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Get cops out of schools


Published in St. Louis American, April 19, 2017

Then came the mass shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, which resulted in increased federal funding for hiring police in schools through programs by the Department of Justice like ‘COPS in Schools” or “Safe Schools/Healthy Students.” Predominantly white or affluent schools like Columbine rejected the concept of cops in the school. Jim St. Germain, co-founder of Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow, echoed the sentiments of communities where those schools are: “Kids from suburban white America – they don’t get arrested for cursing out a teacher, throwing a book,” St. Germain said. “These are the things they go to a counselor for.”

Next came the Zero-Tolerance policies adopted by many school districts as their desperate but ineffective response to school behavior that reflected normal kid stuff or other behaviors that were symptomatic of deeper emotional and psychological issues. Even groups like the American Federation of Teachers bought into this flawed response to school violence although it has since rejected the failed policy. ZT is where suspensions and expulsions — the biggest motivators for school drop-outs – have skyrocketed.

More brushes with police lead to more violations, more violations lead to more interactions with the criminal injustice system. This is where the concept of a “school to prison pipeline” is born.

Research also has shown that students of color; lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender children; and those with special needs are disproportionately suspended and expelled from school. Who is not targeted? White, heterosexual, able-bodied students.

The coming of the super-predator never materialized. The term faded from the public square but much of the attitudes, policies and program remained intact. Like the documented decrease of violent crime in the broader society, incidents of school violence have also decreased. Yet the message that we keep getting bombarded with is that crime is rampant and that we need more police to make us safe.

Cops in schools takes discretion and power away from teachers and administrators and puts it into the hands of police who often lack the training and clear standards to respond appropriately. That’s how you get someone like deputy Ben Fields in Columbia, South Carolina, who was captured on cell phone video lifting a black girl out of her desk and body-slamming her to the floor. It was later reported that the juvenile’s mother had died recently and she had been put into foster case. Unbridled brutality was the response Fields meted out to a grieving student coping with life-changing circumstances, when a counselor was needed.

Missouri had the highest suspension rate for black elementary school children in the nation. St. Louis Public Schools was a big contributor with 2,023 suspensions to students in kindergarten through third grade in 2015; no white student was suspended. The new policy is no suspension of the little ones, and students of any grade level with drug violations will receive treatment rather than punishment.

We still need to beat back the kiddie felony law, eliminate military equipment to school districts received from the DOJ’s 1033 program, stop all suspensions that are non-violent and non-criminal, recruit more qualified social workers and counselors, and get cops out of our schools.


An immortal life comes to TV


Published in St. Louis American, April 6, 2017


I knew it was coming, but I still had mixed emotions when I read that the story of Henrietta Lacks had finally become a movie. The HBO movie will premiere on April 22 and is based on the 2015 book by Rebecca Skloot, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.”

The word “amazing” doesn’t do justice to the story of this poor tobacco farmer who died at the young age of 31 years old. I know what Hollywood does to the lives of real people, so I’m naturally apprehensive about what to expect.

Oprah Winfrey expressed an interest in the story back in 2015. Reportedly, she was so mesmerized by the book, she read it in one sitting. (The book had the same effect on me.)

 The Oprah Midas touch made Skloot’s book a New York Times Best Seller – with a little help from her book club. Winfrey quickly co-purchased the rights to the book, and it was speculated that a movie was in the wind. She is also the executive producer of the movie and plays the role of Lack’s daughter, Deborah.

Who is Henrietta Lacks, and why are we talking about her some 65 years after her death? Read more

Moving from Self-Centeredness to Collective Grounding


This is the seventh article of a 7-part series that will focus on the issues in our radical movements that I think need our immediate and ongoing attention. I am using the ancient eastern concept of chakras for the body as a parallel to our movement’s energy wheel. Healers believe sickness occurs when the body’s chakras are blocked or out of alignment. Likewise, the U.S. Left and our social justice movements need our collective introspection, analysis and adjustments that lead to unblocking our energy/chi points. A weakened Left, and especially the Black Left, have been unable to provide this critical guidance over the last twenty years. I do not have the space to go too deep into my thinking although I have been pondering and talking about this very subject for a few years now. I am looking to stimulate a higher level of principled discussion about how to energize and organize the social forces coming into play at this pivotal juncture in history and how we can rebuild a formidable radical movement in this country.

All articles can be found at


“The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.”

– Audre Lorde



The term “transformation” can be over-used in movement spaces. Transformation this, transformative that. It’s almost as if once you speak the word, transformation will magically take place. However, I do prefer the term because it implies a dramatic change from one condition to another. We don’t understand the penetration of the hegemonic tentacles that wrap around us at birth in this country. This means these chakras usually stay jammed and affect our behavior in movement spaces. If ever there was a critical mass of this chakra operating freely, I think we’d experience tsunami-like chi on multiple levels. We would realize the transformative changes we only theorize about now.

If there were sound effects associated with our political baggage, we would hear us coming before we hit the door. For some, it sounds like boxes moving across the floor. For others, it sounds like the stones of the Great Pyramid grinding on a concrete surface. Stuffed in these bags are the isms of individualism, racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism, homophobia and classism. These isms are the carry the toxins that maintain the hegemony of capitalism such as values, beliefs, ideologies and practices. Whether ours is a fanny pack or multiple matching luggage depends on how intentional and consistently we unpack our baggage as we grow older. Although it starts with self, unpacking your cannot be a solo act; it takes the support and wisdom of a radical collective. Read more