What teachers can do in a summer of racist violence…

Join the family of Eric Garner in a protest on the second anniversary of his murder by Staten Island police.

MORE Members at the March for Justice and Unity against the police murder of Eric Garner – August 2014

Our summer has been marked by violence. On June 12, the deadliest mass shooting in our nation’s history occurred, targeting LGBTQI people of color at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Abroad, we have seen a series of attacks on Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan in the cities of Baghdad, Istanbul, and Dhaka. Here in New York, on July 4th, an off duty cop fatally shot Delrawn Small during a road-rage incident. On July 5th, brutal video footage of the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge emerged online. The very next day, Philando Castile was shot by an officer during a traffic stop. The aftermath was broadcast live on social media from Minnesota. Across the country, activists have spoken out against racist police brutality, rallying on the streets, publishing statements, and organizing vigils. Tragically, in Dallas, during a peaceful protest, a lone sniper, later discovered to be a military veteran, targeted police officers on duty, killing five officers. The Dallas police detonated a bomb robot to kill the suspect.

As members of the Movement of Rank-and-File-Educators, we recognize that our students are facing traumatic events, during the summer, without many of the supports, services, and routines that schools can provide. We know that many of our students will have seen the footage of the violence, or are following the news, and are processing a multitude of emotions. Some of us are teaching summer school and are working through ways to provide our students with affirmations of love and care during this time of uncertainty.

We also realize that the violence of this summer is not happening in isolation. We are seeing increased racist, homophobic, and Islamophobic attacks. The names of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have been added to a long list of Black people killed by state violence. As educators, we see firsthand the extent to which systemic racism hurts our students. Oppressive policing, sentencing, and immigration policies, along with the lack of consistent, well-funded social work, counseling, and mental health services, all shaped by pervasive segregation and inequality in the school system harm our students. To care about our students means to take a stand about issues that directly affect their wellbeing. We stand in full solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and all movements for racial justice.

This Sunday marks the two year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner. His eldest daughter, Erica Garner, has called for a show of support. She writes, “Let’s take it to the streets for Eric Garner and demand justice!” Two years ago, MORE members formed a contingent in the March for Justice and Unity in protest of police murders of African-Americans. As the events of this summer have shown us, however, we still have much work to do. We call for our UFT brothers and sisters to join us at the march on Sunday.

The objective of MORE remains to transform the union into a force for social change. Organized labor has historically been integral for achieving improved living conditions for people of color, women, and immigrants. MORE recognizes the potential of the UFT to become a vehicle for racial equality if all members are activated and empowered. We believe in doing this work through multiple avenues: from building strong chapters on the school level that can organize for improved working conditions, to supporting political and civic actions like Sunday’s march, to challenging manifestations of systemic racism in the school system, to proposing resolutions through the executive board and delegate assembly that empower our union to protect our schools and students.

We also encourage our members to engage with this work as individuals. This summer, we are engaged in reading groups to discuss and deepen our understanding of our place as a social justice caucus within the UFT. We are reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paolo Freire, What’s Race Got to Do with It? edited by Bree Picower and Edwin Mayorga, and The Strike that Changed New York by Jerald Podair. If you are interested in joining a reading group, please reach out to Janice Manning at Jamanning118@yahoo.com.

As our members consider how the events of this summer will shape our work, we turn to educators and activists thinking about issues of race, violence, and trauma in schools. A number of educators, counselors, and activists are pooling together resources to address these issues. MORE recognizes the importance of developing antiracist curriculum, pedagogy, and practices in our schools and is committed to partnering with organizations that support this work. We are planning a social justice curriculum fair for the fall. Please contact erik.forman@gmail.com to get involved.

Many MORE members work with Teachers Unite, an organization of public educators developing restorative justice practices in schools. This summer, TU is hosting a series of summer workshops that our members and other educators may find helpful in preparing for the coming school year: http://www.teachersunite.net/content/teachers-unite-summer-workshop-series.

MORE members are also affiliated with NYCoRE, the New York Collective of Radical Educators. To educators searching for resources, we recommend following NYCoRE’s social media accounts and browsing their website for a collection of curricular resources and links. Throughout the school year, NYCoRE meets monthly and sponsors inquiry-to-action groups, covering a range of topics.

As educators in the country’s most segregated school system, comprised by over 85% students of color, MORE recognizes that the struggles for educational justice and racial justice are one and the same.

We hope to see you at the march on Sunday.


2 thoughts on “What teachers can do in a summer of racist violence…

  1. What about it was of us married to an related to police officers ?? Are we supposed to turn our backs on our family? our family has done nothing wrong! to go against police officers is wrong! to want changes right but to go against police is wrong !

  2. I’d change that picture. It was a march to protest a “murder”. ( SELF-described.) If we really believe that , why does everybody look like….. “Where’s the party?”

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