I am proud to be announcing the publication of A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform. Based on case studies of six strong community organizing groups from across the country, this book gives a deep and nuanced look at the underlying processes involved in building power among parents, youth, and community members, and leveraging this power towards educational justice.
The current national dialogue on school reform — with its focus on choice, testing, and market-based reforms — has left little room for the voices of the students, families, and communities that are most directly affected by education policies. At the same time, a growing movement of communities most marginalized by the current system — low income communities of color — are demanding and winning a say in how schools are designed and run. They are collaborating with educators, founding their own schools, increasing funding streams, addressing issues of racism and school violence, enhancing teacher quality, and integrating families and community members into schools as equal partners. Education is a key aspect of organizing to improve and empower communities, and community organizing is indispensable to the effort to create an equitable and just public school system.
For the past four years I have been fortunate to be a part of a research collaborative made up of fifteen graduate students and two faculty members. Breaking from the traditional research mode, in which graduate students are seen as assistants, we made all our decisions collectively, from research design to writing. Along with two of my colleagues, Mandy Taylor and Helen Westmoreland, I got to work with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition (NWBCCC) and their youth-led affiliate, Sistas and Brothas United (SBU). It’s an understatement to say that I learned a lot from these powerful organizers and community leaders. We did our best to capture their deep knowledge and expertise in chapter seven, Cement Between the Bricks.
To learn more about the book, you can visit our website: http://mark-warren.com/matchondrygrass.org