The struggle for Horace Mann is not over: time to get clear on a few things

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8 Nov

Since the summer, members of the historically Black central district community in Seattle have taken back the Horace Mann building from the Seattle Public Schools (SPS). Calling out the district for it’s racially biased suspension rates, lack of culturally relevant curriculum, and general oppression of youth of African descent, they have been running their own educational programs in the building, called the Africatown Innovation and Education Center (AIEC). Hundreds of Black youth have participated in learning activities there over the course of the summer and fall.

The school district wants to begin renovations on this building immediately, so that it can be turned over to a majority-white alternative school called Nova (even though many Nova teachers, parents, and students do not want to displace the AEIC). Africatown residents have refused to move, delaying construction and creating an accelerating political crisis for the SPS leadership. For background info, click here and here.

Horace Mann is located at 24th and Cherry St., Seattle. Barring a police raid, there will be a Black labor movie night and disucssion there on Fri at 6 PM. I encourage everyone to go by and check it out for yourself.
This week, the struggle kicked into high gear. In this post, I’ll attempt to provide an update based on my own observations as a participant in recent movement activities, as well as info from reliable sources within the movement.

My goal is to provide an orientation for supporters who might be starting to get involved right now.
It’s especially important to orient ourselves because there’s been a wave of negative media attacks on the More4Mann movement that threaten to sew confusion among supporters. The movement responded with a powerful press conference on Saturday, and a strong presence at last night’s school board meeting. As Kiro 7 reports, the board meeting was packed, with people waiting in line to get in.

The agenda for the Nov 6th board meeting was supposed to include a vote on whether the school district would lease space to the AIEC to continue the educational programs they had started in the Mann building while Mann is being renovated. This was part of Superintendent Jose Banda’s public, verbal promise to help facilitate their temporary move to another building, part of the partnership he said he wanted to develop with the AIEC educators to help close the racial achievement gap.

However, SPS legal counsel Ron English later informed him – suspiciously late in the process – that he could not make this sort of deal on his own and that it would have to be put up to a school board vote. This delayed the negotiations, causing libertarian-minded opponents of both Africatown AND Banda to become more and more enraged about how much money is being lost due to delays in renovations at at Mann.

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