Four years ago, I had my fifth-grade students choose a service-learning project. A few of my Black boys wanted to work on improving student engagement by increasing the number of Black male teachers in schools. We used the base question, “when did you have your first Black male teacher?” Surprisingly I was many of the students’ first Black male teacher.
One of the service projects was to write a letter to your state representative. A few of my students reached out to then Rep. Valencia Stovall who became the first sponsor of the Annual Black Male Educator Appreciation Day at the Georgia State Capitol.
We began this grassroots effort through the inspiration of the work organizations such as the Center for Black Educators Development and Profound Gentlemen are doing. We set out to engage Black fathers, teachers, leaders and students in educational advocacy.
The BME awareness campaign is based on helping build the vision of Dr. King’s Beloved Community. Grassroots organizing centered on education as the foundation of the Beloved Community.
In Georgia, one of the coalitions I’m building is around literacy specifically with engaging non-profit and education-based organizations that support fathers and males to raise children. I’m working with organizations in Georgia such as BOOK ATL, Young Men Rising and others to dispel the myth that Black males aren’t engaged in the fight for educational equity.
Grassroots organizing has many strategies. My recommendation is to always start with the basic belief of meeting people where they are.
For more resources see our NPU Parent Tool Kit.
Our Fight for Literacy Is the Fight to Tell Our Stories
Black history month is the perfect time to lift every voice for literacy!
If we don’t lift our voices now with the intense CRT battles, book bans and the constant erasure of school libraries, teachers won’t be able to hang up Black history posters, let alone pass out books for storytelling time.
If we don’t stand up and demand our stories are told, future generations will think we are only slaves!
The lack of cultural literacy is the backbone behind the opposition to CRT, book bans and movements to defund school libraries. Cultural literacy is vital because it allows for cultural inclusion and diversity which positively impacts students’ learning.
Literacy is our most urgent call to action in the battle for educational equity. When we reflect on Carter G. Woodson and his goal for Black History Week, he wanted Black students to be able to understand the power in developing, writing and telling their stories. Not just the part of the story that includes slavery, but the parts that are too often left out about how we are inventors and creatives.
If our children don’t have access to a school library, a classroom library with books about Ruby Bridges, Garret A. Morgan or the evolution of Hip Hop then they won’t know the power of their voices.
Remember, the passport to freedom is education.
Cultural literacy helps ensure that all cultures feel seen. See our December Town Hall on Literacy and School Libraries here.
Join our efforts to empower grassroots organizations telling our stories and fighting for equity in school libraries and for literacy. Email me at [email protected].