and overwhelmingly supported marriage equality, they also understand that economic disparity and the disadvantages inherent in education and the justice system are also equal/civil rights issues. They get that there is no freedom until we all are equal.
Since 2012, the value of building coalitions and working intersectionally have become more apparent especially in youth led actions – think Black Lives Matter.
In September, a new report intended to serve as a resource for organizations – LGBTQ and racial justice organizations – interested in working together to address disparities in school discipline along lines of race, gender and sexual orientation, was released by the Advancement Project, the Equality Federation and the Gay Straight Alliance Network.
Advancement Project is a national, next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization that supports grassroots movements that aim to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Equality Federation Institute is the strategic partner and movement builder to state-based organizations that are working on the ground to advance policies that improve the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The Gay Straight Alliance Network is a next-generation LGBTQ racial and gender justice organization that empowers and trains transgender, queer and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities
“Power in Partnership: Building Connections at the Intersections to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline” explores how the discussion on the school-to-prison pipeline has gone from “a fringe educational issue to a national youth-led movement anchored by grassroots communities across the country.” It highlights and provides greater detail on how the effects of policies and practices ranging from the underinvestment in public schools to punitive zero tolerance practices (i.e. overuse of suspensions, expulsions and school arrests) have not only on students of color, but especially on LGBTQ students of color and LGBT and other gender-nonconforming students.
The report not only provides a strong case for collaboration between LGBTQ and racial justice organizations laced with examples of activities from those who have already successfully engaged in “transformative intersectional” work, but also explores barriers to collaboration.
It provides a framework for understanding between LGBTQ activists and racial justice activists by providing basic terminology to facilitate conversations between groups that may have little or no experience working together. It assembles information we may have not seen the connection and/or parallels in our shared struggles/experiences using a 50 year timeline.
Resources, strategies, best practices make this report a must read for anyone committed to finding real solutions to breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline and addressing the disparities in school discipline along lines of race, gender and sexual orientation.
But perhaps the most powerful section of the report is the voices of young people themselves speaking out on the importance of intersectionality.
As Ian Palmquist of Equality Federation said in the announcement of the report’s release, “Youth belong in schools, not jails.”
From the mouths of babes to all of our ears, the message of “Power in Partnership: Building Connections at the Intersections to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline” must be, “Together we believe that we will win!”
Visit http://b.3cdn.net/advancement/85066c4a18d249e72b_r23m68j37.pdf to read a full copy of “Power in Partnership: Building Connections at the Intersections to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline.”