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Day of black affirmation sought for city schools


The Rochester Teachers Association will debate a resolution later today on whether to support a day of education, dialogue, and action in city schools around Black Lives Matter. The effort is called "Black Lives Matter At School" and is planned for Friday, February 17.

Black Lives Matter At School is not affiliated with the broader Black Lives Matter movement.

Organizers are hoping to get the Rochester school board's support, too. Getting the RTA's and the school board's support will likely help teachers previously reluctant to speak about black issues to feel more confident, they say.

"People need to know that it's O.K. to talk about race, says LoWan Brown, who is on the organizing committee of Black Lives Matter At School and is also an assistant principal at Wilson Foundation Academy.

Some teachers may not know how to talk about race, or lack the tools and resources, she says.

If race issues were talked about openly, maybe some of the race-based divisions and conflicts could've been avoided, Brown says.

Teachers and schools can participate in the February 17 event at any level they wish, from simply wearing T-shirts to planning a whole day of instruction. Grade-appropriate materials can be provided.

"The majority of students in the Rochester City School [District] are nonwhite yet there are seldom conversations about racial conflict and the loss of black lives," says the educator's guide to the program. "Racial equality will never be a reality unless people are willing to talk about it."

Though the student body is largely made up of children of color, teachers in the Rochester school district are mostly white and live in the suburbs. These teachers often lack an understanding of the students' lives and context for their behavior, Brown says.

"You need to know what's going on in these kids' lives," she says. "You need to know their history."

Teachers should keep in mind that great leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. started out as ordinary people who saw a need and stepped up; they grew into their roles, Brown says.

The February 17 event is just the first step, she says. Black Lives Matter At School also hopes to offer professional development workshops, training, and other events, she says.

Black Lives Matter At School is also reaching out to charter and suburban schools, as well as colleges. More information:, #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool, #BLM585EDU