In a new feature on the work to integrate schools, The Atlantic includes IntegrateNYC4Me and our work with Harvard’s Reimagining Integration program, the National Coalition on School Diversity, and The Century Foundation to strategize for this modern movement.
Hebh’s entry into activism came courtesy of The New York Times, which featured her in a front-page story titled “Muslim Youths in U.S. Feel Strain of Suspicion” in December 2015. After the article appeared, a high school in the city invited her to speak about her experiences of Islamophobia.
“It was very diverse, very integrated. It felt abnormal to me, and I didn’t know why it felt abnormal,” she says. “So I went and I researched, and I found out that New York City has the most segregated schools in the country.”
After meeting with city council member Brad Lander, she’s become a student activist with the organization IntegrateNYC4Me, which challenges school segregation in New York, and she helps runs its race and enrollment committee. The city’s current school system is “disheartening,” Hebh says. “But I’m trying to fix it.”
IntegrateNYC4Me was cofounded by Sarah Camiscoli, who works closely with Hebh. “She reminds me of the importance of honoring student vision even when it seems challenging,” Sarah says. “And she shows me what it means to have the courage to take a stand.”
Earlier this month, Chance the Rapper met with Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and challenged him to “do your job” and adequately fund Chicago’s public schools (Chance subsequently put his own money up, making a $1 million donation to Chicago schools). After the meeting, Chance challenged the media, and Complex in particular, to “give a comprehensive history of how we got here.”
So, where is “here”? A 21st-century America—not just Chicago—rife with apartheid schools that serve almost exclusively Black and Brown students, are chronically underfunded, and struggle to fulfill every student’s right to the quality education that can give them a fair shot at success. An America more interested in funding the school-to-prison pipeline than public schools themselves. An America where we spend less than $10,000 a year to educate a child but anywhere from $35,000 to $64,000 to incarcerate one.
“We must love America enough to change it” – Bronx-born Hebh Jamal, 17, explains why resistance isn’t futile.
Hebh Jamal made her political debut on the cover of the New York Times; since then the Bronx High School student's activism has remained impressively high profile, whether staging a strike following Trump's inauguration, being interviewed by the Observer and Broadly or talking on a panel with Angela Davis. An advocate for education since she was 15-years-old, Jamal has become increasingly active as she attempts to execute her vision for a more conscious, harmonious, educated society - regardless what executive orders Trump's government try to pass.
In celebration of IWD, we asked this formidable female to tell us about her type of activism, and what she intends to do to challenge political Islamophobia.
"Oppression has always manifested itself in three ways: lack of safety, vulnerability, and intimidation through a set power structure. In America, the demonisation of Muslim Americans has been perpetuated by the media, Hollywood, and government policy. What I was in fact perplexed by was this new rhetoric that is seemingly founded on oblivion surrounding the current situation of America: that Muslims are newly under attack by public officials. The reality is that we have been under attack during both Democratic and Republican presidencies. The only difference now is that this presidency aims to demonise all marginalised groups at the same time.
The 74, a non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America, and Big Tomorrow, a multi-disciplinary design firm specializing in the creation of paradigm-shifting experiences, both highlighted the Teach Us All panel featuring IntegrateNYC4Me as a must see at this year's SXSWedu.
Check out their other recommendations at South by Southwest Education: The 17 Panels and Sessions to See at SXSW 2017 and BT’s SXSWedu 2017 Picks.
The SXSWedu® Conference & Festival fosters innovation in learning by hosting a passionate and diverse community of education stakeholders. The seventh annual SXSWedu will return to Austin, March 6-9, 2017, for four days of compelling sessions, in-depth workshops, engaging learning experiences, mentorship, film screenings, startup events, policy-centered discussions, business opportunities, networking and so much more! Through collaboration, creativity and social action, SXSWedu empowers its global community to connect, discover and impact.
As part of the SXSWedu Film program, panels following select screenings allow attendees to connect with voices from in front of and behind the camera. This year, Teach Us All was selected to be screened followed by a panel including IntegrateNYC4Me lead student activist, Hebh Jamal, and Co-Director, Sarah Camiscoli.
Read the full announcement here.
"Following the recent presidential election, some communities are feeling vulnerable and fearful that the potential policies of the new administration might affect them negatively. While children of those communities may be feeling the same anxiety, they're not necessarily able to process and understand these very adult concepts. Teachers are on the front line helping their students navigate the world, but how are they speaking with their students about the recent election and the potential impact on their lives?
Here to tell us about some of the challenges teachers are facing in this politically charged climate are David Bloomfield, Professor of Educational Leadership at Brooklyn College, and Sarah Camiscoli, Co-Founder and Co-Director of IntegrateNYC4Me, an advocacy organization focused on increasing diversity in New York City public schools."
