For a week in January, nearly 100 Philadelphia teachers taught lessons and held activities based on the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The action was organized by the Caucus of Working Educators, a group within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, but not sanctioned by the School District of Philadelphia. Participation was voluntary. Among the schools that took part were the Franklin Learning Center, the U School, and Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School.
The week started Jan. 23, when organizers and supporters sported Black Lives Matter T-shirts in the streets and classrooms. Throughout the week, teachers in various classes from science to art discussed topics aligned with the movement, and the Caucus of Working Educators organized events around the city that encouraged conversation among different community members. The events were inspired by and grounded in the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement, such as women empowerment, intergenerational families, and globalism.
Serafina Harris, a student at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School, said that “[The week] allows the subcommunities to come together in a way that they would not have [otherwise], and that is very exciting.”
Catherine Khella, a science teacher at Franklin Learning Center, said her students planned self-love workshops, family activities, lunch-time discussions, and poetry events throughout the week.
The week of activities did spark criticism, and the District did not grant media access to schools to observe the activities. But parent organizer and Caucus member Tamara Anderson said the week was necessary to “make space for conversations and debate centering around race and racial justice.”
With a new U.S. president and controversial new policies, Anderson said that she hopes the Caucus will provide a safe and open area for conversation in Philadelphia.
“We need to make a new normal – to combine all our differences into something real,” she said.
“We need to uplift our Black and Brown students, but do so in a way that benefits everyone.”