John Robert Lewis—Rest in Power

July 31, 2020

“Democracy is not a state,” John Lewis wrote in his last essay, published in the NYT on July 30. “It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.”
John was a field organizer and leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)in the 1960s, the New Left organization that led direct actions, including lunch-counter sit-ins and freedom rides, designed to confront injustice, break the back of Jim Crow, and build a true democracy, that Beloved Community. SNCC fought against racial capitalism, what the Reverend James Lawson called “plantation capitalism.” SNCC was also a militant anti-war organization: during the height of the invasion and occupation of Vietnam, SNCC urged Black men to resist the military, arguing that no Black man should go 10,000 miles away to fight for a “so-called freedom” he didn’t enjoy in Mississippi.
An inside joke: Field Secretaries sometimes referred to their organization as the “non-student, non-non violent, non-coordinating, non-committee.” A few useful books to read right now: the historian Barbara Ransby’s Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement; SNCC veteran Charles Cobb’s This Nonviolent Shit’ll Get You Killed; SNCC leader Rap Brown’s Die N**** Die, A Political Autobiography of Jamil Abdullah al-Amin.
SNCC fought for and practiced PARTICIPATORY and DIRECT DEMOCRACY. John Lewis understood that formal democracy is not the beginning nor the end, an important piece surely, but a piece built on a spirit of democracy, a deep regard for humanity in all its forms, a sense of mutuality and authentic dialogue. He knew that democracy is a verb and not a noun.
We are fortunate to be alive to witness and to participate in the latest upsurge in the centuries-old Black Freedom Movement—BLACK LIVES MATTER! Join in, rise up, build the Beloved Community.

Rest in power, John Lewis. Thank you for your service.

Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom

July 30, 2020

Op ed from the NYT this week:

And Chesa Boudin on the Inaugural Episode of “Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom” Subscribe to the podcast!

They are Losing

July 28, 2020

View at blog

July 26, 2020

There is plenty to worry about in the escalating government attacks in Portland and other cities. Certainly it portends a new level in the escalating Trump drive towards fascism. Who would not be alarmed at those weapons, those drones, those kidnappings? It’s no joke.

The situation is not good. No revolutionary welcomes the arrival of fascism as some kind of trigger leading to “the revolution.” No, we don’t want that. But we can’t be surprised by the escalating violence of the state. It simply means that they are losing. I don’t want to be naively sanguine about the situation, it is terrifying, but please let me suggest a different spin on the situation.

What is happening is that special federal forces are being deployed to US cities, ostensibly to quell uprisings but really to terrorize and intimidate. The creation of a special Department of Homeland Security (DHS) portended such a development. These armed men have been shooting demonstrators with “rubber” (still lethal) bullets, tossing tear gas and flash bang grenades, clubbing, and kidnapping protestors. The videos that go up show a pretty frightening sight – guys in so much body armor that they look like robots, which indeed they are, violent robots of the state.

The DHS was formed shortly after 9/11 – invoking an aggressive sense of the nation, homeland, similar to the Nazi term “heimat.” The goal of DHS was to “fight terrorism” but the war spear was pointed inward, to a war inside US borders. And indeed this is an important way to define fascism, the methods of colonial/imperial violence brought home.

I would caution us to remember, however, that we have experienced this before. During the 60’s-70’s, the militarization of domestic repression was intense, even beyond what we are seeing in Portland. During the Detroit uprising of 1967 the United States Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions invaded, killing over thirty Black people. Soldiers from Ft. Carson and Ft. Hood entered Chicago to quell demonstrations in 1968. And soldiers used real, not rubber, bullets to kill students at Kent State and Jackson State in 1970. The FBI’s COINTELPRO was an ongoing government military assault on the Black Panther Party and other Black liberation forces, resulting in assassinations, kidnappings and jailings.

The important point is that all of these measures of repression were indications of the weakness of the imperialists. They were desperate flailings, attempting to use brute force to demoralize and deter the protests. But the opposite happened. The demonstrations in May 1970 brought the war machine to its knees and inspired thousands of GIs to lay down their weapons (see Winter Soldier investigation). The Portland horrors have only sparked a more determined and sophisticated resistance movement.

The imperialist state has nothing but its ability to deploy violence – and it is constantly inventing new and gruesome ways to maim, injure, and kill people. But it never understands the backlash, never understands the weakness of its only recourse. Hell, the US dropped 100,000 bombs in North Vietnam during the Christmas bombing of 1972. During the war, they dropped 400,000 tons of napalm and 11.2 million gallons of Agent Orange on that country. And they lost.

