Community Profile | Hashim Jabar + Racial Justice Now!
Dayton, Ohio is known for its innovative flair, and one of the latest success stories is the advocacy group Racial Justice Now! (RJN!) RJN! is at the forefront for advocating, organizing and implementing policy changes with regards to education in Ohio, as part of their dedication to eliminating institutional and systemic racism across the entire state. RJN! was founded by Professor Vernellia Randall, and Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, when they came together to help combat the problems that Zakiya was facing with regards to her son and the Dayton public school system. Zakiya felt that her and her son’s civil and human rights were being violated through the education system, so she decided to dedicate herself, as did Professor Randall, to bringing about change. The vision of RJN! became to help shape black parents to become leaders in how their children are educated.
RJN! has experienced some great successes during their time of advocacy. Firstly, they were successful at getting a moratorium placed on out of school suspensions for Pre-K – 3rd grade students, after studies showed the detrimental effect it was having on these children. Recently, they had a course of study changed in Dayton Public Schools, by adding in a culturally relevant curriculum that actually looks like the population that the school serves. They also work to hire parent organizers from the community, people who are directly affected by the policies, and train them to be advocates. They are shown how to serve and organize, and they are trained so as to increase their political understanding of the systems that they are working with, and sometimes, against.
Hashim Jabar is the current interim director of RJN!, taking over the position as of February 2017. Previous to this, Mr. Jabar served as the RJN! Communications Coordinator and organized events and press conferences, developed relationships with media, and participated in online fundraising and mass communications distribution. Most recently, Hashim successfully organized the statewide #DontFireOHKids campaign to keep funding for the youth summer employment program which was cut from the state budget. As the Volunteer Director of the West Dayton Task Force, H.A. Jabar strengthens the Dayton community by focusing on a culturally relevant curriculum for Dayton Public School students and coordinating programs that provide solutions, mentorship, personal development and protection for the youth of Dayton.
His dedication to his community is obvious when you listen to him speak about his work, and you see the pride in his eyes as he shows a group of activists around the large auditorium at Westwood Elementary, the location of this Saturday’s town hall meeting with Representative Mike Turner. RJN! supports holding elected representatives accountable, so Hashim agreed to help the local activists secure a location that would be suitable for such a gathering. Westwood Elementary, with its modern facilities and spacious surroundings was the perfect choice, and with the blessing of Principal Akisha Shehee, the event was confirmed. Hashim is rightfully proud of the work that has taken place at this school, and is very excited to be sharing the success story of Westwood Elementary with the people of Dayton on Saturday night, during the town hall meeting.
Written by Guest Contributor Kim M.
Despite having their controversial artwork taken down, Dayton Regional STEM School students have become even more interested in having this conversation.
Ninth graders from the Dayton Regional STEM School, in studying the experiences of African Americans in the past and present, created silhouette artwork reflective of the issues currently faced by black communities in historical context. Dayton Regional STEM School community outreach director Arch Grieve described the project, “The students chose images from both time periods and created silhouettes merging the two images. Each student was then charged with creating an artists’ statement in which they explain the two events and the thread that connects them.”
Despite the incredible demonstration of creativity and historical expression, the artwork was taken down by the city only two days after it had gone on display in the Dayton Convention Center. As an explanation for the photos being taken down, the City of Dayton gave this comment: “Due to the political nature of the STEM school art display’s content, complaints from our tenants, and guests who visit the Dayton Convention Center, we made the decision to remove the artwork. The City of Dayton has reached out to the STEM school and explained our criteria for displaying art at the Dayton Convention Center. We have offered them another opportunity to display art in our building in the future.”
Fortunately, the fact that the photos were taken down actually gave the students greater attention than they would have received had the artwork just been allowed to remain hanging in the convention center. The students have become even more empowered in terms of speaking out about community injustices and recognizing that they have voices that deserve to be heard.
Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, a parent advocate and the director of Racial Justice NOW! Has started a petition which pleads with the city to: “Reverse its decision to censor young people and put the art back on display; Acknowledge and repair the harm caused to these students; Co-create with grassroots organizations a community dialogue that encourages students and other disenfranchised community members to speak up and actively engage in the political process and social justice concerns.” Response to the petition remains to be seen.
Posted: 3:44 p.m. Wednesday, October 26, 2016
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
A 0.25-percent earnings tax increase makes ballot Issue 9 a hot button topic for voters in Dayton on Nov. 8. Interestingly enough, the majority of those charged with paying this tax hike live outside of Dayton. What Mayor Nan Whaley is proposing for 70 percent of non-residential tax payers is not what it seems.
Mismanagement of current budget, over policing of targeted neighborhoods, and feeding the School-To-Prison-Pipeline without any economic value for residents or return of investment for taxpayers is the quick and dirty interpretation of what supporters of Issue 9 are pushing.
This tax increase proposal to close a projected budget shortfall leaves a lot of questions. What has created this projected budget shortfall? Currently the city owns 5,700 vacant lots. What is the plan for those? Could those lots be used to create revenue with a strong community economic development plan?
The city spending millions of dollars of its current budget on old office buildings and commercial properties has been bad business. They are also choosing to support mostly high-end development in the city core, which means they will be driving out lower-income residents. Needless to say, Issue 9 will create a financial burden for those struggling to make ends meet without the benefit or even the promise of increasing opportunities and resources for residents, such as jobs and access to quality food.
Adding more police keeps the focus of lowering crime on stopping crime after it occurs instead of spending on prevention by focusing on poverty and mental health services and reentry programs.
Whaley sells this idea that funding public-to-private partnerships for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds in Dayton strengthens the future of the workforce with quality workers, but hasn’t created a plan that ensures provisions for the students to have fair and equal treatment. Without this type of accountability, the very thing Whaley says the $4 million that will come from the tax increase prevents becomes the inevitable. Students will continue to fall behind, impacting their future economic success. …
Racial Justice NOW! advocates for positive and effective alternatives to address developmentally appropriate behaviors, ensuring students social and emotional well-being and academic, long-term economic success. Issue 9 does not have a plan for this type of accountability and this is why RJN strongly opposes Issue 9.
This tax hike that is sugar-coated with the promise of kindergarten readiness and safer neighborhoods directly supports the School-To-Prison Pipeline and privatization. The City of Dayton doesn’t need more police or the funding of private preschool programs when it has failed to implement quality crime prevention programs as opposed to buying up real estate. Additionally, Dayton Public Schools has a good preschool program. What this city needs is more accountability that ensures fair and effective treatment of its residents with programs and policies to economically invest in high-crime, low-opportunity areas.
ZAKIYA SANKARA-JABAR, DAYTON. Ms. Sankara-Jabar is executive director of Racial Justice NOW!
The Dayton Unit NAACP will hold its monthly community meeting entitled, “Stopping The School To Prison Pipeline” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy, 1923 W. Third St.
The guest speaker will be Vernellia Randall, co-founder of Racial Justice Now. The moderator will be Atty. Mia Wortham-Spells, chair of the Dayton Unit NAACP Legal Redress Committee.
For more information, call 937-222-2172. STAFF REPORT