Do Black Lives Matter At School?


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The goal of #BlackLivesMatteratSchool is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversation in school communities for people of all ages to engage with issues of racial justice.

Below, you can find links to stories, resources and ideas highlighting Black Lives Matter at School from across the country. And follow #BlackLivesMatteratSchool to see how students, schools and communities are engaging in the month of February and beyond.

Inspired by the Black Lives at School Day organized by educators in Seattle in October 2016, a group of teachers in Philadelphia took the concept a step further. They sponsored a whole week of events in January 2017 around the 13 guiding principles of Black Lives Matter. The results were stunning.

“We wanted to show educators and students that Black Lives Matter is more than a hashtag—and I think we succeeded in that,” says organizer Shaw MacQueen.

Inspired by national movement, student organizes school name change campaign

As a sophomore at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, Semaj Moore learned that the school’s namesake and American revolutionary leader was also a slave owner. Henry owned 68 slaves when he died. Upon his death, they were passed on to his family.

This discovery lit a spark in Semaj to begin a campaign to change the name of the high school.

“I remember the day I found out. It took me by surprise. I was wearing my sophomore attire, sweatpants and shirt, and I found out he was a slave owner. I came home and took everything off and I threw all my Patrick Henry gear away,” said Semaj, now a senior. “I knew from the start that this was not just about a name change, I look at it higher than that. It’s what you are capable of doing that revolves around what you are. It’s not just for a name, it’s change for the future.”

Luke Michener and Terry Jess are both white, male educators who teach at Bellevue High School in Washington state. They feel they have little to add to conversations about race with students and colleagues of color that those students and colleagues don’t already know themselves, based upon their own experiences.

On the other hand, they feel they have a lot to offer other white educators who are committed to racial equity in education but may not know where to begin. Inspired by their own work with students, as well as conversations they had at the 2017 NEA Conference on Racial and Social Justice, they created a YouTube video series titled “Primer for anti-racist white educators.”

“Ultimately our goal is for white educators to think about this in their daily practices, primarily with students,” says Luke. “Hear what your students have to say about their experiences at your schools. And take it to heart.”

Black Lives Matter at School resources page

NEA’s Human & Civil Rights Department has developed a new resource site, Black Lives Matter at School, that provides educators with resources for discussions about race, highlights stories of educators and students who have stood together for racial justice, and links to art & videos to support and inspire activism.

The site’s “Talking About Race” section features teaching guides and grade-level appropriate lessons curated by educators and partners. A “Standing Together”section details how cities like Milwaukee, Rochester, and Seattle have passed community and union resolutions — and then mobilized to support Black Lives Matter at School. Art and multimedia resources on the site provides educators with key tools for awareness-building, engagement, and mobilization.

“I knew that simply teaching lessons inside the classroom was not enough to help students become what I know they could be,” says Jesse Hagopian, a teacher at Garfield High School in Seattle. He was one of more than 2,000 Seattle educators who wore Black Lives Matter shirts to school in October 2016. “I think if we educators really want to achieve the goal of supporting youth, we are going to have to figure out how to challenge structures of racism and inequality and work collectively towards that.”

Visit the Black Lives Matter at School resources page >

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