Introduction to the 2020 - 2021 Year of Purpose
In addition to the BLM at School Week of Action (that is organized during the first week of February), educators, students, and parents are encouraged to participate in ongoing activations and reflection throughout the school year.
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others named and unnamed, a great Uprising for Black Lives has swept the nation and the world, inciting new urgency and radical possibilities for advancing abolitionist practice and uprooting institutional racism. The uprising has helped create a national discussion about what public safety could be. For too long public safety has been defined as spending more money on the legal punishment system and funding for more police in schools and communities. We believe it is vital to redefine public safety in terms of the holistic social and emotional wellbeing of students and educators. During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, public safety has to also mean not opening schools until the science supports it can be done safely, COVID-19 testing at schools and in communities is widely available, personal protective equipment is funded and supplied for educators and students, schools are provided functioning ventilation systems, and so much more.
The Uprising for Black lives has prompted the Black Lives Matter at School movement to expand its proposed activities to a “Year of Purpose,” in addition to the annual Week of Action held during the first week of February. The centerpiece of the Year of Purpose is asking educators to reflect on their own work in relationship to antiracist pedagogy and abolitionist practice, persistently challenging themselves to center Black lives in their classrooms. In addition, educators will be asked to participate in intentional days of action throughout the school year uplifting different intersectional themes vital to making Black lives matter in schools, communities, and beyond (see the days of action below).
The learning environments we aspire to create reflect a deep understanding of the experiences of Black children, families, and communities, as well as our own ongoing work of critical self-reflection and personal transformation. Are we creating humanizing communities that respond to the concerns of our students? Are we committed to leveling up our expectations for Black students? As educators, we turn inward in order to reach outward, linking our efforts to broad, integrated movements for social justice. As our ancestor, the Black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde, stated, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives.” This means we must commit to living our principles everyday, in and out of our classrooms, within our homes, and with our communities. It is a commitment to the village.
The excerpted questions we choose to focus upon are meant to support educators--and parents who are educating their kids at home during the pandemic--throughout the year. These questions, as well as pieces from our paragraphs above, first appeared in the book Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Teachers (2019–2020). We invite educators and educators-in-training to meditate on the questions that follow, and—given that no such list can be comprehensive—to pose questions of their own. Only through deliberate reflection can we realign our teaching practices to meet our current challenges and invent new practices where there are none.
Sign the Pledge today!
Self Reflection Questions
Actions and Activities
In addition to the self-reflection, we will encourage educators to participate in the following days of action throughout the year. Each action is grounded in the Movement for Black Lives Principles that we adopted as well:
1) FIRST DAY: Black to School (Whatever date that is for you)
Year of Purpose - Visuals for flyers, social media, or more (Caryn davidson, artist)