Back-To-School Checklist

Fresh notebooks, pumpkin spice, and action opportunities for education champions! For students and grownups alike this time of year can be a great chance to reset and hit the ground running this fall. Prepare for a successful autumn with our back-to-school checklist!


Get back into the swing of things with some back-to-school reading! Get some inspo from the Rose from Concrete team and their work supporting students in their community!

Break out the markers and paint and submit your student artwork to the Stand Student Voices- a platform for young people to share their creative work in response to the pressing education issues impacting students today!


Find community with people across the country who care about access to public education for all students, and want to take action to make a difference.

Start your morning off right with some uplifting tunes!

Did we miss your favorite song on our playlist? Comment below the song that you listen to to pump you up for a big day!


Peer into your future of advocacy with our monthly Stand*Oscope: Astrological guidance for education advocates.


Stay up-to-date with ways you can get plugged into the work we are doing to support students, educators, and schools!


A Q&A with our partners at Rose from Concrete, a youth led organization working to support students in their community through mutual aid, direct advocacy, and youth mentorship.

It’s because of community members like you that we are able to join our partners in the fight for an equitable education for students. Connect with us to receive regular updates that empower you to make a meaningful impact on the lives of students and contribute to a more just and equitable education system!

what inspired you to form this organization?

Kayla Williams:

We at Rose from Concrete have grown to understand love as the will to extend yourself for either your own or another person’s growth. Thank you bell hooks. And we’ve got examples of love and what it looks like in action, right? Because we believe that love is action it’s not just words or feelings. And so I say that I love myself, I love my community, I love my people.

And I’m frustrated by the conditions that we are often expected to live in, in complacency. But how could I be complacent? How could I not be, you know, angered, fearful, upset, by, you know, the scarcity, the violence that we’re, you know, expected to live under? So, yeah,

I’m motivated by love to play my role in creating community or co-creating a world that reflects the needs and desires of my community.

Shanniah Wright:

There’s a long list of reasons that I was able to co-found Rose from Concrete. The main one, I think, is because I come from a single parent household. My mom raised both me and my brother by herself, and I had to watch her every day, not even knowing that sometimes think about how she was going to feed us, how she was going to pay rent and just ultimately watching the system in general fail her.

She was able to put me in a position where I can think critically about the issues and problems that go on around me, which allowed me to co-create and co-found Rose from Concrete. But I know that every single day that there are other single mothers, there are other community members or just people in general that the system is consistently failing.

I think that people should not have to choose between happiness and survival. I think that survival should be the bare minimum and that everyone should be able to choose to do what they want to do without the pressures of whether they were going to eat, sleep or breathe weighing down on them.

Osariemen Aiyevbomwan:

What pushed me to start this work is that I come from a big Nigerian-American household, and so for many of my siblings and myself included, being black and marginalized has really disrupted our connections to safety in our homes and in the world at large. And the violence inflicted


on us has corrupted our intimate relationships with ourselves, but also with one another and each other. And because of these struggles, we’ve been alienated from our home, whether it be an unconscious or conscious effort.

And I’m of the mind that we all belong here, that we all have a right to feel safe and free during our time here on this earth. And so,

I want to restore the relationships with ourselves in our environment so that our descendants inherit a more free world.

I believe that we are redeemable and that justice is possible through coordinated action to get us free. And for me, RFC has presented the opportunity to do just that and also feel at home while doing it.

where did the name “rose from concret” come from and how is it reflected in the work you all do?

Shanniah Wright:

Rose from the concrete is a play on word rose as in the verb and the noun, the rose as a flower rose, as in the act of rising. And this is a really cool play on word because we use concrete as talking about the jungle that is New York, the concrete that we walked every single day that we grow up in roses sprouting from it and actually rising from our circumstances.

I love our name just because it allows us to create and nurture and play on those words of growth and growing and something beautiful, which are flowers and concrete being something rough. And as a big Tupac fan Rose that grew from the concrete. I think we embody that and we want other people to see themselves in that beautiful lens as a rose as something to be nurtured and grown. And that can grow in the most unexpected places.



Kayla Williams:

I would say that students face very a multifaceted set of challenges. I think I kind of think of them or characterize them in three ways. First, I think there are material and basic physiological needs, right? We live in a society that allows scarcity to exist in abundance, which means that families deal with things like poverty, housing insecurity, food in access, that sort of thing.

And so children, you know, they belong to families, they are part of families. And they don’t simply shed that when they walk into the school door. So, you know, children, many of them are coming to school with these material needs still existing. And then, of course, they’re dealing with, I think the attack on education that we’re seeing. But that has been going on for, you know, frankly, forever.

Right. Are we ever really learning the truth I think an empowering truth in our schools, that’s up for debate. And then I think there is the socio-emotional, you know, challenges that come with being a young person, feeling powerless in a society that is telling you what you should look like, what you should be like, constantly reminding you how you, you know, pale in comparison to that.


