From the March-April 2020 issue of News & Letters
by Buddy Bell
In a Valentine’s Day protest surge, Greta Thunberg and the Fridays 4 Future and Climate Strike campaigns counted over 2,000 actions in 150 countries.
- In Delhi, India, police intended to break up a local strike but eventually left them alone, but not before an officer scolded and waved his finger in the face of eight-year-old Licypriya Kangujam, who was holding a sign calling on Narendra Modi to sign the Climate Change Law.
- In Krasnoyarsk, Russia, 16-year-old Rita Naumenko defied a ban on protests by minors in order to call attention to her city’s severe air pollution.
- In Lamu, Kenya, activists organized in the campaign DeCOALonize Kenya protested a proposed coal plant while circulating a petition to the Chinese ambassador requesting that he pull funding and invest in alternative energies.
- Siyadinoh Fazulini, a 25-year-old demonstrator in Kenya, tweeted: “The air pollution crisis is dragging us to our deathbed very fast. We must break away from fossil fuels, especially coal which is seriously harming our hearts and lungs.”
* * *
Last winter, the New York student group Teens Take Charge held a virtual press conference on Facebook to say that the city was not moving fast enough to integrate a school system that a 2014 UCLA study called the “most segregated in the nation.” Quoted in the online newspaper Chalkbeat, junior Sokhnadiarra Ndiaye said that students expect “a comprehensive plan to racially, socioeconomically, and academically integrate high schools before the end of the school year.”
As spring and summer slid by, the mayor’s office offered talk and no action. In the fall, students organized a series of Monday walkouts that began on Nov. 18 and are pledged to continue each week until the city does away with selective admissions tests.
Among those who walked out was senior Carla Gaveglia, who attends a selective high school with a 41% Black and Latinx student body. It shares the same building as a conventional public high school where 81% of students are Black and Latinx. “It is clear to see the inequities between our schools that are separated by a staircase,” she told the Daily News.
On Jan. 30, several hundred students attended a forum organized by Teens Take Charge, where education officials were summoned to answer questions about student proposals, which included equalizing school resources by combining sports programs among selective and conventional schools and changing the way PTAs can raise money. Students also took aim at metal detectors and selective enforcement of school policy against students of color.
Three of New York City’s most selective high schools have an admissions test regulated by the state, and students were in Albany on Feb. 15 to support a bill to eliminate it. Looking ahead, the student groups Teens Take Charge and Integrate NYC are calling for a day-long school boycott on May 18.