Join the Black Lives Matter At School “Year of Purpose”–Reflection and action for educators, parents, students, and organizers, every month of the year!

Calling all educators, parents, students, and antiracist community organizers:  We call on you to join the Black Lives Matter at School new initiative, the “Year of Purpose”—a national program that calls on educators (and parents educating their kids at home) to answer reflection questions about developing their antiracist pedagogy and join in a day of action every month of the school year.

Since the 2016-2017 when Seattle educators and Philly educators launched the BLM at School movement, we have had a day of action and then a week of action for Black lives in the schools.  Those actions were important to raising awareness around the 13 principles of the Black Lives Matter Global Network and the four demands of our movement:

  1. End “zero tolerance” discipline, and implement restorative justice
  2. Hire more black teachers
  3. Mandate Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum
  4. Fund counselors not cops

But the BLM at School Week of Action was never meant to contain teaching for Black lives to a single week.  It was always meant as a catalyst for educators to take the work into their entire year.  Now BLM at School has developed a framework and a plan of action for how to join thousands of others around the country to make Black Lives Matter at school all year long. 

Here are some ways that educators, parents, students and antiracist organizers can support the Year of Purpose:

  1. Sign the petition pledging to support the Year of Purpose.
  2. Answer the year of purpose reflection questions and talk about them with colleges (see questions below).
  3. Participate in the monthly days of action.
  4. Ask your local educator’s union to endorse BLM at School’s Year of Purpose.

The first day of action in the year of purpose is on whatever your first day of school is.  Here is the call:

1) FIRST DAY: Black to School (Whatever date that is for you)

  • Wear the shirt
  • Review the BLM at School reflection questions and write up your anti-racist action plan for the year
  • Graffiti wall: “What are we going to do differently this year to further the movement for Black lives in our school.”
  • Post a video to social media
  • Twitter chat

Here then is the full call for how to participate in the Year of Purpose from the Black Lives Matter at School movement:

Introduction to the 2020 – 2021 Year of PurposeIn 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).

The learning environments we aspire to create reflect a deep understanding of the experiences of Black children, families, and communities, as well as our own ongoing work of critical self-reflection and personal transformation. Are we creating humanizing communities that respond to the concerns of our students? Are we committed to leveling up our expectations for Black students? As educators, we turn inward in order to reach outward, linking our efforts to broad, integrated movements for social justice. As our ancestor, the Black lesbian warrior poet Audre Lorde, stated, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single issue lives.” This means we must commit to living our principles everyday, in and out of our classrooms, within our homes, and with our communities. It is a commitment to the village.

​The excerpted questions we choose to focus upon are meant to support educators–and parents who are educating their kids at home during the pandemic–throughout the year. These questions, as well as pieces from our paragraphs above, first appeared in the book Planning to Change the World: A Plan Book for Social Justice Teachers (2019–2020). We invite educators and educators-in-training to meditate on the questions that follow, and—given that no such list can be comprehensive—to pose questions of their own. Only through deliberate reflection can we realign our teaching practices to meet our current challenges and invent new practices where there are none.

Self Reflection Questions

  1. What is our school’s relationship to Black community organizing? Do we have relationships with local movement organizers? Do they see our school as a place that believes in their mission? Do they see our school as a place to connect with local families?
  2. How are school-wide policies and practices – especially disciplinary practices – applied across categories of race? Do problematic patterns emerge when we look at how policies are applied to Black students and when we also consider the intersections of gender, sexual orientation, and (dis)ability with Blackness?
  3. How are the voices, accomplishments, and successes of Black folx uplifted in my lessons, units, and curriculum? Rather than focus on singular events or individuals, does my approach highlight the everyday actions and community organizing that will lead to change?
  4. In what ways do our practices erase the histories of our students and prevent them from bringing their whole selves into the learning environment?
  5. How do I understand the role that local/state laws and policies have on the educational experiences of my students? What is my role in working to change policies, regulations, and practices that harm Black students and families?

