Category Archives: Education

Jay-Z’s Team ROC Helps Student Arrested for Anthem Protest

Jay-Z has leveraged his success in music to social justice such as his aid to a Florida student who was arrested for not pledging allegiance to the flag.

Jay-Z has leveraged his success in music to social justice such as his aid to a Florida student who was arrested for not pledging allegiance to the flag.

By Free Radical

Charges have been dismissed in the case of Jabari Talbot who was arrested in Lakeland, Florida last month for refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Jabari’s judicial victory is due in part to the work of Team ROC, the division of rapper mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation empire that assists victims of racial  injustice.

Following the 11 year old’s arrest at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, Team ROC secured the services of heralded attorney Alex Spiro to take on Jabari’s case free of charge.

“Jabari is a courageous and intelligent young man who deserves all the credit for standing up for his beliefs,” Spiro said in a statement. “He should’ve never been arrested or entangled in this situation—his freedom of speech rights were clearly protected under the 1st Amendment.”

The incident occurred on February 4 when Jabari got into a heated debate with substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez, when he refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance ritual. According to local sources, Jabari cited his reason as “the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to black people.”

Alvarez subsequently asked why Jabari didn’t leave the country if he did not like America. The preteen responded, “They brought me here.”

Alvarez then contacted the main office about Jabari’s stance. Shortly after the police were called based on claims of Jabari’s disruption and that he allegedly threatened Alvarez with violence.

On March 1, Team ROC announced that the charges against Jabari had been dropped.

After the case was dismissed, Jabari’s mother expressed her gratitude, yet signaled the ordeal was far from over. “My son and I are grateful for all the athletes, entertainers, Roc Nation and community of supporters that have raised awareness about this injustice and showed their support—both publicly and privately […]” she said. “Although Jabari’s case has been dismissed, I do want people to know this isn’t just about my son—this prejudice happens to African-American kids all across the country. The fight isn’t over, which is why I have a civil rights complaint pending with the U.S. Department of Education. At the end of the day, I want to ensure that no child ever has to experience this injustice again and we will appreciate everyone’s continued support.”

Several Florida based athletes who are signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports imprint also lent their support to Jabari during the crisis. Justice Winslow of the Miami Heat described the controversy as an “injustice.” Leonard Fournette of the Jacksonville Jaguars stated, “When I heard about Jabari’s arrest, I immediately had my team reach out so I could offer my support for this unjust moment.” He continued, “Jabari is a bright young student and I applaud him for the strength he has shown during this difficult situation. I know he’s a huge football fan and I’m looking forward to having him come to a Jaguars game this season.”

Team ROC has also helped with other high profile cases of racial injustice such as two Black men who were arrested for wearing hoodies in a Memphis, Tennessee mall and rapper 21 Savage’s legal battle against Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

New Study Shows Huge School Funding Disparities

By Free Radical 

A new report shows that white districts receive $23 billion more than Black districts.

A new report shows that white school districts receive a whopping $23 billion more than Black districts.

A report released this week by the nonprofit organization EdBuild concluded that predominantly white school districts receive $23 million dollars more in funding than districts that predominantly enroll students of color. The study uses data from the Department of Education and the U.S. Census.

It showed that more than half of the nation’s school districts are segregated which means that at least 75 percent of their students are nonwhite or white.

Even when controlling for wealth, Black students fared worse. High poverty districts primarily composed of students of color receive $1,600 less than the national average while high poverty white districts receive $300 less than the national average.

Local taxes largely account for the current maldistribution of funding. Students of color are more likely to live in poorer neighborhoods. Nonetheless, current trends are not merely the result of bad geography. Families of color have been historically redlined and relegated to poorer neighborhoods.

Attempts to equalize funding such as the 1973 San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez case which was not approved by the Supreme Court have failed. In his dissenting position in the case, Thurgood Marshall, the first ever Black Supreme Court Justice argued that the court’s decision affirmed he belief that a state “may constitutionally vary the quality of education which it offers its children in accordance with the amount of taxable wealth located in the school districts within which they reside.”

