T train

By Imrul Mazid

Engine, engine, letter T,

on the New York transit


if these pigs go off the track,

stick em up,

stick em up,

stick em up!

Back on the scene,

shells on the T,


to 1984.


strapped to my back,

writing thoughtcrimes

with a sword.

Rounds of artillery

and magazines,


clips galore.

Best-selling heaters

in section nine,


aisle four.

A bang-bang,

a baby bubba,

a bang-bang

to the boogidy-beat.


The boar beared down

and up-jumped my boogie,

broke my rhythm of the boogie,

the beat.

(I’m bakin).

Pigair gondher jonne ami nishash falithe parthesi na.

Amar tupir modhe lakha “Ali.”

Amar chambrar modhe kali.

Amar monair modhe judho,

onek mara-mari.

Amar jonmo hoylo bideshi,

ayta amar bari.

Ayta amar train,

ayta amar gari!

Engine, engine, letter T,

on the New York transit


if these pigs go off the track,

stick em up,

stick em up,

stick em up!

Pigs rifled through my bag,

found my black and steely revolver,

my 44 Mag.

“Where you going, boy,

and what’s this here book?”

“I’m going to the library,


and a crook

is a crook

is a crook.”


war is peace,

you’re a terrorisk,

and I just put you on my hit list.

It’s a free market,

and I’ll stop and frisk

with a star-spangled



“Seize the Fourth Amendment,

trample human rights,

oh, but I forgot,

in 1984,

the daytime is the night!

Banish books

like the Truthspeak Crew,

but I’ll muzzle your snout,

stick you in the zoo!

Pigs play in State Pens,

and I’ll brandish my pen,

I’m a snipewriter

through and through.”

A bang-bang,

a baby bubba,

a bang-bang

to the boogidy-beat.

When these pigs go off the track,

stick ’em up,

stick ’em up,

stick ’em up!


The impetus for this piece derives from a stop-and-frisk experience on the New York City subway. Drawing from the rich aural tradition of hip-hop, the poem addresses issues of a surveillance state, the policing of black and brown bodies, and the criminalization of knowledge. I sample re-interpretations of poetic luminaries, Sugarhill Gang and Black Sheep, which establishes a meter overlaid by Orwellian themes. The juxtaposition of English and Bengali linguistic forms reflects the native’s double-consciousness and the effects of state violence in the psychic realm.



Bengali exerpt

Pigair gondher jonne ami nishash falithe parthesi na.

Amar tupir modhe lakha “Ali.”

Amar chambrar modhe kali.

Amar monair modhe judho,

onek mara-mari.

Amar jonmo hoylo bideshi,

ayta amar bari.

Ayta amar train,

ayta amar gari!

Rough translation

I can’t breathe because of the stench of the pig.

“Ali” written on my hat.

Melanin in my skin.

War on my mind,

lots of fighting.

I’m born outside the motherland,

this is my home.

This is my train,

this is my car!



By Monica Chavez

Oakland High School, 9th grade

Anything But American

By Britany Borens

Please don’t call me African American. I’m no longer proud to be American. I mean, how could I be proud of a nation that takes enjoyment in the slaughtering of colored people, more often black people.

To the people that think that Mike Brown is the first case of police brutality, allow me to introduce you to just a few victims:

John Crawford — John Crawford, 22, murdered in Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio. By a police officer who said Crawford wouldn’t drop his weapon. However new surveillance footage shows officers give Crawford time to drop what ended up being a toy gun from the toy section. Policemen here cleared of my wrongdoing.

Please don’t call me African American.

Charles Smith — 29 year old was executed by police in Savannah Georgia. He was shot in the back of his head while having cuffed behind his back. His body was left on display for three hours. His murderer, Officer David Jannot, is on paid leave.

Please don’t call me African American.

And of course there’s Mike Brown.

Mike Brown — an 18 year old in Ferguson, MO was shot 6 times by Darren Wilson, then left on the ground for 4 ½ hours. Wilson says that Mike punched him in the face and had a lethal weapon but a video of the fatal shooting (a video you can watch online) shows Brown saying he was unarmed and a picture of Wilson after shooting shows no bruises. According to ryot.org, a woman named PLaget Crenshaw, who lives in a apartment, overlooking the street where Brown was killed also videotaped the incident because from the beginning something felt off about the incident. “From it all initially happening, I knew this was not right. I knew the police should’nt have been chasing this boy and firing at the same time. And the fact he got shot in his face, something clicked in me and I thought someone else should see this so I recorded,” she told CNN. According to Crenshaw, it appeared that the officer was trying to pull the teen into his car when Brown got away. The officer then fired his weapon multiple times.

Not only did Crenshaw videotape the scene but also someone on Twitter whose username is the TheePharoah tweeted what happened: I just saw someone die OMFG 10:03 am.

10:04 am The police just shot someone dead in front of my crib go.

10:05 am Fuckfuckfuck #justiceformikebrown: why did they shoot him?

10:14 am: No reason! he was running!

Both Crenshaws and TheePharoah tweets prove that Wilson shout out of malice rather than self-defence, as Brown was running when Wilson fired. And yet with all this evidence and more against him, Wilson is still a free man who has gotten thousands of dollars and a vacation for murdering a young teen.

The whole Mike Brown situation really shows that the white man’s words are worth more than cold, hard facts and this must stop. We must change our justice system if we expect our nation to thrive on another two thousand years or so, because if we can’t trust our government than the people will take justice into their own hands getting revenge on people whose took a loved one, people breaking laws and not paying taxes and a government without a justice system won’t last.

So, in my opinion the first step in changing our system is taking guns away from police officers, people make mistakes and if you accidentally kill someone there’s no way to make it right, a life will be gone forever. tasers, bats, and mace is enough to defend oneself without taking a life and if there’s ever a situation where guns are needed (which there will be) the swatt can handle it.

Secondly the people of the U.S. should become more educated on their rights, knowing your rights such as knowing whether police officers have the right to search your bag with or without your permission could help you get out a lot you never know.

These are just a couple of my ideas to reduce and stop police brutality and racism in our justice system. I hope my essay has inspired and opened the eyes of others to see that this is a serious problem, this should be taken as seriously as global warming if the US is going to survive another couple of thousands of years.

