SEATTLE -- More than 700 Seattle public school teachers will wear 'Black Lives Matters' T-shirts next Wednesday (Oct. 18) to bring the national conversation about social injustice to the classroom.
The unprecedented action by educators in Seattle was sparked by an event that happened last month at John Muir elementary school. At that event, an organization made up of black men welcomed students to the school. The building and district received threats, and the event was officially canceled. However, community members continued with it anyway.
Since that day, Seattle Education Association unanimously voted to endorse a district-wide demonstration of solidarity and affirmation that Black Lives Matter in Seattle Public Schools to be held on October 19.
"For Black lives to matter, they also have to matter at school," says Jesse Hagopian, Garfield High School teacher and community organizer. "I'm proud of my educator colleagues across Seattle who voted unanimously at the union meeting to affirm our Black students who are confronted with a school-to-prison-pipeline, disproportionate discipline, a dearth of culturally relevant curriculum, and state violence."
"We must be bold in addressing racism. If we meter our responses in catering to white fragility, we will always heel towards the status quo of white supremacy," says Ian Golash, Chief Sealth High School teacher.
As Mark Lilly, Instructional Assistant and leader of Bembe Olele Afro-Cuban Dance Company, states, "This is our opportunity to leverage the power of public education showing the world community that when faced with oppression, social justice, right action and compassion are the chosen response."
The message is more than words on a shirt. In addition to wearing the Black Lives Matter t-shirts, educators are doing teach-ins, presenting Black Lives Matter Curriculum, supporting student activism and leadership, and organizing with community members.
The "Black Lives Matter to Educators" event will culminate with a rally on October 19th at Washington Hall (153 14th Avenue Seattle, Washington 98122) from 6-8pm. This event will feature educators, parents, students, and activists discussing their vision for supporting Black lives at school. The event will also feature, musicians, poets, and Grammy award winning artist, Kimya Dawson.