Black History Month has always had its detractors. Since its widespread emergence in America’s schools in the 1970s, there have been people scattered across the country who despise that children in their communities have a designated opportunity to learn about the resistance, resilience and remarkable talents of Black Americans. But it was never a nationwide movement — until now.

From parents citing Black History Month as “critical race theory” to school districts banning books about racism — including a book by Ruby Bridges, who at 6 years old became the first Black child to integrate an elementary school in the South — it is clear that there’s an outspoken and determined movement afoot to erase the profound impact of Black Americans in U.S. history.

PEN America has laid out the numerous educational gag orders being pushed forth by state legislatures and school boards in this excellent op-ed that highlights how Black History Month is under attack.

As someone who can still remember how validating and inspiring it felt to finally see myself represented among the historical heroes and story book characters we covered in class, I worry how today’s students must feel: “What’s scary about learning about people who look like me?”

I ask that those of you who support the celebration of Black History Month speak up.

Don’t allow a loud, radical minority dictate what is taught in our nation’s public schools. If you value public education and believe a quality public education includes learning the truth about our country’s history of racism, slavery, and the civil rights movement — and not just during Black History Month, speak up.

What I always loved most about Black History Month was how it wasn’t just the history of violence and struggle. It was about celebrating art, scientific advancements, music, literature, and telling the full history of people who looked like me. All students benefit from that. 

I was 10 years old when I had my first encounter with the police. By 11, I was locked in a juvenile detention center for the first time. My adolescence was spent in and out of the system, and when I was 17, I was waived into the adult system. I didn’t get out until I was 26.

I know what it’s like to grow up in the youth justice system, which is why I recently testified in favor of a bill here in Indiana that would make sure children under the age of 12 aren’t locked in detention centers when they mess up, but instead get the support they need to get on the right track.

When you are that young, there’s so much you don’t understand — about life, about punishment, about right and wrong. Yet for so many Black kids, one mistake can put you down a path that can feel impossible to escape.

When I was young, I met a kid even younger than me who at 8 years old was sentenced to serve time for stealing food from a dollar store. A few other young boys and I took this kid under our wing, but he still experienced all kinds of trauma. When kids so young are in detention centers, they’re at a greater risk for sexual assault, bullying and intimidation.

If a child is stealing food, a community’s response should not be to lock him up and put additional strain on his family.

I’ve been out of the justice system for eight years and now I’m using my experience to be the advocate I needed back then — someone who will speak to the lifelong harm done by locking children up.

I’m glad Stand for Children is working on changes to youth justice in Indiana and throughout the country so that kids and families have a fighting chance to succeed and thrive. I want to be a part of the evolutionary changes, not just for our youth but for families as well.

If we provide children with other paths to pursue in life, we’ll get to see the incredible places they end up in the future.

We’re one step closer to seeing the biggest investment in people since the New Deal.

Moments ago, the House voted to pass the Build Back Better Act, which includes a one-year extension of the monthly Child Tax Credit payments, paid family leave, expansion of affordable healthcare coverage, and other policies that will give a historic boost to middle-class American families.

The significance of this proposal cannot be understated. House members who voted for this agenda will be heavily criticized by those who don’t support significant investments in American families. We need to speak up to show that we appreciate the lawmakers who voted yes and recognize their commitment to children and families.

Send a quick note to your representative today to thank them for standing up for American families and voting to pass this plan!

Stand for Children commends our nation’s leaders who, through the Build Back Better Framework, have set the path forward to providing families nationwide the resources they need to succeed. Through support for universal preschool education, children who are often the least prepared at the beginning of kindergarten will now have access to the building blocks of their education and be better positioned to thrive in school. Research demonstrates the profound impact that high-quality early education can have on children including reducing early achievement gaps, contributing to improved learning in the first five years of school, and then higher graduation rates. To have preschool extended to families who have not been able to afford it until now, is groundbreaking.

Over the past month, through phone banks we have operated to arm often disconnected families with information, and outreach to many more across the nation, we have heard from thousands of hard-working parents whose lives have been changed by receiving the monthly Child Tax Credit payments. This sweeping effort has cut child poverty by 45 percent. The payments have provided more than 35 million Americans with food security, the ability to afford rent, and the funds needed to take care of the basic needs of their children. This effort provides an important boost to the economy considering that for every dollar provided in CTC payments, $1.50 is generated in economic activity for the nation. While a one-year extension provides only temporary relief, we know it’s a first step in changing the futures of an entire generation of children.

Along with thousands of our supporters, we call upon members of both houses of Congress to support the legislation that will be built upon the Build Back Better framework and forever be a part of a historic investment in our nation’s future. Others interested in supporting this effort are welcome to join us by taking action.

When my mother was too sick to care for my four younger siblings, I took them in a few years before she passed away because I didn’t want to see them separated or wind up in foster care. At the time, I was a young mother of three and finances were already tight. My younger brother was around 12. Despite all my efforts to try to set him on the right path, he ended up going downtown and getting into an altercation. He went to juvenile detention. I protested to the courts about the tragedy that happened to us, but no one listened or cared. We still had to pay court fines and fees, which we couldn’t afford. There was no assistance and no counseling or resources to help me deal with this issue that was all new to me.  

On top of the court and probation costs, there was the gas or bus money to get to where he was, the cost of finding babysitters for my children, and the cost of making sure he had food, toothpaste, shoes and other necessities.  

