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Monday, July 13, 2015

10 miles for SOS NJ and NJ Communities United, real heroes living outside Christie's bubble

Catching up on Walking Man New Jersey news and my dedication shout outs!

On June 30 I was bumped from NJTV News by Governor Chris Christie’s presidential kick off announcement. While the Governor spoke to a small group of millionaires, party faithful, and mainstream media inside Livingston High Schools, over a thousand of his citizens were crying no way signs outside. I know, because I was outside with Jersey citizens who have had enough of him, and spoke about how the governor of CT, NY, and NJ are all in the house of high stakes testing pain for children. Different political parties, different states, but the same pain and the same education scam reform plans.

July 3, 2015 10 miles was dedicated to two of New Jersey’s “feet on the ground” organizations fighting against for profit charter schools and high-stakes testing. These 10 miles are for our mighty, migthy warriors of justice "Save Our Schools New Jersey" and New Jersey Communities United.
The press often misses anything outside their bubble village of the powerful, the connected, and the wealthy.  The village is less a village, and more an elite club of profiteers whose mission is to milk every dollar they can out of our public schools. Mainstream media is part of that village of elites. They have over the past decade increasingly become mere talking heads rather than on the ground news. This explains the unprecedented decline in viewers in my humble opinion. I’m a Jersey City Boy myself, grew up in Jersey, went to Ferris High School in Jersey City, have three degrees from New Jersey City University. I grew up outside the bubble village. I don’t know any billionaires, I don’t wine and dine with senators and governors, and not one person on Wall Street even knows my name. I do know New Jersey’s everyday people; you know parents, teachers, those struggling to make mortgage payments, and those living from paycheck to pay check. You know the ones the bubble village people never engage in conversations, and then pretend to understand. I can hear their village singing that Arthur song from Camelot  “What do simple folk do?”…They sit around and wonder what royal folk would do…. And that's what simple folk do.”
Seriously does anyone really think Governor Christie will be in it at the end? His state approval outside the bubble village has fallen to 30 percent. My thinking is those living in the bubble village of the powerful in 2016 are going to learn that we are the many and they are the few. No Justice! No Votes!
On Christie’s big announce day mainstream media did what it always does it chased the news inside the village bubble. While they made much to do about nothing, I met with New Jersey real citizens. We packed the Community Room at NJTV on 6-30-15. There was not one empty chair in the room. We discussed the news the bubble village has ignores. We share the efforts of Jersey people that have been fighting back against the disastrous education reforms of the past 13 years.  Tell Arthur and his bubble people, the simple folk are never idle, and we always talk about real things. Someday that bubble will burst, and the people will be there to clean up the mess left behind.

Margaret Mead said: “A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” Before our meeting “the simple folks marched from the Lincoln Memorial on Market Street in Newark to NJTV. Teachers, Workers Caucus members, Newark Students United members, and retired teacher Terry Moore and Dr. Monica Taylor chanting:
Whose schools? Our schools!
Whose children? Our children!
Whose communities? Our Communities!
No justice! No Votes!

Time to dedicate 10 miles for my heroes of the day

As we gathered in the NJTV News Community room I would come to hear the truths of all those gather, and their solutions of hope for New Jersey public schools. I would come to hear about the good works of Save Our School New Jersey. ( ) from Susan Cauldwell and Lisa Winters. They shared SOS NJ’s fight for every child to have access to a high-quality public education. I learned Save Our Schools NJ began in 2010 as a successful effort by a small group of parents to pass a local school budget, but grew to become a statewide organization with over 35,000 members. I reflected how they began during my first walk to DC in 2010. They have grown to over 35,000 savvy members pushing positive school reform legislation through legislators in Trenton.  They know the data; New Jersey’s public schools have always rated as one of the highest scoring states for public education in the nation. Something Governor Christie seldom mentions. They proudly state; “Save Our Schools NJ’s goals are to protect and preserve New Jersey’s excellent public schools by:

  • Keeping the community at large and our legislators informed about issues that directly impact our children’s education, both locally and at the state level
  • Establishing a statewide network of individuals willing to advocate in support of public education

We believe every child should have access to a high-quality, publicly funded education.

