Originally posted at http://freethoughtblogs.com/blackskeptics/2013/02/06/secular-community-steps-up-for-south-l-a-scholars/

“Perhaps adults believe if they just don’t talk about gender or racism, then they won’t exist in our lives. The truth is that we see the effects of racism and gender bias everyday on television, on the Internet, in the beliefs of teachers, friends, and ourselves.”

–Ariana Mercado, 12th grade scholar, Gardena High School

“As an African American teacher it is important for me to constantly address and affirm all of my students as scholars, activists, intellectuals and visionaries.  Black and Latino children are never viewed this way in mainstream American classrooms — to many teachers, and the world, they are potential drop-outs, they are f–ups, they are discipline problems.” 

–Markham Middle School teacher, Watts

Over the past week, members of the secular community have stepped up mightily and helped Black Skeptics Los Angeles exceed its fundraising goal for the First in the Family Humanist scholarship fund. Because of the generous sponsorship of individuals and organizations like Foundation Beyond Belief, the American Humanist Association, Black Non-Believers of Chicago, Debbie Goddard of African Americans for Humanism and Ian Cromwell of the Crommunist Manifesto, BSLA will be able to offer four $1000 scholarships to college-bound South Los Angeles students. We at BSLA also appreciate the tremendous boost given to the effort by blogs from Skepchick, PZ Myers, Crommunist and others.  For our recruitment outreach we are proud to partner with exemplary teacher-resource providers like Dr. Melanie Andrews, Angela Rodriguez and Shirley Van der Plas of Washington Prep High School; Debbie Wallace and Diane Schweitzer of Gardena High School; Tabitha Thigpen of King-Drew Medical Magnet and Marlene Carter of Dorsey High School.  It is largely because of the efforts of these unsung teachers, mentors, health providers, and scores like them, that homeless, foster care, undocumented and LGBTQ seniors make it to college.

Recently, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) issued annual “report cards” for all schools. Washington Prep has a 44% graduation rate and Gardena has a 52% graduation rate; far lower than that of the district average. With the exception of King Drew Medical Magnet, and a few other outstanding high schools, the four year college-going rate at most South Los Angeles schools is abysmal. These scholarships will reinforce the work of first-in-the-family student activists like Jamion Allen, Destiny Davis, Ariana Mercado and Leticia Patton (pictured above). As youth leaders in the Women’s Leadership Project and Gay/Straight Alliance, these young women are engaged in critical humanist work that addresses homophobia and sexism on their school campuses—despite the fact that gender and sexual orientation issues are deemed “less important” than those that involve racial conflict.

The support of secular allies is an important step toward making secular, atheist and humanist social justice organizing visible in communities of color where there is little to no history of an activist non-believer presence. We are immensely grateful to everyone who stepped up to move this groundbreaking effort forward and will be compiling a list of individual donors for public appreciation.

Scholarship awards will be awarded and celebrated in June in Los Angeles.


Black Skeptics Los Angeles,
Sikivu Hutchinson

Elizabeth Ross

D. Frederick Sparks

Nicome Taylor

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