“When you systematically deny the dignity of one group, your dignity is also compromised.”

-Dyan Watson

Get Your School Involved: Black Lives Matter at School 2020!

This year, the Black Lives Matter at School national week of action will be held from Feb. 3rd- Feb 7th. This 2020 marks the 3rd year that [email protected] has helped educators organize in their school buildings. From coast to coast teachers are supporting this movement for social justice.

What is Black Lives Matter at School?

Black Lives Matter at School is a national coalition organizing for racial justice in education.  They encourage all educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to join our annual week of action during the first week of February each year.

“Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action is a time set aside to affirm all black identities by centering black voices, empowering students and teaching about black experiences beyond slavery.” – Coshandra Dillard, writer at Teaching Tolerence

Black History is more than MLK and Rosa Parks

In school, I grew up in a privileged, white, small town. When I think back to my own experiences in history class, I remember hearing about 3 courageous, inspiring people in the black community: Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and Malcom X. These change-makers provide students with real examples of how to question society and push boundaries toward social justice, but why can I only name these 3 off the top of my head?

The truth is, in America, we spend the majority of our time teaching from the perspective of white colonizers. We praise European colonization in history books and leave out important details about people of color. Let’s be real, by this point we all know Columbus was a dick and Pocahontas wasn’t super pumped about engaging with the English Settlers of Jamestown. (Also her name wasn’t even Pocahontas, it was Amonute. Get the real history HERE. )

We need to start accurately depicting history for our students, but sometimes it feels like we don’t have the resources. Scroll down to find resources and check out Teaching Social Justice in School and listen to our interview with Wendy Cole about teaching Social Justice!

It seems that teachers are afraid “re-teaching” history because that comes with uprooting their own reality, traditions and understandings of history. When our identity comes into question we panic! “What about Thanksgiving? Should we walk around feeling shame?” There is no need to up-root every ancient tradition. Thanksgiving can still be a day of thanks, eating, and family but also should be a day to understand privilege and accurately recall historic events. We should empathize with Native Americans and recognize what happened after they shared food with us: genocide, loss of land and centuries of oppression. If you feel uncomfortable reading this, that’s good!! That’s a start! It should energize you to start teaching differently. We need to get over feeling sorry for ourselves and start telling the truth.

Teach it and live it!

Jesse Hagopian, an organizer of the Black Lives Matter at School movement feels that educators need to do more than just teach these ideas. He insists that educators get involved in the Black Lives Matter at School and other movements that support structural change and social justice.

“I think the pedagogy in the classroom is important, but it rings hollow if you’re telling your kids, ‘Here are the great movements for social and racial justice’ and engaging them in those conversations, but then not doing it yourself in your own life.”

Check out his book Teaching for Black Lives !

What can you do in your school?

How can I participate??
Black Lives Matter at School has provided a “Starter Kit” and many resources to get started. Click here to find out How to Participate!

Teaching Tolerance also suggests these six steps:

  1. Mark your calendar. The Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action takes place in early February each year. Visit the official website for details. Connect with a local collective of social justice educators or organize teachers in your school and urge school administrators to get on board. You don’t have to have the blessing of national organizers, but if you need support, contact them for assistance.
  2. Order Teaching for Black Lives and use it as a guide in the classroom.
  3. Compile teaching materials for the week of action and beyond. Visit the Black Lives Matter at School website for lesson plans successfully implemented in Seattle schools.
  4. Seek support from the community. Reach out to families, community members and even Black Lives Matter chapters who can enlighten you about the most pressing issues in your community. 
  5. Follow the Black Lives Matter at School movement on Facebook and Twitter and use the hashtag #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool.
  6. Show solidarity by urging all teachers to wear Black Lives Matter at School T-shirts. You can customize your own or obtain the official T-shirt through the Black Lives Matter at School website. 


1. Black Lives Matter at School

Black Lives Matter at School is a national coalition organizing for racial justice in education. This Week of Action is because of them! Check out their website and get more info on how to support your students and school during this week!

2. Teaching for Change

Teaching for Change provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world.

“By drawing direct connections to real world issues, Teaching for Change encourages teachers and students to question and re-think the world inside and outside their classrooms, build a more equitable, multicultural society, and become active global citizens.”

What you’ll find: Teacher Resources, Books on Social Justice, How to Engage Parents, and Children’s Literature

3. Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools remains firmly committed to equity and to the vision that public education is central to the creation of a humane, caring, multiracial democracy. While writing for a broad audience, Rethinking Schools emphasizes problems facing urban schools, particularly issues of race.

What you’ll find: educational resources and literature for parents, teaching and students on social justice, diversity, climate change, bilingual education and the book Teaching for Black Lives, a book that supports Week of Action teaching and learning efforts.
Teaching for Black Lives is divided into five sections and covers topics like activism, black history, intersectional identities, anti-blackness, gentrification, the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration.

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