Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Struggle to Save Katherine Ferguson Academy Is Part of the Struggle Against Fascism 
(When Corporate Rule Trumps Public Government)

Transcript ferom the Rachel Maddow Show 22 April 2011
MADDOW: This is the Katherine Ferguson Academy. It's a public school in Detroit Michigan. You may notice a couple things right away about the students at Katherine Ferguson Academy in this footage and the rest of it that we've got. They're all girls, for one thing.

And if you look closely, you may notice that some of them appear to be pregnant. Also, they are farming. Yes, they are. They are picking apples and growing lettuce and raising animals in Detroit, in Detroit, in inner city Detroit. This is not some extracurricular activity thing. This is part of what they do at the Katherine Ferguson high school.

The school is named after Katherine Ferguson, who is born a slave. Her mother was sold and taken away from her when Katherine Ferguson was 8 years old. When she was 16, somebody bought her out of slavery for $200. She then spent the rest of her life mothering lost kids and providing religious instructions.

She reportedly founded the first Sunday school ever in New York. Though, she herself remained illiterate all of her life. The school named in her honor in Detroit welcomes specifically pregnant girls or girls who have kids. It exists for them. It is one of the only places like it in the country.

Your life isn't over because you got pregnant. There is still school for you. There is a daycare on sight to take care of your kids while you go to class. There's an expectation that you will get accepted to college if you stick it out and graduate from here.

There's parenting classes and support alongside the rest of your course work. But your course work, it's for real. Katherine Ferguson Academy was named a breakthrough high school by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want everybody to have the same opportunity that I have. I got out of here. I want you to do the same. I got two kids. You can make it with one, two, how many you got? You're going to make it happen. Mrs. Andrews will make it happen.


MADDOW: She says Mrs. Andrews will make it happen. Mrs. Andrews is the school principal, Mrs. Asenath Andrews.

Looking around at the resources available to her school and her students, this principal decided to take advantage of one thing that Detroit came to have, even as the inner city of Detroit hollowed out over this last decades. Detroit, frankly, has some space. Detroit has room to work.


ASENATH ANDREWS, PRINCIPAL: We have a garden. We have a big garden. They call it the farm because of these animals and stuff. I need to figure out how kids can make above $20,000 a year minimum, farming.


MADDOW: Taking what resources they've got and doing with them what they can.

One of the requirements for graduation in Katherine Ferguson is you must get accepted to a college. Principal Andrews and her staff will hunt down a college for you to go to and money for you to go there, if you graduate. I do not want to pretend that this is in any way an easy thing. But if you come as a junior or senior, and again, you come here because you have become a very young mother or you're about to—from this school, Principal Andrews says you have a 90 percent chance of graduating.

We spent time on this show this week telling you about another hard luck place in the great state of Michigan, Benton Harbor, where this month, to the outrage of many of the people in Benton Harbor, a state-appointed emergency overseer just took over the city. The mayor in the entire city commission was stripped of their powers.

There's one man sent from the state in unilateral control of that city now. The city's elected officials are not running the city, not anymore.

Emergency managers are not a new idea in Michigan. They've been around for a long time. The Detroit public schools have been run by an emergency manager since the last governor was in charge, a Democrat, Jennifer Granholm.

But last month, the new Republican governor, Rick Snyder, signed a new emergency manager law which you could call emergency manager on steroids. Or if you really don't like it, you could call it financial martial law. This new bill contains more than a dozen new triggers for getting put under emergency rule. And it gives an emergency overseer in a town or in a school district, it gives us overseer astounding amounts of new power.

The Detroit schools manager told the "The Detroit News" he had been frustrated under the old manager law. Detroit was still allowed to have an elected school board and those locally elected officials did not always want what he wanted, which he found frustrating. The new law passed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, though, would do away with that complication. And that new power has the Detroit schools emergency overseer guy licking his chops and I'm not begin hyperbolic.

Listen to how he described it to "The Detroit News. He said, "I do drool when I think of the pace of change we could achieve under the new law."

Power tastes great, more thrilling. I do drool.

But the fact is that this guy used to feel throttled by the people who the people of Detroit elected to make decisions about schools and their city. Now, under the new law, whoever you elect locally is totally irrelevant.

