In the fall of 2016, a group of educators in Seattle staged a Black Lives Matter Action in response to an incident that occurred at one of their local schools. Hundreds of teachers brought light to a racial incident by wearing Black Lives Matter shirts in solidarity with the students who were affected. The Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Organizing committee was inspired by this work, and sat down to figure out what a similar action could look like in Philadelphia. We decided it should last a week and that it should be centered on the 13 guiding principles developed by the original organizers of Black Lives Matter. During January in 2017, the week in Philadelphia brought on some very interesting pushback, which we prepared for in regard to re-centering the narrative on the truth.
The week brings to the forefront the importance of Black Lives and how this movement is THE movement of this time. It included robust curriculum, FAQs for educators, in-school and community events scheduled during the day and evenings. Each day had two or three principles as a theme. (Ex. Black women, Black families, Trans-Affirming). Shortly after the week ended, other school districts and teacher caucuses from outside of Philadelphia begin to contact us to develop a national cohort. Before you knew it, over 20 cities were involved, and the National Black Lives Matter Week of Action was birthed. In 2018, we focused on the following 3 demands: ending zero-tolerance discipline for students, hiring and retaining Black teachers, and organizing anti racism training and multicultural studies in the curriculum. These demands inform our work going forward as work to improve the educational environment for all students. In the summer of 2018, the National Education Association (NEA) adopted the Black Lives Matter in Schools.
In 2019, Philadelphia City Council officially adopted a resolution to support Black Lives Matter Week at Schools! In addition, members of the Philadelphia School Board also stated their support of teachers who participated in the week. And the work continues. To find out more about Black Lives Matter at School, please visit the website.