BSLA’s 2014 First in the Family Humanist Scholars!

High dropout and push-out rates, mass incarceration, skyrocketing college fees, diminishing financial aid opportunities, lack of mentors, first in the family status:  these barriers to college access are especially acute for undocumented, homeless, foster care and LGBTQ youth of color.

Black Skeptics Los Angeles proudly announces our 2014 First in the Family Humanist scholars and thanks all the generous donors* who made these awards possible.  Scholarship awards will be given on August 16th  at CFI Los Angeles.  We extend special thanks to Atheists United and the Freedom from Religion Foundation who generously gave $1000 each.

Elizabeth Hernandez, CSU Monterey Bay (Gardena HS)

Elizabeth Hernandez

Elizabeth Hernandez

Elizabeth is a foster care youth and has been active in Gardena’s Gay/Straight Alliance, Students Against Destructive Decisions and the Cinco De Mayo committee which helps Mexican American women go to college.

With a lack of education my classmates have low self-esteem…they target who they feel are the ‘weak’ students, including special needs students, homosexual students, even students of the same ethnicity…(So) Being a humanist is easy for me through supporting our GSA and being vice president of the SADS group to stop violence and create a safe environment for everyone on campus.”

 

 

Tiare Hill, El Camino College (Gardena HS)

Tiare Hill

Tiare Hill

Tiare is a foster care youth and a member of the Women’s Leadership Project and aspires to be a journalist.

“Through the things I have seen in my community there are numerous problems in our criminal justice system that must change. It is known to a lot of people that the police are racist against African Americans.  I would like to become a television news anchor who reports on issues like these and government policy.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom From Religion Scholarship Award:

Kelvin Manjarrez, El Camino College (Gardena HS)

Kelvin Manjarrez

Kelvin Manjarrez

Kelvin has been a volunteer for Reading Partners Los Angeles and a translator in the 2014 primary election.  He identifies as an atheist and aspires to be an English professor.

I have always been passionate about our educational system.  A wise man once said that: ‘Humanity’s greatest fear is the unknown’.  This accounts for contrived religions of all sorts, a simple explanation to the unexplained…Citizens who are better educated can better distinguish between right and wrong.  This, in turn, generates understanding and unity amongst different groups of people who would have otherwise segregated, fought and killed one another.  It is of no coincidence that some of the brightest minds in history have been social activists as well as advocates for a better pedagogical system: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Neil Degrasse Tyson, just to name a few.”

 

Returning Scholars: Mini-scholarships for outstanding community service

Jamion Allen, El Camino College (Washington Prep HS)

Jamion Allen, BSLA scholar

Jamion Allen, BSLA scholar

 

“The Black Skeptics first in the family scholarship had a big effect on my first year of college coming from an inner city neighborhood in Los Angeles.  I’m from a single parent home and by receiving this scholarship I was able to pay for books, scantrons and extra-curricular items and succeed in my first two semesters…I think there would be a great impact if more students could receive this scholarship.”

 

 

 

 

Hugo Cervantes, UC Riverside (King-Drew Med Magnet)

Hugo Cervantes

Hugo Cervantes speaks at Atheists United

“My first year at UCR is finally over and I’m glad that I have still been in contact with you Ms. Hutchinson.  You are extremely inspiring to me to be as dedicated to marginalized youth as I pursue my own dreams and hope to do the same as you one day. My first year was fantastic! I’m planning to remain an English major and double major in Art History. I’m ecstatic to say that I will be assisting Professor Jennifer Doyle in an art project with Noa Bustamante in the fall. Professor Doyle has offered me a volunteering position at “Human Resources, HRLA’ for the summer. So it’s exciting that this summer I will be able to gain some gallery/museum experience so for next year I can apply to the bigger museums in the city. I know I wouldn’t have been able to be exposed to these opportunities if I hadn’t attended UCR and that was made possible by the First in the Family scholarship.”

