On September 12, The Conservation Fund’s Resourceful Communities held its 21st Grassroots Convening at Guilford Technical Community College Conference Center in Colfax, NC. Participants included community members from all over NC as well as southern West Virginia. The theme, “Go Local: Build Power, Partnerships and Impact,” drew participants focused on understanding their relationship to local government, and on how county and municipal boards and commissions make decisions about land use, schools, economic development, housing and other issues that impact them.
Chambers Center Co-Director Elizabeth Haddix was a speaker on the Convening’s opening panel, “ It’s All About Who You Know: Learn from the Experts.” She shared best practices, strategies and success stories from the Center’s experience representing some of North Carolina’s leading grassroots organizations and coalitions tackling racially discriminatory policies and practices affecting equal access to quality schools, housing, environmental justice, and political and economic inclusion. She stressed the importance for communities to regularly and actively engage with local decision makers and the policy-making process. “Speak up, attend the meetings, get the information, nurture your allies in elected and appointed offices, and don’t take “no” for an answer,” advised Haddix. She also shared how the Chambers Center’s legal support for communities addressing the impacts of racial exclusion has been most effective when it combined with “organized advocacy by residents directly with the officials and administrators making and implementing public policies.”
More about the event can be found here:
In a new report, the Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights looked at student assignment areas, diversity, and capacity issues in high schools in Johnston County, NC. As one of the fastest growing school districts in the state, Johnston County Schools has been faced with challenges managing growth, school siting and construction, and facility capacity. At the same time, schools in the Smithfield/Selma area of the county have become increasingly high poverty and racially isolated, and have faced the related adverse impacts on student achievement.
A Study of High School Attendance Areas, Diversity, and Capacity in Johnston County, NC was completed with the assistance of Ann Moss Joyner of the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities and Professor Ben Marsh (Bucknell University). It analyzes race and other socio-economic metrics in current school assignment areas, and illustrates the potential for increasing educational equity, student and school performance, and facilities use in the drawing of school attendance areas and the siting of new schools.
The district currently anticipates building new schools in the near future, and as result will have to redraw assignment areas to populate those schools. This is an opportune time for the community to engage the school board to adopt policies that recognize the value of racial and socioeconomic diversity as vital elements in providing every student in Johnston County with a sound basic education, and to ensure that those policies are implemented in the next round of school openings and the related reassignment of students.
The report was prepared for the Concerned Citizens for Successful Schools (CCSS), a community based education advocacy group in Johnston County, was presented at a CCSS meeting on August 29.
This past Friday we attended a community meeting in Charlotte organized by Charlotte NAACP President Minister Corine Mack, where co-director Mark Dorosin spoke to parents of students in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, as well as concerned community members, about the background of and history of HB 514 (a new bill that would allow several affluent Charlotte area suburbs to establish charter schools that favor their own residents), as well as its potential impacts, concerns about existing charters within the district, and some of the various issues the legislatures actions have raised.
On the panel alongside Mark were parents and teachers who have been affected by the already stark inequality and segregation in CMS schools, which are likely to be exacerbated by HB 514.
Earlier this month, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation announced that it has awarded a grant to the Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights to support its legal advocacy, public outreach and education, and research in support of North Carolina communities working to challenge the impacts of racial exclusion. This is the second grant the Foundation has made to the Chambers Center, and this support has been critical in helping provide stability and sustainability as the Center continues to represent clients in matters regarding education equity, environmental justice, civic engagement, and access to basic public services.
Chandra Taylor, Chairperson of the Center’s Board of Directors, said “We are deeply appreciative of this support and the confidence in the impact of our work that it represents. This funding will assist in our on-going efforts to raise resources, to keep training the next generation of civil rights advocates, and to continue representing those that are directly affected by systemic and institutional racism.”
“Without the Center’s legal support, our community members would not be able to even be heard by a court of justice,” said Naeema Muhammad, Co-director of the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, “and the quality of that legal representation gives us the ability to actually achieve some justice. We are grateful to ZSR for understanding that fact and supporting our communities in this important way.”
Mo Green, Executive Director of the Foundation, said “The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation deeply appreciates the Chambers Center’s commitment to continuing Julius Chambers’ legacy by bringing an important approach and skill set to its clients and to the field of civil rights work. The Center is focused on important issues for the people of NC, and ZSR is proud to be a partner.”
House Bill 514 would allow the Mecklenburg County towns of Matthews and Mint Hill to secede from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district and set up town-run charter schools. A recent report identifies a host of financial problems with the proposal; even more troubling however, is the fact that the bill will allow these towns to create racially segregated, white enclave schools for their residents, subsidized by all taxpayers.
HB514 is part of an ongoing campaign by the General Assembly to undermine public education in general and racially diversity in schools in particular. And while that campaign includes recently developed proposals for turning over public schools to private charter operators, taxpayer-funded vouchers for private schools, and expansion of charter schools with minimal oversight or regulation, the tactic of legislatively creating white enclave districts to avoid integration goes back over 50 years. Read More
Chambers Center clients the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance announced today that they reached a settlement agreement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of a 2014 Title VI complaint filed with the Environmental Protection Agency. The complaint alleged that DEQ allowed industrial swine facilities to operate with “grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste” resulting in an “unjustified disproportionate impact on the basis of race and national origin against African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.” Read more