I’m not saying people didn’t suffer. People suffered horribly under this inexcusable display of genocidal hatred. A dying imperialism is the most dangerous. But these pathetic tin soldiers, all decked out in their body armor and covered by spy planes and drones, only reveal their weakness.

This country was born and nurtured on white supremacy and imperialism, racism is baked into the foundation of the US, so Black Lives Matter is actually a simple slogan which demands fundamental change. We never thought this country would change into something peaceful, humane, and loving without a paroxysm of hatred and violence, did we? Right now, military leaders are telling Trump they do not need to go all out because it is “not yet an insurrection.” But before significant change is made, it will be something they see as an insurrection and the military will escalate. So it’s best we be ready for the long haul, the protracted struggle.

We may still see the day that Chad Wolf, the acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, goes on trial, if not in the US then in the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Justice will win in the end. Pay attention. We are all getting the political education of our lifetimes right now.

Slavery and the Republican Party

July 28, 2020

If chattel slavery — heritable, generational, permanent, race-based slavery where it was legal to rape, torture, and sell human beings for profit — were a “necessary evil” as @TomCottonAR says, it’s hard to imagine what cannot be justified if it is a means to an end.
— Ida Bae Wells (@nhannahjones) July 26, 2020

It Will Take a Village to Open Schools Safely….

July 26, 2020

When public schools closed in March because of the pandemic, a different U.S. President would have said to the education community, “Children, their parents, teachers, and the economy will need schools to open in the fall, so please tell me how the Federal Government can help.” Unfortunately, conflict is Donald Trump’s modus operandi, and so, after ignoring the issue for months, he has politicized the issue. Basically, it’s “Open or else!”

Back in March a competent U.S. Secretary of Education would have focused on the challenges ahead. Instead, Betsy DeVos concentrated on vouchers and private religious schools, intent on funneling Covid-19 funds in their direction.

Trump, his Education Secretary, Vice President Mike Pence, and the rest of the Administration are trying to strongarm public schools into opening their doors completely. No ‘hybrid’ staggered schedules, and no remote learning! Their bluster, their attacks on teachers and their unions, and their threats to cut federal funding are complicating the difficult problem of providing education for nearly 51 million children.

Supporters of public education would be wise to avoid a war of words with President Trump. Instead, educators must focus on providing safe and challenging learning opportunities–in schools or in other physical spaces. This desirable and essential goal can be achieved by forming alliances with other public agencies, businesses, non-profits, and politicians. In other words, it will take a village to open schools.

Two priorities cannot be compromised or negotiated: 1) Keep everyone safe, with frequent testing, social distancing, and adequate PPE; and 2) Create genuine learning opportunities, rather than simply replicating semesters, work sheets, 50-minute periods, and everything else that schools routinely do. Quite literally, everything else should be on the table, subject to change.

Serious ‘out of the box’ thinking begins with re-examining how schools traditionally use time and space.

Start with space. No public school was designed for social distancing, and very few public schools have enough extra room–like the gym–to create safe spaces, even with the reduced ‘3 foot spacing’ recommended by the nation’s pediatricians. That’s why many school districts (including New York City) have announced plans for a ‘hybrid’ approach in which all students are at home at least part of the time, while other districts (including Los Angeles and San Diego) have announced that all instruction will be remote for the first half of the school year.

But there’s an important alternative: find new spaces and convert them for instruction. Spaces that are empty at least part of the day are everywhere: Houses of worship, meeting rooms at the local Y or Boys & Girls Club, theaters, and–because of the recession–vacant storefronts and offices. It will take some political leadership, but the 3rd Grade could meet at the Y, the 5th Grade at the Methodist Church, the 9th Grade at what used to be a shoe store, and so on.

Jamaal Bowman, a New York City Democrat who is virtually certain to be elected to Congress in the fall, likes this idea. He told Politico that he “would use alternative learning spaces to maximize the amount of face-to-face learning children have with a teacher and would demand substantial investments from our federal government so our school district can hire more teachers. I would also encourage cities to repurpose unused spaces like theaters, office spaces, and design spaces to classrooms.”

Superintendents I have communicated with raised the issue of liability in these new spaces, clearly a problem but not an insoluble one; it should be addressed in federal legislation now being discussed in Congress.

By dramatically expanding the spaces available for instruction, social distancing becomes possible and schools are now safe places to be. What’s more, everyone goes to school at the same time: no split days with noon starts, and so forth.

Now consider time.

Right now schools divide the year into semesters and (except in the early grades) the day into subject periods. Because these traditional (and convenient) concepts are not based on how children learn, educators should be prepared to abandon them.