Osariemen Aiyevbomwan:

When I was in school feeling the pressure to remain OK, and also remain a good student, but also navigating a school environment that was very frustrating and dismissive of my experiences I leaned on the experiences of those who came before me. So mentorship really carried me through my school experience. And that is why RFC prioritizes peer mentorship and community as a protective factor in the lives of young students. When feeling anxiety it’s something that I do to reassure the youth in my community is letting them know that they have resources and they have people who look like them, who can relate to their experiences and keep them grounded in the power of love and in the power of community. So that is something that has also reassured me.



Kayla Williams:

I would say that we aim to respond to the three buckets of needs that we identified. So material needs we aim to address through our mutual aid efforts. So aiming to have resources and funds pooled together so that if, you know, emergent needs do arise for youth, that we are able to offer them, you know, tangible support or connect them to someone who can do that.

Because once again, how can you prioritize the academic or the emotional if you know, you have more dire needs in front of you? We also offer, you know, like academic training and curriculum. So tutoring. Shaquille recently started a robotics program, you know, like to give tangible academic skills and support. And then finally we aim at the socio-emotional through our curricula on love and through our mentorship program.

I would definitely recommend that people just start to have conversations. I think, like I said before, one of the most powerful tools


of opposition is to convince folks that they are alone, that you are an individual against capitalism, you are an individual against white supremacy, you are an individual against misogyny. And so you feel like in response to that, I need to, you know, pick myself up by the bootstraps instead of coming together as a collective right, as a team, as a group, you know, as is done, you know, across sectors, right?

Usually creating progress in the direction that we don’t want. People aren’t doing that as individuals. They’re doing that, you know, with the help of decades of systems and policies and groups and people. And, you know, so I think talk to people around you recognize that you’re not alone in your beliefs and your desires, what you want to see in the world. And once you start to realize, wait you want the world to look like this, you want it to look like this too, you do too. Why doesn’t it? Right.

Collectively, we have power, we have voting power, we have spending power, we have political power. So, you know, why doesn’t the world look how we want it to look?


Osariemen Aiyevbomwan:

Some starting points for parents and for the folks who are looking to be more and more involved in their community would definitely be to start small. I’ll start looking right. We are under the misguided impression that we need to go elsewhere and abroad to find something good. But I would say talk to your neighbor for an extra ten to 15 minutes.

Share your struggles, problem solve together. You don’t know what nuggets of wisdom these conversations may unlock within us just by virtue of our continued existence here in these environments, we all have access to so much knowledge and expert or problem solving skills that deserve to be shared and used to generate community solutions.

So form little groups and little gathering spaces and be intention in fostering those intimate connections. You never know what love and magic comes out of those efforts.

Kayla Williams:

Folks can support funds. Like I said before, we want to be able to respond to immediate needs, physiological needs, basic needs through resources and funds that we pull together so folks can contribute to that. And I think we need support as well as an organization, marketing support, communications, volunteering you know, media, really anything and everything we could really support on.

And I would say, yeah, it’s a mutual aid organization and so we aim to bring our time, our resources, our efforts, our knowledge together and to collectively drive change with that so you can fit in that wherever you know, feels right to you. But I would also say that you can do things in your own community too closer to you, with your people, your family, your friends, your you know, I think that is a larger vision that we’re working together for that has, I think, space in your city, in your home.

It doesn’t have to be in Brooklyn where we are, though that would be nice. We believe that love is a force that can through it all, despite the concrete, grow roses, create futures that we’re told are impossible ones of life and, you know, nourishment and fruit. So, yeah, we believe that we can do the impossible collectively, and through love at Rose from Concrete.


Your Standoscope: Leo Season

Time to Shine This Leo Season!

After the last few weeks in introspective and emotional Cancer, most of us are ready to finally let loose and join Leo for a moment in the sun. This is the time for each zodiac sign to take a page from proud Leo and stand confidentially in their unique abilities to be leaders in their community.

Leo season encourages us to tap into our creative, expressive, and social side, embracing our sense of community. By using this time to connect with others and raise awareness around public education, you can contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for all students.  

How can you leverage the fiery energy of Leo Season to make an impact in your community? Check out your Standoscope below to find out! 

Want to get monthly Standoscopes to your inbox with opportunities to learn more about educational issues, and ways to get involved? Sign up here to stay informed!

Aries ♈︎
(March 21 – April 19)

The theme of this season for Aries is self-expression! Use that spark of innovation from passionate Leo to get creative and share the story that inspired you to become an education advocate. Tap into the the leadership energy of Leo and use your story to inspire other’s to take up the fight for education equity!

Taurus ♉︎ 
(April 20 – May 20)

This Leo season is shining light on your home life. This is the perfect time to talk with your friends, family and loved ones about the issues that matter most to you! Learn how to have those important conversations with your community using our Story Building Toolkit!

