By Jamaal A. Bowman
I’m incredibly excited about the Black Lives Matter in Schools week becoming a national phenomenon. A big shout out to my brother Jesse Hagopian and Seattle teachers for getting us started a few years back; and a huge shout out to Philadelphia teachers, parents, students and activists for keep the momentum going.
We are now here, in multiple cities throughout the country, exhibiting bottom up consciousness, innovation, and love for the children we serve. It is unfortunate that up until this point neither the New York City Department of Education nor the US Department of Education have made any formal statement in support of Black Lives Matter in Schools week. Either they are unaware, or they don’t care. Whatever the reason, this is obviously unacceptable.
How am I supposed to feel as a Black educator within a system that doesn’t seem to value my life except on their terms? How should my students feel? What about their parents? Does America value Black life? Do our schools? If we analyze the quantitative data that America LOVES so much, the answer is resoundingly NO!
Black educators are declining at alarmingly rapid rates all over the country. Black children as young as four years old are suspended at terrifying rates, and the so-called achievement gap persist. These numbers are not new, they are persistent throughout the history of schooling in America. Whether overt racism or covert hatred, the data shows that Black life is not valued in American society.
So, this week is needed. It’s needed for our children, parents, allies, and collective consciousness. It amazes me how uncomfortable some white people are with the phrase Black Lives Matter. Just because I value my life and the life of my children, doesn’t mean I don’t value your life. We scream Black Lives Matter because if we study disproportionality throughout American society, Blacks (including Latinx) consistently suffer from negative outcomes, while whites experience “success” at a much higher rate.
And no, it’s not because we are lazy or inferior as white supremacists will lead you to believe. It IS because we have been spiritually terrorized throughout our time in America. And despite this terrorism, look at all that Black people have accomplished in this country. Whites need not fear this. Life is abundant, and we all can live fulfilled. We just have to recalibrate our ideology and reorient our spirits toward a love for self and others as human beings. Placing one’s value simply on being white limits one’s greatness as a human being.
But I digressed, during this amazing Black Lives Matter in Schools week, we have three demands for our so-called leaders in education
- End Zero Tolerance Discipline Policies
- Hire More Black Teachers
- Teach a Culturally Relevant and Ethnically Comprehensive curriculum within our K-12 schools.
Each day of the week has a specific thematic focus.
- Monday — Restorative Justice, Empathy, Loving Engagement
- Tuesday — Diversity and Globalism
- Wednesday — Trans-Affirming, Queer Affirming, Collective Value
- Thursday — Intergenerational, Black Families and Black Villages
- Friday — Black Women and Unapologetically Black.
I hope you all join us in celebrating Black Lives in our Schools. Celebrating Black Lives ensures the celebration of all lives. When we love our Black children, we can better love ourselves and each other. Thank you! Please share and join the movement.