Until we fix police brutality I’m Britany and I’m anything but American.

Responding and Restructuring: Turning Schools into Allies

Kena Hazelwood-Carter and Jordan Karr


University of California, Berkeley

Responding and Restructuring: Turning Schools into Allies

In the midst of the cacophony of “Justice for Michael Brown!”, “Justice for Eric Garner!”, “I can’t breathe”, and “#BlackLivesMatter” it is equally important to take a step back and formulate an informed, modulated, and fully conceived response.  A response that encompasses not only the justified justifiable outrage, but also the too often ignored needs of children who see daily have seen their peers, parents, and neighbors targeted by those who pledge to keep them safe are pledged to keeping them safe (NAACP, 2014).  If, on their way to or from anywhere, they can be stopped and frisked anywhere, then the very streets leading to their homes, schools, friends’ houses, and churches are not benign.   Instead of ignoring the reality of these students lives it is important that we as educators, counselors, administrators, and support staff must not ignore these realities, and must equip ourselves as allies to these children. to be allies not solely in thought and word but in deed as well.

Most students’ lives are bookended by homes where they are sat down to have, “the talk”, as a small effort to try and keep them safe.  Messages like: “don’t walk in a store with your hands in your pockets,” “keep your hood down at night,” “never run anywhere” are modified by assurances that it’s not the child who is at fault but the greater world that is biased against them (Sultan, 2014).  Unfortunately, American schools also harbor these biases are not a benevolent exception to these biases. Black students are often targeted by teachers poorly equipped to teach diverse populations with disparate needs, cultural norms, and preparation levels, resulting in disproportionate rates of suspension and expulsion (USDE, OCR, 2014).  This reality, when combined with the clear miscarriage of justice witnessed on our streets, means that these youths are being primed to fight. Every door they step out of or through is a threshold to an ideological or literal battlefield. In this framework it is impossible to deny the need for institutional restructuring. The question becomes how best to respond.?

It is important to realize that often times parents and extended relatives those those we would naturally expect to provide solace and guidance, are missing from these children’s lives.  One in four Black children born in 1990 had a parent imprisoned at some point during their childhood experienced parental incarceration (Wildman, 2009). For these children and their families  those like them, who see their families ripped apart by the justice system’s caprices, the idea of a fair justice system is incomprehensible. This is compounded when you consider recent statistics: , which reflect that Black Americans receive 10% longer prison sentences and are disproportionately incarcerated for drug related infractions (NAACP, 2014).  Not only are Black children at risk for having a parent their caregiver imprisoned and differently treated, these children themselves are frequently denied the protective veil of childhood. Black boys are perceived as older and less innocent than like aged peers and are tried as adults 18% more frequently than white children (Goff et al., 2014). So again we ask, how to frame a response?

Schools are uniquely placed to counter the greater oppositional socialization provided by the justice system can be effectively identified, discussed, and neutralized.  And all it takes are a few simple steps.

  1. Acknowledge the problem exists.
  2. Own your ignorance.
    1. Educate yourself
      1. No one expects you to know the perfect thing to say or do, but there are a lot of great resources out there to help you find your way (look up the Staten Island School Chancellor’s video).
    2. Ask questions
      1. The only way to learn what you do not know is to ask.
  3. Show up, and Step Back
    1. Sometimes it’s enough to have someone voice acknowledgement of the issue:
      1. Send out emails, have an assembly, work with your school’s guidance counselors or school psychologist to tailor a response to your unique population.
    2. Sometimes the last thing someone overwhelmed with the thoughts, feeling and emotions contingent to these issues wants is to have another conversation.  Be respectful of this too. Remember being an ally and a resource means showing up in the way that best meets the needs of the group you are trying to serve.
  4. Provide a space
    1. Set-up a time for general discussion but also one specifically for those who might be most impacted by these events either due to personal history, demographic background, or some other reason, but do not assume you know who is going to fall into which category.
    2. Think about ways you can integrate the voices and history of traditionally ignored populations into general ed curricula.  New research is showing positive outcomes across the board, especially for underserved populations, when ethnic studies is included in the general curriculum (Tintiangco-Cubales, 2014).

5)  Allow for levity

Yes this is a serious subject matter but, if you can find a way to acknowledge what is absurd it can go a long way to bridging any perceived distance or unintended hurt.

  1. Allow for growth
    1. No one is going to be perfect at navigating these waters immediately but, if you are willing to keep the lines of communication open, apologize when you misstep and make allowances for others if they are less than magnanimous when you make your overtures of friendship or support, it should all come out fine.
    2. Be willing to adopt progressive disciplinary policies.  Research shows a clear link between suspension and dropout rates (Lee, Cornell, Gregory, & Fan, 2011).  These findings, taken together with the disproportionate disciplinary actions taken against Black students, make it imperative to consider alternatives (Losen, 2011).  Aggression and misbehavior in schools may often be explained by underlying emotional needs that have not been met (Dwyer, Oshen, & Wargen, 1998). Schools that counter behavior problems through meditation, counseling, parent-teacher conferences, and positive incentives have seen reductions in dropout rates (Losen, 2011).


Dwyer, K., Osher, D., & Warger, C. (1998). Early Warning, Timely Response: A Guide to Safe          Schools. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED418372

Goff, P., Jackson, M. C., Allison, B., Di Leone, L., Culotta, C. M., DiTomasso, D. A. (2014).

