We Love You George Floyd. We Got You This October 14th #TeachTruth National Day of Action for Your Birthday.

George Floyd Square. Photo by Jesse Hagopian. Join the Oct. 14th national K-12 forum to celebrate George’s life and #TeachTruth. Resister to participate in the Day of Action.

George Perry Floyd Jr. would have turned 48-years-young on Thursday, October 14, 2021—if it wasn’t for structural racism and its conduit in the form of police officer Derek Chauvin.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis, Minnesota—the site of George Floyd Square, which has been created around the place where he was murdered. As we pulled up to the Square and I got out of the back seat of my Lyft, a group of preschool students ambled in front of me, hands clasped together bravely passing through the memorial to George that spills out of the street and onto the sidewalk.  On the pavement that stretched out beside the children were a seemingly endless list of names of people who had been sacrificed on the altar of American white supremacy.  These tender children’s feet trod on the many frustrations and aspirations of activists who had inscribed their beliefs onto the sidewalk—graffiti that declared, “Black Lives Matter,” “Viva la Revolución,” “Rest in Power George,” and, “We march, y’all mad. We sit down y’all mad. We speak up, y’all mad. We die y’all silent.” And looming in front of these young scholars was the Cup Foods grocery store—the very spot in front of which George had taken his last breath—cordoned off with barricades painted with handprints (the kind you make in preschool) and colorful text that seemed to take on a sacred significance: “Stop the Violence,” and “The People United, Will Never Be Divided.”

I stood there weeping, in a state of confusion, as I took in the incomprehensible contrast of these vibrant multiracial fledglings passing through a horrific murder scene where a Black man asked for his mom and pleaded for his life before being choked to death by the weight of system that bore down on a white officer’s shoulders as he pressed his knee into the man’s windpipe. 

My overwhelm and bewilderment were pierced by a few razor-tipped thoughts — these young people deserve to grow up; they deserve to live a full and joyful life; and they deserved to be told the truth by their teachers about where they had walked that day.

Lawmakers in 11 states–Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Utah–see it differently.  In these states they have decided that children are better off if we deceive them and have passed legislation that attempts to ban the teaching of structural racism.  They would prefer the children who pass through George Floyd Square muffle the sounds of his labored breathing—which still seemed to echo in the street as I stood there—by raising their voice to unquestioningly pledge themselves to America, with liberty and justice for all. These distinguished public servants envision a world where when children look down at the writing on the sidewalk and inquire of their teacher, “What does ‘Rest in Power George’ mean?” the teacher replies, “It means the people love the great founding father of our nation George Washington, who could never tell a lie.”

On one level, I can understand the impulse to lie to kids about America; the truth about the atrocities of this nation, to borrow from James Baldwin, are more terrible than anything anyone has ever said about it. I don’t delight in the recounting to youth the destruction this country has wrought on the dispossessed.

But standing there watching these young scholars disappear down the street, I knew—at a level that seemed to be much deeper than just the intellect—that as painful as this memorial was, and as painful as American history is, these students deserved to see it.  They deserved to see it because they deserve to know the immense joy of the comradeship that comes from struggling against racism and oppression.  They deserve to see it because they have a right to know about the exhilarating stories of their ancestors whose creativity and ingenuity achieved beauty despite the ugliness of anti-Blackness. They deserve the truth because it is a guide to getting free.

When the children passed, I sat on one of the benches that activists had erected at the memorial and worked on summoning the courage to approach the spot where George died. After some time, I made my way to the flowerboxes that encircled the very spot where George’s face had been pressed into the concrete.  Painted where George’s body had lay, was a striking image of blue spirit emerging from radiant yellow and white light and the words, “I Can❤️Breath, I Can❤️Breath.”

I said aloud right then, “I love you George and I am going to help celebrate your life on your birthday.” I have the great fortune of organizing with the incredible educators in the Black Lives Matter at School movement and we have been planning a National Day of Action to #TeachTruth about structural racism on George Floyd’s Birthday.  My commitment to George is to support this National Day of Action. 

Black Lives Matter at School is inviting educators and organizers to attend the Year of Purpose Celebration on Oct 14th at 7:30 PM EST on FB Live. 
The African American Policy Forum (AAPF) is also inviting educators K-higher ed to “What faculty need to know about censorship laws” on Oct 14th at 3 PM EST. They also created a toolkit to support people participating. Educators can sign up to share what lesson they will teach on the day of action here. 