Gemini ♊︎
(May 21 – June 20)

This Leo season has you feeling reinvigorated and ready to be social! Lean into this communicative energy at our monthly Learn From History call! Learn from other education champions about ways you can get involved in making a difference in your school community, and in communities across the country!

Cancer ♋︎
(June 21 – July 22)

You may be a bit tired from your birthday season, but that wont stop fiery Leo from moving forward and bringing you along for the ride! Look forward to a burst of confidence this month, Cancer. Use that confidence to push back against attack on honest and inclusive education by sharing your experience learning about Black history in school!

Leo ♌︎
(July 23 – August 22)

Happy birthday, Leo! Your birthday season may leave you feeling reflective about how you can be the best version of yourself. Take some inspo from mom and education champion, Ida, about how you can make a difference in your community.

Virgo ♍︎
(August 23 – September 22)

Busybody Virgo might be feeling uncharacteristically sleepy this Leo season. Resist the urge to fight this introspective energy. Instead, lean into the cozy with some heartfelt summer reading to inspire you to learn more about the communities around you.

Libra ♎︎
(September 23 – October 22)

You may be thinking about your legacy this Leo season. As you consider what mark you want to leave on this world, look for inspiration form other education advocates about what they are doing to make a positive impact in their communities at our Monthly Learn From History call.

Scorpio ♏︎
(October 23 – November 21)

Bold Leo is pushing you to be uncharacteristically daring in your actions. Don’t be afraid to take the stage and use this energy to inspire others to feel equally confident by sharing your story of why you want to fight for education equity!

Sagittarius ♐︎
(November 22 – December 21)

Adventurous Sagittarius and passionate Leo season are a match made in heaven. Your thirst for knowledge is even greater this month. Quench that thirst and learn more about the long fight for educational equity in Asian American and African American communities.

Capricorn ♑︎
(December 22 – January 19)

Leo season is asking you to step out of your comfort zone, especially as it related to your community members. This energy is encouraging you to be vulnerable and share what matters to you most. Share why learning about Black history matters to you and help push back against attacks on inclusive and honest education.

Aquarius  ♒︎
(January 20 – February 18)

This Leo season emphasizing your house of relationships and encouraging you to have important conversations with the people that matter to you most. Learn how to have those important conversations with your community using our Story Building Toolkit!

Pisces ♓︎
(February 19 – March 20)

Watery Pisces may be feeling fired up this Leo Season. Use that passionate energy to make changes for students around the country at our Monthly Learn From History call!

Connect With Us On Social!

Your Standoscope: Cancer Season

It’s Cancer season and we’re… emotional?

As the Sun enters Cancer, a season that embodies compassion, nurturing, and emotional sensitivity, this is an opportunity for each zodiac sign to tap into their unique qualities to become more involved in their community, particularly in areas concerning education equity and student success.  

Cancer season encourages us to tap into our empathetic nature and embrace our sense of community. By using this time to connect with others and raise awareness around public education, you can contribute to creating a more inclusive and supportive educational environment for all students.  

How can you leverage the energy of Cancer Season to make an impact in your community? Check out your Standoscope below to find out! 

Want to get monthly Standoscopes to your inbox with opportunities to learn more about educational issues, and ways to get involved? Sign up here to stay informed!

Aries ♈︎
(March 21 – April 19)

Known for their enthusiasm and leadership, Aries might be feeling a little less fiery this month. Lean into this cozy energy and snuggle up with some heartfelt summer reading, like our post on the long history of Afro-Asian American Solidarity.  

Taurus ♉︎ 
(April 20 – May 20)

Usually slow and deliberate Taureans are being hit with a burst of energy this Cancer season and might feel the desire to be more involved and use their voices! With their practicality and determination, Taureans can make a difference by offering resources or donating books to schools and local libraries or advocating for literacy programs.  

Gemini ♊︎
(May 21 – June 20)

Geminis are known to be excellent communicators and adapt well to new environments, and this month will be no different. Continue to develop these strengths in our Disrupting Disinformation training! By spreading awareness through informative discussions, Geminis can inspire positive change. 

Cancer ♋︎
(June 21 – July 22)

Happy Birthday Cancers! As natural nurturers and empathetic individuals, Cancers can actively contribute to their community by initiating mentorship programs, like Rose from Concrete. By providing emotional support to students and advocating for their needs, Cancers can help create a safe and inclusive environment in schools. 

Leo ♌︎
(July 23 – August 22)

Leos, with their natural charisma and passion, can at times move full steam ahead without stopping. Take this month to unwind and reflect on your experiences with the education system, what’s happening in your community, and what you can do about it.  

