Racism is alive and well in the U.S. When it impacts young brown and black people, it makes my blood boil. These young people have no chance to succeed in the so-called land of opportunity. One teacher set out to change that, and she paid for her efforts. She was given a class filled with “high risk” students, most of whom were black males. She knew that these young men were not hopeless and set out to find a way to teach them. She began by listening to their stories of racism. Through those stories, a program was born—a program that would become extremely successful, ultimately leading these “high risk” youth to become stories of hope. They helped the teacher create a curriculum, guided by Plato’s “The Allegory of the Cave,” and they gave themselves a name. The EVAC Movement (“cave” spelled backward) was born.
These “high risk” youth went on to travel to Washington to speak at Senate committee hearings, join a roundtable discussion at the White House, and meet with members of Congress. They even got to meet with President Obama, but those activities were not their greatest achievement. EVAC won a national contest sponsored by Harvard University and were featured by Harvard Educational Review for an article about their movement. This movement was headed for a happy ending and creating a future for similar children, but it was not to be.
After a successful run of the program, the “leaders” at (Robert E.) Lee High School had enough of the success of these children and shut their program down. No good reason was given, and the teacher hung a “Black Lives Matter” flag outside her door to support her students. At the same time, the student body and the community wanted to change the name of their school to something more representative of the student body, which was 69% black. For her involvement, Amy Donofrio — the teacher — was harassed, humiliated, and ultimately demoted to a “paid non-teaching” assignment. She decided to fight back. Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) and a private firm filed a lawsuit on Donofrio’s behalf. The lawyers are also tackling the issue of 100% of disciplinary cases involving the black students while they are only 69% of the student body. This all reeks of racism, and hopefully, it makes you as angry as well.
It is time to end this behavior. Everyone should have a fair shot at success, regardless of color or economic status. When another—a white woman—reached out to help, she was punished. Stories such as this are the reason that SPLC exists. Not everyone agrees with every battle that SPLC takes on, but in today’s racially charged climate, SPLC is rightly involved. The organization battles for voting rights and is always involved in fighting hate and extremism. You can learn as little or as much as you would like on their site. It is important that we all do something — anything we can — to combat the current climate, and we should all get into a little good, necessary trouble to make changes.
Shirley is a former entertainment writer and has worked in the legal field for over 25 years