  • High-quality education requires safe and adequate school facilities; excellent instruction that incorporates children’s individual needs; and a curriculum that includes art, music, sports and world languages.

We believe publicly-funded schools should be democratically controlled by and accountable to their local communities, and uphold the highest values of those communities. 

  • Publicly-funded schools must not segregate or discriminate against children on the basis of income, English proficiency, special needs, race, gender, religion or sexual orientation.
  • Publicly-funded schools must be fully transparent, including their educational outcomes and the sources and uses of their public and private funding.

We believe publicly-funded education must focus exclusively on our children’s growth and development, not on making profits or punishing communities. 

  • For-profit corporations have no place in teaching or management at publicly-funded schools.
  • Assessments at publicly-funded schools should be created and implemented to improve and tailor instruction, not for punitive or profit-making purposes.

Who could argue with those goals? Who would not consult with them on all issues on education in New Jersey? You got it those bubble people, and their Ed Reform idols.
As I came to know SOS NJ members in the room I came to see them as middle class mothers working hard to raise their families. The very Soccer Moms Secretary Arne Duncan so often underestimates and dismisses. As overly protective parents worried their babies might not do well on Common Core tests.   Too bad Duncan has failed to listen to them. Too bad mainstream media doesn’t give them the air time they give to those bubble head village people who have no clue about what is happening in our public schools.  The word from this Walking Man is Save Our Schools New Jersey is genuine heroes defending their public schools. They are real giants in our fight to take back our schools form the bubble village profiteers. 

Next I heard from New Jersey Communities United, ( NJCU a progressive grassroots community organization committed to building power for low and moderate income people, predominantly in Newark share their successes and on the ground truths.
Roberto Cabanas their Field organizer, and Community organizers Alex Garcia, Juan Pablo Orjuela, Bryan Lowe, and Kristin Towkaniuk explained NJCU works to ensure that everyone has access to the American Dream. They give voice to the hopes and dreams of low and moderate-income communities, communities of color, and immigrant Americans though collective action.
In was clear they are in your face activists working to hold government and corporations accountable, improve the health of our families, economy and environment, and reform our public schools, workplaces and financial institutions. In other words these are my kind of Jersey people. They represent the voices those bubble villagers (Profit Charter Schools, Cami Anderson, and Governor Christie) have never sat down with to have a sincere conversation about our public schools. They work with parents, teachers, and students to fight for education, against home foreclosures, and for justice for workers. They have given the New Students Union a place to meet, grow, and be mentored. That alone makes them heroes and giants in my book, but they do so much more then fight for education. They are a grassroots organization deeply rooted in all issue of social justice.
Imagine if Governor Christie sat down with these tow groups, listened deeply to their concerns, and possible solutions. Imagine if Governor Christie open his offices, listened learned, and worked with the citizens of his own state. If he did that he wouldn’t have to run away from his own state.
The truth that SOS NJ and Communities United share on June 30, 2015 inspired me, taught me new insights, lifted me up, and compels to continue to walking, talking, and learning from students, parents, teachers, and activists. While mainstream media was chasing Governor Christie all around New England, I met with New Jersey real heroes of public education. William Arthur Ward said: "Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work."
Here is to SOS NJ and NJCU  whose organization do more than dream.
When our meeting ended I sang that
You’re not too heavy SOS NJ,
You’re not too heavy Communities United,
We can carry you,
We can lift you up,
Thank you SOS NJ and Communities United for lifting me up,

If you like to hear what song the Walking Man was listening to this morning on his walk to DC, it's Rage Against The Machine's "No Shelter"


  1. Keep on Trucking' - Listen to a little Grateful Dead on your walk, Jesse.

  2. Will do Ernie, it has been an amazing journey. Listening to the people is radical in this world of corporations are people. In the end we are the many, and they are the few. I feel a change coming with every step.