Virgo ♍︎
(August 23 – September 22)

Virgos’ attention to detail and analytical nature makes them everyone’s first call when they need backup, and this month will be no different. Give yourself the tools you need to support your community at our Disrupting Disinformation Training.  

Libra ♎︎
(September 23 – October 22)

Libras, known for their diplomacy and desire for fairness, will be having those skills recognized this month! Lean into your natural charisma and learn how to have important conversations with your community around educational equity. By bringing different communities together, you can help promote collaboration and create sustainable initiatives that support students for the long haul. 

Scorpio ♏︎
(October 23 – November 21)

Scorpio, this month is all about broadening your horizons and working with others. Scorpios’ passion and determination make you ideal advocates for students’ rights and safety. Help organize rallies, sign petitions, and join social media campaigns to raise awareness and push for policy changes that prioritize the well-being of students in public schools. 

Sagittarius ♐︎
(November 22 – December 21)

Watery Cancer is really activating your emotional side, Sagittarius. Lean into that slow and reflective energy with some heartfelt summer reading, like our post on the long history of Afro-Asian American Solidarity

Capricorn ♑︎
(December 22 – January 19)

Capricorns’ practicality and long-term vision make them great candidates for addressing issues in public education and promoting student success. This month is opening up space for you to communicate your thoughts and feelings with those around you. Lean into this social energy with other education advocates on our monthly Learn From History Partner Call!

Aquarius  ♒︎
(January 20 – February 18)

Aquarians’ innovative thinking and desire for social progress can inspire them to create solutions that help bridge the educational divide. Cancer season will remind you that even the little changes can make a big difference. Find actionable steps to get involved and support students this month!  

Pisces ♓︎
(February 19 – March 20)

Pisces, known for their compassion and empathy, can use Cancer Season to nurture relationships within their communities. Think community gatherings, creative workshops, and mentorship. Offering guidance, support, and encouragement to empower students in their educational journey can have an incredible impact. 

Connect With Us On Social!

Asian american history and afro-asian solidarity

The long history of Afro-Asian American solidarity and the importance of teaching Asian American History

Recently, Florida has joined the rising number of states mandating Asian American history be taught in public schools. While schools finally beginning to discuss the contributions of Asian Americans is something to be celebrated, the news came on the heels of the state banning the newly created AP African American History curriculum. To many observers, this new Asian American history requirement appeared to be another case in the long history of the media and politicians pitting Asian American communities against African Americans. From the origins of the model minority myth that was propagated to deflect from claims of anti-Black racism during the 1960s Civil Rights movement, to high profile court cases surrounding affirmative action in schools, we have time and again seen Asian Americans used to create a wedge between communities of color, before being disappeared from political discourse and school curriculums.

Lost in these moments of manufactured tension is the long history of solidarity between the two communities. From Frederick Douglass fighting against the Chinese Exclusion Act to Grace Lee Boggs’ organizing alongside Black Autoworkers in Detroit, our histories and fights for freedom have always been intertwined. To teach Asian American history while erasing Black American history is to distort the decades of Asian-Black struggle and community building.

The following is a conversation between myself (African American), Avery Crocker (African American), and Elizabeth Li (Biracial Chinese American), on what we did (not) learn about Asian American history in school, how we have formed community across ethnic and racial lines, and what solidarity can look like.

“Solidarity is community, and when it comes to the histories of Asian Americans and Black Americans, if we’re curious enough, and willing to listen-we’ll find that those histories are way more seeped in solidarity and similarity than they are in division and difference.”

Jamayka Young:

Was Asian American history something you both learned about in school? Personally, I learned almost nothing of the history of Asian Americans or Pacific Islanders including the US colonies in the Pacific. I do remember one moment in my world history we were supposed to learn about the Ottoman empire, but ended up skipping over it so we could focus more time on the European Enlightenment. That was pretty much the only conversation we were going to have on Asia for the whole year, and even still it was cut.  

Practically everything I learned about Asian American history or Asian continental history was learned from the internet especially social media or from being in community with friends, neighbors, and peers. I also learn quite a bit as a part of my African American Studies degree where Asian American history often intersected with important moments in African American history.   

Avery Crocker:

Like you, Jamayka, I have little to no memory of learning about Asian American history. A lot of my education was European focused or on the flip side, about the oppression of Black Americans. Other marginalized communities weren’t mentioned nearly as much if at all.

Two of my closest friends in middle and high school were Asian American and I learned so much about their culture without even realizing it until years later. From attending ceremonies to experiencing authentic dishes, I was immersed in a way that was so valuable to me. In these moments, it didn’t occur to me that I wasn’t learning about these things in school, but I think about how great that would have been to have had that more formal experience along with what I was experiencing outside of school.

