It wasn't until she was 29 that Roslyn Broadnax learned she had a learning disability. She'd been a victim of "pushout," as her fellow members of CADRE call it. As a student in South Los Angeles, she'd been passed from grade to grade, eventually graduating high school without the ability even to fill out a job application.
"Pushout is allowing a child to go through school without being monitored or evaluated," she says. "And allowing them to graduate without learning a thing. Or constantly suspending kids so that they get behind and they feel like there's no way to catch up, and they lose interest. So they end up at home, unsupervised, because the parents have to work, and they make poor choices, because they're children. Then the police get them, because they're going to be picked up, sooner or later."
The school to prison pipeline, she explains, starts from being denied the chance to get an education.
She was an adult with her own children, including some nieces and nephews who brought the household's count to ten children, when her husband came home one day from coaching football in the park and said he'd met some people from CADRE. Roslyn went to her first meeting mainly because she'd heard they were handing out free Christmas presents. But she stayed, and heard them talking about the kind of discrimination and barriers to education her children were facing.
"So I went back, and I've been there ever since," Roslyn says.
One of the first things she realized was how angry the parents were, and how they too often took their frustrations out on the wrong people. Many schools view parents as an unnecessary interference, not as potential allies. Sometimes the only way to get attention was to start throwing chairs. Thanks to her own confrontational anger, she'd never been able to get beyond the front desk when she came to the schools to advocate for her kids. Before CADRE, she'd had no concept of how to get to the School Board.
"I learned to be quick to listen, and slow to speak," she says. "It's not what we do, it's how you do it. To respect the process, but to make sure the process respects you. You start realizing, this is not about me, it's not about your kid, it's about the whole community. It's about a whole movement. This is not a one-night stand."
As a member of CADRE, she has worked to pass laws like the School Climate Bill of Rights, LAUSD legislation putting an end to suspensions for willful defiance and beginning a shift toward restorative justice. She sees the importance of parents unifying to monitor the school's adherence to the laws.
Now she has four grown children, 11 grandchildren and a great grandchild. Thanks in part to the important information Roslyn learned from working with CADRE, her daughter was able to not only attend, but graduate from the college of her choice. People ask her why she's still works with CADRE. "It's because they're all my children, you know? And that's the mindset we have at CADRE," she says. "If our community fails, then all of our children fail."