In a Zoom press conference on Jan. 25, Jesse Hagopian announced the details of the upcoming Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, which begins on Monday, Feb. 1.
Various student speakers participated in the press conference, and many decried the recent report about disturbing disciplinary measures taken against a Black 8-year-old student, Jaleel, at View Ridge Elementary in Northeast Seattle. A Seattle Schools investigation found he had been locked in an area known as “the cage” on multiple occasions.
“Black Lives Matter at school is every day, every week, and every month. Every single demand matters, every single action matters. Every single life, matters,” said Angelina Riley, a Seattle Public Schools senior, ahead of the press conference.
The organizers report that educators across the city and across the United States have pledged to wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts to class. They will also be teaching lessons addressing the 13 principles of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, as well as lessons about institutional racism, Black history and Black identity.
The guest speakers at the conference included Sebrena Burr, Seattle Council PTSA Strategic Advisor; Seattle parent and organizer Emijah Smith; Tracy Castro-Gill, executive director of Washington Ethnic Studies Now; and Gerald Hankerson, president of the NAACP’s Alaska-Oregon-Washington State Conference.
The meeting focused on four driving themes behind the week, as mentioned in the press release and in the Facebook group BLM at School Puget Sound:
“1. End Zero Tolerance discipline and implement restorative justice.
2. Hire more Black teachers
3. Black history/ethnic studies mandated K-12.
4. Fund counselors, not cops.”
“We need BLM at School during COVID-19 because being in quarantine when there was a global uprising against police brutality forced people to become aware of the systemic flaws in our world,” said high schooler Alexis Mburu, who is enrolled in the Tukwila School District.
“Whether they chose to do anything or not, there’s no excuses—you’re either on the right side or the wrong side of history. Real lives are being affected every day and now that everyone’s eyes are open, there’s no going back.”
To learn more about the Black Lives Matter at School movement, which was started in Seattle by Jesse Hagopian, see his recent opinion piece for Seattle’s Child.
This story was first published on Jan. 26, 2021.