Elizabeth Li:

My dad came in as a guest to teach about Asian Americans at my school – when we had “China” units. No, my dad was not a teacher. He worked in a Chinese restaurant along with my entire family. He taught us from an assimilated immigrant’s point of view to a classroom full of white children who his daughter was DESPERATELY trying to fit in with. To say it was far from a complete history is an understatement. That being said, it didn’t make me any less proud. I loved the fact that we got to share this part of us, because even though I actively hid that side of me, it was that part of my identity where I felt the most comfort. I learned zero history about Pacific Islanders, which is often left out of the classroom and mainstream discussion. Inter-Asian conflicts, immigration…nothing

When I moved to high school and we started to expand to world history, the extend of our education was Asians equals communists. And how the western world needed to save them.

Mr. Li in Elizabeth’s Classroom

Jamayka Young:

I can definitely relate to learning about Asian history by experiencing other cultures! My closest friend growing up was Indian, and eating roti at her house initially confused me because I always associated roti with the Caribbean, and it was through that experience that I learned about the South Asian diaspora in the Caribbean and the exploitation of Indo-Caribbean indentured laborers.

Did you ever learn these connections between communities in school?

Elizabeth Li:

I had lived experience alongside Black Americans in my community outside of school, but it wasn’t WELL into my adulthood that I made historical connections and discoveries around solidarity. Once I gained access to diverse historical materials and first-hand accounts, I could see that it wasn’t just some weird fantasy that I was living in, but that there was more instances of solidarity and shared experience than there was of the divisiveness that was portrayed in the mainstream and within my classroom.

Jamayka Young:

I knew from a young age that everyone thought that Black students were “lazy” or “unintelligent” and that there was a stereotype of the high achieving Asian student, but I didn’t really put those two stereotypes in conversation until adulthood.

Elizabeth Li:

I grew up with such a large dichotomy between my home life and school life. So, it was a constant internal debate. When I was in minority communities, Black communities and Asian communities – I’d feel comfort, affirmation of my feelings, understood. But in the classroom, the histories I was taught or the histories that were completely erased from my learning made me feel like maybe I’m doing this wrong.

That’s why I’m so invested in the present space of speaking up about erasure, uncovering untold stories, and ensuring that people feel seen, because they’re not alone.

Avery Crocker:

My friends and I had concerns and questioned our experiences as well but only with each other. It wasn’t until our senior year that people started a Black student union and people started to voice these things outside of their own personal groups. After that group was formed, there was such a big difference in how the school did things and acknowledged what was happening for different cultures and communities. The curriculum was pretty much the same, but there were more efforts and actions taken outside of classes that were student led and supported by staff.

Jamayka Young:

In light of the recent state laws that appear to be using Asian American history to further divisions between communities of color, what does solidarity between Asian and Black Americans look like to you?

Avery Crocker:

After all this reflection, my initial thoughts are to talk about it! Share these experiences you’re having with each other and what the truth behind these things are. And also ask questions. Challenge folks when they try to divide these communities. Use your voice, educate when possible, and get involved where you can.

Elizabeth Li:

A quote that motivates me in my work is from civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen “the problem is invisibility, therefore, the solution has to be informed, thoughtful visibility.” 

Telling stories, engaging in community, being curious, sharing experience…to me that is how we breakdown the wedge between minority groups that is engineered and reinforced to perpetuate white supremacy.

Solidarity is community, and when it comes to the histories of Asian Americans and Black Americans, if we’re curious enough, and willing to listen-we’ll find that those histories are way more seeped in solidarity and similarity than they are in division and difference. 

Your Standoscope: Gemini Season

We’re officially in Gemini season which means it’s time to recharge, get outside of your comfort zone, and embrace curiosity!  

This season also marks the end of the school year, so take time to reflect on the last few months – What were some highs? Did you experience any challenges? In what ways were you involved? Are there any opportunities you would be interested in pursuing in the next school year? Let us know in the comments below!

Find learning and action opportunities this Gemini Season that align with your sign to make a positive impact your community!

Aries ♈︎

Aries ruling planet, Mars, is currently in fiery Leo, inspiring a passionate and creative atmosphere. This is a great opportunity to get creative and share your story of why education matters to you!

Taurus ♉︎ 

Mars is in Leo making a square with Jupiter in Taurus, which may inspire you to make big changes. The moon is also joining Uranus in Taurus, which can push you to take a risk! Learn some tips from a Chicago mom and activist on how you can make big changes in your community.

Gemini ♊︎

Mars in Leo is highlighting the communication sector of your chart, a perfect time to join the conversation with other education advocates at our monthly State Intelligence Briefing Call

Cancer ♋︎

Mars in Leo is square with Jupiter in Taurus, which could push you to make great strides toward a collective goal! Team up with fellow education champions in our monthly State Intelligence Briefing Call to work towards our collective goal of equitable education for all!

Leo ♌︎

Mars is in Leo, increasing your courage! Be bold and use your voice to stand up for equity in classrooms!

