#NJRR Live: Back to School? NJ and Other States Lay Out Plans to Open Schools During a Pandemic

Welcome #NJRR Live With Brian Powers

Welcome to #NJRR Live, coming at you as usual on Wednesday night at 8:00 EST. It is our honor to welcome our July guest host, Lark, to the show. Lark is a long-time fan, supporter, and donor of New Jersey Revolution Radio. She hails from the West Coast and she has been on some of our panels and blogs. She has always encouraged #NJRR in our mission of fostering art and activism through our content. Early on when we were just starting and learning how to produce revolutionary media she encouraged and supported us. It is a real honor for her to co host the month of July.

Rest In Power Mimi Soltystik

#NJRR Live welcomes Steve Soltystik, activist and brother of Mimi Soltystik. Mimi was a party figure of the Socialist Party of the USA. He had been battling cancer and passed away last week at just 45 years old. Steve says that if you knew Mimi, you’d know that he would not have wanted this show to be particularly somber in his memory. 

Mimi was the kind of guy to wear his heart on his sleeve. Steve reports that the Mimi he saw at home was the same Mimi they all saw, a person with an ability to connect with people on a deep, personal level. Mimi had this way of reading the room and actively listening rather than waiting for his turn to say something. When Mimi talked about fighting racism and instituting socialism, it was obvious that he was a dedicated, passionate comrade, a true soldier for his cause. He put himself in serious danger for the cause by going on the front lines and confronting fascists. One way to honor Mimi is by contributing to his cancer relief Gofundme, which helps support medical bills and closing costs. Capitalism haunts Mimi, even to the grave.

Racist in Montclair

Brian cues up a video, taken in Montclair, New Jersey, of a woman who walked onto a Black family’s property calling the police on someone for building a porch in their backyard. Apparently, she was under the impression that a permit is required to build a porch. Lark remembers her days as a kindergarten teacher. There were a set of questions taught to the kids to prevent tattle-tales: Is someone in danger? Can someone get hurt? Can I get hurt? Am I minding my own business? If the women in this video had gone to Lark’s kindergarten, perhaps this whole debacle could have been avoided. 

If you’re Black, you don’t get the luxury to fight back in unfair situations like this. Even if you’re successful by society’s standards, if you earned a degree, own a home, and have been in a well-respected profession for years, if you start to argue, you are seen as angry, or even as a target.

New Jersey Democrats are shady. A two-party system has been systemically ingrained into the minds of the American people for years, which is a shame, because New Jersey is ripe for a third party, such as the Green Party and Socialist Party. “It’s gotta get better than this,” remarks Lark.

Melissa Tomlinson Talks Teaching

We welcome Badass Teacher Melissa Tomlinson to discuss the education system’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. Melissa is an all-around activist that Brian has been working with for years. She’s an important voice in the Badass Teachers Association and National Educators United. Melissa reports that educators across the state are concerned. Who will be held accountable if COVID-19 has a second wave due to the reopening of schools? If a teacher dies of COVID-19 contracted while at school, will the state pay their spouse the life insurance payout? How will educators be supported financially if they become permanently disabled by the virus? Will the state loosen attendance requirements so that students are not compelled to attend school even if sick? 

Basically, teachers want someone to stand up for them and firmly say that if they aren’t sure they’ll be safe, if they don’t get the answers they need, they’re not going back. Educators are afraid to speak out. Meanwhile, men who work on Wall Street have already decided that they will continue working remotely- going back onsite in the Fall. So why should teachers and children have to? 

It is important to stay aware of the dangers imposed on everyone involved by a potential reopening of schools. As a parent, Brian is very aware that school-age children are not the best listeners. This fact poses a huge risk for transmission of the Coronavirus, as it translates to issues maintaining social distancing.

Problems With Re-Opening

People who want to proceed with a re-opening of the school system want to have a person whose dedicated responsibility it is to collect data on contact tracing within schools. For example, when a child falls ill with the coronavirus, this person will have to inform families of everyone who has recently come into contact with the child. There would also be temperature checks and related in-boarding procedures, which, comment Melissa and Lark, require personal information that is not in a school’s purview. It would make many people, both staff and students, uncomfortable for the school to possess their medical data.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has been largely following New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s lead in coronavirus response. His actions have been inconsistent as there is economic and social pressure to rush reopening. Some have praised him as being one of the more responsible governors and this may be true, but it does not mean much because the rest of the governors have responded poorly.

Politicians are endangering the lives of those of low socioeconomic status by pushing the idea that “they need to go back to work” instead of accepting that they need stipends. People are dying and politicians are trying to act like things are fine instead of reimagining an improved world. There is a phrase among activists, “We need to build a new world from the ashes of the old.” We are standing in that pile of ashes. Let’s get building. 


The current circumstances shine an even bigger light on this country’s need for reform of learning standards. People say kids are “falling behind” but the question is, falling behind what? The answer is an arbitrary set of standards that has been failing our country for years as it stands. Just look at all of the issues we have currently, for example, the existence of the school-to-prison pipeline in communities across the country. 

A person can get into Princeton and Harvard without SAT and ACT scores now, even though it used to be impossible. Let’s embrace the fact that our schools need, and are capable of, deep change, and use that momentum to create a better and more equitable system for all students. This is an opportunity for teachers to organize. It is the time for grassroots polls and conversations about how to better the system for everyone. Brian remarks that we could do an entire show about educators organizing.

To our guests and our listeners, thank you so much. We are here to bring you the latest from within New Jersey! We could really use your donation, even if it’s just a few dollars. Podcasts aren’t free to make — anything you can give truly helps us out. We’ll see you all next week at 8PM EST for #NJRR Live.

-Leah Giannantonio, for New Jersey Revolution Radio

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