From Walmart to Wall Street, 10 Ways Students Mass for Racial Justice

The following was originally published on Student Nation. 

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out August 29 and September 15. For an archive of earlier editions, see theNew Year’s dispatch. Contact with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The Long March for John Crawford

On Monday, September 22, more than 100 people walked 11.6 miles from the Beavercreek Walmart where John Crawford was shot by police, through the back roads of Greene County, to the grand jury courthouse in Xenia—where there was no justice to be found. The jury declined to indict Officer Sean Williams, who killed John. While the Ohio Student Associationwas saddened by the verdict, we know the criminal justice system is in need of major structural changes—so we were not surprised. Immediately after the decision, we heldmeetings with more than 200 people in Dayton and Columbus to discuss next steps. This week, we will begin a new round of actions calling for a fundamental shift in power between law enforcement and our people. We are looking to our allies around the nation for support. Eric Garner, John Crawford, Michael Brown and Ezell Ford illustrate that this is not just a Beavercreek problem—but a nationwide crisis affecting young people of color and a moment for us all to throw down.

—James Hayes

2. The Growing Campus Movement

The execution of John Crawford is but one example of how black lives are undervalued—and quickly erasable by police force. In response, Kent State University’s Black United Students, an ally of the Ohio Student Association, orchestrated a die-in of more than 100 students to send a message about police brutality within the black community and show support to the families who have become victims of this injustice. Moving forward, we are in communication with the Kent City Police department and are working with the student body to create a system where students can effectively and easily report any issues or injustices at the hands of local police or the university.

—Mamadou Ndiaye

3. Flooding for Divestment (and More)

On September 21, after months of exhaustive planning, the student contingent at the People’s Climate March extended for blocks in Manhattan, 50,000 strong. Students marched with racial and economic justice, front-line and religious groups with the understanding that a crisis of incredible proportions deserves a commensurate response. The next day, 3,000 people, many of whom were youths, descended on Wall Street to connect capitalism andclimate change at Flood Wall Street. Moving forward, the Divestment Student Network plans to build power by creating autonomous networks, regionally and nationally, and coordinating strategic escalation.

—Varshini Prakash

4. Speaking Out, From the DOE to the UN

Alongside youth from across the country, twenty New York City high school students fromGlobal Kids’ Human Rights Activist Project attended the People’s Climate March and served on the Youth Committee. In advance of the march, we campaigned to mandate climate education in all city public schools. Many of us live in front-line, underserved communities and experienced severe damage to our homes during Superstorm Sandy. In June, we created a petition, which has gathered 3,000 signatures so far, and held a rally on the steps of City Hall. In August, we went back to City Hall to support council members Costa Constantinides and Donovan Richards as they introduced a resolution calling for climate education in all city schools. Following the march, Global Kids leaders attended the United Nations Climate Summit to speak with world leaders about our work and demand immediate, meaningful action.

—Anthony Neciosup

5. Decolonizing Climate Justice

On September 20, as part of the New York City Climate ConvergenceFree University–NYChosted *Decolonize Climate Justice* in El Jardín de Paraíso community garden in the Lower East Side of Manhattan with a call to transform ideas and practices to protect the earth and its inhabitants from ecological, economic and political devastation. Fifteen workshops filled the garden to foreground the roles of people of color and indigenous communities in the climate justice movement. Highlights included a victorious report on halting a natural gas pipeline’s construction in Puerto Rico, the Beehive Collective’s massive murals on globalization, dialogues on anti-privatization struggles in Chiapas, Bolivia and Ecuador, a crowd-sourced analysis on how racism and poverty compound the effects of climate change and an intersectional nonviolent direct action training. Since Spring 2012, Free University–NYC has created numerous free radical popular education events in parks, community centers, museums and subway stations, building on the tradition of movement freedom schools.

—Free University–NYC

6. At Colgate, Students Take Racism to the Floor

On September 22 at 8 am, the Association of Critical Collegians at Colgate University conducted a peaceful sit-in at the Office of Admissions against policies and attitudes surrounding race, sexual orientation, ability, gender and class that violate Colgate’s missionto create an open and welcoming community for all. For eight hours, the administration listened to testimonials from students—including stories of racist and insensitive comments from other students, micro-aggressions from professors, disregard of disabled students by the administration and struggles with class in such a wealthy environment—and a set of demands. In response, the university released a statement attempting to address our concerns. Due to its lack of accountability and lack of specificity, we voted to reject the statement; we are currently awaiting further response from the administration.

—Allana Edwards

7. At Wesleyan, the Boys’ Clubs Meet Their Match

The history of fraternities at Wesleyan University is fraught with racism, classism, homophobia and sexism. Over the past three years, multiple rape lawsuits against the fraternities, the university and fraternity brothers have brought these issues to the forefront. The rape of a female student in a fraternity common room last spring provoked fierce campus debate and an unprecedented backlash against the existence of fraternities at Wesleyan. A broad coalition of student activists rallied student, faculty and alumni support for a petition calling for the coeducation of fraternities, culminating in the passage of a resolution in favor of coeducation by the Wesleyan Student Assembly. This week, in response to these demands, President Roth and the board of trustees announced that residential fraternities must coeducate within three years. This policy is a major victory for students, one which we hope to build on as we continue to demand major reforms to dismantle institutionalizedinequality in the Wesleyan community.

—Mari Jarris, Anya Morgan and Chloe Murtagh

8. How Many Lives for Each Presidential Promise?

On Thursday, September 25, members of DRUM–South Asian Organizing Center and allied organizations held a People’s Court to charge President Obama and Senator Chuck Schumer with Crimes Against Immigrant Communities. Obama has gone back on his word time and time again—this time, promising action on administrative relief at the end of the summer, butpostponing it until after the November elections. Every day he waits, more than a thousand people are being deported and hundreds of families and communities are being torn apart. For his part, Senator Schumer has consistently approved anti-immigrant and pro-enforcement legislation, which, for New York’s immigrant communities, cannot stand. Through United We Dream’s national week of action, and beyond, organizations across the country are holding all accountable who stand in the way of justice.

—Nayim Islam

9. Strike Debt

On September 17, Occupy offshoot Strike Debt announced it had purchased and erased more than $3.8 million in student debt, affecting 2,761 students of Everest College, part of for-profit Corinthian Colleges. Corinthian is teetering on the brink of financial collapse, and faces 200 lawsuits, including one for $500 million by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over allegedly fraudulent, predatory practices. Despite Corinthian’s dire financial straits, students may still be liable for the loans they have incurred. Strike Debt’s purchase is a small step towards alleviating this burden. Strike Debt has long fought to empower debtors, noting that alone our debts are a burden, but together they make us powerful. To that end, we have launched The Debt Collective, which aims to unite debtors to build leverage—including Corinthian students—and provide tools for organizing. As we re-imagine our economic future together, there are many more struggles ahead.

—Strike Debt

10. Strike History


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