For example, those 9th Graders who are meeting daily at the old shoe store can spend a month doing a deep dive into American history, one of their required courses. Because no one could tolerate an entire day–let alone a month–of reading chapters, lectures, discussion, and regurgitation, teachers and students must imagine new ways to study our nation’s past.

Project-based learning should become the pedagogy of choice. Teams of students might explore their city’s history or dig into the back stories of the men who signed The Declaration of Independence, for example. They could interview (via Zoom) local veterans of recent wars and use those memories to help write the story of the conflict. What monuments can be found in the city or town, and what is their history? Or pick a prominent building in the town or city and dig into its history: who built it, and why? Hundreds of interesting questions and projects, none of them cookie-cutter.

Other sections of the ninth grade might convene at a different store front or a house of worship for their own deep dive. Ideally at some point all the ninth graders will go back to their high school, where they would dig deeply into another subject but also have the chance to see each other.
Monthly deep dives into history, biology, English literature, and other subjects are a pathway to genuine expertise and understanding; what’s more, this approach has the strong support of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Immersion will also be the death knell of skimming the surface of subjects, surely an educational outcome we can get behind.

This Spring’s 3-month shutdown shone a harsh light on glaring inequities. Nationwide, about 14% of homes with school-age children do not have internet access, and in some school systems as many as 40 percent of students reportedly did not have computers or internet access. But rather than hand-wringing, this is another opportunity for thinking differently. Why not do as Third World countries do? Forget computers and rely instead on low-cost cell phones, which will provide internet access and can be set up without long distance calling privileges. What’s more, the money school districts are not spending on standardized ‘bubble’ tests (which have been cancelled) could help pay for the phones, and many long-distance providers have already expressed their willingness to be part of the solution.

Communities also have valuable resources they can tap into: Well-educated retirees, younger adults who have lost their jobs, and college students whose campuses have closed. After thorough vetting, some can be hired as teacher aides, and perhaps arrangements can be made so the college students receive credit toward their degree.

These are bold moves, but school districts that have already experienced the inadequacies of ‘remote learning’ might now be receptive to new ideas and approaches.

And what about teachers? Are they willing and able to retool themselves as professionals?
After all, month-long blocks and project-based learning will be as new to most teachers as they are to students? That’s a fair question, and perhaps some will not be able to meet the test, at least initially. But many teachers will prosper in situations that demand the very best of them. Moreover, many students will benefit from having more control over their own learning.

When public schools closed during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the Federal Government responded with funding to hire school nurses. Because only 60% of today’s schools have full-time nurses and 25% have no nurse at all, Congress should do that. But it should also provide emergency funding to rent supplemental space, pay for Covid-19 testing and PPE, buy liability insurance, and pay teacher aides.

Democrats like Senator Tim Kaine (D, VA) support increased federal funding. “I am … pushing for passage of the Coronavirus Child Care and Education Relief Act. This legislation provides $430 billion to assist child care facilities, K-12 school districts and institutions of higher education with reopening costs.” However, because Secretary DeVos diverted millions of dollars in CARES funds that were intended for public schools to private institutions, Congress must be very specific in its language.

Mark Cuban, the billionaire tech entrepreneur who owns an NBA team, says the money must also go into communities. He told Politico, “The greatest issue is for working parents: How do they keep their jobs and care for their kids at home? One way to attempt to address this is by having trusted groups of families that can support multiple kids at one home. A better solution would be to offer Caretaker Basic Income that pays a parent $2,000 to $2,500 per month, depending on their cost of living, to stay at home during the period kids are required to take at-home and online classes. I would also add a broadband stipend to make sure that kids have access to sufficient internet for their classes and potentially even to buy a low end laptop.”

As to whether schools should open in late August or early September, some political leaders are speaking up. Beto O’Rourke, once a presidential contender and a parent of three school-age children, sets three conditions for opening: “I’d set in-person education to start as soon as community transmission is under control, we have highly accessible universal Covid testing and the most vigorous contact tracing program possible.

While reopening most public schools is both possible and desirable, it won’t happen unless we think outside the box. The state reopening plans I am familiar with focus on three options: full open, partial open, and remote learning, with no discussion of looking for new spaces and no questioning of school’s use of time. I don’t think that’s sufficient. Reopening schools–once it’s safe– will require imaginative and courageous state and local leadership.

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it will take the support of the village to open its public schools.

Please post your thoughts on the blog, Thanks, and stay safe…

John Merrow
former Education Correspondent,
PBS NewsHour, and founding President,
Learning Matters, Inc.


