political encounters/encuentros políticos is a show focused on discussing political issues and taking action in Philadelphia’s Latinx communities and beyond. Hosted by Edwin Mayorga, Ph.D. on USALAmedia

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DateTitleDescriptionSpreaker Link
3/14/2019Tax Abatement & Toxic SchoolsIn February Teacher Action Group Philadelphia, an educator-activist-led organization and the Caucus of Working Educators, a social justice caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers launched a media campaign titled Toxic Schools 215: A Tale of Two Cities. This media campaign builds off of “Toxic Tax Breaks,” a report created by the Our City, Our Schools coalition that highlights the disparity between our schools and abated properties.
The demands as articulated via the Toxic Schools media campaign states
- Ending the ten-year tax abatement for the wealthy and requiring big universities and mega non-profits to pay their fair share through PILOTS
- Lead remediation in all schools that have toxic lead — not just the 40 schools the District has selected
- Robust pest control and air conditioners in every learning space in order to alleviate asthma, which is a widespread cause of suffering and absenteeism among Philly children.
As part of the launch of the campaign, the educator-led organizations held an event at Kensington Health Sciences Academy, and I have the good fortune to have two of the participants from this event at Kensington Health Sciences here on Encuentros Politicos to speak about the connection between Toxic Schools and Tax abatement: Jenifer Felix, and Frances Fleix and Nayeli Perez
3/22/2019The racial complexities of college admissionsEarlier in March, fifty people, across academia and college sports as well as a cadre of super-wealthy parents, have been charged in what prosecutors say is the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted. This admissions scandal and ongoing conversations concerning race and admissions have continued to raise questions about the fairness of college admissions processes and the particular structural challenges that racially minoritized communities face in accessing college.

To provide more perspective on the admissions scandal and issues related to the racial complexities of college admissions I’m pleased to have scholars/experts Dr. Oiyan Poon and Dr Blanca Vega
4/15/2019Youth Climate Strike: Young people fighting for the earthOn March 15, 2019 students across the world staged a strike in order to raise awareness around climate change. I’m delighted to have Sabirah Mahmud, the Penssylvania State Lead for the US Climate Strike, on Encuentros Politicos to talk about their perspectives on climate change, the strike and next steps in student/youth-driven movements around climate change.
6/2/2019Comprehensive School Planning Review initiativeIn late May of this year, the School District of Philadelphia announced their plants to conduct a Comprehensive School Planning Review, which is a re-examination of the district’s network of neighborhood schools to plan for predicted enrollment changes. The review process, as described by the school district, will “include extensive public input in 13 “study areas” that the city has been divided into for the study. Each of the 13 “study areas” will have a planning committee that includes parents, principals, district officials and the local City Councilperson.”

There are still many questions and concerns regarding this review process, and the Caucus of Working Educators, a caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, put out a statement where they urge the city and the district to follow a set of principles to guide the district's "Comprehensive School Planning Review."

To provide some perspective on the Review process and the Caucus’ statement, I am joined by educators and activists, Kathleen Melville and Jessica Way. ents and students- as they move forward with this decision-making process.
Swarthmore Hunger Strike, part 1Over the last several years, students at Swarthmore College have been engaged in political organizing in efforts to end sexual violence at the college and in broader society. These ongoing movement efforts reached a heightened moment this spring. Documents from one of the College’s fraternities from 2013-2016 were released by student journalists alongside a Tmblr website, each presenting material concerning sexual violence. A coalition to end fraternities emerged as part of student protestor efforts, and this lead to a sit-in at the house of the one active fraternities on campus. The sit-in marked an escalation of action and encounters between student protestors and administration in the weeks that followed. Amidst pressure from protests, the two campus fraternities decide to dissolve themselves, and a sit in the president’s front office leads to a volatile encounter between the administration and student protestors. In seeking to pressure the administration to respond to student requests for a dialogue concerning student rights to protest, an off-shoot group of students decide to stage a hunger strike. To provide a student perspective on what has ensued in the past two months, I am joined today by one of the students at the college, Joy George.
6/25/2019Interlocking Systems, Swarthmore Hunger Strike, pt 2On Tuesday, June 25th Juntos, an immigrant rights organization here in Philadelphia, announced the release of Interlocking Systems, a report co-created with the Sheller Center for Social Justice at Temple University Beasley School of Law, that highlights the widespread toxic practice of police/ICE collaboration across Pennsylvania as well as an increase in ICE detention in our state since the Trump administration came in to office. Juntos notes, that the lack of clear policies that separate local police from ICE is vital and something that needs to be addressed at the state level. To discuss the report I’m pleased to have Miguel Andrade. After our conversation with Miguel, I share the conclusion of my conversation with Joy George about the Swarthmore Hunger Strike
7/7/2019Young Latinas and their mental health & well beingIn April, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) released “We Are Not Invisible,” a report coauthored by 13 middle and high school students that seeks to address the mental health crisis impacting Latina students across the country. This new report, sheds light on the mental health challenges faced by Latina girls, toxic perceptions and approaches to mental health, and strategies for schools to do better. Not only are these students shattering the silence around mental health, they’ve created a policy agenda for school and district leaders, as well as elected officials that would create safer, more supportive schools for all students. I’m delighted to have Noelia Rivera-Calderón, lead author and education expert from NWLC, to shed some light on the issue.
7/10/2019Busing, race and democratic politicsThe issue of “busing,” school desegregation and race returned to public conversation following an exchange between Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and former vice president Joe Biden in the second night of the Democratic presidential debate.

