Black Lives Matter at School
Black Lives Matter at School
Across race and place, educators, parents and allies are coming together to ensure that every Black student and educator can live, grow and thrive with support, love and joy. The goal of Black Lives Matter at School is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversation and impactful actions in school communities for people of all ages to engage with issues of racial justice. Find stories, resources and ideas highlighting Black Lives Matter at School from across the country.
VIDEO: An Uprising for Educational Justice
Jesse Hagopian and Denisha Jones, editors of Black Lives Matter at School, discuss antiracist education with contributor Brian Jones.
Black Lives Matter at School - Resources
Talking About Race
Check out resources to help facilitate conversations about race, including classroom appropriate lesson plans, guides on how to have tough conversations with peers and students, and more.
See how cities like Milwaukee, Rochester, and Seattle have passed community and union resolutions — and then mobilized to support Black Lives Matter at School.
Art and Activism
Art and video, and ideas to engage classrooms and communities to support racial and social justice.
Find Black Lives Matter at School Events
Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore… these are just a few of the scores of cities and communities across the country where educators, students and community organizations have participated in Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action events.
Click on the map below to find details on local events and actions!
Red pins on the map indicate 2023 events and blue pins indicate previous years’ events.
Portland Educators Engage Community Through Black Lives Matter at School
Thousands of teachers and students participated in Black Lives Matter at School events and actions around the country last month. In Portland, Ore., educators both celebrated progress they made around racial justice in education over the past year, and highlighted the hard work that remains in their schools and communities.
“Teachers want more culturally responsive curriculum, especially for black and brown students,” said Nichole Watson, who teaches 5th grade at Rosa Parks Elementary. “We want to be able to plan, organize and create safe spaces for educators of color. And we want to help our union to be proactive when it comes to racial equity — rather than defensive.”Read More
- As in many U.S. communities, the Portland week of action took place in the context of a local police shooting and death of a young black man, as well as disparities in school resources that too often correlate to race and ethnicity, and rates of disciplinary actions that are disproportionately higher for students of color.“Our school district has some pretty significant inequities in resources and staffing,” said Suzanne Cohen, the president of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT). “Educators have known about it for it forever. The neediest schools are not always getting what they need.”In the 2010 census, Portland was 76.1% white (non-Hispanic: 72.2%) and 6.3% Black or African American.“Black Lives Matter is not just because we have a population of black kids,” said Watson. “It’s as much for kids who are not black – we need to be having these conversations and discussions.”
Take Action ›Pledge to grow the movement for racial justice in education. CLICK HERE ›
Adolfo Garza-Cano, who teaches at Woodlawn Elementary School, said Portland educators were inspired by educators in Seattle who pushed for a Black Lives Matter Week of action and wore Black Lives Matter shirts at school. He said many Portland educators wanted to take part in a similar show of solidarity. “There was pushback from administrators, parents and the districts,” said Garza-Cano.
PAT surveyed its members. “The response was HUGE,” said Cohen. “They really wanted to focus on curriculum, especially how you discuss what is happening with police shootings.”
PAT educators formed a Black Lives Matter committee and came up with specific goals and event ideas. They also began gathering existing lesson plans and developing some of their own.
Cohen says other key issues PAT and the committee wanted to look at included:
- More professional development for all teachers, including how to identify and understand their own implicit bias,
- Restorative justice and what that looks like when done right, and
- How to recruit teachers of color from the Portland area.
Watson responded to the PAT survey. She quickly became active in the formation of the committee, which in turn created a PAT Racial Equity Task Force focused on supporting and connecting educators of color.
“We have affinity groups and mixers and social hours,” said Watson. “We debrief and we strategize. And under that task force umbrella, we organize around celebrating Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action.”
Rather than developing a Black Lives Matter at School plan of action and then asking the community for support, Watson said the task force reached out to community organizations and asked what they needed.
“We reached out to as many black community organizers as we know,” said Watson. “And we asked: What are you doing that you need help with that a teachers’ union like ours could help with? Especially if has to do with students, or student work, or student art, etc.”
“We are talking to nonprofits and leaders in the community who are already doing the work, locally, statewide and nationwide,” said Garza-Cano. “We shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when there is already so much talent and experience out there.”
For this year’s week of action, PAT focused on three core activities and events: Developing and sharing lesson plans and curriculum, a film series and an art show in partnership with a community organization.
Early in 2019, PAT leadership and the Racial Equity Task Force worked with members of the Portland School Board on a resolution that would include language endorsing Black Lives Matter at School. The process broke down.
“They took our language and made their own edits and revisions and asked if it was satisfactory for us,” said Garza-Cano.
Garza-Cano, Watson and other PAT leaders felt the language was too watered down. They asked the board to table the issue.
“Black Lives Matter is very politicized and triggers a lot of conversation,” said Watson. “We wanted to make sure the conversation was positive…. We aren’t giving up because we don’t yet have common language.”
Moving forward, Watson said PAT wants to work more with parents and community organizations. “Let’s have a community event where we sit down and provide food and child care and say, ‘Let’s see what kind of resolution YOU would like to bring before the board?’ ”
INTRODUCTION TO THE YEAR OF PURPOSE – BLACK LIVES MATTER AT SCHOOL
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).
NEA activists launch series of video “primers” for anti-racist white educators
Luke Michener and Terry Jess are both white, male educators who teach at Bellevue High School in Washington state. They feel they have little to add to conversations about race with students and colleagues of color that those students and colleagues don’t already know themselves, based upon their own experiences.
On the other hand, Terry and Luke feel they do have a lot to offer other white educators who are committed to racial equity in education but may not know where to begin.
Inspired by their own work with students, as well as conversations they had at the 2017 NEA Conference on Racial and Social Justice, Terry and Luke set about creating a series of YouTube videos they hoped could provide other white educators with ideas, insights and tools to better engage in racial equity work in their own schools and communities.
Racial Justice in Education
Pledge to take actions that will address access and opportunity for all students by highlighting inequities, increasing awareness, and organizing for change.
Talking About Race
Resources to help facilitate conversations about race, including classroom appropriate lesson plans, guides on having tough conversations with peers and students, and more...
Black Lives Matter at School resources for educators, including books, videos, K-12 lesson plans and a 2020 curriculum resource guide.
School Board Activism
Tips on working with school boards and making your advocacy for students the best it can be, including a step-by-step guide to getting a resolution passed in your school district