Article written by Mbathio Mbaye & Ryan Clayton
We got involved with the BLM at Schools Teen Council through our club director Martin Urbach. We are both a part of the club Circle Keepers where we implement restorative justice practices within our school and stand in as mediators for our school community but before we joined Circle Keepers we were in the Restorative Justice class. In that class we were also taught by Martin and he taught mainly about movements like Black Lives Matter, Abolition, and The School to Prison Pipeline. He had connections to and is a part of the BLM at School Teen Council and because of our developments over zoom in 9th grade in that class we joined. Therefore it has been 3 years that we have participated in and been a part of the BLM at Schools Teen Council.
On the day of this year's BLM at Schools Week of Action event, we arrived at Harvest Collegiate early in the morning in preparation for the big event. Twelve students and three adults scattered around the cafeteria. There were a few students stationed at a variety of tables. Some were setting up the snacks for all the attendees, others were blowing up beach balls, and then there was art making to give a welcoming experience to the atmosphere. As attendees started arriving we introduced the 13 guiding principles and our purpose for gathering at the BLM Youth council. After a short presentation on restorative justice by harvests very own circle keepers and a pizza break, attendees emerged into a surplus of different workshops and learning opportunities in 5 different rooms. There was a kids corner, vision boarding, learning about forgotten activists, watching and analyzing videos, and art making.
Throughout the event attendees were able to incorporate music, food, and fun into a learning experience. Something to be proud of at this event is that it was not only fun, but educational. Students, teachers, and staff all came together, some with limited knowledge on what RJ was and the 13 guiding principles and its 4 demands. Through this event, we were able to spread the framework of such powerful ideologies onto our peers and other methods of administration who will then bring it to their own schools in hopes of creating change.
BLM at school is all about educating, empowering and recentering yourself in the knowledge or experience of being Black. Being a part of this Teen Council we have really gotten the chance to connect with youth with similar drives and interest to activism, celebrating, and growing with one another. Every year we have brainstormed and really thought about what things we wanted to do to steer away from all of the negative aspects of the black experience that everyone is often focused on and celebrate excellence and what we see in ourselves as values that go hand in hand with what the BLM movement stands for. Every year I learn more about how people want to move forward, what they want to push for mentally, or physically in different spaces.
As well as leave with an understanding within themselves. In hopes of making it better next year, we should extend the time of the event so that there is enough room for folks to have enough time to attend different workshops. In doing this, everyone gets to experience more than one immersive activity. We wish that people knew that believing Black lives matter in schools means believing in the principle of loving engagement; specifically tied to Black women. As two high school black women write this, it’s important to recognize the importance of Black women in schools of all grades.
Everyone should work towards building an affirming space for all the young black girls who are generalized and stereotyped to behave a certain way. To create a safe space for these girls in schools, means to be willing to let go of any and all misogynistic and patriarchal practices and leave room for these women to thrive.