Almost fifty years later, this trend of inequitable distribution continues. Yet even when controlling for wealth in Missouri, nonwhite students still fare worse. In the state, high poverty white districts receive on average $10,920 per student while high poverty nonwhite districts receive on average $10,786 per student.

For more on the report, click here.

Two New Senate Bills Could Strengthen HBCUs

California Senator Kamala Harris sponsored one of two bills supporting HBCUs that passed the Senate.

California Senator Kamala Harris sponsored one of two legislative bills supporting HBCUs that passed the Senate.

By Free Radical

The US Senate passed two legislative measures that could be a major boon to the nation’s HBCUs.  The HBCU Propelling Agency Relations Toward a New Era of Results for Students Act, or simply known as the HBCU PARTNERS Act, would require federal agencies with relevant grants and programs to expand participation to make greater strides to include the nation’s HBCUs.  The bill, which was introduced by Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and the nation’s only Black Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, will also require federal agencies to share their plans with Congress and track their progress.

Howard alum Kamala Harris, the junior Senator of California and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, also introduced the re-authorization of the HBCU Historic Preservation Program, which would provide federal funding to restore buildings and sites of historical significance on HBCU campuses.

Private organizations such as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have all pushed for these legislative measures.

In speaking about her sponsorship of the HBCU PARTNERS Act, Kamala Harris stated, “Our nation’s HBCUs are absolutely essential to preparing Black students for the jobs and challenges of the 21st century, and we must ensure that they have the resources they need to continue that mission.” She continued, “I’m thrilled that the United States Senate has passed this legislation to ensure the federal government is working hand in hand with HBCUs to keep them strong.”

Both will have to be approved by the House and President Donald Trump, who has at least given lip service to supporting HBCUs.

In February 2017, the newly elected president held a highly publicized (and criticized) summit of HBCU presidents where he spoke about their centrality to the nation’s higher education landscape and pledged support.

However, just months later he wrote that he would treat a program which helps HBCUs get low-cost loans “in a manner consistent with the (Constitutional) requirement to afford equal protection of the laws.” The assumption of the statement is that he would consider this provision as preferential and unconstitutional treatment for African-Americans based on race and thus may target this policy for elimination.

Report: Major Disparities in College Contributions

By Free Radical

Bennett College was recently saved from being closed by raising more than $8 million. This amount is miniscule to some of the nation's wealthest colleges.

Bennett College was recently saved from closure by raising more than $8 million. This amount is miniscule to some of the nation’s wealthest colleges.

As growing wealth inequality has been an ever-present feature of American society, the nation’s higher education system has followed this pattern.

New data from the Voluntary Support for Education Survey, published by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, show that twenty colleges account for 28% of all higher education donations. Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia all raked in over $1 billion, though collectively they only educate less than twenty thousand students.

The level of altruistic inequality was magnified as Bennett College, an all-women’s HBCU in Greensboro, North Carolina, had to recently launch a massive campaign to raise $5 million dollars just to keep its doors open. Though Bennett’s ability to raise more than $8 million was widely celebrated, even this amount is mere crumbs compared to the endowments of America’s richest universities.

“Large charitable donations to the richest schools is essentially the endpoint of a cycle that rewards wealth every step along the way,” said Ben Miller, the senior director of Postsecondary Education at the Center for American Progress.

A small cohort of select universities often draws its enrollment largely from the nation’s wealthiest families. Graduates have access to some of the most lucrative jobs in the world. They in turn have the resources to make disproportionately large donations to their alma maters. To some critics, it can often be a closed system.

Some, however, argue that huge donations to select colleges can have a trickle-down effect in society as these institutions are responsible for cutting edge research developments that extend beyond their campuses. Jonathan Meer, an economist at Texas A&M University considered, “If let’s say three decades from now [a major donation] leads to a cure for malaria or cancer treatment with a three-day course of pills, I think it would be very difficult to argue that that money maybe should have gone to a more immediate cause.”

Nonetheless, if only these universities continue to receive the lion’s share of donations, other institutions will never have the chance to make similar discoveries and their student bodies, who tend to be much more diverse, will remain a rich source of potential that is largely untapped.