Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The 2015 Charles H. Thompson Lecture-Colloquium Presentation: Why Black Lives (and Minds) Matter: Race, Freedom Schools & the Quest for Educational Equity

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The 2015 Charles H. Thompson Lecture-Colloquium Presentation: Why Black Lives (and Minds) Matter: Race, Freedom Schools & the Quest for Educational Equity

Article excerpt

In 2013 in response to a preponderance of violence and unaccounted for destruction of Black lives in the United States, in particular unarmed Black men and boys being murdered at the hands of police and law enforcement, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement was born. In a period of two brief years, the Black Lives Matter movement became an international, politically driven activist movement that says it campaigns, organizes, and protests against violence toward Black people. One of the primary foci of BLM has been protest around the shootings of Black people at the hands of the police and police brutality that has been rampant in this country for centuries, but has become increasingly visible over the past two decades in what is purported to be a civil and democratic society (Marable, 2007). The Black Lives Matter movement began with the use of the hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter on social media and gained increased and intense attention after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African American teenager Trayvon Martin. The Black Lives Matter movement gained additional attention after the 2014 deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York City, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio, and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles when supporters spoke out vehemently about the senseless murders of unarmed Black lives, that did not include any officers being held accountable for these deaths. Several other African Americans who died at the hands of police officers have had their deaths protested by the movement, including Eric Harris, Natasha McKenna, Walter Scott, Janisha Fonville, Jonathan Ferrell, Sandra Bland, Tanisha Anderson, Samuel DuBose and Freddie Gray. The Black Lives Matter movement calls itself a decentralized network, enhanced by social media, with no formal or designated hierarchy, elected leaders or prescribed structure.

A perusal of the Black Lives Matter website ( states that the movement is "unapologetically Black" and has often been described as the Black millennial movement, and not a moment, and on its website it also considers itself the following:

* The Black protest movement of the 21st century

* Intersectional, Intergenerational

* Family affirming, queer affirming

* Empathetic and global.

Mobilizing through social media, organizing around police brutality, anti-Black racism, blatant racism, and seeking for justice to be recognized where justice has been denied, the movement has gained in scope and attention beyond police brutality. The organization's website states that Black Lives Matter is:

a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of black people by police and vigilantes. . . . Black Lives Matter affirms the lives of black queer and trans folks, disabled folks, black undocumented folks, folks with records, women and all black lives along the gender spectrum.

One of its founders, Alicia Garza (2014) has summed up the philosophy behind Black Lives Matter by stating: "When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity." It is the aspect of Black people being deprived of "basic human rights and dignity" that serves as the impetus for why BLM's aims and goals have direct implications for the education of Black children in the U.S. in 2016. It could be stated that the basic dignity that all students deserve has been denied for countless numbers of Black children. Overwhelming data suggest the Black children perhaps more than any other group of students experience unique challenges in schools that interrupt their learning opportunities and hinder their educational outcomes (Carter & Welner, 2013; Howard, 2010, 2013; Howard & Reynolds, 2009; Ladson-Billings, 2006; Milner, 2015; Nasir, 2012). This article seeks to shed a spotlight on some of the aspects of Black students' dignity being compromised in their learning pursuits. …

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