July 26, 2020

What Should We Do With Racist Sports Team Owners? Call Them Out Relentlessly
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
July 24, 2020
The Guardian

Owners like Kelly Loeffler, Dan Snyder and Woody Johnson shouldn’t be pushed out for their views, but for their behavior if that behavior promotes hate toward marginalized groups

Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, a close ally of Donald Trump and co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, thinks players seeking social justice may put off some fans, which is a bottom-line analysis rather than a passion to do the right thing, Erik S Lesser/EPA

Not all monuments to our racist past are made of bronze or flutter on flagpoles. In sports, the offensive monuments are clueless owners of teams who may look like flesh and blood, but when it comes to embodying the racism of those hastily removed Confederate generals, they still sit high upon their pigeon-befouled pedestals. They are as frozen in time and as impervious to social change as their metal counterparts.

The recent mass protests across the country calling for racial equity seems to have achieved some progress toward the elimination of systemic racism. Public statements were issued. Money was donated. Pledges were made. In the sports world, many teams spoke out eloquently in support of Black Lives Matter and launched programs to prove their sincerity. The professional sports world has tapped into the overwhelming and very public zeitgeist of protestors seeking equity for all. But, as many long-time activists like myself have warned, we have to be careful of those owners who seem to be biding their time for all this social consciousness to be gone with the wind.

The NFL’s non-response to allegations that Woody Johnson, Jets owner and Trump-appointed ambassador to the UK, consistently made racist and sexist comments is a clear indication why black Americans need to remain guarded when counting up the members of their team. On 4 June 2020, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement admitting the NFL was wrong in not supporting peaceful protest. But the NFL’s response to Johnson’s racism is this terse email: “We are aware of the report and would refer you to the State Department.” Yup, that’s the whole thing. If they really wanted to demonstrate their commitment to rooting out racism in their own ranks, they should have issued this statement: “An urgent non-partisan investigation needs to be conducted. If the allegations prove true, Woody Johnson should be immediately withdrawn as ambassador because he does not represent the highest values of the United States Constitution or the American people. And he should be removed as a team owner because he does not meet the NFL standards of inclusivity, decency, and respect for others.” It’s not that hard to be consistent in your support of what’s right and just. Just don’t check with your accountant first.

Dan Snyder, the owner of Washington’s NFL team, has long been under attack for his racial insensitivity and cultural tone-deafness. In 2013, he told a USA Today reporter, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.” He actually fought for his right to insult Native Americans all the way to the US Supreme Court and won. Not until this year, after weeks of national protests about racial inequities, did investors and sponsors like FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo apply enough pressure for Snyder to agree to the name change, now temporarily called “Washington Football Team”.

But, if the Snyder reign of racism is on sabbatical, it now faces accusations of misogyny as 15 former employees and two journalists charge former team officials with sexual harassment and verbal abuse. Although Snyder has not personally been cited, Shaunna Thomas, co-founder of the women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, issued this statement: “Daniel Snyder has enabled, encouraged and fostered a hostile workplace and toxic culture for women. He must go. If the NFL is serious about cleaning up its act, they will force Snyder to sell the team.” NFL insiders agree that his removal is unlikely since he wasn’t directly involved. An investigation is taking place and Snyder has vowed to set “a new culture and standard for our team”. Maybe. He didn’t seem to endorse any cultural standard when he ignored Native American protests for so long.

Dan Snyder, the owner of Washington’s NFL team, has long been under attack for his racial insensitivity and cultural tone-deafness. Photograph: Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Georgia senator Kelly Loeffler, a close ally of Trump and co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, thinks players seeking social justice may put off some fans, which is a bottom-line analysis rather than a passion to do the right thing. Loeffler reads from the same dog-eared playbook of most racists-in-denial pontificating from their plantation porch. She first claims she’s not racist, then delivers massively inaccurate justifications for being selectively racist: “There’s no room for racism in this country, and we have to root it out where it exists. But there’s a political organization called Black Lives Matter that I think is very important to make the distinction between their aim and where we are as a country at this moment. The Black Lives Matter political organization advocates things like defunding and abolishing the police, abolishing our military, emptying our prisons, destroying the nuclear family. It promotes violence and antisemitism. To me, this is not what our league stands for.” It’s disturbing that she doesn’t know (or does know and prefers lying) that Black Lives Matter is not a monolithic organization but an affiliation of activist groups. She chooses to spout fear-inducing lies to rally racists: Abolish police? Abolish military? Empty prisons? Destroy the nuclear family? Being truth-challenged is one reason the WNBA players’ association has asked the commissioner to remove Loeffler as a co-owner.

