Why the Black Lives Matter Movement is Vital for Us All

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The Caucus of Working Educator’s Racial Justice Committee is planning a Black Lives Matter week for Philadelphia schools beginning January 23rd. The purpose of the week is girded in the 13 guiding principles that extend Black Lives Matter into a movement. Each protest must transform action into change. We are living in a pivotal time. A time when the United States has turned a mirror upon itself to reveal her true nature. This nature has reaped increased mass incarceration, poverty, non-affordable housing, income disparity, constant homophobia, unfair immigration laws, gender inequality, and poor access to healthcare. All of these injustices exist in the intersection of race, class and gender.

As teachers, we are preparing our students to make decisions in a world that continues to spin with the aforementioned knitting together the tapestry in which we all must exist. This is why our Black Lives Matter week is a vital action. It is one that will empower each of us and our students to know that it is possible to eradicate these ills by actively engaging in the truth and never being afraid to share it, even when it is unpopular. If society continues to marginalize, murder,  and devalue Black and Brown lives, then there is little hope for America to ever reach her fullest potential.

Our week of action is grounded in the 13 Guiding Principles of Black Lives Matter.

Restorative Justice is the commitment to build a beloved and loving community that is sustainable and growing.  Empathy is one’s ability to connect with others by building relationships built on mutual trust and understanding. Loving Engagement is the commitment to practice justice, liberation and peace. Diversity is the celebration and acknowledgment of differences and commonalities across cultures. Globalism is our ability to see how we are impacted or privileged within the Black global family that exists across the world in different regions. Transgender Affirming is the commitment to continue to make space for our trans brothers and sisters by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-antagonistic violence. Queer Affirming is working towards a queer-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists. Collective Value means that all Black lives, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location matter. Intergenerational is a space free from ageism where we can learn from each other.  Black Families creates a space that is family friendly and free from patriarchal practices.  Black Villages is the disruption of Western nuclear family dynamics and a return to the “collective village” that takes care of each other. Black Women is the building of women-centered spaces free from sexism, misogyny, and male-centeredness.  Unapologetically Black is the affirmation that Black Lives Matter and that our love, and desire for justice and freedom are prerequisites for wanting that for others. These principles are the blueprint for healing and do not include nor do they support ignoring or sanitizing the ugliness and discomfort that comes with dealing with race and anti-race issues.

The constant rhetoric that believes that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not support the Black Lives Matter movement if he were alive today is very unaware of his teachings and writings. He wrote, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,” along with, “All men are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality.” In other words none of us are free if one of us is not. No law is just when it unjustly punishes some and spares others. No movement can move without individuals making tracks in the trenches until the blemishes are pushed into the light.

This week is about all of these things. It is an opportunity for us to infuse fresh understanding and critical intellect into everything we touch. In closing, I will evoke the wisdom of bell hooks, “When we only name the problem, when we state complaint without a constructive focus or resolution, we take hope away. In this way critique can become merely an expression of profound cynicism, which then works to sustain dominator culture.” This is the week that we name it, and this is our opportunity to build real sustainable solutions that can stretch across today and tomorrow.   

For more information on the campaign view the Week of Action calendar of events, lesson resources, and FAQs page. If you are interested in organizing around the campaign at your school or with your community organization, please complete this form. To pick up t-shirts, buttons, and stickers for your school and communities, come to the kick-off Happy Hour on Wednesday, Jan.18 (4:30-6:30) at South Kitchen & Jazz Parlor (600 N. Broad St. 19130). Email BLMPHLed@gmail.com for more information

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What Makes Professional Development Worthwhile

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On January 3rd, we joined teachers from all over the school district for the 3rd annual Philly Collaboration of Educators.  Caucus members leading sessions on immigration justice, racial justice, using restorative justice in the classroom, and educating in a climate of political change.  We were able to share resources, ideas for our classrooms and schools, and ways of bringing new topics to our students.  These workshops arose from deep organizing that is a part of building social movements, participation in summer book groupsfacilitation of inquiry to action groups organized by Teacher Action Group - Philadelphia, and daily conversations with fellow educators in our buildings. 

In our current system, professional development often arises from a top-down system that reflects a a deep need of student and teacher voices.  This constant work of reclaiming professional development means that we take ownership of the time that we spend and the content of our focus as we grow as teachers to our students, commit ourselves to reflective practice in our communities of colleagues, and leaders in our schools.  This is not a one time event - rather, it is a campaign to sustain autonomy over what we teach and learn in our classrooms. We can't wait to see you at the next one. 

