Say Their Names (Correctly. From Day One. Always)

Heinemann Publishing
Sep 25, 2018
By Sonja Cherry-Paul

When my daughter was born, I unapologetically named her Imani. It’s a lovely, lyrical name that means “faith” in Swahili. It is the 7th day and principle of Kwanzaa, the final green candle to light in affirmation of our self-worth. In our suburban New York home, she grew up proud that her name is beautiful and culturally significant. Outside of our home, experiences with her name have caused harm.

As a child, Imani looked for her name on keychains, magnets, and mugs in stationery stores and souvenir shops. She never found it and was disappointed. But it was at school where she was made to feel invisible.
I watched as she defended the name I’d dreamed of giving her back when she was stardust waiting to form.
“No, Imani with two i’s not e’s.” “Imani, not Amani.”
“Spelled with an I, but sounds like an e. Like the word imagine,” she’d patiently explain.
But eventually, after too many affronts for any child just trying to understand how she fits into the world, she surrendered, weary of tolerating the hard I-mani or Ah-mani from the well-meaning White educators in her world.
Never mind that they, all black and brown individuals, would be the only … (Read More here.)

It’s time to shatter the silence about race

New Orleans Charter Schools

Photo: Cheryl Gerber

January 22, 2018
I am one of few African-American educators in a predominantly white school district.
After I reported witnessing dozens of white students in a group using the N-word on school property, an administrator said to me, “I’m sure that was awful for you. Why don’t you speak with the students and tell them how that made you feel?” I was stunned.
Essentially, I was told that this incident was offensive only to me and that it was my responsibility alone to confront their behavior. The onus to address racism rests upon the shoulders of all educators in my district, not simply the African-American teacher.
I rejected his offer and instead co-founded the Race Matters Committee (RMC) — named after Cornel West’s Race Matters, which passionately and urgently addresses racial tensions — in our district.
In the United States, I envision RMC to be a place where committed educators, from all grade levels and content areas, meet to focus specifically on issues related to race and racism. 
Educators will join the RMC to have courageous conversations, to… (Read More Here…) 

If You Think Racism is Too Political For Your Classroom, Think About What Your Silence Says

By: Sonja Cherry-Paul

Dear Educator,

So you’ve tweeted, and retweeted, and shared articles and inspirational quotes, and posted your expressions of disbelief and despair about Charlottesville. I have one question. “What are you going to do now?”
In a few short weeks, you’ll be back in your classroom greeting new students. Ready to start the next school year. If you do not address my question, reconcile within your mind the actions you will take as you step onto one of the most powerful platforms of your students’ lives, I fear that you will simply move along with math, art, science, music, social studies, PE, English or whatever content area(s) you teach. I fear that you still do not recognize the curriculum we ALL must teach. If, on that very first day of school, you stand before your students to deliver the typical speech of, “I’m excited about the work we’ll accomplish this year,” and, “Let’s review the expectations/routines/rules for our class,” then you still are missing the point.
Have I made you angry? Perhaps. I’m angry. Anger is an appropriate reaction to what we’ve just witnessed in Charlottesville. And anger is also an appropriate reaction to the inaction of educators, particularly White educators, who respond to the violent rise of and support for racism, hate and bigotry with, at most, tweets, likes, and shares. These “best intentions” do not count, and are similar to silence. Doing nothing and thinking something will change — let’s unpack this approach. The White supremacists in Charlottesville were once children who sat in classrooms with teachers whose focus was math, science, art, social studies, English, PE, or some other content area. It’s likely that discussions about race, racism, White supremacy, hatred, and injustice were far and few between if they occurred at all.
I may have lost a few of you by now. Those who feel that I’m somehow blaming White educators for White supremacy, rest assured, I’m not. I’m simply saying that the approach we’ve been using long before Charlottesville, long before Ferguson, isn’t enough.
If you believe that discussions about racism and White supremacy are political and shouldn’t occur in school, please take a few moments… (Read More Here…)