We lead with the heart and courageously work to address racial injustice in education, embodying Black joy, confronting anti-Blackness, and building authentic partnerships with all who support creating equitable school communities across the nation.
How It Started
In September 2016, DeShawn Jackson, along with Black Men Uniting to Change The Narrative, planned a day of encouragement. The previous school year, another local elementary school had more than 200 Black men show up to greet students as they arrived at school. The men wore their uniforms, regalia, and Sunday best in hopes of disrupting the inaccurate imagery students have of Black men. Black men make up only 3% of teachers in k-12 education.
DeShawn had taught at the school for six years and even attended the elementary school as a child. He wanted students to see Black men in a positive light, not like they often are portrayed in media. A bomb threat was called into the school on the day of the event, so school leadership officially canceled it. Yet, after the threat was investigated, nothing was found, and the school remained open. So, DeShawn personally greeted students and about fifty others joined him.
When students arrived at John Muir Elementary School, they were greeted with cheers and high-fives while drums played in the background. Black men showed up because they wanted to counter the perception students have about education and race. Inside the school, staff wore shirts that said “Black Lives Matter We Stand Together.” Julie Trout, the art teacher, designed the shirts. Teachers’ lessons for the day were focused on racial justice.
Social Equality Educators (SEE), a group within the Seattle teachers union, decided October 19th would be “Black Lives Matter At School Day.” They’d wear Black Lives Matter shirts to school, created a second design with “#Say Her Name,” and educators picked from several options. Parent Teacher Associations made buttons and stickers for teachers and students to wear. This attracted national news, which spread to Philadelphia, where the Racial Justice & Organizing Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators was inspired to plan a similar action.
We envision a nation in which we live in authentic and conscious relationship with ourselves, each other, and the lands we occupy with the least amount of harm and violence, in which we are unapologetically Black and collectively love and care for one another as extended intergenerational families. To achieve safety, equity, and liberation for all Black lives, we attend to systems and networks of care to make the domination, erasure, and dehumanization of Black life obsolete.