The Essence of Innocence: Consequences of Dehumanizing Black Children, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 526 –545. DOI: 10.1037/a0035663

Lee, T., Cornell, D., Gregory, A., & Fan, X. (2011). High suspension schools and dropout rates

for black and white students. Education and Treatment of Children, 34(2), 167-192.          Retrieved from: http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/education_and_treatment_of_children/v034/34.2.lee.html

Losen, D. (2011). Discipline policies, successful schools, and racial justice.  Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4q41361g 12/13/2014

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Retrieved from: http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet 12/12/2014

Tintiangco-Cubales, A.; Kohli, R.; Sacramento, J.; Henning, N.; Agarwal-Rangnath, R.;

Sleeter, C. (2014). Toward an Ethnic Studies Pedagogy: Implications for K-12 Schools from the Research. The Urban Review. doi.org/10.1007/s11256-014-0280-y

Sultan, A. (2014).  Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk. Uexpress.com.
Retrieved from: http://www.uexpress.com/parents-talk-back/2014/9/29/black-moms-tell-white-moms-about 12/10/2014

US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. (2014). Data Snapshot: School Discipline

Issue Brief No. 1 (March 2014) retrieved from: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/crdc-discipline-snapshot.pdf


Wildeman, C. (2009). Parental Imprisonment, the Prison Boom, and the Concentration of

Childhood Disadvantage. Demography 26, pp. 265-280. Retrieved from                  http://link.springer.com/article/10.1353/dem.0.0052




By David Perez

August 9, 2014, 18 year old black man, Mike Brown was fatally shot 12 times in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer, Darren WIlson. This caused an outbreak of unrest in America. It believed that is was an unjust killing that as just another case of police brutality, being compared to the Rodney King beating. Although most people believe that this was an unjust killing that came from racial hatred, it is also believed that it was a justifiable homicide and that the use of force that officer Darren Wilson used was necessary to protect his own life. There is no videos, pictures or audio of the event that occurred so what really happened is heavily disputed.

It is widely believed that the event that took place was a result of black people, black men being targeted by police, often white police as criminals and racially discriminated. This might be true, but not entirely. Police brutality in america is not just being revealed to the world, it’s been around for decades, and really affected america in the 80s. It may be about race, but american police are already known to be violent and unfair, but it is more likely to be treated this way if you are a black man, than if you are a white man. But not all white men are safe from tyranny. Kelly Thomas, was a schizophrenic white man beaten to death by police officers of Fullerton California. No one is completely safe.

No one will ever know the full truth of what occurred that led up to Mike Brown being shot and killed , except for one person, Darren Wilson. And lets face it, a human will do everything it takes to preserve one’s self, including lying.

Further Notes on Teaching in the time of #Ferguson*

Edwin Mayorga
Swarthmore College

Ferguson was where this semester began.

When non-indictment news from Ferguson began streaming in I found myself searching. Searching for answers, searching for justice. I have been inspired by the various collections of resources that have been assembled through by educators who have sought to support others as we work through this tragedy (resources below).  But having just moved with my family to Swarthmore College (PA) I have thought about what it has meant to be teaching in the time of Ferguson.

The changing same

Before teaching , we must make sense of situations for ourselves. The failure to indict Darren Wilson was sadly not surprising. Instead it is a changing same. It speaks to the way oppressions, and racism specifically, are sown into the fabric of our society. As Gilmore noted, “racism, specifically, is the sanctioned or extralegal production and exploitation of group-differentiated vulnerability to premature death”[1]. What happened in Ferguson was a sanctioning of the legal system as a group differentiated death-dealing machine. What happened in Ferguson is injustice by design within the racial capitalist, carceral, state in which we live. The maintenance of racial and economic conditions in Ferguson, nationally, and globally become the legitimized motivation for state, and state-sanctioned, violence. In short Black lives matter, only in so much as they are of value to advancing what Robinson (1983) described as racial capitalism. Once decoupled from that value, our bodies become disposable.

This is the “changing same” that we must recognize and continue to document and analyze if we seek to abolish it.

Centering our humanity

There is much to analyze about Ferguson, the killing of Michael Brown and the numerous other Black people and people of Color who have died premature deaths at the hands of the state, but for now I turn to the undergraduate classroom.

In my haste to respond to injustice by sharing information and resources, I lost sight of the broader challenge to humanity moments like these pose. I needed to give my students AND myself time and space to grieve over the negation of human life and Black lives in particular. Engaging our grief, letting it circulate through us, is a part of moving forward. With that in mind I sent out an email to all of my students. I shared information from the night before, encouraged them to continue following social media, and let them know that the college was organizing transportation to Philadelphia to participate in a march. I also offered up my office as a space for students to meet. Not many students stopped by, but a few did, and several others thanked me via email for sharing information and making the office available.

After attending the march in Philadelphia , Joelle Bueno, a student in my Intro to Educational Studies course, noted in an email:

“thank you so much for sharing about the protests in Philly. I really appreciate your dedication to us as students and as people, it really means a lot to me especially as a freshman.”

Joelle’s words demonstrate the impact of centering people in the classroom. When we show our students that they matter to us, and that the injustices happening in the world must matter to all of us, we are having an impact.

To me, teaching in the time of Ferguson requires us to teach with our humanity at the center. In carving out spaces to come together we can begin to see each other, and  connect ourselves to stories of human struggle that are often, intentionally, blurred from sight.


Centering people in the classroom is an ongoing process rather than a single event. The groundwork  begins in the planning of the curriculum and is as every bit as essential as is the content we teach. This semester began with Ferguson, and I had to immediately modify our early sessions to to make certain that what was happening in the world was a part of our discussions on education. What became evident was that in addition to space for discussion students wanted more language and historical context for talking about racism and education.  As part of a changing same, Ferguson and the protests that have ensued are marks of the long history of structural racism and abolition work in the U.S. These stories are not often part of curriculum prior, but I contend that these stories are essential.

Ferguson is also a mirror.  Students are well intentioned folks who recognize the complexities of privilege and see broader injustices. Still, social forces like structural racism are thought to happen somewhere else, and through our discussion we came to recognize how we are all situated within structural oppression. We recognized that just as much work needed to be done within the college as was required in beyond the college.

Hope and radical possibilities

Ferguson was where the semester ended, and justice work was re/ignited.

Coming to grips with complicity can often have a paralyzing effect on those who wish to act. The long march to freedom can sometimes seem too big, too impossible. I invited students to read Crawley’s stunning piece, Otherwise, Ferguson,  Duncan-Andrade’s Note to educators: Hope required when growing roses in concrete, and Chapter 10 of Jean Anyon’s book, Radical Possibilities.  In each of theses pieces the call to fight injustice is clear and the sustainability of the work is made possible when we are animated by the radical possibilities of an otherwise.

Hope, I have come to think, is something crafted through human relationship.We remain hopeful because the ideas and action we share with the people around us nourish a feeling that change is possible. In the days since our last class meeting, students have expressed a desire to continue having these conversations and continue taking action next semester. The march is a long one, and our commitment to justice keeps me hopeful and thinking about #FergusonNext.