Things I didn’t think I would have to do, I ended up doing: going to the food pantry, donating plasma, asking friends for help, and getting energy assistance. I had to miss work to be at court dates. It was a struggle, and my younger children didn’t understand why we could no longer afford family activities like going out to eat or to the movies.  

After he got out, I thought we would be OK, but then there were probation fees. I then had to decide between paying the costs to help secure his freedom, or not paying and having him continue to be dragged through the justice system.  

It was a vicious cycle. We lived paycheck to paycheck for several years. Some months, not all the bills got paid. It was either pay for rent or the lights, or the fees. Something had to give, but it never did.  

I want to see fines and fees eliminated from the juvenile court system so parents and caregivers don’t have to choose between feeding their family or buying their loved ones’ freedom. I want to see these costs eliminated because kids shouldn’t have this burden following them into adulthood. We all make mistakes.  

I tried to lead my brother on the best path I knew how, but once he had the fees, it felt like I was doing the time as well. It was a huge burden and hardship on my family. It strained us and we no longer had financial stability. I wish he would have been given options to pay it off, like community service. I wish someone would have given me resources or guided me through the justice system, but no one did. It was a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

If you live in Indiana, click here to join the movement for youth justice reform.

Did you know that starting today, families all across the country will start receiving payments from the expanded Child Tax Credit?

When I heard this news, I was so relieved! It’s going to help out my children so much and will cover the costs of everything they need to be happy and healthy kids.

Raising a family is so expensive, but that shouldn’t be the case. I’m the mother of three little ones, and while I would love to have a job and bring in income, right now I need to stay home with them because daycare just costs too much.

My husband is the main provider, but being a family of five on one income makes it difficult to pay all our bills month to month and buy groceries, medicine, clothing, and all the things kids need as they grow up.

The Child Tax Credit payments will help us cover the cost of child care so I can join my husband and earn money for our family.

Go to whitehouse.gov/child-tax-credit to learn more and find out if your family will receive the benefit.

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The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating for families across this country, including mine. My husband lost his job, and as a result, we lost something very important in our lives: our home.

As the mother of five, I was terrified. It was a very difficult situation as I did not have a stable place to provide for my children. Now, my husband is living in a different place with more job opportunities while my children and I are living with my parents.

The increased child tax credit is going to be a godsend for my family. When the payments start arriving in July, I will be able to provide food, clothing and — in a not too distant time — a roof for my children. But this tax credit is supposed to end in 2022, so we need lawmakers to vote to make it permanent.

Knowing that month after month we can count on financial support would give us hope to be able to move forward faster from the financial harm that the pandemic caused my family.

You can learn more about the child tax credit at childtaxcredit.govEven if you didn’t earn enough money last year to need to file taxes, you can still sign up to get the payments if your family qualifies.

I know that nothing is worse than not being able to give your kids what they need. This tax credit will be a lifeline for my family and so many others working hard to care for their kids.

Did you know that kids who are committed to Oregon’s Youth Justice System are charged administrative fees that can follow them well into adult life? I was one of those kids, and the trauma of the financial burden it placed on my family follows me to this day.

My name is Siobhan, and I am a Black woman who grew up in Oregon. When I was 15 years old, I made the mistake of shoplifting a pair of pants for a Father’s Day gift and got caught by the store before I made it out the door. The staff pulled my friend and I into a backroom and told us they were going to call the police. We both pleaded with them to call our parents instead, but minutes later the police arrived. I was handcuffed. My white friend had also shoplifted. They let her go without searching her and she walked out with her stolen item and without having to enter Oregon’s justice system.

The expenses started to add up immediately. My mom had to take off work for the court date which meant less money in the paycheck. Then, the court assigned me a fine in addition to the court fees. Any unexpected expense was devastating to us, and it all fell on my mom, who at the time was doing all she could to keep a roof over my head, food on the table and the lights on. 

It was difficult. We did not have the payments every month, so late fees and non-payment fees were piled on. When you barely have enough for food you hardly think about paying the court. My mom did the best she could to pay for my mistake. Finally, when I was in college, she paid the last payment. We celebrated.

There is something wrong with a system that punishes people for being poor. That is exactly what happened to me and my mom. We did not have money for a good lawyer. We did not have the time to go into court for an appeal.

We don’t need a system that pushes kids and families further out, but one that helps us do well. That’s why I am asking lawmakers to support Senate Bill 817 which will remove these unjust administrative fees for kids and ensure the next generation of youth will not have a story like mine. If you live in Oregon, will you join me and send an email to lawmakers now in support of SB817?

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Twenty-five years ago today, on June 1, 1996, 300,000 people stood together for children at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. 

What began as an historic rally has become a bold and vital organization impacting the education and lives of children furthest from justice across the nation.

Stand for Children’s 25th anniversary comes at a time of unique possibility to make progress toward racial and social justice.

For the rest of our lives, we may never have a better chance to reduce child poverty, increase economic mobility, root out individual and systemic racism, and close our nation’s racial wealth chasm. 

Stand is passionately committed to seizing this opportunity to achieve lasting positive changes for children, for families, and for society as a whole. 

We know you are, too, and look forward to standing strong together in the crucial weeks and months ahead.

Thank you for doing all you can, in every facet of your life, to meet this moment.