Below are suggestions for ways that educators, parents, students and community members can join the October 14th National #TeachTruth Day of Action and join us in celebrating the life of George Floyd.

George Floyd, Presente!

Call To Action for the October 14th National Day of Action

October 14th National #TeachTruth Day of Action 

On George Floyd’s Birthday–October 14th–we will teach the truth about structural racism and other forms of oppression.

Why We Must Act Now: 

As of September 25th, 2021, there are eleven states — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Utah — that have passed restrictions on racial justice education in public K-12 schools. To date, at least two dozen other states have introduced legislation that would require teachers to lie to students about structural racism and other forms of oppression.  

The Call to Action: 

As a kickoff to the 2021-2022 “Black Lives Matter at School Year of Purpose,” we call on you to join a national day of action to #TeachTruth about structural racism and oppression on Thursday, October 14, 2021 (George Floyd’s birthday). This day of action is co-sponsored by the African American Policy Forum and endorsed by the Zinn Education Project (a project of Rethinking Schools and Teaching for Change), National Education Association, Alliance for Quality Education, NYU Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, and NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

Educators can sign up to share what lesson they will teach on the day of action here. 

We realize that educators, especially in the eleven states that already have adopted laws or resolutions to silence educators addressing structural racism and oppression, could face disciplinary action by participating in this day of action. 

We call on educators to design and deliver instruction on the Day of Action to teach students about racist actions and their consequences in our country.  In some places, we recognize that the only safe way for educators to participate in the Day of Action will be by way of providing that instruction outside the school building and outside the school day.  For that reason, we urge educators to work with their colleagues and union representatives in planning their participation in the Day of Action.

We call on all educators who favor truth, racial justice, and equity to publicly declare that they will teach lessons about structural racism and oppression.

Educators should know that the National Education Association has an important Know Your Rights resource for NEA members that gives some background and legal information that educators should consider when participating in this action.  As the NEA states, 

If you are advised that the measure in your state prohibits instructing students honestly, and you decide to continue to provide that instruction and are disciplined for doing so: Your local and state affiliate can defend you through the NEA UniServ and Unified Legal Services Program. NEA is strongly committed to ensuring that teachers who teach the truth, and do so with the support of their state and local affiliates, are defended in any and all such matters.

Additionally, on Tuesday, July 6, 2021 the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said, “Mark my words: Our union will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history. We have a legal defense fund ready to go. Teaching the truth is not radical or wrong. Distorting history and threatening educators for teaching the truth is what is truly radical and wrong.” 

There are many lessons, teaching activities, and resources to support this national day of action.  

Suggestions for Educators, Parents, Students, and Organizers

Educators: 

● Publicly declare your intent to teach antiracist lessons here by filling out this form  

  • Wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or an all black shirt

Parents: 

  • Speak to your local school board about why you want your children to be taught authentic US history in school
  • Reach out to your local representatives and make sure they know that you support #TeachTruth in your children’s school
  • Plan a lesson using the materials above that you can share with your children
  • Wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or an all black shirt

Students:

  •  Speak to your local school board about why you want your teachers to teach authentic US history and current event 
  • Wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or an all black shirt
  • Post a video on Tik Tok or IG saying what learning about authentic history means to you
  • Work with your teacher to prepare a lesson that decolonizes the curriculum

Instagram tags:

@zinneducationproject | @blmatschool | @aapolicyforum | @neatoday 

Twitter tags: 

@ZinnEdProject | @BLMAtSchool | @AAPolicyForum | @NEAToday

Main Hashtag:

#TeachTruth

Additional Hashtags:

#TruthBeTold

#CRT

#CallYourReps

#WeWontLie

#TeachVotingRights

#TeachClimateJustice

Organizers at Black Lives Matter at School know that protest and civil disobedience has long played a vital role in struggles for social justice–from Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat, to the student lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina, to the Freedom Riders who defied state laws that segregated public transportation.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his famous Letter From A Birmingham Jail, “One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

It is our responsibility to teach the truth and we will not be bullied into lying to children about racism and oppression.  Already, over 6,250 educators around the country have signed the #TeachTruth pledge—and now it’s time to act. Join the #TeachTruth movement and the Black Lives Matter at School Year of Purpose to defend antiracist education!

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