Virgo ♍︎

Mars in Leo is forming a square with Jupiter in down-to-earth Taurus, which could find you having a big breakthrough. New opportunities may arise. Keep up-to-date with events and learning opportunities and find new ways to get involved with the fight for equitable education!

Libra ♎︎

Mars in Leo has formed a square with Jupiter in Taurus, which could propel you and others you’re working with to make great progress toward your goals. Our monthly State Intelligence Briefing Call is the perfect place to find a community of other educational champions to join you!

Scorpio ♏︎

Your ruling planet Mars is in Leo and is opposing Jupiter in Taurus, which open opportunities for you and a romantic or business partner to making big changes! Learn from a Chicago mom and activist how you can make big changes in your community!

Sagittarius ♐︎

Mars is in fiery Leo, which may inspire you to be adventurous! Keep up-to-date with events and learning opportunities and find new ways to get involved with the fight for equitable education!

Capricorn ♑︎

Mars in Leo is forming a squares with Jupiter in earthy Taurus, creating an air of both passion and productivity. Channel that passion and use your voice to stand up for equity in classrooms!

Aquarius  ♒︎

Mars in your opposite sign or polarity, Leo. Leo is forming a square with Jupiter in down-to-earth Taurus, pushing out blockages and making room for something new. Keep up-to-date with events and learning opportunities and find new ways to get involved with the fight for equitable education!

Pisces ♓︎

Mars in Leo is in opposition to Jupiter in Taurus, which may lead to you making some needed changes in your daily routine. Find new ways to get involved in your local schools!

Want to get monthly Standoscopes to your inbox with opportunities to learn more about educational issues, and ways to get involved? Sign up here to stay informed!

Connect With Us On Social!

photo of ida speaking at podium in front of protesters with picket signs. Poster on podium reads "Illinois workers and families deserve a tax break"
photo of ida speaking at podium in front of protesters with picket signs. Poster on podium reads "Illinois workers and families deserve a tax break"


Ida nelson spearheaded what would become the Jett Hawkins anti-hair discrimination law. Now, she wants you to join her in fighting for students.

In August of 2021, Chicago mother Ida Nelson stood with her son, Jett Hawkins, as Illinois governor JB Pritzker signed the Jett Hawkins Anti-Hair Discrimination Act into law. A year before, Jett, age 4, was sent home from school with an ultimatum— change his hairstyle or face suspension. The hair in question? A freshly braided set of cornrows, a traditional hairstyle in the African American community. “That day, Jett had worn his hair in braids, something that made him feel proud and happy.” Ida told me.

Even though the Crown Anti-Hair Discrimination Act has been signed into law in 20 states since 2019, these racist  policies exist both in writing and in practice in school districts around the country. Discretionary dress code policies have been especially wielded against Black and Indigenous students who are disciplined at alarming rates for wearing their hair in its natural state or culturally significant styles. This wasn’t the first time Ida had heard of these discriminatory policies at her son’s school—but she made sure it would be the last.

Jett Hawkins, Fox News 32

“I oftentimes get upset about the injustices that I see. But being upset is just a starting point. It’s a call to action for me to decide what I can do about it.” 

The Jett Hawkins Bill was signed into law in 2021, protecting over two million Illinois students from facing learning disruption for wearing their natural hair and cultural hairstyles. But Ida’s work isn’t over. And now she is calling on parents around the country to follow her lead. “I know that my community is going to be changed for the better in my lifetime by me just doing these little things and getting other people to buy in and to do the little things with me. And that has a snowballing effect and can make big changes.”

With the repealing of policies of inclusion in schools across the country, in tandem with the rising passage of book bans and restrictions on teaching students about marginalized communities in America, many parents are faced with similar scenarios at their own schools. I sat down with Ida Nelson to shed light on her journey and the pathways other parents can take to change these policies and protect their children.

JY: Okay, so you get a call from the administration of Jett’s school telling you to change his hair or he’s getting suspended. How did you know what steps to take next to push back against this discrimination?

IN: I am a person that once I start thinking about something, I won’t let it go. I am also that person that whenever I see something wrong, I’m not going to go to the manager, I’m going to write corporate. 

For me it’s important to really hone in on what the issue is. Why did I feel so upset hearing this? Because it was not just about hair. That was the surface problem, but it was the combination of all the things that we’re talking about. Like why is it that my four-year-old little Black boy’s hair is offensive and banned with zero tolerance? That’s teaching kids that how they show up is not acceptable, and that they must change that in order to fit in with their society. And we know that that’s not true.

If you’re constantly targeting Black children for behavioral things, messing with their mentality or their understanding of what makes them special and unique, you know, interrupting their confidence, then that disrupts what they believe that they’re able to do and it keeps perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

But it also was about me being methodical and strategic. I knew that this was bigger than a hairstyle instinctually, but I needed to figure out how to articulate what the actual problem was and not from just an emotional standpoint. So, I started doing my research and writing out the statistics for how many times Black children have their academics disrupted for their hair. I started collecting all of that information, then I started collecting information about other instances of Black children being targeted with academic disruption and being kicked out of school for these zero tolerance policies.

