All photos courtesy Sharon H. Chang
By Marcha I. Chaudry
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In an unprecedented show of solidarity, over 2,000 Seattle educators wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school on Wednesday to call for equity in education and to assure their students that “Black lives matter in Seattle public schools.” Educators also wanted to show their support for John Muir Elementary School, which received racist threats last month over the staff’s plans to wear Black Lives Matter (BLM) shirts for another planned event.
“It’s hard to even put into words the power of this day,” said Garfield High School teacher and community activist Jesse Hagopian. “Never before in the country has an entire district of educators risen up to declare that Black Lives Matter.”
The message was more than words on a shirt, said members of Social Equality Educators, a group within the Seattle Education Association, who helped organize the event. Many educators around the city held teach-ins, presented age-appropriate racial justice curriculum, supported student activism and leadership, and organized with community members.
The event quickly became a community affair, with families distributing homemade buttons and parents setting up information booths in front of their schools with resources for teaching about institutional racism.
Midway through the rally, special education teacher Janett Du Bois revealed to the crowd that her son had been shot by police several years ago. Tears streaming, Dubois said that it was seeing everyone wearing the Black Lives Matter shirts that gave her the strength to tell her story.
“There is so much work left to be done to make Black Lives truly matter at school,” declared Hagopian. “It’s going to take concerted effort by parents, students, and educators working together to challenge the system. But today, something happened that let everyone know that change is on the way.”