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Black and Latino Students Are Finding Their Voices Through Sacramento's Civics Education

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The 2020 election saw the highest voter turnout in US history, but not in California.

Golden State voter turnout was the highest since the 1950s, 35th place in that country that year. And in the recent June primaries, less than 39% Three registered voters in Sacramento County went to vote. This is his one of the lowest voter turnouts in the last few election seasons.

The need for civic involvement in the diverse Sacramento landscape is clear.

“I think a lot of people here in Sacramento don’t really understand what civics are,” said Andreas Morais, a black student at River City High School in West Sacramento.

Combined with low voter turnout, black and Latinx students in California least likely to be exposed Opportunities for public participation and educationMorais is free to give up the weekend I will participate in Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Center‘s civics education program wants to prepare the next generation for the job at hand.

“I think being part of this program gives us a deeper insight into what it means to be a citizen,” Morais said. “Step by step learning is a good way to instill civic engagement in the minds of students and help them become more knowledgeable.”

California youth disenfranchised can’t get civics education I was less likely to assert myself or pursue higher education, and the trajectory of my life changed.

“Many students do not receive the civic education necessary to support their informed and active participation in civic and political life,” Congressman Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) said in an e-mail. I am writing to you by email.

Declining voter participation and restricted civic education for black and brown students are already sustaining an oppressive system.

The MLK Freedom Center’s mission to bring change to high poverty and vulnerable communities includes testifying and partnering with elected leaders to influence law.Most recently, they worked with Bonta and a handful of other legislators to resolution to Prioritize civic education in schools.

“Citizen learning is critical in helping young people acquire knowledge and interact effectively with fellow community members to address common issues,” Bonta said.

starting with education

For decades, concerned Californians have pushed for broader civic education.

In 1995, a bus full of East Bay activists led by then-Member of Congress Barbara Lee traveled to Sacramento to promote legislation to establish a national funding center dedicated to the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. The center will focus on civic engagement, youth and non-violence.

From Oakland and Sacramento to Washington and Alabama, MLK Freedom Centers continue to address every aspect of American civic education, including classroom practice, legislation and partnerships with local organizations.

Morais sees value in interacting with academics and changemakers across the country.

“It’s great to be surrounded by like-minded people who think the same way and want change,” he said. “Where I live, there are a lot of people who don’t want to speak up about the problem.”

Civics education programs provide a space for marginalized students of color to dream and make actionable change. In class every Saturday, students learn the movements by marginalized people that have boosted their progress. Some of these interactive class sessions include writing poetry as a way to build confidence and helping each student organize their voice. This is essential to participate in the democratic process.

After reading activist Marge Pierce’s poem,If They Come In The Night,” One student, Ashaia Bennett from Washington State, wrote her own answer.

Oh, Ashiya / You came from where the walls fell / But you wake up and you can’t stop smiling / Only when the road seems longer To pedal faster Bennett begins her poem.

As a young black girl, Bennett’s poetry conveys a sense of urgency. She communicates her need and desire for more, despite her own situation, and addresses the continued duress of vulnerable black and brown youth.

Exercise is a real advocate.

“We write down our thoughts and what’s on our mind, and then we speak it in public so it’s not just stuck in our heads,” Morais said.

David Gaines is the result of MLK Freedom Center’s civic education program. For seven years he worked at the center from a student. Before he joined, he lived in Oakland, fell behind in high school and felt helpless.

“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am today without this program,” Gaines said. “I didn’t take ownership of the issues in my community. I realized things were bad and really didn’t know what to do.”

He says the MLK Freedom Center has empowered him to contribute to the lives of his family, school and community.

“I have the opportunity to speak for myself and others”

In Sacramento County, the MLK Freedom Center brings together high school students of color from all districts to become advocates for change in their municipality.

Natomas High School student Ashlyn Bracamonte is determined to make a positive change. During his time at the MLK Freedom Center, he also had the opportunity to intern. at city hall She spoke with city officials and was able to visualize her future.

Bracamonte remembers that in a conversation with Sacramento city manager Howard Chan, he emphasized the importance of being a person of color in leadership positions.

“They may see us as a random brown race, a random black race, but they still think we can hold power in this city,” she said. “We can make something of ourselves. We, the biggest part of the city’s diversity, can be someone in the city and make a difference.”

She also uses her internship to advocate for her community using civic learning. She has advocated for her WiFi access for youth in Sacramento, COVID-19 education and outreach, and teacher pay increases.

But Bracamonte’s biggest concern is the hostile community culture and lack of coverage in Sacramento. She says her dialogue can serve as an antidote to violence in her community.

“We are very diverse. We are very culturally focused. But there is a lot of violence,” she said. “We are still seeing people who look like us die…and more needs to be done to deal with that.”

These difficult conversations are crucial for the young people at the MLK Freedom Center. To further support this type of youth engagement, the center gathers her teens from all over the country.

Jennifer Hernandez, a recent high school graduate from Washington State, flew to Sacramento to meet Bracamonte and other MLK Freedom Center scholars. Hernandez and Bracamonte became best friends.

“I’ve found that I’m not alone. As a younger generation, we often feel like our voices are being drowned out,” Hernandez said. and have a chance to speak up for yourself and others and support them.”

For her, civic education is a union of shared experience, support and progress. These are the tenets she has embraced as part of the MLK Freedom Center program.

“Public participation is a social responsibility and we are all interconnected,” says Hernandez.

Students like Bracamonte and Hernandez believe in representation and community building. And the skills developed through the Center’s civic education program allow both to identify how they want to approach their communities and leaders.

Hernandez continues:

Please contact the MLK Freedom Center directly for more information. here.

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