Join us for the Black Lives Matter Week of Action, as we continue to reclaim space in our schools for dialogue and learning that reflects the 13 principles of the Black Lives Matter movement and takes social movements back into our schools in Philadelphia.
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Philly Educators Plan Black Lives Matter Week of Action

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“I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” - James Baldwin

After a very tumultuous election, it is time to remind ourselves that our classrooms should be incubators for critical observation and conversation in order to create a space for change. Change is never easy and the state of flux that it embodies is often difficult and met with fear. But, change is necessary when a large portion of our American society are constantly marginalized and persecuted. In 2012, Trayvon Martin was gunned down by George Zimmerman and the victim was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Zimmerman was acquitted.

“The call for Black lives to matter is a rallying cry for ALL Black lives striving for liberation.” - #BlackLivesMatter web page

Philadelphia continues to be a city plagued by some of the highest levels of poverty, unemployment, and violence. The Racial Justice Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators is organizing a week highlighting the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter Movement in order to continue purposeful action against the adverse outcomes derived from perpetual structural racism evident in public education and our society as a whole.

The week will begin on January 23rd, a day that we are asking that educators across the city join us in wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts and buttons.  There will be events throughout the week, as well as curriculum resources for daily lesson plans and activities based upon the 13 Guiding Principles of Black Lives Matter. As we get closer to the week, resources and the calendar of events will be posted at workingeducators.org/racial-justice.

If you are interested in learning more or organizing around the campaign at your school or with your community organization, please complete the form, and join us at our Monthly Organizing Meeting on January 10th from 4:30 to 6:30.  The meeting will be held at KCAPA (1901 N. Front St.). We welcome events from teachers, community organizations, and parents.

For more information on the campaign view the calendar of events and visit our FAQs page. Email BLMPHLed@gmail.com for more information.

Also, please join the Philadelphia Black History Collaborative on January 20th for a fundraiser for their upcoming conference.  More information on the event can be found on event page.

We hope that you will join us as we collectively assert the value of Black lives in our schools and communities.

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PHLed Immigration Justice Updates

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Want to support students and families, and get involved in the fight for immigration justice in Philly and beyond? Here are some opportunities and resources:

[Want to add an event, or join the Caucus of Working Educators' Immigration Justice Committee? Email us at contact@workingeducators.org]

Upcoming Immigration Justice Events:

  • Philadelphia Sanctuary District Petition:http://tinyurl.com/PhillySchoolSanctuary

  • Sanctuary in the Streets Trainings (sponsored by New Sanctuary Movement): To sign up, email maria@sanctuaryphiladelphia.org www.sanctuaryphiladelphia.org  Sunday 1/8/17 1-5pm West Philly & 2/12 1-5pm South Philly

  • Community Forum with SDP Office of Multilingual Families: Jan 17th, 5:30 - 7:00, 440 N. Broad, Contact: lsoderman@philasd.org

  • City of Philadelphia Community Town Hall Supporting Philly Immigrant Students: Tues 1/24/17 6-7:30pm Community College of Philadelphia Bonnell Bldg, 1700 Spring Garden St, entrance between Spring Garden & Callowhill on N 17th); for more info contact Councilmember Helen Gym 215-686-3420

  • The People’s Inauguration (Sponsored by New Sanctuary Movement): Jan 20th, 2pm-2:30pm, location tbd

  • PHLed Black Lives Matter Week of Action: 1/23-1/27/17 Complete program available at: bit.ly/BLMPHLed

  • Immigration Justice Inquiry to Action Group (ItAG): ItAG Kickoff on Feb 16th http://tagphilly.org/announcing-tags-2017-inquiry-to-action-groups/

  • Aquinas Center immigration related activities in January and February: A workshop in Bahasa Indonesia on ITIN renewals, a deportation defense training in Spanish, and an info session on a cross-cultural immersion trip to Mexico that will take place in May 2017. Contact Britt at Advocacy@staquinas.com for specific details.

  • Philadelphia Diversity Conference: May 13th at La Salle University
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Get ELECTED: Run our schools, Run our city, Run for office!

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There's no better way to welcome in 2017 than by committing to be part of the political change we are seeking to effect within the district, the city, and the state. 

This week, the Caucus of Working Educators Political Committee will be launching its year-long drive to get Philly educators and our allies to commit to running for Democratic Committee Person in the 2018 Primaries, so that we can start influencing how our schools are run by infiltrating the gears of the Political Machine that runs Philly.

These are 4-year elected positions that do not involve a lot of time but are integral to making the city function. All that you need to do in order to run is live in the City of Philadelphia. We will help you do the rest and get your name on the ballot!

It's time we STOPPED electing politicians who simply pay us lip service and time we started voting for OURSELVES.

IT'S TIME TO START FLEXING OUR TRUE POLITICAL MUSCLE.

