AFT Convention 2020: Black Lives Matter Panel

Education was at the forefront of the AFT Convention 2020’s Black Lives Matter Panel on July 29.

Joining American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, who served as moderator, were the Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, New York Democratic congressional nominee Jamaal Bowman, Minneapolis NAACP President Leslie Redmond and longtime New York teacher Sari Beth Rosenberg.

Here are some of the panelists’ comments:

Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King: “We’ve got to find a way to create new curriculum. … Part of the problem is that we have left out some critical parts of who we are as America. A lot of who we are as blacks in America in terms of our contributions to this nation — things that we have built, things that we have invented, the true stories of, you know, the black Wall Street — all of that kind of stuff is missing out of our history. And if we can raise up new generations of people who understand and value the contributions of all citizens of America, I think it’s one of the ways we can begin to do away with systemic racism.”

Jamaal Bowman: “K to 12, anti-racist, anti-hate curriculum has to be implemented in every school in this country. As a black man in America, I did not learn about my history in public schools. I had to go outside of public schools to learn about my history, to learn about my culture. And in doing so, I was able to increase my self-esteem and self-worth within this country.

“It’s very important also to not just talk about the African American experience in this country and our contributions in this country. It’s very important for us to connect to the African diaspora and the black diaspora throughout the world.”

Sari Beth Rosenberg: “Education, hands down, is the most valuable tool to dismantle racism. … New York State made a commitment to infusing, adopting [a] culturally responsive, sustainable education model into the curriculum — not just history curriculum, in all curriculum. … We need to talk about decolonizing curriculum across the board, and it’s going to look different ways in different classes.”Leslie Redmond: “What I would urge teachers and people who have impact on policy is take courageous steps … listen to black people, listen to black leaders, listen to black women. Because too often, we think that we know what’s best for the black community versus allowing the black community to actually show you that one, we’ve experienced racism and white supremacy for over 400 years, and we know exactly what it looks like and exactly how to deal with it.”