By Nyesha Stone
Recently, America’s youth have come of out the shadows to show the country that they’re demanding change. Milwaukee based youth-led organization Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) decided it was time to use their voices to expose the Milwaukee Public Schools System (MPS) by holding a press conference outside of an MPS board meeting to lay out their 14-point “Youth Power Agenda” that they want the system to adopt.
Just two days before the March for Our Lives, LIT stood outside in Milwaukee’s harsh winds with signs to show their dedication to fixing a broken system.
Back in January, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) discovered that MPS punishes Black and Brown students more than their white counterparts. Black and Brown students make up a little over 50 percent of MPS’ student population but are around 80 percent of the suspensions.
LIT wanted to bring to light the things they say MPS has been hiding, but they also wanted to provide solutions to help fix the system such as removing metal detectors from all schools.
“It’s evident police in schools and metal detectors does [sic] play a role in school to prison pipeline,” said Joya Headley, LIT member and a junior at the Milwaukee School of Languages. “MPS does have issues, however, there are students willing to change them.”
Headley spoke out at the press conference surrounded by her peers who held signs and cheered her on as she read off LIT’s agenda.
“Our youth are watching and we want change,” said Headley. “This may sound like a lot to you, but this is our daily lives.”
LIT Executive Director Dakota Hall is fed up with MPS and the mistreatment of Black and Brown students.
“This is why we need to invest [in better public education] because if this is what they can achieve with minimal help then imagine what they can do with maximum help,” said Hall.
Hall would like to see MPS hire more qualified teachers, social works and guidance counselors. He would like to go back to classrooms that only have 15-17 students because overcrowding takes away from the learning.
During the 2016 election, Hall saw the youth wanted to become more political so creating an organization that focuses on that only made sense to him.
The press conference lasted less than 20 minutes and once over, the crowd outside of the MPS Administration building went inside into where the board meeting was being held. It was a full house filled with a diverse crowd, all wanting the same thing: change for MPS.
The meeting ended with the crowd standing up chanting for the things they want the board to fix.
With the youth standing up during the times when the adults in power should be, the youth are showing the world what the future has in store.
“We’re going to find out [the problems] and fix them,” said Headley.