By The Seattle Medium
On Monday, education leaders in Seattle held a press conference at the Rainier Beach Community Center to announce their new initiatives for the Black Lives Matter At School’s upcoming week of action to take place Feb. 4 – 8.
Black Lives Matter At Schools, in partnership with Seattle Public Schools, the Center for Racial Equity, the NAACP and N.Y.C (NAACP Youth Coalition) and parents of the community, is building on the nationally recognized work they began last year in bringing racism awareness and racial equity in schools around the region and nation.
During the “Week Of Action” program Black Lives At School will reintroduce their Demands as well as introduce a new curriculum, a book entitled Teaching For Black Lives for educators, students and parents about teaching ethnic and racial sensitivity, followed by a Black Lives Matters At School rally and student talent showcase.
In addition to pushing school districts to provide ethnic studies as part of their curriculum, the organization is also asking school’s administrators to recognize the need to educate and train both student and educators in “zero tolerance”, discipline and implement restorative justice in how they treat racism and systematic racism within education.
“Including Black Lives Matter At School Movement curricula in classrooms across the nation is an affirmation of the importance and power of ethnic studies,” says Tracy Castro-Gill, Ethnic Studies Program Manager for the Seattle Public Schools.
“Educators across our district have shared how their experience last year in teaching the Black Lives Matter lessons changed how they thought about Ethnic Studies and moved many educators to rethink their content and practices,” added Castro-Gill.
The organization is also promoting the hiring of more Black teachers and a “counselors not cops program” which aims to provide students of color a more positive and productive means of crisis control other than the justice system and the “pipeline to prison” as a solution through meaningful counseling.
According to Jesse Hagopian, an ethnic studies teacher at Garfield High School, racism and systematic racism has been on the rise in the Pacific Northwest in response to the present leadership in Washington D.C. and the nation’s educators are taking notice and action to combat this and provide children a leg up through learning, introducing them to the diversity in people.
“With racist hate crimes on the rise and the president who makes openly racist comments about Africa and Haiti, it is vital that we transform our education to be about uplifting Black lives undoing racism,” says Hagopian.
The Black Lives Matter At Schools Movement’s momentum is growing as its impact on the community has been fruitful.
The NAACP’s NAACP Youth Coalition has produced a growing number of young students who are taking on leadership roles as they work to bring about a more compassionate, inclusive and productive learning environment.
Israel Presley a Rainier Beach student and member of the N.Y.C believes, “this [Black Lives Matter At School Movement] is out of the need for change, Seattle struggles with making changes happen or even actually listening.”
“What I’ve noticed is a lot of times we put our voices out there, we try to say what we want, but they don’t pick up,” said Presley. “They don’t pick it up at all and I think with the Black Lives Matter At School it is a wakeup call saying ‘hey we are here, it’s time to listen, it’s time to wake up.’”
There are several events that will take place during the Week Of Action. On Mon., Feb. 4 BLM At School will gather at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall at 7:00 p.m. to introduce their new book “Teaching For Black Lives.” Weds., Feb. 6 at 4:45pm at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence BLM At School will roll out their agenda and demands and Fri., Feb. 8 at 6:00 p.m. at Cleveland High School the students will take the lead with a rally and talent showcase.
This article originally appeared in The Seattle Medium.