How Black Lives Matter Came to Philadelphia’s Schools

Source: Tamara Anderson and Shira Cohen, Labor Notes, May 8, 2017

When teachers in Seattle planned a Black Lives Matter action in response to an incident of violent racism last October, our caucus of teachers in Philadelphia got inspired.

Seattle’s John Muir Elementary had received bomb threats after planning a motivational event where elementary students on their way into school would be greeted by hundreds of African American men. After the threats, the union’s representative assembly voted to support the event, and thousands of educators wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts to support their students of color.

The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) saw our chance to bring that spirit to Philadelphia. But we knew our action would have to go beyond the hashtag, pushing educators, parents, and students into an honest and difficult dialogue.

About 20 percent of Philadelphia teachers are African American. Our city is mired in poverty and income disparity. Union jobs are steadily decreasing, and the district is shuttering public schools in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods. So we wanted to do more than a day of solidarity…..