On Wednesday, February 6, 2019, I had the honor of speaking at the Black Lives Matter in Schools Week of Action rally last week. The audience was mostly educators, with a few powerful students (several spoke as well).
It is good to be here and great to see all of you.
As an educator who was born to two Black Panther Party (BPP) parents and had three cousins who were also in the BPP, I can tell you, unequivocally, that we cannot afford to assume that any American institution—including schools—naturally and without accountability holds Black students’ lives dearly.
Our Week of Action highlights the necessary recommitted action to ensure that Black lives matter. Your presence uplifts the humanity of our Black students and represents a call to action for all who lead in our classrooms and schools and those who lead in positions adjacent to our schools.
Some ask why Black lives matter at all, let alone an entire week. I tell them, it’s not a week, it’s a mindset and lifestyle— a core belief and a rallying cry.
Those of us who know better have never been inebriated with a false idea of a post-racial society in America. Those of us with clear mind and vision easily recognize that the points of Black Lives Matter (BLM) are similar to the 10 point programs of Black Student Union and the BPP.
We know that the BLM core is similar to the Organization of Afro American Unity and SNCC. It’s similar to Douglass’ “What to the Slave is the 4th of July” and Sojourner’s “Ain’t I A Woman.”
We can easily draw parallels between BLM and Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit” and Ida B. Wells’s Anti-Lynching campaign. BLM is consistent with Martin’s demands to address poverty and Malcolm’s work around the denial of human rights to Black people.
And, what are these demands that have some people so uncomfortable, in their feelings, cringing from this rallying cry?
- Ending zero-tolerance policies that push kids out and solidify, instead of upending the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Mandate Black history and ethnic studies AND anti-racist training.
- Hiring more Black teachers which is consistently proven to be one of the most important interventions for Black student outcomes. At one point Black teachers in Philadelphia made up 40%. Today, only about a quarter of Philly’s teachers are Black.
- Providing funding for proactive counseling instead of punitive measures and police.
Mama Assata Shakur warned us about taking our oppression as a given. She said people will become accustomed to anything. The less we think about our students’ oppression, the more the tolerance for it will grow. We are at a place where too many people believe this is just the normal place of things, that white supremacy is the way of the universe.
Well, BLM supporters, you are here, we are here, because we won’t be silent, we won’t be pacified, and we won’t stand still. Black Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter in Schools this week and every damn week.
“People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.” -Assata Shakur
Some say they support this, but they don’t want to voice their support publicly. However, one of my favorite sayings is “Never Whisper Justice.” Your presence, your voices, your actions that demand that BLM means that you are standing in solidarity with the 68,000 Black students of Philadelphia and the 8 million Black students in public schools around the country.
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