Relentless tuition hikes, even at public institutions, have contributed to an astonishing student debt burden of more than $1 trillion. Inspired by student movements over the last month in Canada, Mexico, Chile, and across the world, education activists in cities around the U.S. have been organizing rallies and marches to raise awareness about the education crisis in this country. All in the Red, a New York-based activist collective, is declaring this Friday, June 22 to be the “Night of the Living Debt.”
At 7 p.m. in Washington Square Park, performance artists/activists Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping will exorcise the demons of student debt, after which costumed zombies will march with pots and pans in hand through the streets of Manhattan, kicking off a summer of nationwide actions.
All in the Red emerged as a series of marches expressing our solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of students striking in Quebec against tuition hikes. Lack of affordable education and suffocating debt are even more glaring in the United States, and similar displays of protest and outrage are becoming increasingly common. All in the Red calls for a nationwide network to spread awareness and organize around the issue of student debt through direct action, political theatre, and spreading the visual imagery of the red square, which has come to symbolize this struggle worldwide.
Along with our colleagues in Occupy Wall Street, student activist organizations, and other public interest groups, we are concerned in particular with the pernicious relationship between education and debt. The predicament is compounded, both by seeming disregard from the government for the welfare of student debtors, despite overwhelming public support for student debt relief -- a petition to forgive student loans recently reached one million signatures -- and also by the predatory practices of financial services firms. We can no longer allow the shackles of debt bondage to be a source of shame. The student debt crisis must be placed at the center of our conversation about the public good.
On the “Night of the Living Debt,” Friday evening, June 22, we will rise from the grave of debt and join the struggle to end the ties that bind our education to a decadent financial system. We will call for a nationwide conversation about how we can transcend an obsolete system that enriches a few by mortgaging the futures of the many.
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