breaking down the school-to-prison-pipeline: BUilding youth voice
What We Know
Anti-Black state violence is a product of a network of systems, including the educational system, which fuel cultural and political mechanisms that put a disproportionate number of Black bodies in contact with the criminal justice system. We believe that if we build up the power of youth to speak, advocate, create, and lead, we can begin to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and systems that over-incarcerate and criminalize Black people.
In November '17, we connected with the Tacoma Public Schools' Director of Academic Equity and Access to learn more about how we, The People's Assembly, could organize with students on a meaningful, consistent basis to build school environments that are youth-led, person-centered, and equitable for all students. We were invited to a roundtable conversation between the district's racial equity team and a select handful of students, who shared with the team about their experiences and ideas related to school.
Following this conversation, we proposed that Tacoma Public Schools support a space for a youth caucus (led by & for youth attending Tacoma Public Schools) that could convene regularly to envision, organize, and advocate for changes they'd like to see in their schools. Despite the district's lack of response to exploring this collaboration, we remain committed to organizing with youth and young adults in Tacoma to elevate, celebrate, and center youth voices in education and community life.
As of January 2018, we've formed a Youth Voice Team, an organizing group of youth and young adults who are leading conversations and projects to:
- Start and build on conversations in Tacoma schools and the larger community about what young people need to be supported, safe, and successful
- Make connections and develop networks of action, support, and creative resistance across Tacoma schools and community spaces to elevate youth voice, talent, and power
On October 2016, we kicked off a series of efforts under an initiative called “The Takeback”, a campaign to reclaim local data and build community power by telling our stories. From the beginning of this work, we’ve recognized the tensions surrounding the notion of a “threshold” of “enough” data.
We reject the idea that we can collect “enough” stories to make generalizations of community’s experiences and we are critical of the nature of traditional research practices focused on what indigenous people, Black people, and other people of color in the U.S. have always known or understood through lived experiences and ancestral ingenuity. We developed The Takeback, less in hopes to discover something “new” about the connections between identity and lived experiences with different social systems, and more in hopes of building relationships, critical engagement, and mobilization energy around the truth that our experiences of oppression intersect and that our liberations are tied to one another’s.
As we look to 2018, The Takeback will continue, less as an initiative or campaign, and more as a framework for how we continue to document our stories and speak truth to power in the dynamic work that we do. We value that storytelling and story-witnessing are both organic and critical threads in organizing and we seek to continue to hold spaces where we can recognize, reckon with, and organize to dismantle anti-Black and otherwise oppressive cultures and systems that shape our everyday lives.
The Takeback continues as a structural paradigm for our continuing efforts, with the goals to:
- Invite and organize the stories of community members' experiences with various social systems through journaling, conversation, facilitated discussion, and creative expression;
- Localize community-driven conversations to identify priority issues of community members; and
- Mobilize community power to impact change and advance justice.
Interested in learning more about The Takeback?
We're happy to work with you to adapt The Takeback model for the work that you do. We also welcome inquiries about collaborating to host an event or creative space with you to collectively advance the goals of the Takeback. Send us a message.