1. Anyon, J. (2005). Radical possibilities: Public policy, urban education, and a new social movement. New York: Routledge.

2. Crawley, A. (2014). Otherwise, Ferguson. Interfictions Online, (4). Retrieved from http://interfictions.com/otherwise-fergusonashon-crawley/

3. Duncan-Andrade, J. (2009). Note to educators: Hope required when growing roses in concrete. Harvard Educational Review, 79(2).

4. Gilmore, R. W. (2007). Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Resources (more resources to follow)* 

Desmond-Harris, J. (2014, September 2). Do’s and Don’ts for Teaching About Ferguson. Retrieved November 26, 2014

Ferguson Syllabus from Sociologists for Social Justice

National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation

Otherwise, Ferguson by Ashon Crawley.

Teaching and Learning in a Ferguson World (Paul Tritter, BTU Director of Professional Learning)

Teaching Ferguson Resources

Twitter #FergusonSyllabus

Teaching about Ferguson from the Zinn Education Project from Teaching for Change

*This essay is based on a previous post written by the author, Teaching in the Time of Ferguson (http://edwinmayorga.net/?p=515). Thanks to the various folks who have been putting these resources together since August. Specific thanks to Dr. Lee Smithey (@peacesociology) and the New York Collective of Radical Educators (@nycore3000).


By Connie Wun, Ph (of Illionis, Chicago) and Damien Sojoyner, PhD (Scripps College)

Beyond Police Violence: A Conversation on Antiblackness, #BlackLivesMatter, #WeChargeGenocide and the Challenge to Educators

The following is an excerpt of an ongoing dialogue between two scholars, Damien Sojoyner and Connie Wun, whose work closely examines the interlock of antiblackness, “violence,” schools, and prisons. It is situated within the current period – one that has focused on the police violence that has occurred across the nation, particularly in Ferguson, Cleveland, New York, Sanford, Chicago, Oakland, Detroit and Los Angeles. At the same time, this conversation situates the deaths of Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Dominique Franklin Jr. and Rekia Boyd, Oscar Grant, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, and Ezell Ford as a part of a civil society that is foundationally antiblack. We also understand that these are only a few of the names of people who have been murdered by police and with impunity. Police murders of Black people, we contend, are characteristic of a structure that also includes “slow and gradual state violence” against Blacks. The latter takes the form of school closures in predominantly Black neighborhoods, gentrification and displacement of Black communities, mass incarceration and their effects, poor health care, hypersurveillance of Black bodies at large, and racial “microaggressions” across multiple social spaces. We understand that the important political actions concerning “Black Lives Matter,” exists along side “We Charge Genocide” and “Black Power Matters” campaigns. We recognize that police violence against Black people is a part of a society that is organized around ‘antiblackness’ and call for educators, researchers and scholars to respond accordingly.

Connie: There has been much said about Ferguson in both the popular media and across academic forums, is there anything that stands out for you?

Damien: One of the things that I take note of it is the framing of what constitutes the “problem.” That is, the popular depiction of Ferguson and the tragedy that befell Mike Brown and his family is the very specific identification of the police in general and even more concise, a particular police officer as “the problem.” Historically, I think back upon the many Black rebellions that have touched off in the United States dating back to the Houston Mutiny of 1917 to the Watts in 1965 to LA in 1992.  In all of these, while policing was a huge part of the issue, it was a part of a much more multifaceted set of issues.

For example, even though 1992 is best remembered for the savage beating of Rodney King and the acquittal of police officers, the demands by one of the major organizing forces, a coalition of Crips and Bloods, was not for better policing.  They put forth an analysis that centered the fact that Black lives are vulnerable to the terror of policing when Black people are forced to live and exist in conditions that render them vulnerable. Thus, their solutions to the condition of structured vulnerability were multifaceted. They demanded a complete power shift in terms of resources, such as control over health care, employment, education and housing, be placed in the hands of Black communities.

I look at Ferguson and I see a city where Black people are devoid of “political representation.”  The schools are on the verge of state receivership. There has been a history of police abuse in the city and surrounding areas. Many of Black people do not have jobs and when they do find work, they are not paid a living wage. Better policing would not be able to address these concerns.

Connie: What would you say is a better approach to take?

Damien: I think the approach taken by the youth in Chicago who are framing the issue around genocide is much more effective.  While there is very limited action that can be achieved at the level of the United Nations given the unilateral power that the United States holds over the body and the watered down version of genocide that was developed in the 1990’s, the historic framework of genocide provides a multifaceted approach to understand the extent of anti-Black racism in the US.

Connie: I agree. Your invocation of genocide reminds me of questions that I have been wrestling with for some time. What does it mean to say “genocide?” If we can understand and agree that a genocidal project is beyond immediate deaths caused by police violence, then we have to contend with civil society that enables and is predicated upon multiple forms of antiblack violence.

Damien: Pushing you on the link between civil society and genocide, how do we as educators answer this call? Especially within the context of our understanding that schools have long played a critical role in genocidal projects?

Connie: We should understand that “genocide” is not a hyperbolic term to describe the condition that Black people are living under. When we understand genocide, we understand that Blacks are the “prototypical targets” of police violence and other forms of state violence. We must also understand that Black people are subject to forms of violence that are not archived and are even more mundane than police violence. There is violence that is woven into the fabric of other state institutions and every day social relations. In combatting an antiblack genocidal project, we must understand that police violence is a part of the U.S. As educators, we have to identify the relationship between police violence with other institutionalized forms of violence against Black people.

For instance, we have to look at how school closures are generally accompanied by privatized charter schools and intensified punitive mechanisms, which also include soft policing strategies (i.e. restorative justice that problematize student behaviors instead of the conditions that shape their lives).
We have to understand that as educators we are implicated within the civil society project. We too are licensed to police and punish our students. However, we can authorize ourselves to organize against the genocidal project of antiblackness by revealing the connections between state institutions and the ways that they all enable the possibility of Black deaths.

