Dignity in Schools Campaign National Week of Action 2018
“Counselors Not Cops”
A learning and cultural exchange between Dayton, Ohio and New Orleans, Louisiana
The West Dayton Youth Task Force/Racial Justice NOW! & Black Man Rising Movement and Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children
As a part of the ninth annual, 2018 National Week of Action for the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), the West Dayton Youth Task Force hosted Associate Director of Family and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children (FFLIC) and founder of the Black Man Rising Movement, Antonio Travis, for a learning and cultural exchange and also to raise awareness about the school to prison pipeline, school push out, and the extreme need of counselors in schools and the removal of police presence.
On Sunday, November 4 Antonio Travis spoke at the Body of Christ Deliverance Center, hosted by Pastor Stephen Matlock. BCDC is a long time community partner of Racial Justice NOW! Antonio gave a PowerPoint presentation and lecture about growing up in New Orleans, Louisiana, an overview of his education experience, the process of getting hired by FFLIC, and an overview of the work he does with the Black Man Rising Movement in mentoring and juvenile justice. He had a unique opportunity to present in front of community advocates, parents, youth, and youth ministers that had over 20 years of experience in doing the same work. Just as much as Antonio shared, he lovingly received praise, critique, and feedback to help increase his future effectiveness.
The next day Antonio and H. A. Jabar (Director of RJN! and founder of WDYTF) started their morning, by attending (neighborhood community school) Westwood elementary school’s morning harambee program. The morning program is based on the freedom school model. It includes positive affirmations, call and response, as well as singing and dancing. It is very helpful for students to start the day off in a collective and positive manner.
Westwood elementary is a longtime partner of Racial Justice NOW! and the West Dayton Youth Task Force. Antonio and H. A. Jabar greeted students as they came into the building from their school buses. They met the site coordinator, Mr. Terell and the school principal Mrs. Shehee, and was also shown around the building by longtime community and youth advocate, Marlon Shackleford- who knew all of the routines, words, and dances of the harambee program.
Antonio and Jabar were then escorted over to the Dayton Boys Preparatory Academy by Mr. Shackleford to meet the Director of the Office of Males of Color Mr. John Rogers III. RJN! was primary in helping to get the Office of Males of Color established and funded in Dayton Public Schools. Mr. Rogers took Antonio and Jabar to speak to two classes at the boys school. Antonio talked about the school to prison pipeline, his education experience, the culture and history in New Orleans and connected it all to the lives of students in Dayton. Students were given free Dignity in Schools Campaign t-shirts, and were extremely excited to me Antonio. Both of the teachers in the classes were very supportive of Antonio’s message and helped to connect the dots between the work that Antonio does and what happens in their classes every day. Uniquely, there was a student from New Orleans at the boy school that had found himself in the principal’s office and Antonio was able to give the young man some words of encouragement!
From there, Mr. Rogers escorted Antonio and Jabar to Paul Laurence Dunbar high school, a historical staple in the west Dayton community. Antonio shared his message with about 15 sophomores and juniors who were extremely elated by Antonio’s message. They found much common ground between the music they listen to, their style of dress and hairstyle, as well as the things that are happening in their respective cities.
Next, Mr. Rogers escorted Antonio and Jabar to meet the Office of Males of Color facilitator at David H. Ponitz Career Technical Center (high school). Antonio had an opportunity to dialogue with the facilitator Mr. Nalls and learn the administrative side of the offices work- the data, monitoring & student progress reports.
After that, Mr. Rogers Antonio and Jabar paid a visit to a well-respected community member, chairman of the Northwest Priority Board (a Neighborhood Association) and member of the Dayton Africana Elders Council, Mr. David Greer. Affectionately known as Baba, Mr. Greer was recovering from a surgery, but wanted to take out time to share some elder wisdom with three men.
From there, Mr. Rogers Antonio and Jabar went to Thurgood Marshall high school to talk to 15 freshmen with the same message. Interestingly, this group was much more rowdy and rambunctious than the others and was apparently known for the difficulty that they had encountered in school and in the community. Nonetheless, Mr. Rogers Antonio and Jabar closed-door and had “real talk” with this group of freshmen, expressing their care for the future of the students and delivered the message that they were there to give. Unsurprisingly, the same group of students leaned in as Antonio talked and at the end of the presentation the students were gathered around Antonio exchanging contact and social media information.
The last stop of the learning and cultural exchange was the same as the first stop of the day. Mr. Rogers, Antonio, and Jabar talked to approximately 30 5th grade boys at Westwood elementary. They were also joined by West Dayton Youth Task Force youth organizer, Josh Harrison. Principle Shehee and Site Coordinator John Terrell thanked Antonio and the group over and over again for bringing in such a positive message to their students. After the students received their DSC t-shirts, Josh closed out the meeting and the day in the same cultural fashion of the West Dayton Youth Task Force and Racial Justice NOW! with the traditional seven Harambees (which is loosely translated as let’s all pull together).