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City Of Tulsa And Several Local High Schools To Offer Collective Urban Classroom At City Hall

OKLAHOMA EAGLE — A dozen Tulsa high school students will leave the traditional classroom behind in the spring semester, to be part of an urban classroom at City Hall

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The Oklahoma Eagle Newswire

A dozen Tulsa high school students will leave the traditional classroom behind in the spring semester, which began today, to be part of an urban classroom at City Hall, where academics meet the real world and the city itself becomes the text.

Jane Beckwith and Eder J. Williams McKnight, both Holland Hall teachers, have partnered with Tulsa Public Schools to create Tulsa Term, a revolutionary, experiential learning program that immerses students in real life scenarios, problems and social issues, as observers and change agents, to learn and seek solutions. The Spring semester class will be housed for the first time in vacant office space within City Hall at One Technology Center. The opportunity to host the group arose from Beckwith’s participation in the 2018 Civic Innovation Fellowship program offered by Mayor G.T. Bynum’s Office of Performance, Strategy and Innovation and led by Director James Wagner.

“This is another way for the City of Tulsa to be a proactive partner in local education by providing classroom and collaboration space at City Hall where students will meet, then go out to explore the world around them. We are thrilled to host a program that engages students in a whole new way, prompting them to develop a hands-on understanding of places unique to Tulsa and the people who define our city’s character,” said Mayor G.T. Bynum. “Our staff may be resources, and in turn we hope to interest students in local government careers, policy administration and civic engagement.”

As an experience-based learning classroom, the program brings private and Tulsa Public School students together working as teams for a semester. Tulsa Term cohorts will be comprised of 12 juniors and seniors from Holland Hall, Webster, Booker T Washington and Hale High Schools. Using academic skills and experience, the students will earn academic credit in math, science, English, history, and a capstone project as they encounter and work through real problems; from learning how Tulsa’s past intersects with new opportunities, to public healthcare gaps and food deserts, to defining social gathering places and how they contribute to shaping community values, Beckwith said.
The program is student-centered, place-based, and transdisciplinary. It draws on effective methods such as design-thinking to foster deeper learning.

“We are reimagining high school,” Beckwith said. “We are excited to be welcomed to City Hall. Every day, City Hall will be our home base. We meet there to start our day, which may include learning new skills, research and making appointments to talk to members of the community. Other days we will be in the field on assignments, immersed and experiencing serendipitous encounters.

The idea for Tulsa Term stems from CITYterm, a program in New York City that used the urban core as its classroom. Beckwith developed a 7 th grade curriculum known as “Downtown Studies” with two Holland Hall teachers. When Williams-McKnight’s joined the Holland Hall faculty, she also brought with her experience working with CITYterm in New York City, so the two co-created Tulsa Term for high school students.

“All of my educational experiences, from philosophy to approach, were concretized at CITYterm where I worked in an intense laboratory of thought with other innovative faculty and adventurous students,” Williams-McKnight said. “It was amazing to see students truly transform as they opened themselves to learning, realizing that everything is text: books, art, buildings, neighborhoods, other people, and themselves. I was determined to share that creative possibility somehow.

“Here at Tulsa Term, we are taking it one step further: cultivating a civic identity and sense of ownership so that they offer solutions to messy problems. They will lead now so that they can lead later.”

This article originally appeared in the Oklahoma Eagle

Activism

March Against Fear: When ‘Black Power’ Became Mainstream

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

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James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)
James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Photo: Marion S. Trikosko, the United States Library of Congress.)

By Tamara Shiloh

It was June 5, 1966.

James Howard Meredith (born 1933), on a mission to encourage Black voter registration and defy entrenched racism in the South, set out on a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

On the second day of his journey, Aubrey Norvell, a white gunman, waited on a roadside a few miles south of Hernando, Mississippi. He ambushed Meredith, shooting him in the neck, head, and back.

Within 24 hours, the nation’s three principal civil rights organizations vowed to continue the march: the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Success of the event could not be predicted. Leaders were aware that last-minute planning of a march could be dangerous, and the route chosen was not without uncertainty. The three-week march led to death threats, arrests, and the use of tear gas. Internal tensions surrounding leadership swelled and use of the slogan “Black Power” became a revolutionary phrase urging self-determination and Black pride.

The Deacons for Defense and Justice, a group of Black veterans from World War II who believed in armed self-defense, provided protection for participants. Founded in Jonesboro, La., in 1964, The Deacons for Defense had already protected civil rights activists from the Ku Klux Klan. About 20 chapters were created throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

The march ended on June 22, 1966. Meredith, sufficiently recovered, had been able to rejoin the event. Participants supporting Meredith along the way joined in, making the total number of marchers arriving in Jackson about 15,000. The March Against Fear was one of the largest marches in history for that geographical area. It was during the post-march rally that Stokely Carmichael first used the phrase “we want Black Power” during a public speech.