By maisha quint

The underlying notion for this particular piece that I am submitting is to show how Black death is still sanctioned in much of the same way(s) that it was sanctioned post-reconstruction– that the ways in which we allow, treat and participate in Black death is eerily unchanged. My “hang” poems are influenced by Kara Walker’s work and the way it interrogates the supposed antiquity of the antebellum south and slavery; this myth that the beliefs, representations and sentiments of that era are over and in the past are blown open in her work. Like Walker, my poetry aims to articulate the understanding that these ideas are very much alive and foundational to our culture. And also like Walker, the visual quality of the poems is very important to their meaning; much like how silhouettes are used in Walker’s work to punctuate, the sparse clusters of text against so much white space are similarly crafted to capture, to create an unrelenting gaze on the violence continuously enacted upon Black bodies.                                                                            


as in opposite of crawl:

hands dragging knees

that bleed but instead

legs dangle

after head.

as in limp

from a rope

that swings

back and forth.

as in strung up

like lights

blaze brilliant

in the night.

as in opposite of crawl:

hands dragging knees

that bleed

but alive.

to get the hang

of something

to become


first find the tree

preferably one

sturdy enough

for two

maybe three

bark able to burn

if need be

trunk wide

but branches

high enough

for two

maybe three

preferably one

on open field

large enough

for thousands to see

the two

maybe three

sway free

as in proud display

like trophies

or plaques

like the flag


from courthouse steps

now watch

as they drag


black boy’s neck

and if he

breaks free

watch him

run mad dog wild

he may scream

or pray

smash both legs

a group of children

snapped the teeth

out of his head

to sell

as souvenirs

as in pin up

on the wall

writing scrawled

along postcard edges:

Bill, this was some raw bunch

to learn the method or

arrangement of

to become accustomed to

over 10,000 spectators

including city officials and police

gathered to watch


on the corner

in twos

maybe threes

shrugged backs in dark sweatshirts

hands stuffed in jeans

black boys watch

cops circle

two maybe three

as in

helicopter in sky


see black boys


from street corner

run mad dog wild

police kill

a black man

woman or


every 28 hours

as in


that lingers

from a gun

just fired

as in

(black boy)



slack rope

tape off

the perimeter


the body

calm the officer

offer coffee

or water

crowds will gather


as in opposite of crawl:

hands dragging knees

that bleed

but instead

crowds will gather.

Individual to Institutional:

Learning About Structural Racism in a Classroom Shaped by Structural Racism

By Laura Winnick

After I returned from Thanksgiving break, I was surprised to learn that my Coordinating Teacher (C.T.) had changed our three-week unit from an Of Mice and Men trial to discussion and dialogue about the events in Ferguson.

The essential question of the unit – mostly planned by my C.T. – asks: How has Ferguson affected our communities and where do we go from here? The core content depended on articles that my C.T. had seen widely shared through social media. Students read a New York Times informational report, several opinion pieces, viewed images and video from the protests, and read Facebook posts by a variety of people defending their opinions on whether protesting is effective. Grades are based primarily on their spoken opinions on this topic, through philosophical chairs and Socratic seminar exercises.

I was responsible for one lesson in the three-week unit. My C.T. recommended I teach Sally Kohn’s article in the Washington Post, “What White People Need to Know, And Do, After Ferguson.” It was a challenging article that had been shared many times through my social networks and that I had previously read.

After leading after-school programming at an urban high school for the past three years, participating in an anti-racist reading group, and attending many diversity trainings, I was comfortable talking about my racial identity in a classroom of students of color.  And, yet, I didn’t want to teach this article.

Still, I spent hours creating a lesson, utilizing my personal collection of articles on white supremacy and racism. When I had created a complex lesson plan that depended on close reading and academic vocabulary, I asked a friend for feedback.

“Wait,” my friend responded after I told her. “Are any of the kids in your class white?”

I replied, “No.”

“Then why do they need to know what white people need to know in this situation?”

I realized that I wanted to teach my students something that would serve them, not me.

In the past two weeks I had witnessed students, passionate and fiery, calling for the end of riots without knowing how peaceful the protestors were who marched through the streets of their city. They debated whether looting was effective, without knowing how many stores had been looted and what protesters were trying to prove about the value of property over human life. They called all police racist, without a complex understanding of different forms of racism.

Their responses showed me that they were hungry for framing and context. They needed the language to locate racism in our country, and to identify the different forms it takes. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to support students in deepening their critical consciousness.

The Lesson:

The purpose of the lesson that I created is to define individual, institutional, and cultural racism, share examples of the three racisms, show examples of organizations combatting racism, and collectively brainstorm other ways to combat racism.

The framework of this lesson is through critical perspective; this depends on students understanding how society and other systems oppress and silence individuals.  The lesson began with a Do Now that asked students to share examples of racism, in their personal lives, in others’ lives, or throughout history. I asked students to share these with the class.

I explained to students that their examples (of being heckled on the street, of an Uncle’s experience in a foreign country, of a Principal assuming a student spoke Spanish) were quite different, and that we were going to learn a framework for thinking about different forms of racism.

Then I passed out a worksheet that asked students to state their definition of racism. I asked three students to share these definitions, and all three employed the verb “to treat.” I was startled to hear that students understood racism only as the treatment of the “other.” No student volunteered a definition that spoke of injustice on larger levels than the interpersonal. No one mentioned the deep history of racism in America or the institutional prejudice illuminated by the Eric Garner and Michael Brown non-indictments.

Continuing with the worksheet, students defined the terms cultural, institutional, and individual. Then we, as a class, built definitions; I was more vocal than I should have been during this section, coaching the students through the complexity of these terms.

The definition of cultural racism (the societal beliefs and customs that promote the assumption that the products of a given culture are superior to those of other cultures) proved hardest for students to understand. Institutional racism (prejudice and power) made sense to most students, as they volunteered examples about immigration and thought about the power of the government, the legal system, and prisons. However, when a student labeled “gangs” as institutions, I didn’t know exactly where that belonged on our chart, but I added it anyway, knowing that it merited a longer discussion. Individual racism (when a person has racist assumptions, beliefs or behaviors) was easy for students to grasp because it fit their prior schema on racism.

