Click here to check out my recent interview with Nuala Cabral and Denice Frohman of FAAN Mail, a Philadelphia-based media activist group that has launched a social media campaign (on Twitter, primarily, #WishiLearnedinHS), “Wished I Learned in High School,” in response to policies in Arizona restricting ethnic studies programs. Cabral is graduate of Moses Brown School in Providence, RI.
(PROVIDENCE, RI; PHILADELPHIA, PA; TUCSON, AZ) – When does learning about non-Europeans/non-Whites in the US constitute promoting resentment toward a race or class?
When does learning about the development of the US and manifest destiny and those who opposed such policies cross the line to become promoting the overthrow of the US government?
When did a class providing awareness about the societal and civic contributions of one of this country’s minority/ethnic groups become illegal?
These are some of the questions being asked by activists, students, and journalists all over the country, though the answer to number three might be more clear: it’s been over a year since the governor of Arizona signed into law House Bill 2281, “which prohibits a school district or charter school (in Arizona) from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that promote the overthrow of the United States government, promote resentment toward a race or class of people, are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group, or advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.”
Yet it is recent events that have re-stirred up the questions, concerns, and heated debates on the topic: the final termination of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona – and the removal of corresponding books from Tucson schools that are now part of a list of banned literature.
Critics of the legislation say that the policies curtail teacher creativity, and call the law an attempt to further silence and marginalize people of color in a state becoming infamous for what many view as one anti-immigrant or anti-Brown policy after another. Supporters of the state law – and the recent move by Tucson officials – cite the Mexican American Studies program as an example of a program that promotes one racial/ethnic group over all others, and say that programs like these promote a victimization mentality.
But critics aren’t buying it, and they’re not standing by quietly. Two such activists are Nuala Cabral and Denice Frohman of FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!), www.faanmail.wordpress.com. FAAN Mail is a media literacy/media activism project formed by women of color to promote pro-active audiences and creative alternatives.
Cabral and Frohman are based in Philadelphia, MA, but they’re not letting geography stop their actions. On the contrary, Cabral, Frohman and the FAAN Mail community have launched a social media campaign (on Twitter, primarily, #WishiLearnedinHS), “Wished I Learned in High School,” to collect and share stories from people who can speak to the benefits they’ve gained from Ethnic Studies programs and to the regrets they feel about not getting enough exposure to the stories of people of color, women, LGBT writers, and other voices in their K-12 years.
Cabral and Frohoman say they are outraged that racist/conservative ideology has prevailed over data on programs that have been proven to be effective for students of color (who are at more risk for dropping out), and bothered that what hasn’t been acknowledged is the idea that there are already preferential treatments built into the educational system – those that favor the stories, ideas, history and perspectives of wealthy, western, white men.
Click here to check out my audio podcast/interview with Cabral and Frohman, which was recorded and originally aired on Sonic Watermelons on bsrlive.com on Wednesday, February 1. Click here to see a short video about some of the on-the-ground student and community organizing.
Or check out the links below to learn more about the FAAN Mail campaign and the Arizona saga.