Somali families address juvenile justice inequities at New Holly workshop

Somali families learn about their rights at a juvenile justice workshop at New Holly in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Ubax Gardheere via South Seattle Emerald.)

This story originally ran in the South Seattle Emerald and is republished with permission.

Dozens of Somali community members assembled at the New Holly Gathering Center on Friday evening for a workshop on handling the juvenile justice system. The workshop was led by the Culturally Appropriate and Responsive Education (C.A.R.E.) center, an organization founded by African immigrants and refugee parents with the purpose of building community, addressing systemic educational inequities and supporting their youth.

The audience was split evenly between young and old, which helped towards one of the workshop’s goals of creating a bridge between parents and youth both fighting against the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

“One of the big goals for the parents here is for them to find out what’s going on outside the house” according to co-founder and Executive Director, Munira Mohammed.

Mohammed, like other parents in attendance, said she’s faced issues of disciplinary bias in the public school system and commented on how it perpetuates the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The “pipeline” refers to low-income and students of color being more susceptible to incarceration rather than graduation during their school years. The Somali population in Seattle, despite being small, according to C.A.R.E. co-founder Ubax Gardheere, makes up 12 percent of jailed Seattleites.  Mohammed has children in the Kent School District and shared with the group an instance when her son was disciplined for over-commenting in class and “knowing too much.”  She elaborated further, “[the teacher] should be guiding him, rather than punishing him and teaching him to be oppressed, to share his opinions.”

Mohammed has children in the Kent School District and shared with the group an instance when her son was disciplined for over-commenting in class and “knowing too much.”  She elaborated further, “[the teacher] should be guiding him, rather than punishing him and teaching him to be oppressed, to share his opinions.”

While growing up as a first-generation immigrant in the 1990s, Mohammed found that many youth and families weren’t aware of their rights.

With mass incarceration being a national problem, this workshop, according to its organizers, was a response to community members’ desire to know more about their rights under the law. It was particularly directed at those parents who feel their youth are unduly targeted by the juvenile justice system, and want to play a successful role in combating it.

Ayesha Mohammed, a member of C.A.R.E., led a portion of the workshop that illustrated the perspective of a school child traversing through the juvenile justice system. She also stressed the need for communication between parents, students and school staff.

Mohammed reiterated the importance of this workshop as “It’s about parent-engagement. If you don’t know your children’s educators it’s a problem, the criminal justice system isn’t going to help them… if you don’t know the rules, they will rule you.”

According to organizers, this workshop was only the first in a series; with more to follow in the coming months.

 

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