"After receiving a flood of worried text messages on election night, Camiscoli gave [IntegrateNYC4Me Activists] the option to write a letter. On brightly colored paper, each stamped with a heart and the words 'Love Trumps Fear,' she asked them to to send a message to any community that might need to hear something positive.
Rather than despair, the letters are full of encouragement.
'No matter what happens, we have to accept it and plan to move forward,' reads one, addressed to fellow students. 'You have a dream ahead you have to hold onto.'
Another letter, addressed to the LGBT community, says, 'I just want to tell you that you are strong, you are beautiful and that you are brave.'"
"Sarah Camiscoli, who runs a group for the school's older students called IntegrateNYC4Me, said she asked them "to write letters of love and hope to people they think may have lost it," or who may feel scared or angry.
Amera Attalah, 16, who is Muslim, wrote to Muslims who worry they're not American enough. 'If you don't discourage yourself, it is impossible for the negativity of others to infiltrate your consciousness,' she said."
As the largest school district in the U.S. and one of the most segregated, New York City "officials have taken preliminary steps to make diversity a consideration in more of the district’s policies." Read the full article to hear more about the actions being taken and the role of IntegrateNYC4Me in ensuring the diversity of our city is brought into the classrooms of every school.
The Value of “What do you think?”
By Hebh Jamal
The greatest question any authoritative figure can ask a child or a student. Inclusivity in all aspects of decision making is vital, but it is most important in our schools.
I would like to consider myself a youth activist working to diversify a segregated school system, and yet while legislation is the ultimate goal in any reform process, it is the student advocates that create change from the bottom on up.
In December of last year, I had the opportunity to speak at an integrated high school. Students from all racial, economic, and educational backgrounds were in a single classroom. I stepped into the main office, and READ MORE
The IntegrateNYC4Me advocates from District 15 have called for the removal of the scanners in their school, which students walk through every day. The students point to the incredible harm this does to students' dignity, the vast statistics that show the disparity of scanner placements meaning they disproportionately harm poor students of color, and the damage surveillance does to a sense of community within a school building.
After the advocates painted a mural and held an unveiling in their community, inviting political leaders and other activists, Mayor de Blasio announced "the city’s first formal protocols for adding and removing metal detectors from schools." Read more about the story here.
Photos by Cassandra Giraldo
Chalkbeat interviewed parents, students, and teachers across the city to discuss how to have powerful conversations about racism and police violence. Hebh Jamal, our Lead Student Activist, and Sarah Camiscoli, IntegrateNYC4Me Co-Director, share their voice and a vision for systemic solutions to systemic issues. READ MORE
Stronger Together Hill Briefing
"On the morning of June 8, the Department of Education held a briefing at the Dirksen Senate Office Building regarding the proposed Stronger Together program. At the briefing Senator Chris Murphy announced his intent to introduce legislation authorizing the Stronger Together program, while education experts and advocates (including NCSD member Sarah Camiscoli [Co-Director IntegrateNYC4Me] and Erica Frankenberg) discussed research regarding the positive impacts of racial and socioeconomic integration, and what can be done to foster collaborative work between local education, transportation, and housing and community development agencies."
MSN, with a monthly audience of 350 million, shared an article originally published in The Huffington Post on their platform. Excitingly, the images used for the article and published below were taken by IntegrateNYC4Me Student Advocate and aspiring photographer, Amina Fofana. We are thrilled to see the message of IntegrateNYC4Me amplified and a dream of one of our incredible students realized.
See the pictures and the full article here.
A Group Of Bronx Teens Are Trying To Transform New York City’s Segregated Schools
“This is the power of school integration. It has the power to open minds and open doors for so many people.”
NEW YORK — Spending a day at an affluent, mostly white high school in Brooklyn led Bronx Academy of Letters student Shania Russell to grapple with some complex feelings.
The high school junior, who is black, attends a school where most students are black or Latino. Her day in Brooklyn was part of an exchange program designed to help students connect with teens from other backgrounds.
“The point is that we already attend a really good school, and so do the other kids,” she told classmates, reading from a sheet of paper on which she’d written about her experience at the school in another borough.
“But we also attend very different schools, and we attend them separately,” Shania continued. “And unfortunately, that means there are resources that just aren’t fairly allocated between us, and there are opportunities that are not fairly distributed between us. And there’s something fundamentally wrong with that.”
As part of the SchoolBook "What To Do About New York City Schools" series, WNYC sat down with Amera Attalah and Nashalie Robledo of District 7 and Hebh Jamal of District 2. Listen to these Student Advocates share their experiences and visions for an integrated city. Read the full article here.
Sarah Camiscoli, Co-Founder and Co-Director of IntegrateNYC4Me, was selected to participate in A FEARLESS FORCE: Public Speaking for Visionary Women Leaders offered by Fearless Communicator. The intensive program was offered to eight exceptional women leaders and culminated with a 10-minute TED-style signature speech. Watch the story of IntegrateNYC4Me as told by Sarah above.