The Local Organizing Committee within Free Minds, Free People is comprised of activists, artists, students, scholars, educators, parents, community organizers, and insurgent intellectuals committed to transformative education work. We are responsible for finding a way to use this year’s conference as an organizing tool for local educational activists across the Twin Cities. Much of our work has been focused on developing an analysis of the most pressing issues within K-12 schooling across the Twin Cities, while also identifying local struggles seeking to resist the standard operating procedures in education.
Our Community Voice and Visioning session this past March brought together key stakeholders (e.g. students, teachers, staff, parents) committed to liberatory education work. We have a lot of exciting things in store for this year’s conference, including an action centered on an existing struggle in several local schools. There is immense strength in numbers and we are calling on all attendees to help us speak truth to power by joining us. You can find more details in the finalized version of the program coming soon!
Beyond the work of Free Minds, Free People, much of our individual and collective efforts as students, educators, artists, scholars, parents, organizers, and activists are driven by several key tenets and questions:
- Students marginalized along the lines of race, indigeneity, gender, class, citizenship, sexuality, and ability are learning, laboring and often living in systems designed without them in mind. If these systems ever did consider marginalized students, they considered them exploitable, excludable and expendable.
- If school is a setup, how do we help teachers and staff build the power to upset the setup?
- Most schools present students with more educational opportunists, than educational opportunities.
- Colleges and universities do not simply represent ivory towers, but anti-ebony ones too.
- We strive to not reproduce the same type of violence we are opposed to.
- We remain beholden to one another, rather than the systems of power and domination we seek to dismantle.
- We seek to find ways to be in but not of the education system. Being in and not of means that though we are producers within schools, we need not be products of them.
- We can also work against what we are within. Can we also do without what we are currently within? This is not a test!
- When the hand that feeds you is feeding you $#!t, you have no other choice to bite it!
We are fortunate to live in a region where great organizing work around education is already in full effect (and also on the verge of tangible effectiveness). So much of our work leading up to this year’s conference has centered on highlighting the causes and demands of the several groups already doing liberatory education work in the Twin Cities, such as the Social Justice Education Movement (SJEM) and the Student Engagement and Advocacy Board (SEAB). Here are some key groups fighting for transformative education in the Twin Cities:
1. Social Justice Education Movement (SJEM)
Part of the Twin Cities chapter of the International Workers of the World (IWW), SJEM is currently focusing on in-school organizing. They also organize the annual Social Justice Education Fair. Hyperlinks within the tenets above connect to three recent SJEF conference themes. Recently, SJEM fought for and won the re-hiring of five staff/teachers of color in Minneapolis Public Schools.
2. Student Engagement and Advancement Board (SEAB)
SEAB is collective of students and teachers within St. Paul Public Schools. SEAB’s primary demand is Launched in 2015, SEAB aims to “increase student voice and student-based, student-initiated solutions.” SEAB is currently involved in an intense struggle over the implementation of ethnic studies in all public schools within St. Paul.
3. Young People’s Action Coalition (YPAC)
Young People’s Action Coalition is dedicated to organizing high school students in movements for justice.
4. “Change the Name”
Campaign led by high schools students on the Northside of Minneapolis to change the name of their school given its namesake- Patrick Henry, a well-known slave owner. Prior to this campaign, the #RenameRamsey campaign fought and won to rename their school as Justice Page Middle School.
5. Race 2 Justice Days and Equity Days in local schools and districts.
Navigate MN is a Latinx driven power building organization that works on immigration justice, climate justice, and education justice. Navigate MN in partnership with many other organizations are leading the fight for driver’s license in the state of Minnesota as well as working on Ethnic Studies at Minneapolis Public Schools.
8. Multiple groups, over various years, fighting for ethnic studies and heritage language programs and against SROs (#No2SROs) and Islamic surveillance programs.
There are many unnamed youth, parents, educators, and community members across multiple and overlapping organizing groups in the Twin Cities who have been part of transforming education, including growing local support for Black Lives Matter at School and The Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota. The reach is palpable and we continue to look for ways to connect and to sustain ourselves and the work.