Harris highlighted Biden’s opposition to “busing,” with Biden pushing back, saying he had been a “lifetime champion of civil rights,” and what he opposed was “federal intervention” and what opponents called “forced busing.”

Scholars Matthew Delmont and Jeanne Theoharris wrote a Washington Post article earlier this week titled, “How school desegregation became the third rail of Democratic politics, where they provide a historically informed perspective on the discussion of busing.” In the article Delmont and Theoharris argue that “ busing was never actually the issue. The real issue was the pervasive and damaging segregation that existed in schools throughout the country and whether all schools would actually desegregate. And with their slippery positions on desegregation, Harris and Biden expose the longtime cowardice of the Democratic Party in dealing with school segregation, particularly outside the South.”

To further elaborate on their points, I am pleased to be able to speak with Dr. Jeanne Theoharris, and to further elaborate on the issue here in Philadelphia I speak with Dr. Camika Royal toward the end of the show.
7/18/2019Amplifying our stories: A Conversation with Dr. Marilisa Jimenez GarciaWith all that has been happening in Puerto Rico over the last few years with the destructive storms, the ongoing economic crisis and the recent political mobilization that pushed governor Ricardo Rosello to resign, it is critical that we pay close attention to what is happening on on the island and in the diaspora have I’m pleased to have Dr. Marilisa Jimenez Garcia on encuentros políticos to discuss her own trajectory into academia, Puerto Rican/Latinx youth literature, and what is currently transpiring in Puerto Rico.
9/2019Community altars, a conversation with the creators of La Ofrenda, and art installationEarlier in September, renowned artist César Viveros, opened his installation La Ofrenda, in the 9th Street commercial corridor in South Philadelphia.

