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St. Louis Newsletter August 2020

Updates on the work of AFSC and Youth Undoing Institutional Racism

St Louis childrens march July 2020
AFSC Prorgam Director Joshua Saleem holds the bullhorn for youth activists Grace and Yosiyah Taylor at July's Children's March. Program Associate Jonathan Pulphus works security in the background. Photo: / AFSC

Greetings Family,

So much has happened since our last newsletter.

Consistent through it all has been the unwavering support and care of this base. From the phone calls, check-ins, emails, in-person conversations, and more - we are reminded of how our voices together ring truer than those that seek to maintain injustice and status quo realities. As the late black comedian Roy Lee would say, we hope that you continue to "enjoy life and smile everyday" by keeping high spirits in this work. After the storm, there's always sunshine.

In solidarity,
Jonathan Pulphus
Program Associate

NOTE FROM OUR STAFF

Here are some updates on what's been going on:

• Three brilliant organizers named Kevin Backstrom, Ma'Kayla "M&M" Machary, and Sarah Nash have joined the AFSC ranks. Kevin and Ma'Kayla are serving as our Peace Education Interns. Sarah is our Potts Intern.

• Our #RealStudentSafety campaign is ongoing. This was launched back in June demanding that St. Louis Public Schools divest from the $6.3 million it currently spends on “security services” and invest in wraparound services and enrichment programs that protect the wellbeing of our young people.

• The Children's March we hosted successfully lifted up the calls for #RealStudentSafety by unapologetically highlighting the voices of families and young people around the question. Working to put this together in partnership with a host of organizations around the Keep Kids in Class coalition was meaningful for future efforts.

• Abolition workshops are in the horizon. We realize the opportunity to help educate and inform by organizing around police free schools and the closing of carceral institutions. Stay tuned.

Alexander Kaiser marches with her daughter Kalyn Kaiser, 5, at July's Children's March (Photo by Wiley Price, STL American)

 

INTRODUCTION OF AFSC INTERNS

We are thirlled to announce here that we have these brilliant organizers working with us. See below for a little bit about them:

Kevin Backstrom

"My name is Kevin. I'm 17 years old and a senior at Northwest Academy Of Law and I'm from St. Louis. My favorite song would have to be one way by XL and favorite food would have to be burgers and pancakes. What got me interested in this kind of work would have to be when I notice all of the injustices that were going on in the world and how much this world is ok with racism and injustices so I wanted to do something about it. Two people inspired me to do this kind of work, Joshua and Jonathan, and I thank them for inspiring me cause without them I wouldn't have met the people I have met and I wouldn't have had so many great and wonderful opportunities."

Ma'Kayla Machary

"Hi, my name is Ma’Kayla Machary and I’m one of the newest additions to the AFSC team. I was born and raised in St. Louis, MO, which is also where I currently reside. My favorite song is My Mind by Yebba. My favorite food is homemade baked orange chicken twist whole wings with a side of plain fried rice. What brought me into this work was Joshua Saleem, he sent me the application via email. Seeing the work Joshua and Jono 'Jonathan Pulphus' did for my school played a part in my inspiration but what actually inspired me to go forward with completing the application to be in this field of work was peer mediation. Seeing the positive outcome that it had on so many individuals made me proud. To know that I played a part in that made me proud. AFSC makes me believe that with a little more help the world could become a better place."

Sarah Nash

Sarah (she/her) is a learner, listener, writer, and accompanier. She is currently the Potts Intern at AFSC St. Louis while also pursuing an MSW/MDiv dual-degree at the Brown School at Washington University and Eden Theological Seminary. Sarah is originally from Louisville, Kentucky, but has called St. Louis home since August 2012. She graduated from Saint Louis University in 2016 with a BA in American Studies, African American Studies, and Sociology. Garth Brooks is her all-time favorite musician and "Standing Outside the Fire" is her go-to song. Her favorite meals are her Mama's stuffed shells or her husband's traditional Zimbabwean beef. Sarah was brought into this work through her relationships and by her communities - friends and family, undergraduate professors, Karen House and the Catholic Worker movement, St. John's Church (The Beloved Community), the Anti-Racism Organizing Collective, and her Volmoed Youth Leadership cohort. She is inspired to do this work by young people, throughout history and today, in the United States and around the world, who have always been on the frontlines of social change.

 

#REALSTUDENTSAFETY UPDATES

Kevin Adams

It's wild. We've been struggling with the best way to tell you what's the word with SLPS since this campaign was called in June. We will be releasing an open letter written by Potts Intern Sarah Nash around this in a follow-up newsletter later this week. Whole time, here are the sparknotes:

June 

o The Change.org petition is released.

o AFSC, with 10 other local organizations, released an open letter to Superintendent Kelvin Adams calling for #RealStudentSafety.

July 

o Dr. Adams virtually meets with the #RealStudentSafety table. He commits to follow up to the open letter within 5 days.

o Following the 5 day deadline, Dr. Adams is sent a follow up email seeking any updates to which he responds: “I did not commit to respond to your letter in 5 days.”

August 

o We still have yet to here back from Dr. Adams.

In light of Superintendent of SLPS refusing to honor his word serving as both gatekeeper and gaslighter, we ask that you continue to keep the pressure up by doing the following:

1) Sign the petition.

2) Call and email Dr. Adams and the School Board.

3) Follow the #RealStudentSafety campaign and AFSC St. Louis on social media.

 

ABOLITION WORKSHOPS AUG-SEP!

Check it out! AFSC St. Louis is organizing Virtual Learning Sessions on Abolition for young people ages 14-21! Are you interested in learning about abolition, deepening your awareness, and connecting with other young people organizing for #RealStudentSafety in St. Louis area schools? Then fill out our interest form! Someone from AFSC St. Louis will reach out soon with more details!

 

LITERATURE

St. Louis American

• "Cori Bush will become Missouri's first Black congresswoman" by Rebecca Rivas

• "Kamala Harris is emblematic of an America struggling to be born" by Mike Jones

• "A 14-year-old should not be tried or jailed as an adult" by Rev. Bella Winters.

• "Missouri should raise – not the lower – the age to charge youths as adults" by Kristian Blackmon & Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson

• "Black police group details systemic racism in St. Louis City PD, offers suggestions for change" by Rebecca Rivas

• "City excludes community input from Cure Violence process" by Community Against Police Crimes and Repression

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