#Follow Friday: Teachers for Social Justice

When did your organization, Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ), decide to join the No Cop Academy campaign? Why?

Three years ago, the theme of TSJ’s annual curriculum fair was titled “Defund Policing, Fund Communities and Schools.  While the #NoCopAcademy campaign was not visible during this curriculum fair, our political orientation and hopes to defund policing seem to be in alignment with the campaign.  

When the campaign kicked off, TSJ felt the need to join because of our political stance and solidarity with others.  Broadly, we both seek to build the sort of world that doesn’t require policing, and support using other forms of harm prevention and reduction.  More specifically, we seek to reimagine what the city of Chicago could look like if we did not spend 4 million dollars a day on the police (this number does not include other expenditures like overtime and lawsuits). At the same time that CPS closed 50 schools, mostly in Black communities, they are finding money for a new cop academy. So for us, defunding police (the cop academy is one example) is linked to funding schools, especially in black and brown communities. We are also opposed to the school to prison pipeline and the cop academy is one more piece of that.

How has your organization contributed to the campaign?

TSJ has partnered with the campaign in various capacities such as the TSJ Curriculum Fair, and the March #NoCopAcademy I-tag (Inquiry to Action Group) meetings. The campaign conducted a workshop at last year’s Curriculum Fair (November of 2017), only a few months after the campaign had launched. Teachers and students from all over the city attended the workshop, learned more about the campaign, and were eager to bring it back to the classroom and their community members. In March of 2018, the TSJ workshops turned into I- tags (Inquiry to Action Groups) where folks from TSJ broke into groups to work more closely and intentionally with outside organizations, campaigns, etc. This year a #NoCopAcademy I-tag was formed, and folks from the I-tag were able to create #NoCopAcademy curriculum. This curriculum was presented by the I-tag at the #NoCopAcademy Youth Summit as a workshop.

What has been your organization’s highlight of the campaign?

One of the things that struck us as an organization, was the #NoCopAcademy Report Release. We were amazed and pleased with the campaign’s understanding and framework of Black Youth Organizing and how it has been gracefully put into practice. This was especially demonstrated during the report release, the power dynamic of adultism was de-centered, and youth took the lead. TSJ has now been studying the framework and vernacular of “Youth-Led, Adult-Supported” more closely, as a much needed political education for all of us.  

What strategies/tactics/frameworks does your organization bring to the campaign?

Some of the tactics and strategies TSJ brings is a critical political analysis of the school system that is rooted in an education for liberation. We believe that engaging in the political struggle within the school systems, globally and locally is a framework that will help dismantle the school to prison pipeline, in hopes to free our youth.

Anything else to add?

Here are some final words from Aide, a teacher activist and TSJ Core Leader: “Different members of TSJ attended No Cop meetings and we were always welcomed to express our ideas and contribute to the campaign in a variety of ways. During these meetings, other organizations were also present and we were able to connect, support, and stand in solidarity with one another. I always felt like we were learning together when asking questions about canvassing, visiting alderman, etc. …When I attended the No Cop Report Release, it was truly empowering to be part of the community. There were so many people, so much energy, so much positivity when talking about the future and the work that still needs to be done. Also the actual report is something I plan to keep forever! The information was so organized and specific.”

Be sure to attend the 20th anniversary TSJ curriculum fair, “From Puerto Rico to Chicago: Reclaiming and Reimagining Our Communities”, on Saturday, November 17, 2018! FB Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/252129775634240/

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