Across diverse communities and throughout the world, altars have been spaces for veneration and introspection. They are structures that assist individuals and communities during moments of celebration as well as during times of need or despair. The Philadelphia Folklore Project’s La Ofrenda initiative captures stories of hope, resilience, faith, fear and strength that are pillars of home altar-making practices within Mexican immigrant communities in our city. César Viveros has collected the stories behind the altars of local community members as a way to preserve and celebrate a sense of belonging, to further discuss the art installation I am pleased to be joined via phone by Cesar Viveros, Jose Ortiz-Pagan, Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe, Sinta Penyami Storms
Latino Community PracticeTo discuss their efforts in the Latinx communities of Connecticut we joined by Drs. Madeline Perez and Anthony DeJesus and their student Mary Schone from the University of Saint Joseph (West, Hartford, CT)- Department of Social Work and Equitable Community Practice
2/27/2020Charter schools in Philly, an ongoing conversation Earlier in the month of February, a group of area professors, including myself, wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia School Notebook regarding an application submitted for a Charter High School focused on Health Sciences. Given that a traditional neighborhood school that focuses on Heath Sciences already exists in the Kensington area of Philadelphia, and considering potential financial strain that continuing to expand the number of charters poses to the school district, the op-ed was aimed at pushing higher education institutions that are listed as partners in this application to think more deeply about not only its role in this particular proposed charter high school, but also in the broader effort to provide high quality educational options for all Philadelphia youth and families. This current case is reflective of how fraught the relationship between charter schools and traditional and neighborhood schools continues to be in city, and what kind of analysis and efforts are needed to work toward the larger goal of high quality schools for all. To provide some perspective on this particular case and the larger issues, I’m pleased to have Susan DeJarnatt, Maddie Luebbert and Jenifer Felix and Lisa Haver. This is the first in what I hope to be a set of conversations about charters and traditional public schools in the city, which will include perspectives from local charter schools and charter school advocates.
4/9/2020En comunidad, Centering the Voices and experiences of bilingual Latinx students
Earlier this year, educator-scholar-changemakers España and Herrera published the book En Comunidad: Lessons for Centering the Voices and Experiences of Bilingual Latinx Students (Heinemann Publishers). In the book, the authors weave their personal journeys, experiences as educators, and work as researchers to provide a series of insightful lessons that invite young people and educators to center their linguistic and cultural lives as a means to creating transformative classrooms for U.S. bilingual Latinx students. España and Herrera are on the show to discuss the book and more.
5/7/20Supporting College Student Mental Health in the midst of the pandemic, a conversation with sociologist, Dr. Shirley LeyroMental health and wellbeing challenges among college students are much more common that is often discussed in the media. Generally, about 20 percent of students – both undergraduate and graduate – report being diagnosed with anxiety or depression (National College Health Assessment 2017), and the Covid19 pandemic brings this situation into even greater relief. To further discuss their research on immigrant communities, to explore the issue of mental health and well being amongst college students and to help us think about strategies to support students I’m joined by sociologist, Dr. Shirley Leyro. MP3
7/10/2019Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico, a conversation with author Dr. Marisol LeBrónI’m pleased to have Dr. Marisol LeBrón, an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in race, policing, and political activism in Puerto Rico and U.S. communities of color, and an Assistant Professor of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, on to speak about their book, Policing Life and Death: Race, Violence, and Resistance in Puerto Rico, podcast
5/22/2020Separated: Examining the negative effects of immigration enforcement on individuals, families and communities, a conversation with author Dr. William D. LopezAccording to an article in the Washington Post from December 2019 during the last fiscal year running from October 1, 2018 through September 30, 2019, Immigration Customs and Enforcement (or ICE), deported more than 267,000 people, or 22,250 per month, a 4 percent increase from the year before, and significantly lower than the peak of 400,000 annual deportations midway through President Barack Obama’s administration. Then in March, with the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, ICE sent notification that their Enforcement and Removal Operations division would “delay enforcement actions'' and use “alternatives to detention” amid the outbreak. As a result of these changes, in March 2020, ICE completed 17,965 removals, according to agency records, and total deportations have declined further in April with 2,985 deportations. While COVID19 has forced a precipitous decline of deportations, ICE continues to pursue immigration enforcement while most immigration services, refugee admission and naturalization services have either been slowed or suspended. What this all amounts to is people’s ongoing vulnerability to removal, detention and other enforcement practices from federal, state and local agencies. An aspect of the current situation that is even less understood are the negative effects enforcement has on individuals, families and communities that goes far beyond the removal of a person. To provide some more perspective on these negative effects, I’m pleased to have Dr. William D. Lopez, author of Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid, published by Johns Hopkins University Press.
6/4/2020Schooling for Critical Consciousness a conversation with authors Dr. Scott Seider and Dr. Daren GravesIn the context of COVID19 & social insurrection there are so many questions right now around educators can best care for and support Black and Latinx youth, and work alongside them in understanding the racial and social injustices they are facing and how to develop strategies to transform these conditions. To discuss this wide range of topics I am pleased to have Dr. Scott Seider and Dr. Daren Graves, authors of the recently published book Schooling for Critical Consciousness (Harvard Education Press) , on the show.
7/5/2020Unnecessary arrests, Unnecessary deaths: Incarceration and COVID 19, a conversation with Eric ReinhartThe U.S. has seen another significant surge of COVID19 cases, and as the U.S. navigates these shifting conditions research about the virus and how it spreads continues to be shared. Research has shown that jails and prisons remain a key site through which the virus spreads. In the article “Incarceration and Its Disseminations: COVID-19 Pandemic Lessons From Chicago’s Cook County Jail” (https://health-policy.healthaffairs.org/covid-19/reinhart) in the Health Affairs journal, Eric Reinhart and Daniel Chen analyzed data from Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, one of the largest known nodes of Covid 19 spread in Illinois and the US, and found that the jailing cycle, which is the process of authorities arresting, booking and then releasing low level offenders, was one of the most significant predictors of the spread of Coronavirus. To provide us more perspective on the study and Covid 19 and incercertationI pleased to have researcher Eric Rhinehart on encuentros políticos.
7/29/2020How do we reopen Philly’s Schools safely and justly?Tensions have run high as the School District of Philadelphia, like districts across the U.S., have been devising plans to reopen schools within the context of COVID19. At last Thursday’s school board meeting, district officials presented a proposal to reopen the city’s schools using a hybrid plan. The plan was met with a flood of protest from teachers, principals, families and youth. The School Board tabled the issue, pushing the decision to this week. Then yesterday, the district announced the schools would remain online for all students at least through November. As this issue continues to unfold the question remains how do we reopen the schools in a way that is safe and just?

