Throughout the year, students at MCS have been discussing the 13 Principles of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement. Authored by members of the curriculum committee of Black Lives Matter At School Movement, including our own Laleña Garcia (5-6s Sur head teacher), these principles spell out the tenets of the BLM movement in age-appropriate language for both early elementary and middle school-aged children. During the week of February 4th, our community participated in the national Black Lives Matter At School Week of Action. Schools in over fifty cities across the country took part in this and Manhattan Country School is proud to be one of them.
Our 5-6s children were particularly excited to learn that kids and teachers all over the country were talking about the same ideas at the same time as them!
Both 5-6s classes began the week with a joint community meeting to introduce the four demands of the Week of Action: ending zero tolerance disciplinary policies, mandating Black History and Ethnic Studies, hiring more black teachers, and shifting funds from police to counselors. They talked about how all activists need to have a demand, something specific that they want to happen, and how the demands of the Week of Action would serve to make all schools more like MCS. The classes engaged in discussions of why they thought these demands were important and should be met. Children spoke about the necessity of restorative justice - “So people can practice being a better person,” and how funding counselors instead of the cops was the right thing to do, since “the police might not know about kids, but [counselors] really know about kids.”
They thought about how MCS compares to schools where these demands are not met. One child pointed out how their own access to knowledge about Black History affects their desire to work for social justice, commenting: “. . . if they don’t know about Black History, they won’t ever try to make the world a better place with equal rights.” The children recognized that the relatively high number of teachers of color here at MCS is both unique and indispensable because “teachers and kids in schools with no Black teachers won’t ever see that there are Black teachers.”
In addition to the active discussions held throughout the Week of Action, the 5-6s have been reading books and displaying posters about the 13 Principles. Children have begun to identify the ways in which the principles are visible (or not) in their everyday lives, as well as in the stories they read. Their responses reflect an understanding of the importance of equity and the vitality of representation that countless studies support and show how carefully our students have been thinking about this, and all social justice issues, this whole year.
Their work will not stop because the Week of Action is over, nor will it end when all of the principles are explored. This material will continue to be present throughout the year for the 5-6s and the entire school because, as one child so eloquently reminded us, "Freedom or peace doesn’t go for just one day or two. It goes for many days… it will go until everyone has freedom and peace."
Please visit the Black Lives Matter at School website to learn more about the coalition’s ongoing campaigns and resources for children.