JY: And after all this researching, how did you know who to contact about your problem?

IN: So, I did start with the proper channels. I started with the school, and the principal and I requested to speak with the board. And then I worked my way to the alumni. You know, I found my allies. When I felt like I wasn’t being heard I went to social media.

Then I went to the media after I got folks to buy into the idea that this is a problem, and why it’s a problem. And then we started working on the law, like I started reaching out to legislators, and working on trying to get it started with my aldermen, my own senator, Trisha Van Pelt, state representatives. And I looked at precedents. The Crown Act was the precedent that I was able to run off of, showing that my issue was something that was against the law.

JY: As you’ve worked on getting the Jett Hawkins Act passed and now implementation, you’ve been forthcoming about your own background. Why is it important to you to talk about your personal story?

IN: That’s the thing about storytelling, you telling and sharing your story is going to empower and inspire somebody else. And that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to empower and inspire.

Ida continues to spread positivity and have an impact on her community today, whether it be in policy implementation or using her ice cream business to get local parents and children involved in the community. She stands as a precedent for other parents who are facing similar issues in their own local communities. My key takeaways for how parents can learn from this conversation with Ida are:

  1. Be bold! Be the leader that you want to see. Someone has to step up to the plate, and there is no reason it can’t be you.
  2. Speak up! Leverage your story to your networks. Use social media, talk to people in your community, find some way to make noise about the issues you care about the most.
  3. Look for allies! There are people that you can find who already are doing the thing you’re trying to do or can help connect you with people who can help. 

Whatever path you take, know that you, like Ida, can make a difference in the lives of your community.


Why Tell Stories?

Group of American activists protesting

Humans are wired for storytelling. It is how we learn about and relate to the world around us. From movies, to campaign speeches, to restaurant recommendations from friends, we experience and share stories everyday that shape our thoughts and actions.

When we use those stories to inspire changes in the actions of our friends, families, and communities, that is called Public Narrative. Simply put, public narrative is using storytelling towards a shared goal. 

People are ignited by their emotions, which is why we focus on storytelling. But passion alone is not enough. We need to direct that passion towards a common goal. This is why public narrative cannot be done in isolation. Unlike a personal story, we must engage with the collective story of the community we are in.

We develop public narrative through deep listening. That means being an active part of the community. Remember, sharing our stories is an act of leadership that inspires others to join us in making change! So, introduce yourself to your neighbors, attend local events, join a book club! Find ways to get to know the people around you so you can have a nuanced understanding of the shared values, experiences, and beliefs you have with the people around you.

“Well-told stories help turn
moments of great crises into
moments of new beginnings.”

– Marshall Ganz

Public Narrative: A Story in 3 acts

We can imagine building a Public Narrative as telling a story in 3 acts. Those are the Story of Self (call to leadership), Story of Us (shared values and experiences), and the Story of Now (urgent issues + strategies).

Remember, Public Narrative is about the process, not strict rules! These are all guideline to help you get started. We develop our storytelling skills by sharing, listening, reflecting, and then sharing again. Make this story your own, and applicable to your community!

Feel free to play with the order of these for the most compelling version for your experiences and whoever you are talking to. What is important to remember is that all of these pieces are connected and feed into one another!

Story of SelF

We can think of the story of self as the reason you were called to speak about the issue at hand. In this part of the story, we are looking for the experiences and memories you have that make you feel passionately about the issue. Give clear images and details to paint the scene. Below are some reminders and guiding questions to keep in mind when writing your Story of Self:

Story of us

This is the point where you connect with the other person or audience. Why should they care about this issue? And why should they trust you? We want to build trust through grounding the story in the shared values, experiences, and beliefs you have with your audience. Below are some guiding questions and ideas to keep in mind when writing your Story of Us:

story of now

In the final part of the story, tell the other person what is happening right now that needs their attention. Three things to remember when discussing the current issues facing your community is to describe why the issue is urgent, why it is important, and to give them hope that they can help make a difference. Below are some guiding questions and ideas to keep in mind when writing your Story of Now:

Good Stories Have A Plot!

The key plot points to remember are the challenge you faced, the choice you made, and the outcome of your choice. Below are some guiding questions for each of these plot points.

  • When was a time you realized the value of a good education?
  • Do you remember a moment when you felt like fair access to education was being threatened?
  • Do you have any memories of engaging with ideas and experiences from other communities that had an impact on you?
  • Have you taken any classes, read books, or participated in events related to this issue?
  • In that moment, did you say or do anything?
  • Is there anything you wish you would have said or done?
  • Why did you make that choice? How do you remember feeling at the time?
  • How were your thoughts or actions different after that moment?
  • What ways have you engaged with this issue since that moment?
Shared Experiences + Beliefs

Dig into those things you relate on to find common ground and build trust in your audience that you are someone they can relate to.