 

 

 

*Donor List & Community Supporters

Atheists United

Freedom from Religion Foundation

D. Frederick Sparks

Amelia Pergl

Helen Kahn

Donald Wright

Cheryl Purnell

Mollie Knute

Bethany Monsted

CW Westlund

Perde Williams

Lachlan Monsted

Daremy Butler

T Battistelli

Quantheory

Rebecca Watson

Platypus1

SD Theiss

Michelle Kothe

Reality Enthusiast

Alvin Greene III

Veronica Berglyd Olsen

JE Beck

Kelsey Hazzard

Derrick Pates

Matthew Love

Nicole Eveland

Don Sisler

Steve Schlosnagle

Jennifer Taylor

Greta Christina

 

The War Against Black Children

 kingdrew boys

By Sikivu Hutchinson

In a predominantly Black South L.A. continuation school class packed with eleventh and twelfth grade girls, only half want to go to college, few can name role models of color and virtually none have been exposed to literature by women of color.  Demonized as the most expendable of the expendable, Black continuation school students are routinely branded as too “at risk”, “challenged” and “deficit-laden” to be “college material”.  Coming from backgrounds of abuse, incarceration, foster care and homelessness, these youth are already written off as budding welfare queens and baby mamas.  They are at the epicenter of the war against Black children. 

State-sanctioned terrorism against Black children is commonly understood as murder, harassment, and racial profiling–overt acts of violence which elicit marches, pickets, mass resistance and moral outrage.  Last week, Republicans and Democrats alike fell all over themselves to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragic murder of four African American girls in the 16th Street Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.  Such overt acts of organized white supremacist terrorism against Black children have largely receded.  Instead, they have been replaced by the socially acceptable state violence of school-to-prison pipelining, racist low expectations and the illusion of equal educational opportunity in the “post Jim Crow” era of re-segregated schools.

 Last spring, in an offensive commencement speech to Morehouse College graduates, President Obama launched into his standard refrain about personal responsibility, sagging pants and absent fathers.  Checking shiftless Black youth has long been one of his favorite presidential past-times.  As progressive Black pundits have noted, this narrative not only plays well in Peoria, but on the global stage.  For a nation brainwashed into believing the U.S. is an exceptionalist beacon, the underachievement of black students has become both shorthand for and explanation of its low standing in academic rankings.  According to this view, the achievement gap between (lazy) Black and (enterprising) white and Asian students “drags” down the U.S.’ global academic standing.  Steeped in a culture of pathology, native-born African American youth “squander” the opportunities seized upon by newly arrived immigrant students of color.

 As a 2013 high school graduate and first generation college student of mixed heritage, Ashley Jones is well acquainted with toxic anti-black propaganda.  She says, “Being Black and Thai…if I do well on a test or in class, then some people will comment, ‘that’s your Asian side.’”  Jones comes from a South L.A. school where it is not uncommon for teachers to reflexively track students into college prep, honors and Advanced Placement (AP) classes according to race and ethnicity.  She comments, “If you were to ask these same people about race, they would tell you we are all equal and anyone can achieve anything they set their mind to, but when you listen to them talk at nutrition and lunch, you hear Blackness constantly associated with violence,  ‘being ghetto’, and a lack of intellectual abilities.” A recent L.A. Times article about Kashawn Campbell, a high-achieving African American graduate of South L.A.’s Jefferson High School who struggled to get C’s and D’s at UC Berkeley, exemplifies these sentiments.  The over 700 responses on the article’s comment thread were relentless: the young man’s plight was due to inflated expectations, laziness, outright sloth, and the natural intellectual inferiority of African Americans.  Even the National Review picked up the piece and dubbed it an example of a “Devastating Affirmative Action Failure.” Why, many commenters howled contemptuously, didn’t Campbell’s slot go to a “real” achiever, i.e., a hardworking Asian or white student who genuinely deserved it? Missing from the near universal condemnations of affirmative action was the fact that Campbell’s freshman performance at UC Berkeley reflects the deficits of a neo-liberal public education system in which even high achieving students of color may be grossly under-prepared [Read more...]