​Actions and Activities In addition to the self-reflection, we will encourage educators to participate in the following days of action throughout the year. Each action is grounded in the Movement for Black Lives Principles that we adopted as well:


1) FIRST DAY: Black to School (Whatever date that is for you)

  • Wear the shirt
  • Review the BLM at School reflection questions and write up your anti-racist action plan for the year
  • Graffiti wall: “What are we going to do differently this year to further the movement for Black lives in our school.”
  • Post a video to social media
  • Twitter chat

2) October 14th: Justice for George Day

  • Principle: Restorative Justice
  • October 14th is George Floyd’s Birthday.  Justice for George is a day to remember him and call for the defunding of the police and the redirecting of those funds towards social programs and education.

3) November 20: Transgender Day of Remembrance

  • Principle: Trans Affirming  
  • Friday, November 20, 
Transgender Day of Remembrance 2020  William Dorsey Swann.

4) December 3: International People’s with Disabilities Day

  • Principle: Globalism and Collective Value
  • December 3 is International People’s with Disabilities Day. Harriet Tubman, Fannie Lou Hamer are two disabled freedom fighters we revere, even as the disabilities they carried with them into struggle aren’t consistently lifted up as assets in their fight. To fight against societal ableism, we must celebrate our differences and understand how the lessons from Black disabled organizers teach us how to build inclusive, accessible movements.

5) Queer Organizing Behind the Scenes

  • Principle: Queer Affirming 
  • January-  During January, we find it critical to lift up Bayard Rustin, one of the principal organizers behind the March on Washington which is crowned as one of MLK’s lasting achievements. To be queer-affirming means lifting up our queer ancestors who were at the foundation of our movements throughout time. This deepens the purpose of MLK day to understand that no one person makes a movement, highlighting how MLK’s legacy encompasses the contributions of many. 

6) Unapologetically Black Day

  • Principle: Unapologetically Black
  • Audre Lorde/Toni Morrison Birthday February 18th 

7. Student Activist Day

  • Principles: Loving engagement and Empathy 
  • March 6: Barbara Johns Black student activist day–Day to celebrate Black student activists. 

8. Revolutionary Black Arts 

  • Principle: Intergenerational 
  • April- During National Library Week, we seek to center the classic contributions of Black Writers and artists across the generations: Zora Neale Huston, Faith Ringgold, Alma Thomas, Augusta Savage, Jasmine Mans. How are the themes and radical vision that they brought to their art reflected in your classrooms and communities? How can young people extend on these legacies?

9. Black Radical Educator Day

  • Principle: Black Villages
  • May 3rd: On Septima Clark’s birthday we celebrate Black Radical educator day. 

10. #SayHerName Day 

  • Principle: Black Women
  • June 5, Breonna Taylor’s Birthday–Day to call for justice for Breonna and uplift the #SayHerName movement 

11. Education for Liberation Day

  • Principles: Black Families and Diversity
  • Juneteenth: Education for Liberation day–A day to celebrate the struggle that brought down slavery and reflects on what must be done to win Black liberation 

12. A Day for Self Reflection

  • Review all 13 PrinciplesLast day of School, Reflection Day: reflect on your year of antiracist teaching. Possibly in groups.

3 thoughts on “Join the Black Lives Matter At School “Year of Purpose”–Reflection and action for educators, parents, students, and organizers, every month of the year!

  1. Thank you. I encourage our community to also consider intersectional ideas of biracial identities. Sept 15 – Oct 15 is Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month. Have a conversation about being caught in the crosshairs vs. being in solidarity. Speak the unspoken.

    Like

  2. I would love to see us uplift the names of Local BIPOC killed by Police! My foster son Jesse Sarey was killed on May 31st, 2019 by former Officer Jeff Nelson. He was arrested and charged for 2nd degree murder and 1st degree assault. Jesse grew up in the Rainer Valley.

    Let me know if you want a month highlighting local impacted families.

    Like

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