If we were to “root it out where it exists”, we would start with Loeffler, Dan Snyder and Woody Johnson. Which brings up the question of what to do with racists who own sports teams. Loeffler insists, “They can’t push me out for my views. I intend to own the team. I am not going.” I agree that owners shouldn’t be pushed out for their views, but for their behavior if that behavior promotes hate toward marginalized groups, because we know that such hate often leads to violence against them. Even when it doesn’t directly lead to violence, it perpetuates the lies and prejudices that allow people to ignore the inequities in education, health, voting and jobs that these people face. Which is why we need to call them out publicly and relentlessly, if not to change their minds, then to change their public behavior.

If owners want to keep their teams, they should keep their racist, misogynistic, homophobic and xenophobic views to themselves. Once they choose to state them publicly, they are knowingly attempting to influence people’s opinions and actions. If that influence fuels hatred and prejudice, they deserve to be pulled down along with all the other vile and outdated monuments to injustice and self-interest. And whenever they speak out on their commitment to racial equality, we have to remember what James Baldwin said: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an American icon, legendary NBA champion and recipient of the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His latest book Mycroft & Sherlock Holmes – the Empty Birdcage is his third novel in true Victorian style

Anti-Semitism Still Alive at the Trib!

July 24, 2020

This is Brother Fred Klonsky on an anti-semitic rant aimed at Kim Foxx and my son Chesa Boudin among others:

The Trib’s John Kass is not just a joke. He’s a racist and anti-Semite and should go away.
by Fred Klonsky
The Trib’s John Kass uses the anti-Semitic code of “George Soros”.
As professional reporters for the Chicago Tribune get regularly furloughed, Trib columnist John Kass gets to keep his regular hate space on page 2.

If there was ever a reason for letting somebody go from what is left of the paper, Kass’ regular blast of racism and Trump talking points certainly provide it.

This week he actually used the anti-Semitic code of blaming George Soros for fomenting protests demanding social justice in the wake of the George Floyd murder by Minneapolis police. And claiming he is the real power behind what goes on in this and other cities.

George Soros and the secret Jewish cabal.

Wrote Kass.

But these Democratic cities are also where left-wing billionaire George Soros has spent millions of dollars to help elect liberal social justice warriors as prosecutors. He remakes the justice system in urban America, flying under the radar.

The Soros-funded prosecutors, not the mayors, are the ones who help release the violent on little or no bond.

The use of George Soros as code for Jew has become so common that The Anti-Defamation League has felt the need to issue a public warning.

Although the vast majority of Soros-related conspiracy theories do not mention his Jewish heritage, the concern remains that they can serve as a gateway to the antisemitic subculture that blames Jews for the riots. This type of content can be found on mainstream platforms; a Twitter user wrote, “George Soros is paying for this he is a Jew America bows to the Jew [sic],” while another tweeted, “Antifa are on the payroll of the Jewish financier George Soros who often uses these paid thugs to intimidate any opposition towards the status quo that he and his Zionist allies have set up to control us.” Yet another claimed, “Soros is every bit the subversive, parasitic conspirator these people make him out to be. The problem they always neglect to mention is the fact that he’s a Jew.”

I don’t know what Kass makes, but his salary could certainly pay to bring back at least some of the professional Tribune reporters to full-time professional journalistic work.

PLEEEZE Subscribe!

July 23, 2020

The first two episodes of my new podcast “Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom” are now available on all platforms! Special thanks to my inaugural guests, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Dr. Crystal Laura.

We’re in the midst of the largest social uprising in US history, and what better time to dive headfirst into the wreckage – figuring out as we go, how to to support the rebellion, name it and work together to realize it’s most radical possibilities?

PLEASE Subscribe to “Under the Tree: A Seminar on Freedom” and leave a rating and a review!


Congratulations Dave!

July 22, 2020

American Educational Research Organization Social Justice in Education Award

Recipient: David Stovall (University of Illinois at Chicago)

Established in 2004, the Social Justice in Education Award honors an individual who has advanced social justice through education research and exemplified the goal of linking education research to social justice.

REMOVE POLICE FROM Chicago Public Schools

July 22, 2020

REMOVE POLICE FROM Chicago Public Schools

At the August 2020 meeting the Chicago Board of Education will – again – vote on whether CPS should terminate their relationship with the CPD.

It is past time to remove police from schools.

Please read and consider endorsing this letter – – that was prepared for the June 2020 meeting. The letter also lists other actions or residents of Chicago or CPS alum – such as making a meeting with BOE members or your Chicago alderperson.

Please read and consider signing, adding comments, and forwarding to colleagues.

And, most centrally, our young folks and community based organizations have been leading the way.
Follow their campaign and support their initiatives: