On May 19th, the Alliance for Educational Justice and the National L.I.F.E. Coalition staged the National Rally for Youth Investment in Washington, DC in partnership with the Young People’s Project, Project South, Advancement Project, the Dignity in Schools Coalition, and the Generational Alliance. Fifteen hundred youth activists gathered together to stand up for themselves and their schools, and to recognize the power of their voices in the fight for education. A sea of identical red shirts stating “No Schools + No Jobs = Death” flooded the area in front of the Department of Education, accompanied by black “RIP Public Education” signs, both to emphasize the urgency of the situation.
The rally kicked off with some energizing music, the introduction of dynamic student leaders, and a moment of silence to recognize all students who have been victims of school pushout. The energy immediately filled the heartfelt silence once more, as various students cheered on behalf of the many organizations present. Student leaders discussed some of the goals and demands that they hope to work toward, including the Student Bill of Rights, which will hold the government accountable for ensuring equal opportunity and education for all students. Other goals mentioned were the implementation of a more fair tax system, new student assessment systems, more protection for LGBTQ students, the passage of the Youth Jobs Act 2011, and the passage of the Dream Act.
Other students spoke of the productive meeting they had with the Department of Education and Arne Duncan’s senior staff. One student read a letter from Arne Duncan, in which he stated that everyone shares the responsibility to educate our children and that we need every voice to take part in the discussion. In the letter, he vowed his commitment to continuing the dialogue with the Alliance for Educational Justice to work toward these important educational goals.
Students shared their stories and opinions through powerful musical and poetic performances. The march then began and cheers rang throughout the streets as students stood up for democracy, demanded that the government save our schools, and recognized their united power. The march ended at the Department of Labor, where Congressman Bobby Rush spoke about the Youth Jobs Act of 2011. Overall, it was a successful and empowering event.