Guiding Questions
  • Do you and the other person (or people in the audience) have any shared experiences?
  • Do you work at the same job?
  • Are you all religious?
  • Do you love being in nature?
  • Do you care a lot about a local school?
Values, Values, Values!

We want to highlight shared values as motivation for action. Describe how these values are impacted by the issue you care about. Paint a picture of how their values would be realized if they act or threatened if they do not take action.

Values Examples
  • Loyalty
  • Compassion
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Integrity
  • Family-Oriented
  • Determination
  • Generosity
  • Tolerance
  • Community
  • Fairness
  • Justice
  • Religion
  • Safety
  • Self-Reliance
Urgent, Important, and Achievable

In the final part of the story, tell the other person what is happening right now that needs their attention. Three things to remember when discussing the current issues facing your community is to describe why the issue is urgent, why it is important, and to give them hope that they can help make a difference.

Urgent + Important
  • Link the sense of urgency to the shared values from the story of us.
  • Describe how your shared values are under threat in the current moment.
  • Describe how action taken now will help to ensure your ability to continue to practice your values.
Give Hope

The urgency + importance of an issue can often be upsetting.

We need to also leave the audience with hope that the world can change.

Paint a picture of a world where your goals are achieved.

Remind the audience that they can make a difference!

Practice exercises

1. In what ways do you engage with your community? What new ways would you like to try engaging with your community?
2. Using the guiding questions from the Story of Self plot points, describe why it’s important that all students– regardless of how they look, live and love– feel included, supported and safe in school.
3. Using the list of values above as an example, name five values or experiences you share with your community that relate to the reason education matters to you.
4. Using the shared values and experiences you listed, describe why members of your community should join you in fighting for high quality education for all students. (i.e. “We all care about ___ so we should all care about this issue.)
5. Tell us what current issues or opportunities around education are happening in your community? What can be done about those things? Why should we take action now?

Put it All together: The story of you!

You did it! Combine your practice responses from questions 2-5 to create your own public narrative. And when you are finished, share it with us! With all our voices together, we can make a difference!

Remember, this is a guideline, not a rule book. The best way to develop this skill is to practice! Every time you work your storytelling muscles by engaging your friends, family, and neighbors, your story will improve. As you continue to mold your story, the feedback and responses from your audience will help you grow as a speaker and add nuance to your understanding of the issue, making you a better advocate. Whether talking to a family member or speaking at your local parents’ group, remember that your stories have the ability to change minds and make a difference. So, use your voice!

Want to start the conversation with your community? Download the Empower app and invite 3 people you know who also want to discuss these important issues. Together with our communities, we can find new solutions, and make real changes.  


Oftentimes, students only learn about Black history in February. For the rest of the year, Black people are missing in textbooks and lesson plans. With ongoing attacks against African American studies in schools, this campaign aims to show why teaching Black history to students is vital to their understanding of the world.

Help us by sharing your experience learning about Black history in school. You can share your story by using our written story collection tool or record a quick video about your experiences using our video collection tool!

We encourage you all to utilize your networks and post your stories on social media, tagging us (@Stand4Children on Twitter) and using the hashtag #BlackHistoryYearRound. Share your story to help us amplify the importance of #BlackHistoryYearRound!

three children reading books sitting on cushions

I ran for the school board in Pleasantville because I believe all children deserve to receive the best educational and emotional support. I’m a mother of three students who currently attend Pleasantville public schools, and my fourth child will be enrolling this fall. Pleasantville is a diverse city in southern New Jersey with classrooms filled with Black and Latino students and teachers. Which is why I was surprised when my son told me how rare it is for his lessons to mention the history and contribution of communities of color in this country.

Learning about the lack of accurate history being taught, and the reality that students of color and those living in poverty were denied the same resources present in nearby school districts pushed me to run for the school board. I was determined that these students have a fair opportunity to succeed. When I was elected, I was truly honored to have the chance to work with my fellow board members and the rest of the community to make our school district reach the potential that I know it can reach.

Now, I feel like we are really starting to see change, and that the students can see it too. Just last month, the high school held their first Juneteenth celebration. While that is a great start, I don’t want it to end there. I’m hoping for next year to be a community-wide event that gives students a clear understanding of the past and a chance to celebrate the future. To me, being on the school board makes me feel like I can make a real difference in the education of my children, and of all the children in my community. If I had to say something to all the parents in the district, it would be to not be afraid to run for something, join an organization, or find a way to get involved in making our schools safer, healthier places.

Cassandra Clements

School Board Member, Pleasantville Board of Education