Across the country, people are coming together to dismantle systemic racism in healthcare, schools, communities, and policing—and rightfully so amid racial and transphobia violence, the loss of life due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the systemic inequalities that the virus has magnified in communities of color. NEA is tackling these problems and others with a series of virtual camp sessions called, “Summer Justice Series: Building a Community of Love, Power and Liberation.
Organized into three virtual sessions, involving over 30 dynamic workshops and events, the first session will kick off with a welcome event on Monday, June 29 at 5:00 p.m. ET/2:00 p.m. PT., where participants will come together to recharge, deepen connections, and organize for the public schools and communities we all deserve.
On the 29th, registered participants will be treated to a special opening by renowned comedian and actress Kym Whitley, followed by a discussion on addressing anti-Blackness and achieving educational freedom with author and researcher Dr. Bettina Love. The event will close with a dance party with world-renowned DJ Kemit.
The full Summer Justice Series, which will take place the week of July 13 and August 3, will explore innovative strategies to spark change while also taking time to experience healing and joy. Art and music, storytelling, creative organizing approaches, and interactive discussions will be the main drivers to help participants deepen their knowledge and commit themselves to social justice work.
“[This] is of critical importance right now because this is a moment of considerable uncertainty and anxiety,” says Gerardo Muñoz, a high school social studies teacher in Denver, Colo. “From a global pandemic that laid bare educational inequities and institutional oppression (which we have ignored for decades) to uprisings against law enforcement and invisibility, this conference, for me, pushes all the traditional boundaries in school,” adding that “we need this space as a space for reflection, affirmation, healing, and organizing in this critical year.”
Muñoz and Kevin Adams, also a Denver high school social studies teacher, are the creators and hosts of the podcast “Too Dope Teachers and a Mic.” The duo will introduce Dr. Bettina Love, the keynote speaker for the welcoming session. Love is an award-winning author and associate professor of educational theory and practice at the University of Georgia. She is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers in the area of Hip Hop education. Love’s latest book is “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom,” and is considered a “must-read” for educators.
“Artistic expression is the highest form of human expression,” says Muñoz. “To capture emotion, spirituality, and intellect in a creative way is what we should all aspire to. Art brings us a sense of community and solidarity. Art reminds us that we are not alone. Artistic and creative expression is what makes us human. And this moment is about fighting for the humanity of Black students, teachers, and communities.”
While the space will bring people together to find meaningful solutions to uproot systemic racism in every facet of society, the sessions will also examine tough questions that all educators should be asking themselves:
- Does our practice, from top to bottom, reflect the belief that #BlackLivesMatter?
- How do we treat Black, Indigenous, and people of color in our classrooms?
- What core assumptions, explicit or implicit, do we harbor about Black students and their families and communities?
- Do our disciplinary practices support the idea that Black Lives Matter? Does the curriculum? Does the school building? Does the teaching staff?
“If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these questions, we must take steps to address our deficits, even if they just seem like small ones,” shares Muñoz. “Try to pronounce a name correctly, practice it and get better. Smile and tell every student who arrives late to your class that you are happy to see them. Take an interest in your students’ interests.”
About the Series
The impacts of the pandemic and violence against Indigenous, Black, brown and LGBTQ communities has the nation thinking about what it means to be a community, how much harder we need to work to end systemic injustices, and the value of our public spaces and services to ensure our health, safety and ability to thrive.
The Summer Justice Series will help lead participants to wide open spaces where a collective vision for education justice can emerge.
“I hope that teachers walk away realizing that taking action is a simple act of revolution,” shares Muñoz. “Revolutionaries act quickly and intelligently to meet the needs of their communities by disrupting oppressive systems around them. Simple acts have ignited larger movements, from the emergence of the #BlackLivesMatter and Undocumented and Unafraid to the grassroots efforts to better educate for justice through initiatives in Seattle and beyond.”
He adds, “The most important thing teachers can walk away with from this conference is the sense that they, too, can make meaningful change in the lives of their students and students’ communities.”
Find past episodes of “Too Dope Teachers and a Mic” at mistermunoz.org, and explore today’s most pressing topics, such as “I Don’t Remember Anyone Asking Me,” where Gerardo Muñoz and Kevin Adams sit with three Denver-area high school students to get their take on Remote Learning in spring 2020.
RSVP today for the June 29 kick-off to the Summer Justice Series: Building a Community of Love, Power & Liberation—and be sure to follow on social media Dr. Bettina Love, @BLoveSoulPower; DJ Kimet, @DJKemit; and Too Dope Teachers, @TooDopeTeachers.