Carmichael sought to define the quest for Black Power in constructive terms, explaining to supporters in Detroit that “Black votes created Black Power…That doesn’t mean that we are anti-white. We are just developing Black pride.”

Meredith had become well known when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights. His application for admission to the University of Mississippi, dubbed Ole Miss, had been twice denied. With backing from the NAACP, he filed suit for racial discrimination.

After heavy negotiations with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss but only under escort of federal troops. He graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

What began as a solitary peaceful protest for voter registration became one of the South’s most important demonstrations of the civil rights movement. Leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Carmichael formed unlikely alliances that resulted in the Black Power movement. This ushered in a new era in the fight for equality.

Understand the complex issues of fear, injustice, and the challenges of change in Anne Bausum’s “The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power.”

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Activism

Panel Discusses Supreme Court Case Threatening End of Affirmative Action

On Oct. 31, SCOTUS listened to oral arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to promote creating diverse student populations at their schools. The case emerged in 2014, when SFFA, a nonprofit advocacy organization opposed to affirmative action, brought an action alleging Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI).

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On Oct. 31, SCOTUS listened to oral arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to promote creating diverse student populations at their schools. The case emerged in 2014, when SFFA, a nonprofit advocacy organization opposed to affirmative action, brought an action alleging Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI).
“(Ending Affirmative Action) essentially, completely upends our ability to level the playing field and remediate for centuries of discrimination and marginalization,” said panelist Lisa Holder, an attorney and president of Equal Justice Society (EJS).

By Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

A webinar hosted by ChangeLawyers, the American Constitution Society (ACS) Bay Area, and Equal Justice Society was held Nov. 15 to discuss the possible outcomes of the pending decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) in the case of Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard.

The online event titled, “The End of Affirmative Action: How SCOTUS Is Coming After BIPOC Students” delved into the impact of banning the consideration of race as a factor during the college admissions process.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) students would be affected by such a ruling, said panelist Lisa Holder, an attorney and president of Equal Justice Society (EJS). EJS is an Oakland-based nonprofit and civil rights organization that does work geared toward transforming the nation’s consciousness on race through law, social sciences, and the arts.

“(Ending Affirmative Action) essentially, completely upends our ability to level the playing field and remediate for centuries of discrimination and marginalization,” said Holder. “If you do not have intervention and take affirmative steps to counteract continued systemic racism, it’s going to take hundreds of years to repair those gaps. It will not happen by itself.”

Holder is also a member of the California Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans, a nine-member panel established after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 3121, authored by then-Assemblymember Shirley Weber. The task force is investigating the history and costs of slavery in California and is charged with recommending an appropriate remedy for the state to implement.

Also participating on the End of Affirmative Action panel were Sally Chen, education equity program manager at Chinese for Affirmative Action, and Sarah C. Zearfoss, senior assistant dean for the University of Michigan Law School.

Shilpa Ram — senior staff attorney for Education Equity, Public Advocates and a board member of the ACS Bay Area Lawyer Chapter — was the moderator.

On Oct. 31, SCOTUS listened to oral arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious student admissions policies used by Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) to promote creating diverse student populations at their schools.

The case emerged in 2014, when SFFA, a nonprofit advocacy organization opposed to affirmative action, brought an action alleging Harvard violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title VI).

SFFA argues that Harvard instituted a race-conscious admissions program that discriminated against Asian American applicants. SFFA also alleges that UNC is violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, by unfairly using race to provide preference to underrepresented minority applicants to the detriment of white and Asian American applicants.

Chen, of Chinese for Affirmative Action, is a first-generation college graduate from a working-class immigrant family. She is an alumna of Harvard College. She was one of eight students and alumni that gave oral testimony in support of affirmative action in the 2018 federal lawsuit Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. Harvard.

“Particularly as these cases were taking advantage of a claim that Asian American students don’t benefit from Affirmative Action or are harmed; we really saw how this was a misrepresentation of our community needs,” Chen said of hers and seven other students’ testimonies. “My testimony really spoke to that direct experience and making clear that Asian American students and communities are in support of affirmative action.”

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246, requiring all government contractors and subcontractors to take affirmative action to expand job opportunities for minorities.

Fifty-seven years later, a decision by SCOTUS could be reached at the end of the current term in late June or early July 2023 banning affirmative action. The decision would dismantle race-conscious admission policies that overwhelmingly help BIPOC students create a better future for themselves, members of the panel stated.

“Schools take race into account as a factor in admission because that is the single-best, most effective way to create a racially diverse class,” Zearfoss said.

Zearfoss directs the University of Michigan Law School Jurist Doctorate (JD) and Master of Law (LLM) admissions and supervises the Office of Financial Aid.

