Forward together. Not one step back.

2016-Lincoln_Howard

Our fight for public education is only good if we fight for social justice. – Denisha Jones, SOS, United Opt Out, BATs, DEY, Howard University

Closing schools is a hate crime. – Irene Robinson, Dyett Hunger Strike

When you undermine the dreams of the children, you undermine the future.- Rev. Barber II

The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is right now. – Tanaisa Brown, student organizer from Chicago (quoting a Chinese proverb)

Even if we don’t succeed in righting the moral wrong, the children have to see us trying. – Rev. Barber II

IMG_4798 (1)

The BATs swarmed in – ready to march!

My head and heart are spinning as I reflect on the overwhelming weekend in Washington D.C. – the Peoples March and Rally on Friday, the Save Our Schools Coalition for Action conference at Howard University on Saturday, and the organizing meeting on Sunday morning. Folks came from all over the country–Seattle, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, New York, Florida, California, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Connecticut and more.

IMG_4845

Jitu Brown ‘s keynote at Howard University

The rally began on the Friday morning – as the news of the Dallas police shootings was still emerging.  As the weekend unfolded, one thing became crystal clear.  Our work to bring well-funded, high-quality schools to every neighborhood is inextricably connected to social justice, economic inequality, poverty, and racism. We can not work in silos in our efforts to reclaim public schools. Jitu Brown, the National Director for the Journey for Justice Alliance explained that we are working on many of the symptoms of the problem but we are not working on the root of the problem. “The virus is white supremacy.” And he is so right. Our country’s historic and systemic racism and the inter-generational trauma that it imposes on people of color – including the white supremacy of corporate capitalism – is the beast that we have to confront and push back against. That is the work of white people in our country today.

IMG_4690For DEY it means expanding our work on poverty, which has the greatest impact on the youngest children. And continuing our work on the growing issue of preschool and kindergarten suspensions – which overwhelmingly effect young black and brown boys. It means more white people must stop talking and begin listening to people of color. It also means getting more involved in local elections to help shift the power.  For me, personally, it will also involve having intentional conversations about this with my white colleagues (other teachers). And in my home, it is having honest conversations about all of this with my two sons – 12-year-old white males.

This year, the Save Our Schools Coalition weekend was set up so that children were invited and involved. And it was a brilliant move on the part of the organizers. Students as young as 12 spoke at the rally and presented at the conference.(You must check out Asean Johnson from the Chicago Student Union on this video) High school students from Boston shared how they expertly organized student walkouts to protest budget cuts and how they are helping the campaign in Massachusetts to #KeeptheCap on charter schools. Even younger children marched, listened, made signs, sang, and inspired us. They are the future and they keep us grounded. They are watching, listening, and learning. And as Rev. Barber II said, if we don’t succeed, “the children have to see us trying.” Amen.

BPSatSOS2016

Student organizers from Boston Public Schools present at Howard University

For those of you who could not make it to DC, please know that the speeches from Friday and many of the sessions from the conference were live streamed and are available to view on schoolhouselive.org. For me, to have shared the stage with the likes of Rev. Barber II, Jitu Brown, Jesse Hagopian, Julian Vasquez Heilig, Asean Johnson, Irene Robinson, the DC Labor Chorus and so many more on such an historic weekend is something I will never forget. Diane Ravitch and Jonathan Kozol were there, as well. They are all champions for the cause.

DianeRSOS2016

Diane Ravitch addresses the crowd

Forward together. Not one step back.

#BlackLivesMatter #PeoplesMarch16

 

Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin

DEY Co-Director/teacher/mother

 

SOS2016

DEY’s Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin and Denisha Jones address the crowd. You can hear DEY, and everyone, here at schoolhouselive.org . Photo credit Susan Ochshorn.

 

The Incredible NPE Experience

Last weekend the Network for Public Education (NPE) hosted their second annual national conference. It was, to say the least, an inspiring experience. About six hundred activists from around the country gathered in Chicago to share ideas, resources, success and struggles. What an honor to mix and mingle with all of these warriors in the fight to reclaim public education. As NPE says, “We are many. There is power in our numbers. Together we will save our school.”

If you were not able to attend, the keynotes and many of the sessions were live-streamed. These videos are becoming available at the NPE website. Please, do not miss NPE President Diane Ravitch in conversation with Chicago Teacher’s Union President Karen Lewis who closed out the conference; Tanaisa Brown and Jitu Brown who gave the inspiring opening remarks that set the tone for the next few days; Yong Zhao from MIT, who was hilarious as well as brilliant; and Diane Ravitch in conversation with NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia and AFT’s Randi Weingarten.

Afterwards, Diane Ravitch wrote, “The keynotes were wonderful. The panels were led by activists sharing what they had learned. Most of them had overflow crowds. One in particular was especially enlightening–Jesse Hagopian’s discussion of the racist history of standardized testing, accompanied by Rita Green, the Director of Education for the Seattle NAACP, which has endorsed the opt-out movement. Green told the audience that the NAACP locals do not share the enthusiasm of the national organization for standardized testing. The room for that session was packed, with audience members sitting on the floor and lining the walls.”

Here is the video of the outstanding discussion featuring Seattle teacher-leader Jesse Hagopian and Rita Greene, education director of the Seattle NAACP.

There is way too much to write about here – however if you search Twitter using the hashtag #NPEChicago you will find a wealth of information and inspiration.

Our Defending the Early Years session was fantastic – we heard from folks from across the country who shared their stories. We heard many, many thanks for the resources we have been providing. These resources are helping educators and parents defend good classroom practices for young children. We took notes on what more is needed – and these notes will help us formulate some of our next steps. For sure, one next step is to start translating our resources into Spanish. Our DEY session was live streamed and when the video becomes available we will let you know.

And in other great news…the plans for next year’s NPE conference are already in the works! And if you can’t wait that long…join the BAT’s Teacher Congress in Washington, D.C. July 22 – July 26th.

Onward!