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#OneRouge Friday Community Check-In (Week 98)

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in EBR, The Walls Project has been hosting weekly video calls with leaders of nonprofits, foundations, city government, and local businesses from a

cross the parish. The intention of these weekly community check-ins is to share information and resources to help the Baton Rouge community respond and recover from the pandemic. Weekly topics range from access to basic needs such as food, medical care, and safety to thought-leaders' insights on equitable opportunities for youth enrichment, nonprofit financial solvency, surge in unemployment, and the disproportionate impact on impoverished neighborhoods in regards to accessing fresh food.


'Access to Quality Education: ESL in Schools'

Meeting Notes Prepared by Samantha Morgan (Walls Project)

  • The main issue with English learners is the lack of quality support. They can come from a multitude of different countries. The majority of English learners in Baton Rouge are from Central America. They have experienced very traumatic experiences and then they are being plopped down in under-resourced schools. And then they’re expected to take the state test that not even native students can pass. This is an extremely difficult situation they are being placed in. We used to have ESL-centered classes, because of this support, all of the students were able to pass their state tests. The pandemic came in and twisted some stuff up. Right now it’s at Broadmoor High, and we’re being able to train volunteers to go into the classrooms and offer support to the teachers. This is a new model. To have people trained to show up for them is crucial. How can you help? Call your school board member and ask where the money is going. What’s their recruitment strategy? How are we being trained at the intersection of a language barrier and a disability? Ask about overtesting? There has to be better ways to assess learning. Support the orgs on the ground doing the work. You don’t have to speak the language to show up and care. If you can’t donate time, donate some time, and if you can’t donate money, help make their work visible on social media. We can’t live in a vacuum. Ending 287-G ICE agreement. Sign the petition.

  • In the local community. What we do is talk to communities and we do a lot of evaluation work and development, especially around arts and social justice. Our work with English learners has been with families. IN addition to the lack of resources they feel a lack of empathy. They feel welcomed by their own community, but out in the larger community they feel a lack of connection. Add in the language barriers and the culture barriers and you have a whole subset of people who don’t feel welcomed to participate in the community and schools. When your parents don’t speak the language, you don’t have a lot of English learner parents that show up to the schools. What are the ways we can help parents advocate for their children? I’m a transplant to Baton Rouge and I speak the language, but some of the Baton Rouge communities were closed to me. So one of the things we’ve been doing is breaking down those walls with story exchanges. They talk to a prompt and we share each other's stories. These things are really powerful. We also have healing art sessions. IT can be as simple as celebrating the birth of a child. For us, when we get adults in the room and we talk about these celebrations we find things in common. It comes across to kids and parents that teachers don’t care, but teachers say they are hesitant because they don’t know what to do, they don’t know how to work with parents who don’t understand the language. One of the things we’re doing is working with a select group of parents, like a PTA, who can work with parents and help usher them into the community.

  • We intentionally look at the disparities around racial demographics and education. We see achievement gaps for black and brown children. It’s hard to ignore. We see a six pillar model for intervention. We don’t like to say schools are failing, they are simply under-resourced. In the model, the first pillar calls for a rigorous education model - we have to set a curriculum that meets their needs. The second pillar calls for highly qualified teaching. The third is for wrap around supports. Fourth pillar calls for restorative justice. 5th pillar calls for family and community partnerships. 6th pillar calls for inclusive learning.


  • This model has been proven to work throughout the country. There was a school in Austin, Texas, within the first few years their graduation rates soared. They were able to infuse some English language learning to reach the needs of the children and also parents. It was language justice in practice. They were very intentional about reaching people in their culture. We have a sustainable community schools model in Baton Rouge. It was at capitol elementary. They were able to increase their school performance score by 4 points in the first year. They got awards from the state. We can’t dismiss the progress this school made with this model. But they ended the program.


Alex - The largest speaking group are spanish speakers. We also have students who speak farsy arabic and chinese, but the primary language is spanish.

What are the ways people can support the work you’re doing

Alex - there’s still the huge thing about access to college. Not all english learners are undocumented, but a large amount are and that means you dont have a shot at college. You’re already coming from low income families and then you don’t have state aid. You’re also being asked to work to support your family. It’s not impossible, but it’s very rare that undocummented english learners make it to college. It’s been over 10 years that they have been trying to pass the dream act.

More of the attention goes to Spanish speakers because there are more of them. There’s a lot of discrimination for our muslim students. I would love to say we have the tools and resources to make everyone feel inclusive, but we don’t always have that.

