Following A Year Of Pandemic And Protests, NYC Schools Kick Off Black Lives Matter ‘Week of Action’


College students and academics in faculties throughout New York Metropolis are taking part within the Black Lives Matter At College Week of Motion beginning right this moment. Citywide occasions embrace a digital rally, Black superhero film evening, wellness workshop for Black educators, and a scholar summit on Saturday. Particular person faculties even have a variety of actions deliberate, from a workshop about Black hair to discussions on what it means to be “Black in Kamala Harris’s America.”

The nationwide ‘week of motion’ — now in its fifth yr — coincides with the beginning of Black Historical past Month. However organizers mentioned the aim is to transcend the everyday celebration of Civil Rights heroes, and to deal with concrete steps to make faculties and society explicitly anti-racist. “It isn’t nearly Black historic figures,” mentioned mum or dad Kaliris Salas-Ramirez, a BLM At College steering committee member. “It’s a few technique to interact on the planet.”

The organizers mentioned the seismic occasions of the final yr — from the disparate results of the pandemic on communities of colour, to the uprisings after the killing of George Floyd in Might, to the continued inequities in distant studying — add a layer of urgency to this week’s actions. However they mentioned they’re attempting to steadiness these challenges with an emphasis on Black pleasure.

“BLM Week of Motion is a time the place youth have a good time and educate others on not simply what it means to be Black, however what it means to be assured in our historical past,” mentioned Keeba Polius, a senior at Harvest Collegiate Excessive College close to Union Sq..

The week elevates an inventory of 13 ideas that embrace supporting Black households and Black girls and affirming queer and trans communities. There are additionally 4 calls for: to scale back suspensions and expulsions in faculties in favor of battle decision and restorative justice, rent extra Black academics, mandate Black historical past or ethnic research in kindergarten via twelfth grade, and rent extra counselors as a substitute of college safety guards and police.

College students, dad and mom and academics mentioned the calls for of the nationwide BLM At College group resonate strongly in New York Metropolis, the place faculties are deeply segregated, racial disparities in suspensions persist, academics are disproportionately white, and white authors proceed to dominate curricula.

Tajh Sutton, one other BLM At College steering committee member, mentioned the pandemic has been a wakeup name.

“What COVID-19 actually did was expose the inequities that a few of us have been speaking about the entire time,” Sutton mentioned. “Your entire pandemic we’ve heard ‘can’t wait to get again to regular,’ however regular for thus lots of our households and communities was outrageously inequitable.”

In the meantime, some academics mentioned they’re working to reframe and refresh classes for Black Historical past Month on this distinctive yr. They encourage fellow educators to watch out to not strategy the topic from “a deficit mindset” and recommend emphasizing triumphs regardless of trauma and the systemic nature of racism.

Aixa Rodriguez, a center faculty ESL trainer and steering committee member, mentioned distant studying creates new challenges, and alternatives to mark the second. She mentioned she’s encouraging college students to switch their profile footage on-line with these of “unsung heroes” they will then current to the category. One scholar selected a Black man, Gabriel Prosser, an enslaved blacksmith who deliberate a revolt close to Richmond in 1800.

Maurice Blackmon, a trainer at Essex Avenue Academy in Manhattan, mentioned he’s rebranded February as “Black Historical past and Futures Month.” This yr, college students are researching historical African civilizations to show that Black historical past preceded the historical past of Black folks in america. “We all know that a lot of American tradition has been cast out of Black tradition,” he mentioned.

Organizers mentioned they hope the teachings prolong far past February. The nationwide BLM At College group dubbed it a “yr of objective” following the uprisings that started final spring. “We are able to’t simply say Black Lives Matter for per week in February, as a result of Black Lives must matter at college all day, day by day,” mentioned Manhattan Nation College kindergarten trainer and steering committee member Laleña Garcia.