California ended affirmative action policies in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 209.

Prop 209 states that the government and public institutions cannot discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to persons based on race in public employment, public education, and public contracting.

Proposition 16 was a constitutional amendment designed to repeal Prop 209, but the initiative was defeated by voters in 2020. Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber introduced the legislation that was the basis for Prop 16 when she was a state Assemblymember for the 79th District.

“When we no longer live in a white supremacist society then we can start thinking about ending these interventions that are necessary to counteract preferences for white people that exist and continue to exist,” Holder said.

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Activism

UC Academics Picket Campuses in Largest Strike of the Year

The post-doctoral scholars, teaching assistants and associate instructors, graduate student researchers, and academic researchers are represented by the United Auto Workers union in contract negotiations with the UC system. Bargaining between the disputing parties has been ongoing for months, and while UC officials recently called for a third-party mediator to address remaining issues, they are continuing to negotiate without one.

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Students on the picket line on Nov. 16, 2022. Photo by Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media
Students on the picket line on Nov. 16, 2022. Photo by Maxim Elramsisy, California Black Media

By Maxim Elramsisy | California Black Media

Around 48,000 academic workers at all 10 University of California (UC) campuses went on strike Nov. 14, shutting down classrooms and research laboratories in the largest employee walkout at any academic institution in history.

The post-doctoral scholars, teaching assistants and associate instructors, graduate student researchers, and academic researchers are represented by the United Auto Workers union in contract negotiations with the UC system.

Bargaining between the disputing parties has been ongoing for months, and while UC officials recently called for a third-party mediator to address remaining issues, they are continuing to negotiate without one.

“When I was working in the lab, I worked 50-60 hours per week, and the salary was so low that every month I really had to think about if I would make it through the month,” said Neil Sweeny, president of UAW 5810, which is representing the striking UC employees. “I have two small children and my partner was a full-time student. We lived in campus family housing, and we went to the campus foodbank every month to make sure that we had food. This was while my research was bringing in millions of dollars in research funding for the University.”

The workers are demanding better pay and benefits, including wage increases tied to housing costs. Housing costs in California are among the highest in the country, especially in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

Aside from UC campuses located in the state’s biggest cities, many of the research university system’s campuses are in parts of the state that have relatively high costs of living, like Berkeley, San Diego and the Westside of Los Angeles.

“UC’s pay falls below all their self-identified peer institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, Yale and even public schools like the University of Michigan where living costs are far less,” the union said in a press release on Nov. 17.

UC maintains that “on average, UC rents systemwide are 20-25% below market rates, with some campuses providing even deeper discounts. UC has offered wage increases for all UAW members which would further help them meet their housing needs.”

The aggrieved employees paint a different picture.

“Being a TA pays for tuition but there is no way I can support myself in this city with what they pay,” said Victor E., a PhD. student and teacher’s assistant on strike at UCLA. “With teaching, my own coursework, and my research, there isn’t really any time to pick up another job. This has resulted in me taking out loans just to live and eat here. This shouldn’t be the case. With the amount of work the university gets out of its graduate students, postdocs, and others, a living wage is a small ask…A number one ranked public university should be doing no less and certainly much, much more.”

Another priority for the workers is transportation costs. The cost of gasoline has gone up around the world and according to a statewide survey conducted by The Public Policy Institute of California, an independent and non-partisan research firm, 43% of Californians including half of lower-income residents worry every day about the high cost of gasoline and the increasing unaffordability of various modes of transportation.

The union wants UC to cover regional transit passes, and additional subsidies and incentives for taking public transit or bikes to work.

Recently, UC has offered to pay campus fees to extend “existing student-funded transit discounts,” to UAW members.

Although agreements have yet to be announced, on Nov. 17 the UAW reported that “parties made progress on issues related to Parking and Transit, Appointment Notification, and Paid Time Off.”

There continues to be a large gap between the salary asks and the UC proposals. On Nov. 18, a UAW statement said, “UC made another economic proposal to Academic Researchers containing 4.5% raises that do not match the rate of inflation.”

However, they did report progress in some other areas. “We have reached agreement on a few issues — such as health benefits improvements for Postdocs — which, while important, are not the major ones dividing the parties.”

As final examinations approach for students in the UC system, so does uncertainty. “UAW remains ready to meet for round-the-clock negotiations, but UC has not agreed to schedule sessions for the weekend,” a UAW release said. “Workers will be back on the strike lines Monday morning.”

Students, faculty and elected officials are showing support for the strikers. Some professors are cancelling classes, and some students are electing to walk out. California State Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tweeted “Academic workers are essential to the success of all of our @UofCalifornia campuses. The UC must continue to bargain in good faith to reach an agreement with the @UAW.”

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