Next, I showed the video titled “Hey White People: A Kinda Awkward Note to America by #Ferguson Kids by FCKH8.com.”  (Link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQfg52m0-4o.) When students received a transcript of the video before I cued it up on screen, Emilee said out loud, “I can tell from the title that I’m going to like this video.”

And the students really did like the video. Only one head was down while the rest of my students laughed, cocked their heads to the side, and scrunched their eyes. They were contemplating the faces of the young black kids from Ferguson, in front of them, animated and speaking powerfully against the racism perpetuated by our colorblind society.

My next goal was for students to identify moments of individual, institutional, and cultural racism in the video, recording these examples in a concentric circle chart. And even though it was arguably the most important part of the lesson, it did not happen.

As it is unfortunately typical in many under-resourced schools serving under-resourced populations, outside distractions filtered into the classroom in the form of one distraught student. Kyla had taken Diana outside of the classroom because she was crying about a friendship; Mikayla was concerned about Diana; students were growing restless, and the room suddenly felt quite heated. As my C.T. stepped outside of the room to comfort Diana, we all listened to Diana’s tears approach a full-blown panic and/or asthma attack. The class showed no signs of wanting to engage their critical consciousness.

Frantically, I taped sheets of paper over the slim window in the door so that students couldn’t see the school administrators surrounding Diana and I called for Mikalya to sit down.

I made a last-ditch attempt to wrap up the lesson, wanting to make sure that the class ended on a hopeful note. I showed students examples of anti-racist campaigns, projecting the #blacklivesmatter campaign on screen, clicking over to the Asians and Latinos support #blacklivesmatter media. I asked students to reflect on other ways to combat racism, and, despite cries of, “Miss you don’t care about Diana,” I tried to keep students on task for the last five minutes of class.

Irwin’s succinct reflection: “videos, protest, riots, peace” evidences that students don’t have many examples for campaigns that combat racism. Students struggled through this reflection, and several simply said to me: “there are no ways.” Although I prompted students, “what about that video you just watched?” some simply felt frustrated by the creative task at hand.

However, after collecting their learning logs and collapsing into my chair at the back of the classroom, I read through their one-sentence statements about what they learned in class. Most students stated that they learned about the different kinds of racism and its impacts, which was encouraging. Rodolpho wrote, “I learned that racism can be stopped.”

Supporting our students’ critical consciousness, especially those who attend under-resourced schools, won’t be easy. Critical pedagogy asks students to understand complex and academic language. It asks us to think deeply about the content we provide our students and how it serves them. It demands that teachers scaffold every component to activate student voice. And it also requires that Diana does not run out of the classroom crying.

But it is only when we eradicate institutional racism that such emergencies won’t interfere with the learning of our students of color. It is only then that under-resourced schools will get the resources they deserve, that Diana will have lived in a place that gave her healthy air to breath, that she will have attended schools that gave her access to social workers and therapy, that she will have the tools at her disposal for dealing with the end of a friendship outside of class instead of during.

For now, I’ll keep teaching our young people the language of critical consciousness, knowing that the actions they take to combat racism will be the ones that matter.



Law, Education, and Race: Reflections from a First-Semester Professor

By Rebecca Tarlau

I just finished my first semester as a Visiting Professor in a new masters program in Educational Leadership and Societal Change at Soka University of America, in South Orange County. The transition from being a graduate student to being a professor poses new challenges, both in terms of the work and in embracing a new identity as a professor. However, the biggest challenge I faced this semester was being detached from my colleagues at UC Berkeley, whom I had grown to trust and with whom I engaged in both political discussions and actions to intervene in the world.

These feelings of detachment culminated on Monday, November 24. This was the day that students called for a walkout across the UC system to denounce the recent tuition hikes. I felt pride in and envy of my graduate student colleagues, who were participating in something larger than themselves, which felt much more important than my teaching that week. Then, later that evening, I felt anger, sadness, and isolation, as I heard about the failure to indict Darrin Wilson and watched on TV as people across the country were taking to the streets to protest. Even more absurd was the fact that I still had three to four hours of class preparation to complete that evening, for a course on Educational Law and Policy that I was teaching. Ironically, the following day we would be discussing the legal history of race, desegregation, and affirmative action in the United States.

As I simultaneously watched the Ferguson protests on TV and prepared for my class, I had an increasing sense that Ferguson held more lessons for our understanding of educational law than the 800-page law textbook I was reading. I decided to organize our class discussion the following day by contextualizing the Ferguson decision and discussing why protesters’ skepticism of the law was logical, given the legal history of education and race in this country. Desegregation is too often told as a story of progress, a turning moment in our country’s “embarrassing” history of separating black and white children. I wanted to put this narrative of progress into question. I decided to teach the class by splitting up the history of educational law and race into four periods:

1) 1850-1954: Era of Separate but Equal

2) 1954-1974: Era of Desegregation Based on De Facto versus De Jure rulings

3) 1974 to 1996: Era of Desegregation & Race-Conscious Policies under Narrow-Tailoring

4) 1996-2014: Era of Intensified Affirmative Action Debates

This timeline served as a learning tool for us to conceptualize educational law not as  linear paths, but rather, as trends that were both progressive and regressive.

First, we discussed the blatant racism that existed in our country for decades under the “separate but equal” clause, which began with the 1850 Roberts v. City of Boston case that declared school segregation good for both races. The legality of “separate but equal” was solidified several decades later in the famous 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case, which legally justified the segregation of Blacks, Latinos, and Asian minorities, in the name of “public safety.” However, even within this unlikely legal terrain, during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the NAACP and other civil rights groups were able to use this law to make concrete gains for black students (e.g., Gaines v. Canada; Sweatt v. Painter). We then talked about the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case and how “separate but equal” was only repealed in a context when thousands of people were taking to the streets.

This led to a discussion about how, instead of staying in the streets, our country gave up the destiny of our schools to the legal system again, which between 1954 and 1974 was consumed by the distinction between de jure and de facto segregation–de jure segregation “arises by law or by deliberate act of school officials and is unconstitutional” and de facto segregation “results from residential housing patterns and does not violate the constitution.” We debated about why people did not simply take to the streets again at the blatant absurdity of the idea that housing patterns are not also affected by deliberate, racist acts. This acceptance of de facto segregation as “natural” has been used to legally justify a public school system that is now more segregated than before Brown v. Board.

