Youth & students demand jobs, no segregation
Posted by raleighfist on March 30, 2010
Thousands take part in HK on J march
By Laurel Ashton, Andy Koch and Eva Panjwani
On the steps of the North Carolina General Assembly, thousands of people from over 100 progressive organizations from across the state came together Feb. 27 in downtown Raleigh around a diverse 14-point People’s Agenda. This “People’s Assembly” is the most visible part of the HK on J (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) movement, which has won same-day voter registration and other important progressive reforms in the state.
People gathered in the morning in front of Shaw University, the historic birthplace of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Thousands marched through the center of downtown Raleigh for social justice and in support of the People’s Agenda, which demands that North Carolina abolish the racially-biased death penalty and mandatory sentencing laws; put young people to work to save the environment and fight for environmental justice; have collective bargaining rights for public sector workers and worker safety; and provide high-quality, well-funded and diverse schools for all children and youth.
This year’s movement is especially important considering the economic crisis hitting working people and the threat of resegregation of public schools in Wilmington, Wake and Wayne counties.
Speakers ranged from the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, to Jocelyn Wilson, a Wake County student at Enloe High School. Addressing the People’s Assembly as a representative of the organized student resistance to the new resegregationist school board, Wilson identified true diversity in public schools to be an essential component of education. “Diversity is not an option,” she said. “It’s a necessity.”
A diverse group of youth marched together as the Youth and Jobs Contingent, giving visibility and voice to the need for both quality education and jobs for all young people. The contingent stood in solidarity with the demands of the local March 4th National Day of Action to Defend Public Education coalition: Stop resegregation of public schools, stop tuition and fee increases at public universities, end teacher layoffs and rehire all laid-off workers, and provide in-state status and financial aid to all immigrant students. The contingent also called for the creation of a federally-funded jobs program for youth.
Alicia Sidney, a Raleigh FIST member whose two children will be affected by the move to stop bussing for diversity in Wake County, also spoke before the HK on J People’s Assembly. She warned of the burden that our decisions represent for children and youth down the road. “Do we really want our children to grow up without personal understanding of children from different backgrounds?” Sidney asked. “Do we really want to build another wall that will only prove an obstacle for future generations?”
The contingent was also organized in hopes of establishing a standing youth organization around these issues, called HK on J Youth. After the march, members of the Youth and Jobs Contingent and its supporters met at the Zydeco Café for an open-mic meeting and planning session. Two of the main focuses of HK on J Youth are the continued fight against the resegregation of schools and for a federally-funded public jobs program.