Young Radicals Address Wake County School Board

At the October meeting of the Wake County School Board, several members of the Youth Organizing Institute (YOI) signed up to address the board during the public comments portion of the meeting.

The individuals who spoke at the meeting were Tavon Bridges, Maria Jose Zuniga-Alonso, and Qasima Wideman. The event was captured on video, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Prior to the meeting, YOI sent out a press release containing a long list of demands which included the denouncing the presence of police officers stationed in schools in Wake County, urging the funding of ‘restorative justice programs’, demanding more counselors in schools and promoting the “Dignity In Schools Campaign’s 7th Annual National Week of Action Against #SchoolPushOut.”

Also included in the press release were a few details about YOI.

“The Youth Organizing Institute is a member of the North Carolina Coalition for Education Justice; other members include NC HEAT and Education Justice Alliance. Other partners and allies include El Pueblo, INC., Advocates for Children Services, Ignite NC, Southern Vision Alliance, NC Fair Share, Legal Aid NC, Inside-Outside Alliance, Prison Books, among many others.”

Records at the North Carolina Secretary of State website show that YOI is actually a project of the Southern Vision Alliance (SVA).  The SVA website is registered to Durham Councilwoman Jillian Johnson.

Southern Vision Alliance, previously named ‘Vision 2.0 Technology’, is a 501(c)3 which at least five different offshoots:

  • Ignite NC
  • Youth Organizing Institute
  • NC Vote Defenders (NC NAACP group)
  • NC Student Power Union
  • Movement to End Racism & Islamophobia

According to the Southern Vision Alliance website, they are also affiliated with and appear to take donations for half a dozen other groups, such as The Tribe, the Education Justice Alliance, NC Queer Youth Power Coalition, CLT QTPOC Coalition, TransPrideNC, #WeAreNotThis Queer Youth Mobilization Fund and Community Alliance for Public Education (CAPE).

All of these organizations mentioned seem to have overlapping support of the same few dozen individuals. An example of overlapping staff includes SVA co-founder Elena Everett, a former leader of Occupy Durham, a Black Lives Matter supporter and is the current director of Action for Community in Raleigh (ACRe). ACRe works closely with NC Vote Defenders, NC Heat and the Youth Organizing Institute.

Another example of overlap is Bryan Perlmutter, who is also a leader of the North Carolina Association of Educators’ social justice caucus, Organize 2020, a founder of the NC Student Power Union and founder of one of Southern Vision Alliance’s offshoots called IGNITE NC. ACRe also has direct ties to the Durham Solidarity Center, which will be the topic of a future article here at American Lens.

The only IRS 990 filing that could be located for Southern Vision Alliance was for the year 2014. Those filings show their prior year’s revenue was only $1,424, however, the current year revenue stood at $275,497 with grants totaling $21,050.

Some digging around in various other non-profit IRS filings revealed that in 2014, the Center for American Progress gave $20,000. The Center for American Progress, founded by John Podesta in 2003, is a ‘liberal think tank’. Podesta currently serves at Hillary Clinton’s campaign chief and his emails are currently on display at WikiLeaks.

Also in 2014, Democracy NC gave a whopping $147,825 to Southern Vision Alliance.

That same filing year (2014), Democracy NC received $41,682 from George Soros’ Tides Foundation. It has been documented that Soros has contributed millions to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Donations to Southern Vision Alliance are currently funneled through PayPal and the required tax exemption language for donations was not found on the group’s website nor on their PayPal page.

Qasima Wideman - Youth Organizing Institute Bio Shot

Qasima Wideman – Image via Youth Organizing Institute website bio

Returning to the YOI members who spoke at the Wake County Schools Board meeting, one member was Qasima Wideman. She began by describing herself as a “black and gender non-conforming graduate of Wake County public schools.”

Wideman’s bio at YOI says she’s, “the mixed-up, Muslim genderqueer poet child of two biracial parents, struggling through the confusion of the multiple diasporas, migrations, and class realities that have shaped their family and experience.”

Wideman prefers the pronouns, “they/them/theirs.”

Wideman has been a speaker at NC NAACP Moral Monday events as well as a past keynote speaker at the 2013 World Workers Party conference.

The World Workers Party are a Marxist/Leninist revolutionary socialist party who believe Socialism is the answer and their main purpose is to “abolish capitalism.”

In her statement, Wideman went on to make shocking and unsubstantiated claims that, “Police are much more likely to be sexual and physical predators of youth in schools than are any young people that you might find in schools,” and “There are countless young people, young women, of color who can attest to the fact that, um, that police…police attack us.”

Wideman also claims to have been at the recent Black Lives Matter protests in Charlotte. While there, she claims to have seen one of “Wake county’s finest” run over a black young man, beat him and arrest him. According to official reports, Charlotte police, local sheriff departments, state troopers and national guard were the only documented law enforcement on the scene during the protests.

Wideman is also featured in the first video produced by American Lens, where she is participating in a Black Lives Matter held this past August in Durham. In that video, Wideman leads the crowd outside the Durham police headquarters to chant that the police are “terrorists.”

Watch Wideman’s remarks below. A transcript of her statement can be found under the video.

Note: SRO = School Resource Officer

Um, Good evening.

Um, I am, um, a graduate of Wake County public schools and um, I am, um…um, a black and gender non-conforming graduate of Wake County public schools.

And there’s a…there’s a few different things I’d like to speak to you tonight.

One thing is that, um, it came to my attention that, um, a sheriff in the Wake county police department threatened to remove, um, SRO’s from Wake County schools if, um, Wake County didn’t adopt transphobic policies of reporting, uh, gender non-conforming students um, to parents the way that you would report lice.

And uh, um… I’m here to urge you all to um, reject that.. the.. that transphobic policy and also to reject the racist policy of having police in school.

Police are much more likely to be sexual and physical predators of youth in schools than are any young people that you might find in schools.

There are countless young people, young women, of color who can attest to the fact that, um, that police ”¦ police attack us.

Um.. and um… and um, as um, was just spoken about counselors um, and mental health resources are what keeps students safe in schools. Um, and instead of.. instead of allotting money to programs, um, that bring more police into schools and that militarize police, um, I urge Wake county schools to divert those resources into um, counseling, racial um, and gender sensitivity trainings for teachers and um, for all school staff.

Um… and um, and specifically the um, relating to this 1033 program um… I’ve seen the effects of the 1033 program. Um, I was in Charlotte recently um and saw um, members of Wake county’s “finest”, um, out there um, run over a, um, a black young person with a [time limit beep] 1033 program allotted four-wheeler um, then, um, beat him, um and arrest him while he was in, um, this kind of like this critical injured position.

Um, and lastly I understand that some people are out here about busing. Um and I wanna make sure that we keep in mind that all youth and all children deserve access to quality schools. Um, not just rich white students. Um and diversity programs [time limit beep] and busing programs [time limit beep] enable students to enjoy the education and resources they deserve.

Um… if we base school quality on property values then we’re… we’re taking a position that is in direct conflict with the idea of democracy and equal opportunity.

Uh… have a good night.


This article first appeared at American Lens News on November 2, 2016.

About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a reporter currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_ Tips:
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