My name is David Garcia-Rosen. I am the Director of School Culture and Athletics at the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, have worked in NYC public schools for 19 years, and I am on the HS Executive Board here at the UFT.
I am also the grandson of five survivors of the Holocaust. I grew up in my Grandparents house in Brooklyn, hearing stories about how the Nazis locked them up, starved them, beat them, and killed almost our entire family. The stories were horrific and I always wondered how could this have happened. Could everyone in Eastern Europe have been so evil to have just stood around and let this occur? As a history teacher I wondered this all the time. How do the most horrific things one can imagine happen? Why didn’t the good people use all of their resources and power to stop slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, and countless genocides around the world.
But today I am in a room of good people and the question we must ask ourselves is what are we doing to stop the mass incarceration of people of color in the United States of America. How can we harness the incredible financial and political resources of the UFT to become an ally in the civil rights issue of our generation.
On October 7th Netflix released a documentary that shines a bright light on the historical connection between slavery and mass incarceration. It demonstrates clearly that the 13th amendment was never intended to actually set anyone free, because it included the clause that if you were convicted of a crime you could be enslaved. It took seconds for this clause to be exploited, as people of color have been locked up for every imaginable reason ever since, while white people have the privilege of a totally different criminal justice system.
This has led the so called land of the free to lock up 25 percent of the worlds prisoners despite having only five percent of the world population. We now live in a country where according to the NAACP African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites, and if current trends continue one in three black males born today will spend time in prison. We live in a country that has 2.3 million people locked up behind bars.
This mass incarceration of people of color is having profound effects on the lives of the students we all teach and we all love. According to the New York State Government 105,000 children have a parent serving time in prison. According to the journal of health and social behavior, children with incarcerated parents have higher rates of attention deficits, behavioral problems, speech and language delays, and other developmental delays.
We as a union can no longer stand idly by and allow this to occur. I for one plan to use my three year term on the executive to push the UFT to use all of its financial and political clout to fight for the civil rights of our students and their families.
Now I know many times resolutions here get tabled, never to be heard from again. I also have seen time and time again that everyone here votes as a block based on caucus. Today I urge that to change. I urge everyone in here to vote their conscience. Vote in a way that will allow you ten years from now, to look into the eyes of your children and grandchildren, and say I did everything I could to stop the mass incarceration of my black and latino brothers and sisters.
If there is any problem with this resolution is that it does not do enough. It simply asks for Netflix to be unblocked, the union to allocate $50,000 for curriculum development about mass incarceration, and for the UFT to screen the movie 13th in every borough. This must only be a start.
One of the most powerful scenes in the movie Schindlers list is at the end, when Oscar Schindler looks down at his gold pin and car and cries about how he could have saved more people from being killed. Schindler says “I could have got more, I don’t know. If I just…I could have got more. If I had made more money. I threw away so much money. You have no idea. If I just. I didn’t do enough. This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. This pin…two people. This is gold. Two people. He would have given me two more, at least one. One more person. A person, Stern, for this. I could have got one more person, and I didn’t! I — I — I — I didn’t! I didn’t do enough
We cant be an executive board that didn’t do enough.
Whereas mass incarceration of people of color is the civil rights issue of our generation
Whereas according to National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated 2.7 million American children and youths have at least one parent in federal or state prison
Whereas according to the New York State Government more than 105,000 children have a parent serving time in prison or jail in New York State
Whereas according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior children with incarcerated parents have higher rates of attention deficits, behavioral problems, speech and language delays, and other developmental delays
Whereas according to the NAACP from 1980 to 2008, the number of people incarcerated in America quadrupled-from roughly 500,000 to 2.3 million people
Whereas according to the NAACP today, the US is 5% of the World population and has 25% of world prisoners
Whereas according to the NAACP African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites
Whereas according to the NAACP, African American and Hispanics comprised 58% of all prisoners in 2008, even though African Americans and Hispanics make up approximately one quarter of the US population
Whereas according to Center of Juvenile and Criminal Justice nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are judicially waived to criminal court, and 58% of the youth admitted to state prisons
Whereas according to the NAACP one in six black men had been incarcerated as of 2001. If current trends continue, one in three black males born today can expect to spend time in prison during his lifetime
Whereas according to the movie 13th 97 percent of people incarcerated never get a trial
Whereas Netflix on October 7th released 13th, a powerful teaching tool about the history and connections between slavery and mass incarceration in the United States of America
Whereas the New York City Department of Education currently blocks the use Netflix
Whereas 85 percent of NYC public school students are students of color
Whereas the UFT has a long history of advocating for civil rights
Resolved the UFT will send a letter to the Chancellor and Mayor requesting that Netflix be unblocked
Resolved the UFT will immediately allocate $50,000 to develop a k – 12 curriculum about mass incarceration
Resolved the UFT will publish an article in the New York Teacher about the movie 13th
Resolved the UFT will hold a screening of the movie 13th in each borough for all UFT members