Youth in action: September-October 2020

August 29, 2020

From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Buddy Bell

Former Starbucks barista Andre Shirley confronted his manager over the policy of letting police officers inside his Los Angeles store, while regular customers were expected to observe social distancing and order/pick up drinks at the front door. Days later, he was fired for being late, though he would usually arrive early for his shifts. He told KQED: “It infuriated me, but I understood being a Black man in America I can’t show that anger or that frustration… That is a fear I wake up to every day that I do not have secure employment. It’s hard being in that place again after you’ve worked so hard to not be there.”

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Students at California State University in Los Angeles rallied on July 13, to urge the university president to appoint a prominent professor and local organizer, Melina Abdullah, as Dean of the College of Ethnic Studies. An online statement by student organizers said that Abdullah’s appointment was forestalled by her “unapologetic opposition to all expressions of anti-Blackness on campus and in the community.” California Faculty Association members have urged supporters to call or email President Bill Covino at 323-343-3030 and bill.covino@calstatela.edu to politely ask him to name Melina Abdullah to this position.

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School boards in conservative states and counties have been eager to follow the Trump Administration’s urge to reopen schools on regular schedules despite the continued risk of COVID-19’s spread. In Dallas, Ga., high school sophomore Hannah Watters was suspended and received threats from classmates after she took a picture of a crowded school hallway and uploaded it on social media. Although all the students pictured are facing away from the camera, it is apparent that numerous students were not wearing a mask. “I was nervous for everyone in that building because precautions and guidelines that the CDC was telling us for months now weren’t being followed,” she said in a CNN interview. “I don’t learn well online, and I want to be able to go to in-person school… but we can’t if we’re not safe.” Watters’ suspension was reversed without comment and her school shut down in the following week, after nine students tested positive for coronavirus.

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