Washington D.C. Students & Adults Discuss Weighty Topics for ‘Black Lives Matter’ Week of Action

A Seminar by The Center for Inspired Teaching & the Teaching for Change organization

by: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO
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It’s time to do more than talk about the Black and brown people whom Kelsey Coleman contends are getting pushed out of the rapidly gentrifying District.

Now is the time for action, the 16-year-old said.

Coleman made her comments Feb. 8 at a seminar with students and adults that centered on housing discrimination in the District.

The Center for Inspired Teaching, in conjunction with Teaching for Change, a non-profit organization founded in 1989 and based in Washington D.C. with the motto of “building social justice, starting in the classroom,” organized the intraschool seminar as part of D.C. Area Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools. Their goal was empowering educators and residents to address racial injustice while amplifying the voices of young students of color. Kelsey served as one of the student facilitators for the gentrification discussion.

Every month, students from all over the city read pre-selected materials for the talks, decide what social justice issues they want to address and discuss the topics among themselves. But for February, Inspired Teaching invited adults to the conversation so they could learn from each other. For February, 94 students and 94 teachers registered for the talks, officials said.

“Inspired Teaching is to redefine the way we think of school,” said Cosby Hunt, senior officer of teaching and learning for the Center for Inspired Teaching. “It’s not just from 8 to 4 in a building with the same people. It’s bringing people in for richer dialogue.”

In doing so, the children are exposed to students from a variety of socio-economic backgrounds — students they wouldn’t normally run into at school. And it helps White children get out of their comfort zone, said Jane Ehrenfeld, executive director of the Center for Inspired Teaching. Those kids need to get out of their echo chamber and hear other voices now so they’re aware of the struggles others face as they move up in the world.

“A lot of these kids are going to inherit power,” she said.

For February, the kids selected topics related to Black Lives Matter. Besides gentrification, the other topics were:

  • mental illness and race in the U.S.,
  • racism and the legalization of marijuana,
  • the intersection of gender and race,
  • Black Lives Matter as a social media movement, and
  • looking ahead to what’s next for the Black Lives Matter movement. All of the talks took place at Edmund Burke High School.

Mary Beth Tinker, a nurse and local activist, encouraged the kids to seize political power and vote for the leaders who share their concerns about gentrification. She encouraged the kids to join a movement to lower the voting age in D.C. to 16.

With respect to gentrification, even if Blacks and Whites live in the same neighborhood, they’re still separate, said Donna Deniźe, a teacher at St. Albans.

That makes it harder to connect, because White people might not understand the role they might play in displacing people of color from their neighborhoods, said Monet Scott, 17.

“I don’t understand a White person’s perspective and they don’t understand mine,” she said. “But we have to be able to understand each other.”

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