Black live matter to CHS racial equity team

Group stresses importance of movement through BLM curriculum


Akira Copeland

Cleveland’s Race & Equity team put together a curriculum designed to highlight the Black Lives Matter movement, which began Feb. 5. The day would’ve marked Trayvon Martin’s 23rd birthday.

Elliot Hernandez Sebastian, Staff Reporter

On July 13, 2013, George Zimmerman was found not guilty for the stalking and murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Out of this injustice, the now global Black Lives Matter movement was born. Cleveland High School was one of several schools in the Seattle School District to participate in a national movement around social justice and equity in education.

“The goal is to have a national presence on this, because there’s cities across the country who are working on this,” said Sonya Urs, a 12th grade Humanities teacher and a member of the school’s Race and Equity team, a group who helped organized the effort at Cleveland.

In a piece written by Garfield High School teacher Jesse Hagopian for Educator’s Vision, a newsletter published by the Social Equity Educators, he said the movement is focusing on three national demands: the implementation of restorative justice, the hiring of more black teachers and mandatory black history and ethnic studies for all grade levels. Educators in Seattle added two more demands: to fully fund Seattle Public Schools and to end academic tracking.

The first official day of Black Lives Matter week was Feb. 5, what would have been Martin’s 23rd birthday. Some of the topics covered during the week were the demands of the BLM movement, diversity, globalism, trans-affirming and queer-affirming in a collective value, inter generational black families, and the meaning behind “Unapologetically Black.”

“If you look at African American students in general across the entire country, they are disciplined at four times the rate of white students for the same infraction,” said 11th grade Humanities Justin Vincent, a supporter of the school’s BLM week. “These kids, these are our children, these are our students, and we need to do everything we can to give them the best chance to succeed.”

Other Cleveland teachers like Vincent have come out in support of the week for its affirmation of black student lives. On Friday, several teachers posed on the school’s front steps for a solidarity photo. Cleveland was also the host school for the Black Lives Matter in Education forum where schools from around the district convened in the auditorium for a discussion about the movement and how it relates to educators.

Senior Lennié Street enjoys learning about the BLM movement.

“For me personally, what I find exciting is the focus on clear demands,” said Lauren Stark, who serves as a union representative for Cleveland teachers.. “Being able to see these educators come together and agree

on a demand and push for it is I think very important. For me, the big question is what’s next?”

Students also had positive reactions to the week at the school.

“I feel like Black lives matter at this school,” said senior Kiera Bush who is member of Cleveland’s Black Student Union. “I think it’s important that they are teaching it to our students because a lot of people claim they know about it but don’t really know about the origins or what it supports.”

“I like how we’re learning about the trans community, Black history, the Black Lives Matter movement,” said senior Lennié Street. “That’s really helpful because we don’t really learn that in school.”