Last week was incredibly difficult – for us as individuals, for our communities, and for our country. The videos of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile’s tragic deaths – two more cases of black men killed by police – were shocking, upsetting and distressingly familiar. Then the week ended with the terrible retaliatory violence against police in Dallas. Many of us went into the weekend feeling confusion, pain, fear, anger – and yet deep love for all those who are hurting and all those who are demanding a better way forward.
On Monday, we gathered together in our Network Support offices to process and reflect together. This is the first of two posts sharing just a few of our voices. Read Part II here.
We Must Make Progress Now
I remember exactly where I was when I met Abner Louima. I was 7 years old, and my mother dragged me to a meeting held at the house of a woman well-known in the Haitian community. Of course, I was trying to play outside. It was summer time and going to meetings or organizing marches sounded so boring to me. He sat down next to me and asked if I knew who he was in Haitian-Creole. I knew exactly who he was; I had seen him all over the news but I didn’t fully understand what had been done to him. I just knew that the police had done a very bad thing to him. When school started, I remember my friends being so confused. Our teachers didn’t discuss what had happened, and the teachers that were affected seemed to be going through it themselves; silent and not sure of what to say.
As we are forced to watch the murders of these two men this week, keep your colleagues and friends, but most importantly our scholars at the forefront of your minds. In times like these, sometimes there are no words. If you find yourself at a loss for words, it is okay to just ask “how are you doing? Is there anything I can do for you?” Last week was emotionally taxing for me and those close to me. It not only brought up the feelings I felt in the past with similar cases, but the feelings I had when Mr. Louima sat down and spoke to me that day. I can only imagine what all of this is doing to the psyche of our Black and Brown children. Check in on each other, but most importantly, check in on our kids. Have the tough conversations with them.
At AF, we like to say “get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” It is time for all of us – across AF and in schools and networks across the country—to make sure we both talk the talk and walk the walk.
20 years later, I can’t seem to remember why I walked into the room, but I remember exactly where I was when I met Abner Louima. I also remember the silence of my teachers. What will our young people say 20 years from now when they recall where they were when they saw the execution of Philando Castile in front of his girlfriend and young daughter played in a loop on national television for the masses? Did you stay silent? – Shamire Juste, Team Chief Operating Officer
Being Black in America & Our Responsibility to Children of Color
Being black in America and working in education means carrying the weight of systemic racism and its impacts, while striving to create a system of education that is actively, consciously, and intentionally anti-racist, so that the generations that follow will have a lesser weight to carry, and eventually none at all.
I dream of a day when educational systems in this country are structured around the knowledge that educating minority children especially and particularly requires intentional and conscious attention to the messaging these students receive about their value and worth. That this is a different kind of teaching from a focus primarily on academics, and that it’s just as important. That teaching a student how to read doesn’t necessarily counteract the negative messages about the value of black and brown lives, and how that student is taught could actually reinforce some of the negative messaging. That teaching students to know their value and helping them grow stronger in their sense of self doesn’t detract from or dilute academics, but instead helps students understand that one of the goals of academics is to help them write their own messaging, to separate the truth of who they are and what they are worth from the fictions that unfortunately continue to abound.
Teaching black and brown students from an understanding that learning how to read will help them make sense of the world around them and help understand how to carve out the place within it that they choose to occupy, as opposed to the place that the world may try to put them in, is a different goal for education, and a crucial one. – Michera Brooks, Team Legal & Compliance
The Killings Have to Stop
The killings have to stop. The killings have to stop. The killings have to stop.
We have to stand up as a movement and challenge anyone who believes that murder by those who are sworn to protect our black and brown kids and families should consistently go unpunished.
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
I pray for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I also pray for an end to the epidemic of injustice in the communities we serve.
Let’s act with every fiber of our beings, and let’s work to mobilize every part of our community of educators to impact the change that needs to happen.
- Michael Rady, Team Greenfield
Stand Up, Speak Out
As parents and educators, we are afraid for the world our scholars are growing up in. We’re saddened and angry that after centuries of violence against black men and women, police shootings like this are still followed by comments minimizing the lives lost and defending those who took them. We care deeply for our black scholars, colleagues, and friends and know that many of them are hurting in ways that we, as white Americans, can only partially understand.
Please speak out about injustice and take action in a way that feels authentic and meaningful to you (we’ve included some resources below if you’re looking for a place to start).so that we can collectively accelerate the change our country so urgently needs. More than ever, we are grateful to work alongside incredibly kind, profoundly thoughtful, undeniably powerful change-agents. – Doug McCurry & Dacia Toll, Co-CEOs
Self care needs
Knowing your rights
When filming the police (from The Atlantic)
To contact your Congressman or woman, click here.
To voice protest for Alton Sterling, click here.
To voice protest for Philando Castile, click here.