Please take a moment to fill in the following survey so that, together, we can be the change we seek: https://goo.gl/DZ05eh

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Our Work and What Comes Next

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On November 19, the Caucus of Working Educators brought together PFT members and a wide range of allies to ask what educators, union members, and communities could do to champion schools and justice in the shadow of a newly-elected Presidential administration: “Organizing is the Answer.” WE’s 3rd annual convention was a day of building skills and highlighting winning campaigns with workshops organized by educators and union leaders from all over the country.

What exactly did we do and learn?

Jia Lee from the MORE Caucus of the UFT of New York—along with representatives of BMORE, NJCORE, and the Korean Teachers Union (KTU)—spoke of the ongoing challenges and philosophical penetration of advancing the fight for equity and justice in unions as well as through society-at-large. This event also hosted a number of breakout sessions on organizing within school buildings and local communities, as well as plans for successful issue campaigns and developing new union leaders. These were led by regional labor and community advocates from PASNAP, 215 People’s Alliance, Parents United, Labor Notes, and unions from higher education.

What are the next steps? How can you answer the call for organizing within the PFT, the city, the important causes of the day? Where can you get involved?

Start by joining us on Tuesday, December 13, at Kensington CAPA High School (1901 N. Front St, Philadelphia, 19122) in room 209 at 4:00 p.m. for WE’s Monthly Organizing Meeting. We’ll be discussion action plans for continuing to support the PFT’s contract negotiations with the District, protesting Pat Toomey’s campaign against sanctuary cities, developing special District-wide Black Lives Matter curriculum and events for January, abolishing the School Reform Commission, and more.

 

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Why We Fight For 15

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Yesterday, in the evening rain, we were arrested while advocating for a $15 hourly minimum wage. We stood alongside home care workers, uber drivers, fast food employees, and allies from across the city.

You might be asking: why would high school teachers put themselves on the line for this issue? The answer is simple: workers making minimum wage are also the parents of the students we teach. 

At the current minimum wage of $7.25, if those parents work 40 hours a week, they take home a mere $267.80 after taxes -- not enough to cover the needs of a single person, much less a family. If they begin to work double or triple shifts -- as many fast food workers do -- they become absent from the lives of their own children. And with Philadelphia schools already short on resources, they then have neither the time nor money to support their children’s education the way middle-class families can afford to.

Our concern is not only for our students -- it is for all workers in our city. 
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Bringing Black Lives Matter to Philly Schools in January

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What is the legacy of our city? As the cradle of liberty, the birthplace of the nation, Philadelphia has a tradition of facing injustice with protest, dissent, and community.

“Injustice anywhere is threat to justice everywhere”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last year, the Caucus of Working Educators wrote a Racial Justice Statement in response to the stark inequalities that still exist within our local and greater community that resulted in the murders of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police officers, unchecked mass incarceration, and the ongoing shuttering and defunding of public schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods. As unionized educators, we have a moral obligation to affirm that Black lives matter.

With this in mind, the Caucus of Working Educators is planning a week of activities and teaching informed by the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.  

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WE will be organizing

It has always been a mission of the Caucus of Working Educators to stand for social justice both in public education as well as the larger community.  In spite of the surprising news that came with yesterday’s election results, we remain steadfast in our mission.

organize-resist-anonymous-revolt-communism-che-guevara-acab-revolution-t-shirt-21ac8e1627049c8d0d9d0c32549adead.jpgWE will fight for the rights of unions to exist and for workers to fight for fair salaries and working conditions.  WE will continue to oppose the school-to-prison pipeline.  WE will stand with our immigrant students, and respect their rights to a decent education and livelihood.  WE will demand that our students are free from violence in their schools and in the communities where they live.  WE will fight to have our LGBTQ student population’s rights and dignity respected.  WE will ensure that students of color receive equal treatment to their white peers.

WE will continue to fight for educational and socioeconomic justice within and beyond our school walls.  WE will never tolerate anything less than what is best for our students, our city, and our profession.

No matter what comes, WE will be right here. WE will be organizing.

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Here's what "Down Ticket" Means and Why it Matters in PA

Three weeks away from election day, virtually every major poll has both the state of Pennsylvania and the country as a whole going Democrat for the presidential election.

In response to this, many potential voters and volunteers are asking: Does my effort really matter this year? This presidential election season has been exceptionally contentious. And many voters have mixed feelings about even heading to the polls after such a contentious primary season.

However, to focus exclusively on the presidential election ignores the vast majority of seats, and political realities, that will be decided on November 8th. Even though the national race grabs media attention -- it is the local races that need you to turn out and vote!  

Here are just a few “down ticket” races in around the city and state that will be decided by handfuls of votes:

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