The events of the past week hang heavily on our hearts. We are a nation mourning a staggering loss of life to COVID; we are a nation rocked by economic hardship and financial insecurity; we are convulsed by a troubling disunity, and now we are righteously enraged by the continuing loss of Black lives to racialized violence. In all the ways we can, we must also be a nation calling for justice. Black lives matter.
When we as teachers watch media coverage of the unrest or perhaps venture out ourselves to protest, I think it’s common to say to ourselves: he was once in someone’s classroom, she was once a student, these could be the families I serve. More than other professions, we educators see and touch the whole of a community. They pass through us, and we feel them in our hearts. Education in its many forms is the vehicle by which all of us venture out from the privacy of our families to the civic society we hold in common. Teachers have responsibilities at both ends, both to mentor young people into society and to help build a society worthy of them.
I believe in the power of our network of teacher-leaders doing what we do best: stepping up as local leaders, looking to each other for inspiration and support, pushing each other to learn more so that we can do better. I believe we can be part of building a more just, more equitable future on the ground in the thousands of communities where we live.
In our projects and across the network, we can help each other do that with generous, yet demanding critical friendship. We can be a small part of the work that bends the arc of history toward justice.
At every local writing project let’s commit, now in summer 2020, to redoubling our efforts and putting our local projects and the network as a whole to work toward positive and lasting change. Let’s be clear about systemic and structural racism and opportunities for anti-racist work. Let’s get smarter about what it can mean in our classrooms and in our communities.
One last thought. We all know of the colonial laws that structured white supremacy were those restricting literacy for slaves. This one, from the South Carolina Act of 1740, is specific to our work:
Whereas, the having slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences; Be it enacted, that all and every person and persons whatsoever, who shall hereafter teach or cause any slave or slaves to be taught to write, or shall use or employ any slave as a scribe, in any manner of writing whatsoever, hereafter taught to write, every such person or persons shall, for every such offense, forfeit the sum of one hundred pounds, current money.
That law is about us, the teachers. Let us refuse to be defined by its intent.
I look forward to hearing from you about how you imagine your projects can bring leadership to the task and how the NWP network can help you do this work.