Fighting for justice in D.C. schools begins with the youth

ACLU of the District of Columbia's Bill of Rights Celebration honors outstanding people in our community who fight to advance civil liberties and rights. This year, we’ll be celebrating our 60th anniversary as well as some very worthy awardees, one being Samantha Davis and Black Swan Academy

Samantha Davis and Black Swan Academy (BSA) are receiving the Henry W. Edgerton Civil Liberties Award. This award is named after Judge Henry W. Edgerton, a professor of law appointed to the US Court of Appeals in D.C. by President Roosevelt.  He served for 30 years and left behind a legacy of excellence. This award is given to someone who, like Judge Edgerton, has an unwavering commitment to justice as well as a strong character and a warm heart.  

 Samantha Davis founded Black Swan Academy in 2013 to create a pipeline of Black youth civic leaders. The young people of Black Swan Academy, as a collective, also have the distinction of being the youngest-ever recipient of the Edgerton Award – an achievement that is very well deserved! 

Fighting to end the school-to-prison pipeline in D.C., Samantha Davis and Black Swan Academy empower Black youth in under-served communities through civic leadership and engagement. Samantha and BSA’s members are leading voices in the urgent conversation around policing reform in D.C., especially through successful advancements in their Police Free Schools Campaign. 

One of their many advancements was in the summer of 2021, when BSA successfully lobbied the D.C. Council to remove police from schools.  As a result, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety voted unanimously to phase out – with the intention of eventually eliminating – school resource officer programs in D.C. between 2022 and 2025. An ACLU report, Cops and No Counselors showed that schools with police reported 3.5 times as many arrests of children as schools without police, and have higher rates of suspensions and expulsions. They are frequently forcing students with disabilities and students of color to be sent into the criminal legal system. This shift that BSA pushed for the Council to implement will be important for Black and brown students (Black girls especially), students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students, who are disproportionately harmed by police in schools. 

In addition to being the Founder, Samantha Davis is also the Executive Director of BSA. She currently serves on the Black Women & Girls Advocacy Taskforce and the Self Development of People national committee of Presbyterian Church USA. Her work has been recognized by American University, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington, the National Urban League, and among Essence's 2019 Woke100. 

Samantha believes that everyone has the innate ability to succeed, but they must be given the opportunity to do so. We think Black Swan Academy does exactly that. These awardees and more will be honored on November 8 at 7 p.m., where we’ll look back on 60 years of civil rights litigation and advocacy at one of the ACLU’s key affiliates and share in our hope for the future alongside our honorees, staff, and members. Make sure you rsvp for the event today!