Next, we discussed the rise of tracking during the 1960s and 1970s and also the illegality of inter-district busing after the 1974 Milliken v. Bradley case. This latter case solidified white flight as a legally-supported tactic to avoid desegregation. Then our class went over the affirmative action debates, starting with the 1978 Regents of the UC v. Bakke case, which upheld Affirmative Action under the restrictive language of “Narrow-Tailoring.” Afterwards, we explored how states, through state legislation such as California’s 1996 Prop 209, could choose to ignore even this limited language and make Affirmative Action policies completely illegal.

Our discussions led us to an assessment of educational law and race in 2014. Our basic conclusions were:

1) Desegregation is no longer legally viable, and schools are more segregated than before Brown v. Board;

2) Affirmative Action is on unstable footing; and,

3) State propositions, such as California’s Prop 209, can override any legal justification for Affirmative Action and have led to the UC system having lower percentages of Black students today than in the 1980s and 1990s.

We came to the consensus that educational law concerning race has clearly not been progressing over the past half-century. We ended the class with a debate about how viable it is to continue to use the legal system to improve racial relations in our schools. In regards to Ferguson, the question for us was not why people in Ferguson are so angry about the legal system and police prosecution, but why educational scholars are not expressing equal degrees of anger in regards to the legal system and education. Ferguson became a tool of critique of educational scholarship in our class.

However, even more importantly than this class discussion were our actions later that day, when several of the graduate students and I participated in a Ferguson solidarity protest organized by undergraduate students. I went to the protest as a faculty member in support of the students and also as a citizen angry about the Ferguson verdict. I am thankful for the national mobilizations over these past three weeks, which both allowed and forced me to embody this dual identity. It reminded me of a lesson I learned in graduate school, which I believe is equally important for professors: no matter how critical our teaching methods and scholarship, it is also necessary to act, to intervene in the world, and to take a stand not only rhetorically but physically.

Additional Resources for Further Dialogue

The Charlottesville Syllabus

Find zine #1 on UVAGSCL website: https://gradcoalition.com/wp/2017/08/14/charlottesville-syllabus-zine-1-for-august-12-2017/

“The Charlottesville Syllabus is a resource created by the Graduate Student Coalition for Liberation to be used to educate readers about the long history of white supremacy in Charlottesville, Virginia. With resources selected and summaries written by UVa graduate students, this abridged version of the Syllabus is organized into six sections that offer contemporary and archival primary and secondary sources (articles, books, responses, a documentary, databases) and a list of important terms for discussing white supremacy. Only “additional resources” are not available online (but can be found either through JSTOR, at the library, or for purchase).

What may be the largest fascist gathering in recent memory is being held in our town center this weekend. The Charlottesville Syllabus seeks to explore the local historical and contemporary precedents for this gathering, to give it history and context, to denounce it, and to amplify the voices of community members most affected by this “alt-right” occupation of space.

These resources are key to contextualizing the “alt-right” and their racist motivations. The “alt-right” have been working to distance themselves rhetorically from old-fashioned racist groups like the KKK, and it is essential that we do not let them falsify the narrative of white supremacy in Charlottesville and in this country.


A new and ongoing project, the syllabus is meant to be expanded, revised, and copied. Use this document as it’s useful to you, support each other, and take to the streets.”

– The GSCL

Additional Resources for Educators after Charlottesville


Teaching in Complex Times

James Baldwin’s Lesson for Teachers in a Time of Turmoil

Essay at the New Yorker by Clint Smith


Seven Ways that Teachers Can Respond to the Evil of Charlottesville, Starting Now

From AlterNet.org, written by Xian Franzinger Barrett

Resources For Educators To Use In The Wake Of Charlottesville

From nprED, written by Anya Kamenetz


The first thing teachers should do when school starts is talk about hatred in America. Here’s help.

From the Washington Post, written by Valerie Strauss

How to talk to your kids about the violence in Charlottesville

From the LA Times, written by Sonali Kohli

Teachers Share Resources for Addressing Charlottesville Hate Rally in the Classroom


From Education Week Teacher, written by Madeline Will

Unfortunately, this source is subscription-only, but here are some of the resources the article shares:

Generation Nation, a nonprofit on civic engagement, tweeted a helpful list of questions teachers can pose to their students to start a conversation.

Share this 18-minute podcast (or the transcript) with your students: It’s a conversation between an interview with two people who helped organize the counter-rally in Charlottesville to protest the white nationalist demonstration. The podcast covers the history of the KKK in Charlottesville, as well as how anti-racism groups organized and mobilized the community.

The Anti-Defamation League compiled a guide to talking about the so-called “alt-right” in class, including talking points on the use of propaganda as a recruitment tool and the First Amendment’s protection of hateful speech.

The Shoah Foundation, a nonprofit that maintains eyewitness records of the Holocaust, released 100 classroom resources for middle and high school teachers that focus on combatting hatred and intolerance.

The National Network of State Teachers of the Year compiled a “social justice” reading list for educators. The list includes diverse picture books for early learners and equity-themed books for elementary, middle school, and high school students, as well as books for teachers that address culturally responsive teaching practices and equity in the classroom.

The American Federation of Teachers’ site “Share My Lesson” includes educator-submitted classroom resources on civil rights and social justice, including those on activism and peaceful protests, teaching tolerance and respect, and helping students address their feelings. Educators must register to access these lessons.

Last summer, after a spate of police killings of black men and the killings of five police officers in Dallas, on Education Week Evie Blad compiled resources for discussing race, racism, and traumatic events with students. Many of these will be helpful now, too. (Also behind subscription-only pay wall.)

For more, check out this Twitter-powered #CharlottesvilleCurriculum Google Doc filled with resources for educators, which include a section on having difficult conversations in class.


There is No Apolitical Classroom: Resources for Teaching in These Times

From Literacy & NCTE (The Official Blog of the National Council of Teachers of English)


   The members of NCTE’s Standing Committee Against Racism and Bias have felt an urgency since we each joined the committee to stand against racism and bias. We have been working on ways to encourage each member of NCTE to speak out against the systemic and individual acts of racism that disenfranchise our students in and out of the classroom.