To discuss this, and related topics, I’m pleased to have Tamara Anderson, Dana Carter (Racial Justice Organizing Committee), Lisa Haver (Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, APPS), Kate Sannicks-Lerner (PFT/WE)
8/5/2020Pandemic Schooling for Justice, part 1As schools across the U.S. are figuring out plans for reopening this coming fall, families are thinking about what educational options they have available to them, including “pandemic pods,” or micro schooling pods, for the fall, in which groups of three to 10 students learn together in homes under the tutelage of the children’s parents or a hired teacher or, in other cases, families are using pods as a supplement to their schools’ online curricula. This has raised a number of questions regarding access and equity for millions of students. To provide us more perspective I’m joined by social scientists and parents, Dr. Erica O. Turner, Dr. L'Heureux Lewis-McCoy and, joining us by phone, Dr. Blanca Vega
8/26/2020Pandemic Schooling for students with dis/abilities a conversation with Dr. María Cioè-PeñaAs the school year in the midst of the Covid19 pandemic and ongoing racial injustice is beginning online and in various blended models, the questions of social and educational equity persist. In this episode of encuentros politicos, the third one in an ongoing series titled Pandemic Schooling, we turn our attention to the often overlooked needs of students with dis/abilities and their families. To provide us some much needed perspective, I’m pleased to have Dr. María Cioè-Peña.

Guest Bio
Dr. María Cioè-Peña is an assistant professor in Educational Foundations at Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ. As a bilingual/biliterate researcher, María examines the intersections of disability, language, school-parent partnerships and education policy. She focuses specifically on Latinx bilingual children with dis/abilities, their families and their ability to access multilingual and inclusive learning spaces within public schools.
9/1/2020Teaching for Justice in the midst of the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and Racial Injustice, with Tamara Anderson, Dana Carter and Alma Sheppard-MatsuoAs the school year gets underway online here in Philadelphia, questions about teaching in this context abound. Continuing our series on pandemic schooling we turn our focus to teachers and teaching. I’m pleased to have Tamara Anderson, Dana Carter (Racial Justice Organizing Committee), and Alma Sheppard-Matsuo from Teacher Action Group Phillypodcast
10/16/2020Credit overdue, examining academic transfer problems for U.S. youth in the juvenile justice systemAcross the country, more than 48,000 youth are confined to juvenile justice facilities, and one of the overlooked aspects of the broader ecosystem of confinement is formal education. While youth have access to classes within these facilities, questions arise for youth when they leave the facility and return to the school. Credit Overdue: How States Can Mitigate Academic Credit Transfer Problems for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System, is a national report produced by the Juvenile Law Center, Education Law Center-PA, Drexel University and the Southern Poverty Law Center examines this complex, national, problem by taking a national perspective, by focusing on challenges around transferring academic credits between detention facilities and schools.

To discuss this issue and the report I’m pleased to have two of the authors of the report, Kristina Moon of the Education Law Center of Pennsylvania and Nadia Mozaffar of the Juvenile Law Center on encuentros políticos.