PhillySUN Profile: Zakia Royster-Morris

You ready? You’re gonna be on the camera. You ready? Okay. I first got started organizing in Philadelphia schools in the 10th grade. Philadelphia Student Union came into my class and they did what they called a classroom takeover where they take over the class and you stop basically the school district’s curriculum and you learn more political education about what’s happening in Philly. I decided to come to one of their meetings after school and so from there was all history, and I’ve been helping ever since. So many times you hear that the community doesn’t care about the school and that they’re not engaged and that, you know, it’s okay with them, if a charter takes over. It’s okay with them, if the students are failing and we’re like that’s just so not the truth. I know how people can love a school even when the district is telling you that it’s a failure because I know how it’s so much more beyond the grades. It’s so much more beyond that standardized test, but it’s the families that are built there. We have local people who they say are disengaged, but they’re begging and they’re fighting and they’re requesting that the SRC disbands themselves so they can show you just how engaged they want to be by running for an elected school board because we know what’s best for our communities. singing: “We want our school board back and fair funding too” Sad to say the decision-makers and the power players within our district their agenda isn’t the same as those who are in the ground and doing the ground work of building up communities. So it’s important to hear that the raw and authentic stories of people who are saying “I’m in my schools every day helping these children.” Maybe with food or with clothing or with love, because I’ve been in plenty of schools where some kids just want a hug. You know, we’re not numbers. We’re not dollar signs we are worth so much more. For me, that’s the important part of getting these stories out, to let decision makers know we were not rolling over. You’re not just going to do any and everything to us because we do care about our communities We do care about our children. We don’t have to be rich in dollars to build this up. Being a parent and trying to be an organizer of parents It makes me fight harder when I see other children being at a disadvantage and being taken over. I’m definitely at a crossroad right now, for myself, because my daughter’s not in kindergarten yet but this upcoming year, our thing is to find a school appropriate for her. As a parent, I have to always do what’s best for her. As an organizer, I want to do what’s best for the many. You don’t really have a real choice. I really, don’t like the idea when somebody says, “Oh, you just have the choice, you can pick your kid wherever you want to go.” But it’s like don’t give me all the facts of that, how do I have a choice? It becomes a thing of you have to sacrifice something to get anything. Where ultimately is just not fair. We wouldn’t need all these random choices, if we made the first choice the right choice and the good choice in the beginning. One of the things that PhillySUN is built on, is the idea of just building this network of parents and students and community members, organizers, school staff just coming together to fight for our schools as a unified front. There’s so many of us working from so many different angles and how do we make it work where we all come together and maybe we don’t fight the same or maybe we don’t all have the same base that’s pushing it but to all say that we have the same agenda at the end And we all have the same goal at the end, it’s that we’re gonna make these schools community run schools.

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