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Black Lives Matter at School Inspires Activities Across District

The list of Black History Month activities, online events and creative projects from CHCCS schools is pages long and growing by the day. The Weekly Update can only highlight a fraction of the amazing instructional practices and celebrations, but each newsletter in February will share a report from several schools.

For the first time, a number of schools introduced lessons and practices from the national curriculum, Black Lives Matter at School (BLMAS), which was developed in 2016, as a national coalition organizing for racial justice in education. 

Northside Elementary School (NES) is one of the schools with specific BLMAS activities during the week of February 1-5. Assistant Principal, Kirtisha Jones, said, “Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools is an important week of awareness for all of us, and as a Northside community we understand the necessity to bring awareness to and provide information about the Guiding Principles of this week. One thing we have decided is to not just utilize these valuable Guiding Principles for this week, but carry them forward in all of our discussions throughout the year.”

NES School Librarian, Kathryn Cole, has shared titles of dozens of books for all reading levels through the Twitter feed for @NESLibrary. With multiple tweets most days, Cole has provided images and text to share with students, staff and parents, illuminating the 13 Guiding Principles of BLMAS.

NES Third Grade Teacher, Tequila Powell, explained, “I would say that this Black Lives Matter Week in Action really just helped my students dig deeper into the courageous conversations that we typically have in class. We've had discussions about racism and social injustice past and present. My students learned about how to be a part of the change.”

“Culbreth Middle School kicked off its Black History Month Celebration with lessons from the Black Lives Matter at School Curriculum,” Principal April Burko said. “Across grade levels, during advisory, students engaged in dialogue related to themes of restorative justice, empathy, Globalism and the Tenets of the Black Lives Matter Movement. As students explored these themes, they read and listened to works from Dr. Khalil Gibran Muhammad and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and reflected on questions such as: How do the challenges of the BLM movement compare to the challenges faced by Dr. King during the Civil Rights Movement, what is the harm of reducing a person, group or continent to a single story, what are ways people can overcome a bias and how can we help others overcome biases? Throughout the remainder of the month, students will investigate a variety of Black leaders from throughout history and view videos from local Black leaders. To wrap up Black History month, we will explore the historical significance and modern day importance of HBCUs in education.”

Carrboro High School (CHS) Equity Coach, Anna O’Connell, and the school Equity Team, have spent weeks developing and organizing four weeks of schoolwide and classroom activities, including a kickoff week dedicated to BLMAS discussions. An initial exercise shared in many classes was an introduction, or review, of the 13 Principles:  Diversity, Restorative Justice, Unapologetically Black, Black Families, Black Women, Black Villages, Globalism, Loving Engagement, Empathy, Queer Affirming, Transgender Affirming, Intergenerational, and Collective Value. 

Every day of the Week of Action, CHS classes began with Gathering Activities corresponding to those principles. As an introduction to the BLMAS curriculum, O’Connell created a series of slides to guide teachers as they developed their own plans and discussion questions. Among the questions was a basic, clarifying one: Why say Black Lives Matter? As an educator’s note said, “Many groups experience oppression and violence and Black Lives Matter sees their struggle as connected to all oppressed groups fighting for change. Black Lives Matter leaders often say, ‘When Black people get free, everybody gets free.’ This statement builds upon similar words from Black civil rights leaders such as Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

"These warm-up slides and guides help give me that extra boost of support and confidence I need. I'm sure I'm not "doing" it perfectly, but I'm learning and growing from these experiences both professionally and personally," said Sarah Mack, CTE Special Populations Coordinator.

Joyah Horton is a CHS freshman in Sue Stites’ Spanish class. “Ms. Stites did an amazing job leading the class instruction on BLMAS,” Horton said. “She made me feel engaged and asked several questions that broadened my thinking. She asked questions that all students could answer so that no one would feel left out or uncomfortable.” 

Tiffany Boston is the high school equity specialist in the Office of Equity and Inclusion. She said, “This is the first year some of the schools have elevated Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action, but many have celebrated Black History throughout the year. Through the collaboration of teachers, equity coaches, and administrators, we have been able to share Black History Month and Black Lives Matter at School resources and activities throughout the district. Black history is more than a month as we honor past, present, and future."