MCS Activists use writing, painting, sculpture, math, and video to communicate their questions and opinions on the STPP

We spent part of our time in Baltimore in retreat mode, working in small groups to creatively communicate what we have learned about the school to prison pipeline through a variety of media.

Check out some of our works in progress...

MCS Activists Lobby on Capitol Hill

Messages for our elected representatives about education - a collaboration with students from The Next Step

Meeting with D.C. Lawyers for Youth and the Advancement Project in Franklin Square

Lawyers Eddie Ferrer and Kaitlin Banner shared how the school to prison pipeline issues we've been learning about in New York play out in D.C. and on a national level.

Priorities we plan to discuss with our elected representatives tomorrow:

  • Funding for Restorative Justice Practices
  • Incentives for schools to not suspend students
  • Requirements around collecting data that will help to monitor whether suspensions continue to disproportionately impact certain communities
  • Equitable funding for schools

Baltimore Algebra Project gets us thinking - what do you think about the National Student Bill of Rights?

This afternoon members of the Baltimore Algebra Project trained us on the National Student Bill of Rights. In true MCS fashion, we questioned and debated the importance of each of the 14 rights outlined below. We'd be curious to know what you think about them!

Right to Free Public EducationThe right to a free public education shall not be denied or abridged on account of race, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion, poverty, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, place of residency or immigration status.
Right to Study Curriculum that Acknowledges & Addresses Youth’s Material and Cultural Needs
Students and youth shall have the right to study curriculum that acknowledges and affirms the on-going struggle of oppressed peoples for equality and justice, and that addresses the real, material, and cultural needs of their communities.
Right to Safe & Secure HousingStudents and youth shall have the right to safe and secure housing.
Right to Free Public Transportation
Students and youth shall have the right to free public transportation for the purposes of education, employment, family and community needs, or recreation.
Right to Physical Activity & Recreation
Students and youth shall have the right to physical activity and recreation of high quality regardless of their wealth, poverty, or place of residence.
Right to Safe & Secure Public Schools
Students and youth shall have the right to safe and secure public school facilities of equal quality regardless of wealth, poverty, or place of residence.
Right to Free Health Care
Students and youth shall have the right to free health and dental care, including quality public health and preventive care.
Right to High Quality Food
Students and youth shall have the right to healthy, high quality food regardless of wealth, poverty, or place of residence.
Right to Employment
Students and youth shall have the right to employment, to support themselves while they are in school and college.
Right to Free Day Care for Children
Students and youth with children of their own shall have the right to free day care for their children.
Right to Free College Education
Students and youth shall have the right to free college education
Right to Freedom from Unwarranted Search, Seizure or Arrest
Students and youth shall be secure from arbitrary police searches and seizures and from arbitrary arrests and detentions without warrants.
Right to Restorative Justice & Peer Evaluation
Students and youth shall have the right to establish systems of restorative justice in schools and communities, shall not be excluded from educational opportunities except by a jury of their peers, and shall not be charged for crimes as adults until the age of 18.
Right to Arts Education
Students and youth shall have the right to participation in arts, music, dance, drama, poetry, and technology of high quality regardless of wealth, poverty, or place of residence.

MCS Activists meet poets, activists, & leaders at Baltimore's Red Emma's

Our first night in Baltimore got off to an amazing start as we went to the bookstore / restaurant Red Emma's. This venue is usually closed on Mondays but opened just for us. Students perused books, ate delicious vegetarian fare before our presentations and workshop.

First up we were treated to spoken word poetry by the Baltimore Citywide Youth Poetry Team. They introduced for format of spoken word, shared powerful poems, and showed us how poets can be activists through their words.

We then heard from one of the founders and the Executive Director of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, a fairly young organization that has done very interesting work in Baltimore. They were part of a movement to stop a youth prison from being built, they helped pass Christopher's law that mandates that Baltimore police receive training in cultural sensitivity and CPR. The law was named after a young black man who died after he was strangled by a police officer who tried to revive him and was unable. They have also made an app called New Timbuktu which aggregates academic and intellectual material relating to African American issues and perspectives.

Next we heard from Reverend Heber Brown who has also been a very strong part of the activism against the youth prison among other issues. He speaks directly to issues facing Baltimore youth and communities as a pastor. His presentation spoke directly to themes we have discussed in history class and challenged students to listen to people different from them, to challenge what they are being taught and reminded us of Cornell West's notion that, "Justice is what love looks like in public."

Finally Brion from Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle led a short poetry workshop. She shared a poem of hers that uses personification and gave the students a prompt to write their own poetry. Students were to personify handcuffs or a jail cell. They wrote for ten minutes and some students shared beautiful poems that were either complete or still in process. Brion has asked that we share them when they are done and the people at the bookstore suggested we put them together into a book that they would be happy to display!

Poets share their words with a rapt audience

MCS students write their own poetry personifying handcuffs and prison cells

MCS Students Visit "Graffiti Alley" in Baltimore

Graffiti alley is a place in Baltimore where graffiti artists are allowed to put up their work. The neighborhood around it, which is also home to Red Emma's where we had our poetry and activism  workshop, has a number of buildings which were going to be demolished but instead became the canvass for public art. There are large murals decorating many buildings and bringing art to the public.

From Baltimore Office of Promotion & the Arts:
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts have announced CityPaint.  This initiative will decorate Baltimore City with numerous murals. As part of the Cleaner, Greener Baltimore program, the city is partnering with neighborhood groups, community organizations, artists and corporations for CityPaint.

Even though we didn't see these, here are some examples:

Negus Vega Visits MCS to talk about Hip Hop, the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Life

Last week we had a wonderful visitor come and talk to us about the juvenile justice system, his name was Vega. While he was here Vega spoke about multiple things. He talked about his personal life in the South Bronx, the effect the juvenile justice system had on him, and his current work teaching writing and hip hop. Vega believes in putting positive energy into the community and that’s what the Activism project is about.