Leslie Grover - Undocumented students typically have an easier time getting in to HBCUs, especially the smaller private universities. A lot of times, they help massage the paperwork to help the students get access to these things. One of the things happening in schools that’s lovely, is that the students themselves take care of those students. They did find a sense of welcome in the churches. The faith community has a huge role in breaking down those silos. That’s particularly true for the Vietnamese students. If you want to learn to speak those languages there are churches that provide English learners. Right now schools are in such a silo, but the truth is in our community we don’t live in silos. Our schools deal with health and health is where we live. Our schools should reflect that.

Manohar Ramkumar Patole - I first came to Baton Rouge and everyone I was introduced to was either black or white and everyone was some sort of christian. This idea of the other is what I’m talking about. As a person who was not black or white going to a new york public school, I was constantly harassed. It still happens today. Whether folks like to hear it or not, it happens everywhere. Everyone here has to understand that there is some cultural competency that goes beyond black and white and there are other religions and cultural norms that don’t align. This plays out from the adults to the children. There are other things that might be playing into that. We are having this great conversation about other languages, but you have to be cognizant of your day to day interactions and how that plays out with your kids. They observe that.

Maria Harmon - Before I started Step Up, I’m a young black girl from Lake Charles. I went to Southern University for political science and I Dr. Grover was my research advisor.

Alex I moved 8 years ago to BR. We do have a lot of conversations about black and white. We have to remember everyone else. The black and white binary is something we have to deal with daily. Let’s not marginalize the other people who need to be part of the conversation. That includes who is invited to these meetings. I also want to uplift the alliship when white and black members of the community go in hard for the immigrant community. I want to make sure we don’t stop short.

Leslie Grover - I think we need to hear more stories. I think we need to have more of a discussion on this so we can understand. I also want to say that, there has to be room for all the things when we’re talking about the wellbeing of this community. We do have a lot fo contend with in white supremacy and whiteness. In terms of putting people into certain types of categories because it affects our life span and how we move with one another. It affects how we cocreate with one another. When people don’t give you a seat at the table, you take a seat at the table, but it’s more the power of deciding that we need a table. There are the things that go unspoken. Fish don’t know what water is. There’s so much racism that’s built into this country. We have not come to terms with race and inequality and whiteness in this country. Until we begin to have these honest conversations we’re going to keep doing this. I cannot end what Im saying without hyping up Maria. I’m so honored to be working with her. We got some work to do in terms of really, really having some real conversations and putting some real actions behind those actions.

Maria Harmon - I’m humbled to be in this space. This is such a powerful conversation. When you look at how our youth are being treated in a way and how they are only responding to what they are seeing. Everything is so much more visible now than when I was a teenager. I think about issues of bullying in schools. It makes me think about how that household looks. It’s on us as adults to foster places of healing.

Alfredo Cruz - I came here from Tallahassee Florida. What I’m hearing are marginalization, lack of access, all of these conditions that make young people frustrated. There’s an institution that’s recruiting young people feeling anger and those are gangs. Baton Rouge is positioned on a corridor that has a lot of gang activity.

Omar Minhas - If I could go back and give my parents the blueprint for success.

Rev Alexis Anderson - The lack of joy of learning about other cultures is lost when our worlds are shrunk. Who’s your people. Let’s ask them who they are and what they need from us. I can only speak from my experience, it’s been amazing to learn what I didn’t know. It isn’t just the schools, it’s in the courts, it’s in the medical fields, it’s in the grocery stories. Even within our own cultural communities we have prejudice, racial, and class issues. BEcause you come from a certain culture doesn’t make it monolithic. We have to recognize that. There are people we live next door to that we don’t like.

Leslie Glover - This has just been profound. I’m glad I can attend more of these meetings. I’m so encouraged by the people on this call. This is the most honest space I’ve been in in a long time.

Pepper Roussel - I am impressed, as in it’s made an impression on me about colonization, witness, is universal. It doesn’t matter who you are as long as you are not a part of whiteness. I am thrilled that we are talking about having a potluck. That’s how we welcome each other and share. I consider myself an ally.

Ted Holmes - Easter egg event

Lesie - We are doing a traveling art exhibit and we would love for the exhibit to spend time in different places. We are looking for 30 youths and families to participate in mask making. $50 for the supplies. We would love to see the exhibit featured in different places in the community.

19th JDC First Appearance Family Support Center has moved to the River Center Branch Library. Tuesdays from 12 p.m. - 1 p.m.

Background Checks Seminar at the East Baton Rouge Library @ Goodwood on March 30th from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Hispanic or latino

Alex - Because we have such a complicated history of colonization, no word is perfect. Latin X is used more because of gender inclusivity. The Spanish language is still the language of a colonizer. Just please ask people what they prefer.

You’re going to have to use some hyphens. Just be consistent with your branding.


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