Dear SEEN Community,
SEEN formed in June 2020 in response to race-based policing and brutality. We came together in recognition of the potential impact of a network of individuals working collectively and in the hopes of building a more equitable community by starting with our youth in our schools. Our focus remains on educational equity for each and every student, family, faculty and staff member in SSCSD, and we know that educational equity cannot exist without an equitable community. If we want each and every student to feel seen and honored in school, – we need to ensure that they also feel seen and honored on the streets of our city.
Many in Saratoga are celebrating the week of September 21 as Peace Week. However, the last two weeks have been anything but peaceful for many in our community. Black Lives Matter activists and allies were arrested, arraigned, and harangued, both in person and on social media.
BLM activists have been arrested and charged due to acts of civil disobedience. To learn more about what happened and the ongoing repercussions, please see these resources put together by Saratoga Black Lives Matter. We want to highlight the injustice of the uneven application of the law. Of the activists charged in Saratoga Springs, 60% are BIPOC, and Black members of the community were the only ones arrested on two separate occasions for the same protest actions (for context, Saratoga County is 90% white). These racial disparities also exist in similar recent cases in Albany and Schenectady. We recognize that blocking traffic is a form of civil disobedience, that law enforcement had the opportunity to reroute traffic and their failure to do so was an operational choice, and that the timing of these arrests suggests a coordinated, cross-county effort to suppress speech. We also want to highlight that civil disobedience only works if we, as the broader community, recognize and call out the injustice. The onus is on each of us.
Deploying public resources for investigation, arrest, and prosecution of infractions and violations serves to criminalize speech and activism. It creates a financial penalty to deter some and select members of our society from full participation in civic life. We work for a community that embraces and protects the rights of each and every member. “Each and every” is at the core of our equity mission.
In recent weeks we have also seen other instances of inequity at play: stacked and inflated charges against local organizers, community members being denied entry into public buildings, and school-boy truancy being reframed as criminality. This article was published by the same newspaper that drew attention to the failures of the education system’s use of PINS (persons in need of supervision) orders. We see that collateral consequences disproportionately affect BIPOC members of the community, and that issues of race and criminality intersect within the public imagination. This intersection is the focus of the NYCLU’s strengthening condemnation of the arrests and police action (1, 2, 3), of the Times Union editorial board’s piece after the first arrests, of the League of Women Voters, and of the overwhelming majority of public comments at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. It was also part of the topic of the September 21 discussion at the opening program for Saratoga Peace Week, a discussion of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow (2010).
SEEN’s mission is about equity broadly – sex, gender, sexuality, creed, race, ethnicity, ability, socio-economic status, citizenship status – but we single out anti-racism in our mission both because anti-racism work is intersectional by definition, and because of the incomplete reckoning faced by our nation and our community. We continue to seek new ways to make contributions to equity of opportunity in our community. First and foremost, we stand with activists – as individuals and as a network. We have also been busy creating another forum for learning and discussion about equity, in this case a series on critical race theory. Purposefully mischaracterized, and therefore often misunderstood, the framework of Critical Race Theory can be used to analyze systemic and socially-constructed patterns in our schools as well as in our community.
In collaboration with MLK Saratoga, Skidmore’s Black Studies Program and SUNY Empire State College’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, we are proud to present a series of forums entitled Critical Conversations: A Community Forum on Critical Race Theory.
The first in our series, Demystifying Critical Race Theory, will be held on Tuesday, October 5th at 7 p.m. Presented on Zoom, this will be moderated by Dr. Renata Williams (SSCSD ’01), now Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Mercersburg Academy. The esteemed panel includes Dr. Winston Grady-Willis, Professor and Founding Director of Black Studies at Skidmore College; Dr. Anthony Paul Farley, James Campbell Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Albany Law School; and Dr. A. Tina Wagle, Professor and M.Ed. Coordinator in the Education Division of the School for Graduate Studies at SUNY Empire State College. Register for the program, and please share details with all your friends who have questions about “CRT.” SEEN and our collaborators are committed to paying people for their time, expertise, and contributions. If you would like to support this work and our speakers and are able to make a contribution, please donate at GiveButter (suggested $5-$10 donation).
Future sessions will address ways to apply the lens of critical race theory to education, and even to other equity issues outside of or compounded by race. But this one starts at the beginning to address what critical race theory is, what it isn’t, and its implications for our community.
- Black Lives Matter. Follow activists’ calls for action on the Saratoga BLM LinkTree, including petitions to protect everyone’s First Amendment rights and messages to area District Attorneys. In the coming weeks, our weekly emails will have information on additional action items to support activists in a separate section.
- September 26 – 3 p.m. Cookies Not Cops, a mutual aid and letter-writing event and bake sale in support of BLM activists in Congress Park, starting at 3 p.m.
- September 27 – 5 p.m. The first meeting of our reading, discussion, and community art-making series with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, “American Politics and Community Today: Saratoga Springs” will take place starting at 5 p.m. at the Frederick Allen Elks Lodge on Beekman Street. As our community grapples with the persistent issues of race, inclusion, and community, we are rooting the first discussion in Ralph Ellison’s “On Bird, Birdwatching, and Jazz,” and “Blues People.” This program is supported by Humanities NY, MLK Saratoga, Saratoga Arts, Saratoga Springs Public Library, and SEEN. Join our Facebook Group “Ellison Saratoga” to follow along, join in discussion, and more.
- September 30 – 6 p.m. A virtual program with author-academic-educator Christopher Emdin to discuss his book Ratchedemic (2021) is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m., with reserve tickets (free, pay-as-you-wish, or with books). Emdin will also be outside Northshire from 3:30-4:30 p.m. signing books.
As SEEN works with community partners to organize our program series around critical race theory, we’ll be sharing some recent discussions and insights on the topic. We’re also creating a resource document for the community. Want to contribute something you read, watched, or listened to? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ The SEEN Team