Before the new law went into effect, the school's emergency managers said he wanted to close Katherine Ferguson Academy. It was slated for closure last year as part of Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb's plan to downsize the school system. But protest from students and community members kept it open. The manager wanted to shut down the city's special school for girls who were pregnant or who had kids. But protests, again, from students and community members kept it open.

Now, with expanded unilateral power, all teachers in the Detroit schools just got layoff notices from this person. And the girls at the Katherine Ferguson Academy just found out that their school has been put on this list. Look, closures or charters with a big asterisk on it.

The asterisk means, quote, "Proposals will be requested to operate these schools as charters. If an acceptable proposal is not submitted for a school, then it will be closed during the summer of 2011."

What that means in simple terms is that Katherine Ferguson High School is on the block. The emergency overseer has made a unilateral decision about Katherine Ferguson Academy. If a private company will take over Katherine Ferguson Academy and keep it open, then maybe it can stay open in some form, whatever the company wants to do with it. If not, it's gone, this summer.

When he tried to do it before, the emergency manager tried to close it down this before, it was local protest that stopped them. Now, with that being emergency overseer being given unlimited power to do what he wants no matte what Detroit says—well.

When the students got the news, they decided to protest. This video we showed a moment ago where these girls were talking about how much they love their school, how much they love Katherine Ferguson, you can see they are painting something there. What they are painting is protest signs. The video is from a sit-in at the school during spring break week last week.

The girls got the news about what was going to happen to Katherine Ferguson Academy. They went to their school, they gathered inside. They made a collective decision to say this is our place and we're staying.

And then, of course, this is what happened next.


MADDOW: This school in an American city. The police turned on the sirens of their police cars to drown out the girls' voices while they were getting handicapped and arrested, for refusing to leave their school. At least one teacher was arrested alongside them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The attitude of the teachers was really plain. It was, we can find a job somewhere else, but these young women, they can't replace the school if we don't stand and fight for them and their futures. Then they don't stand a chance.


MADDOW: The news now from Michigan is not about whether Katherine Ferguson Academy stays open or it closes, or about what happens to Benton Harbor and the lake front park there that we've been talking act and its privatization into a really, really expensive golf course. It's not even whether there are political forces in America that want to drop the idea of public school and to turn schools into business opportunities instead, or to turn public parks into golf courses. Those political forces exist. They have existed for a long time. That is not new.

What is new here is that this state has decided that local elections, locally elected officials are a problem that has to be done away with, that democracy is in the way of fixing problems in the United States now, of making things more efficient, particularly in poor places. Not that democracy is the way we fix problems but that democracy is the problem and it therefore needs to be sidestepped for efficiency sake, for our own good. Governor knows best.

This week, a columnist with the "Kalamazoo Gazette" wrote a thoughtful and smart column that frankly was critical of me, critical of us for our coverage of the take over of Benton Harbor. The columnist's name is Julie Mack. And she wrote in response to our coverage, quote, "What's worse for Benton Harbor: a financial manager with dictatorial powers or an utterly dysfunctional city government?"

Hmm, dictator or dysfunction? Dictator or dysfunction? Only two options? Really?

The point here, what makes Benton Harbor a national story and Katherine Ferguson Academy a national story is that the whole idea of choice for them anymore is purely hypothetical. The state has chosen for them. And that they've got is, frankly, that aforementioned dictator. Their hope—their one hope is the dictator is benevolent.

Is that how we think problems should get solved in America now?

That is why Michigan is ground zero for American politics right now, at Benton Harbor and at Katherine Ferguson.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A 30 Second Celebration! 
Cathie Black Is Out!... 
Celebration is Over! 
Super Loyal Sir Walcott Is In!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Paul Robeson Students Create a Fightback Website!
 The Fightback Against Albany's Worst Budget Cuts Has Started!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

See some of our members discuss the NYC Crisis and Fightback in Black Education
Program 2 (30 minutes)
(Pt 4) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqiwDf7jn4w&feature=related

(Pt 5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gKFjRh3qgqU&feature=related


(Pt 6) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBp1z9Cjh_Y&NR=1

Cosponsored by BNYEE, CPE-CEP, Operation Power, S.E.E.D.S., and The MANY. With Sam Anderson, Assemblywoman Inez Barron, Benita Lovett-Rivera, Akinlabi Mackall, and Brenda Walker.

NOTE: Parts 1, 2, and 3 can be seen via these links.