   We know that racism exists in our classrooms and in our communities. We feel that silence on these issues is complicity in the systemic racism that has marred our educational system. We see no place for neutrality and urge each member of NCTE to educate as many people as possible about the ways that systemic racism affects all of us in negative ways.

   There is no apolitical classroom. English language arts teachers must examine the ways that racism has personally shaped their beliefs and must examine existing biases that feed systems of oppression. In light of the horrific events in this country that continue to unfold, and the latest terrorism in Charlottesville, Virginia, we would like to share resources that we hope will encourage all NCTE members to speak out against the racism and bias that have been a part of our nation’s fabric since the first immigrants disembarked from European ships.

   Our Action Subcommittee has been working this year on creating classroom resources for teachers to use as statements of love and support. Printable classroom posters and bookmarks for NCTE members will be available at the 2017 Annual Convention, as well as available for download after Convention. Until then, we offer this incomplete resource to help continue the daily work that is antiracism.

(Click on the Title Link for the full blog post and full list of resources)


Here’s What You Can Do After Charlottesville

From The Nation


A Collection of Resources for Teaching Social Justice

From Cult of Pedagogy, written by Jennifer Gonzalez


Preparing Leaders to Support Diverse Learners: Curriculum Modules for Leadership Preparation

From the University Council for Education Administration

With support from a USDOE FIPSE grant, UCEA is working with faculty teams from several institutions to develop curriculum modules focused on preparing leaders to support diverse learners. These modules are designed to enhance the core curriculum used in UCEA school leadership programs. The instructional modules will be designed to offer critical content knowledge and learning experiences that strengthen leaders’ ability to support students’ academic achievement at low-performing schools.


Great teachers are experts at difficult conversations. Here’s their advice to America on talking about race

From Chalkbeat, (First published July 8, 2016)

Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Hate Map

Hate Groups are currently operating in the US. Track them with the SPLC Hate Map.

Areportfrom the Southern Poverty Law Center, onhow best to respond when controversial speakersor groups come to campus


Another report from SPLC,“Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Response Guide”

Youth Radio

Youth Radio is a powerful space where young people learn digital production skills to bring their stories to larger audiences.  Youth Radio has a multitude of resources on Michael Brown and Ferguson.  We have published a few here and encourage readers to peruse their extensive archives on Ferguson and other critical issues:


A sergeant from the Oakland Police Department responds to the above piece:



Lesson Plans


At California College of the Arts, like many colleges and universities, multiple truths are held. One of those truths is that 78% of faculty are adjunct faculty; another truth is that there are over three times as many white faculty as there are faculty of color combined. These truths speak to the multiple identities that many faculty hold and often times, there is a desire to do more in relation to the pursuit of justice, but a question of what that looks like and who should be involved. In relation to Ferguson, Michael Brown, and Black Lives Mattering, this means that there can be “Nothing about us without us.” This is what led to the creation of this lesson plan and the class session in which it’s material was held.

Following this class session, many people across the campus began reaching out to staff of color and particularly black staff members in order to further the conversation and create action steps rooted in liberation-based, inclusive practice. Many students continued the conversation, hosting, for example, a forum of their own aimed at connecting the larger dialogue on race in America to campus climate. Their professor allowed this to be considered their final project. A conversation grew about how we inform students raised internationally and sometimes outside of the American context of race, racism, and racial justice about that particular context. Because this class session was a collaboration between Diversity Studies and Student Affairs, there has been a much stronger relationship and collaboration between those areas of the college since then.

Currently, staff, faculty, students, and administration are looking for ways to better institutionalize these practices with depth and sustainability.




Sociologists for Justice


We encourage all concerned about the injustices and inequities made evident by the recent events in Ferguson to join us as we dig deeper into understanding the multiplicity of factors that contribute to the criminalization and marginalization of black and brown communities. The following is a collection of research articles used to inform the arguments in the public statement on the events in Ferguson.


Teaching #FergusonResources

A google document with resources for educators: “The purpose of this document is to gather resources for learning about the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. Original creation & development of this document bv by host/facilitator @dankrutka & the participants in #sschat at 7pm EST on August 20, 2014.”


African American Intellectual History Society (AAIHS)

Here is a list of readings that educators can use to broach conversations in the classroom about the horrendous events that unfolded in Charleston, South Carolina on the evening of June 17, 2015. These readings provide valuable information about the history of racial violence in this country and contextualize the history of race relations in South Carolina and the United States in general. They also offer insights on race, racial identities, global white supremacy and black resistance. All readings are arranged by date of publication. This list is not meant to be exhaustive–you will find omissions. Please check out #Charlestonsyllabus and the Goodreads List for additional reading suggestions.

#Charlestonsyllabus was conceived by Chad Williams (@Dr_ChadWilliams), Associate Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. With the help of Kidada Williams (@KidadaEWilliams), the hashtag started trending on Twitter on the evening of June 19, 2015. The following list was compiled and organized by AAIHS blogger Keisha N. Blain (@KeishaBlain) with the assistance of Melissa Morrone (@InfAgit), Ryan P. Randall (@foureyedsoul), and Cecily Walker (@skeskali). Special thanks to everyone who contributed suggestions via Twitter. Please click here to read more about the origin and significance of #Charlestonsyllabus.

Teaching about the Flint Water & Social Justice Crisis

The Best Resources For Learning About The Flint Water Fiasco – Part 1

The Best Resources For Learning About The Flint Water Fiasco – Part 2

The Best Resources For Learning About The Flint Water Fiasco – Part 3

Larry Ferlazzo, EduBlog

Teaching Detroit and Flint – A Collection

New York Collective of Radical Educators (NYCoRE)

Facing History and Ourselves

Resources for Educators:

In Facing History Resource Collections, our most powerful and popular themes are illuminated through carefully selected publications, lesson plans, videos, current events, library resources, and more. View the complete list of resource collections on this page.

“There Are No Urban Design Courses on Race and Justice, So We Made Our Own Syllabus”

Brentin Mock, CityLab.Com

Black students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design say there are no design courses that consider race and justice. Here’s an outline for one.

Thoughts on Ferguson and its Relationship to Our Work as Educators

Antwan Wilson, Superintendent, Oakland Unified School District

Font Resize