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“I love the smell of civic participation in the evening,” sighed Torin Jacobs, teacher and organizer, to a crowd of over a hundred people in a city where there are sometimes events with more candidates on the panel than members in the audience.
October 1st. 10/1, the day we had been counting down to for months. The hours spent trying to prioritize the issues that face our city, the weeks spent refining the topics to focus the panel on, come to fruition. As though the insecurity imposed on communities for their meals, for their schools, for their jobs and for their families is simply an itinerary for the questions asked at a
candidate’s panel, as though people’s lives can be twisted and squeezed tidily into a political agenda. Yet at 6PM on October 1st, what was happening in the theater of Fort Hayes High School was so much more.
In attendance were school board candidates Gary Baker, Shawna Gibbs, Jim Hunter, Bernadine
Kennedy Kent, Tina Pierce, Ben Tyson, and Eric Brown, along with city council candidates Zach
Klein, Liz Brown, Joe Motil, Shannon Hardin, Jaiza Page, John Rush, Besmear Sharrah,
Ibrahima Sow, Dimitrious Stanley, and Michael Stinziano. School board candidate Mary Jo
Hudson and mayoral candidates Andrew Ginther and Zach Scott were not present.
With the hue and cry towards the two empty mayoral seats, the brandishing of signs reading
“BLACK LIVES MATTER,” the eruptions of “I can’t breathe” and “Is that a yes or no?" we were
reminded that it was a time and a place for the people to talk. As speakers from the community
explained their realities slowly and carefully to a panel that was given bare minutes to respond,
we were reminded that it was a time and place for candidates to listen.
The night was an exploration of the dichotomy of Columbus: when it is touted as economically
thriving, businessfriendly, diverse and progressive, entire swaths of our city are hidden. 1 out of
7 kids can’t afford enough food to eat, and twice that are living in poverty. The cost of food,
housing, healthcare, childcare and higher education are rising, and median income is falling.
35% of Columbus households make less than $30,000 a year. Our schools and neighborhoods
are segregated and unequal. Of the 50 largest cities in the US, Columbus is bottomfive for
So members of our community spoke to bridge this gap, sometimes tearfully. They spoke of the
harsh discipline of black and brown schoolchildren. Of the way corporate and government
entities have tried to wrest the control of schools from the community whose children would
experience the brunt of it. Of the ways they’ve seen a low minimum wage seep through the
crevices of families and lives, lingering long after the opening of insufficient paychecks from two
or even three jobs. Of the unquestionable need for oversight of our police department, in a
country where internal investigations and systemically faulty judicial processes corroborate the
destruction of lives all the time. Keisha [last name?] closed out the night with a rousing song,
her words “I forgot I had a freedom song” reverberating in the crowd. She invited everyone to
repeat after her: I am open to myself and the world around me. It was a panel like nothing else.
Ohio Student Association and the People’s Justice Project will be distributing voter guides,
including the candidate’s stances on the four main issues of the night, in advance of the
municipal elections on November 3rd.
Written By Kenza Kamal
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OSA joined with Tamir Rice's cousin and hundreds of Cleveland community activists on Saturday to demand justice for the 12 eyar old child who was killed by police at a recreation center in his neighborhood. A symbolic funeral was held at a park in West Cleveland and the group marched through the streets of West Park to the home of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGuinty to demand action be taken to hold police accountable. In spite of white nationalist groups attempts to intimidate protestors, people of all races, ages, sexualities, genders and faiths gathered to demand that McGuinty do more to make sure that police cannot kill with impunity.
This action took place just hours after the Brelo Verdict was read, finding the officer who stood on the hood of the car and unloaded his weapon into the car where an unarmed Black couple sat. In total, 137 shots were fired by dozens of police officers into the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.
There is a fundamental flaw in the criminal justice system, when prosecutors have no accountability when they fail to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. Prosecutors such as McGuinty rely on police officers to win cases every single day, and so often fail to put forth a winning case against police officers in situations of police brutality.
The efforts of our current Governor Kasich and Attorney General Mike Dewine are superficial bandaids to this structural conflict of interest. This is why we need a fundamental shift in the power relationship between community and police in Ohio.
Watch OSA leaders speak on this action and this injustice on Democracy Now and CNN.
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Reposted from a Wednesday May 20, 2015 Article in The Columbus Dispatch
OSA organizer Rachael Collyer graduated summa cum laude from Ohio State University this month, but the celebration has been subdued as she contemplates how to repay $28,000 in student loans.
On Wednesday, she wore swimming goggles and arm floaties before a subcommittee of the Ohio Senate to emphasize that she’s drowning in debt and fretting about her future.
“It is incredibly frustrating that despite doing everything I was told I needed to do to be successful, I now find myself in overwhelming debt,” said Collyer, a Cleveland Heights native and representative of the Ohio Student Association.
She was among a dozen students from colleges and universities across the state who urged the Senate Finance Committee’s higher-education subcommittee to boost funding to schools and increase financial aid to students as the legislators work on the upcoming two-year budget.
Subcommittee Chairman Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, said on Wednesday that he expects the Senate to increase state aid to colleges and universities, but details have not been decided.
“Ohio leads the nation in tuition restraint, but clearly more needs to be done,” he said.
Student-loan debt in the U.S. reached $1.2 trillion by the end of 2014. In Ohio, those graduating with bachelor’s degrees from state schools last year averaged about $30,000 in student debt.
“The weight of my accumulated debt weighs on me and leaves me fearful of the future,” said Alli Rigel, a recent Ohio State graduate trying to pay for medical school.
Tobi Akomolede, Senate speaker in the undergraduate student government at the University of Cincinnati, said a provision in the House-passed budget prohibiting tuition hikes in 2017 would help keep college affordable and restrict student debt, but more must be done.
“Increased state funding is crucial to prevent costs from coming back to students in the form of lower-quality education, gutted student-support services, stunted innovation and lack of cost-saving services,” Akomolede said.
Although tuition at Ohio’s four-year universities has decreased by an inflation-adjusted 2.4 percent in the past decade, the state’s annual per-student aid is $2,237 below the U.S. average.
A new report shows that most states, including Ohio, are spending less per student on higher education this school year than they did in 2007-08, the start of the recession.
Ohio has cut spending by 22 percent, according to the analysis released last week by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a progressive research group that analyzes state and federal spending. Overall, all but three states — Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming — have reduced aid to colleges and universities. Of those that cut spending, 31 have done so by more than 20 percent.
The report says less state aid means higher tuition for students and their families, pushing student-loan debt to record highs, surpassing both car loans and credit-card debt. About 60 percent of college students graduate with debt.
The House-passed budget includes 2 percent annual increases in higher-education funding. It also includes $7.5 million to help pay off the college debt of students with in-demand jobs who promise to stay in Ohio for five years.
In addition to providing more state aid to colleges and universities, the Senate might approve increased funding for need-based Ohio College Opportunity Grants, Gardner said. Several students testified that the grants helped them earn degrees without accumulating debt.
Gardner said other moves that would help are getting more high-schoolers to earn college credits through tuition-free early-college programs and renewing efforts to graduate more students in four years.
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