Pledge to #TeachTruth Day of Action
On Saturday, June 12, educators in more than 20 states across the country participated in a Day of Action, pledging to “teach the truth” in the face of a growing right-wing movement to curtail social justice teaching in U.S. classrooms. The actions revolved around historic sites, combining public history and political education, to emphasize the critical stories of the United States that would be off-limits in U.S. classrooms under the current wave of anti-education legislation. The Zinn Education Project (coordinated by Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools) and Black Lives Matter at School extended the national call to action, explaining, “While bills and budget resolutions are being proposed (and in some cases passed) in specific states, the threat to teaching — and the need for solidarity — is everywhere.” That call was answered by teachers from Anchorage, Alaska, to Yarmouth, Maine, from Belton, Texas, to Waterloo, Iowa, who showed up to defiantly promise to teach the truth — no matter the law.
Spoken word artist LindoYes read “Colors” and “Refuse Fascism,” and Council Member Kendra Brooks, educators, parents, students, and artists spoke against pending Pennsylvania House Bill 1532 at Protest Park next to The President’s House. Supporting organizations included the Racial Justice Organizing Committee, Teamsters Local 502 Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, Immigrant Justice Philly, Melanated Educators Collective, Building Anti-Racist White Educators, Parents United, Philadelphia Home and School Council, Para Power, and Black Lives Matter Week of Action-Philly.
SNCC veteran and Eyes on the Prize series associate producer Judy Richardson spoke about the misrepresentation of Reconstruction in textbooks at a gathering of D.C. metro area educators in front of the African American Civil War Memorial. D.C. Area Educators for Social Justice and the African American Civil War Museum and Memorial hosted the event. It was endorsed by EmpowerEd and the Washington Teachers’ Union.
Current and former educators from Waterloo schools and the University of Northern Iowa along with their supporters met at the Black’s Building, 501 Sycamore St., in downtown Waterloo to sign the pledge and walk to two more sites.
The Killeen Daily Herald reported on the rally in Belton: “The event was co-sponsored by Black Ladies Advancing Qualitative & Quantitative Change, the Bell County Democratic Party, and Community Hands of Central Texas. Speakers included Jose Martinez, a college professor; Kayren Gray, an educational consultant and author of The Road to Equity; Chris Rosenberg, chairman of the Bell County Democratic Party; the Rev. Philemon Brown; Gabriela Gonzalez, a student at Killeen High School; and Jennifer Lee, an educator . . .”
Seattle educators met at the Medgar Evers Pool, heard speakers, and went on a history walking tour. Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant read a proclamation from the city for the Pledge to #TeachTruth Day. The event was hosted and sponsored by Social Equity Educators, Washington Ethnic Studies Now, the Seattle Education Association Center for Racial Equity, and the Seattle Council PTSA.
Tyrone Randle Jr. is spearheading efforts for a gravestone for George Marshall Clark, lynched in Milwaukee in 1861. He spoke at the press conference/rally in downtown Milwaukee at the site of the lynching.
Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past students led the crowd in the first stanza of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the old Northside Pool in Youngstown, one of many pools closed during the end of segregation. Students took turns talking about the local history of the swimming pools.
National Education Association
“Educators deserve support, and our students deserve to be taught the truth. Some politicians would have us lie in the classroom to whitewash our history — not on my watch. Today, I join with @BLMAtSchool, @ZinnEdProject, and educators across the nation in pledging to #TeachTruth.”
—Becky Pringle, National Education Association president
Concord, New Hampshire
Concord-area educators gathered at the New Hampshire State House at an event called “Courage Over Censorship: A March & Meditation on the Consequences of HB 544.” Participants were encouraged to bring a book that changed their perspective on systemic racism/inequity that might be considered “divisive” under the new law.
Oregon high school teacher Suzanna Kassouf signs a pledge in solidarity with educators in states where bills are being introduced. This was part of an action near Block 14 in Portland’s Lone Fir Cemetery, where more than 1,000 Chinese were buried without markers along with an estimated 200 people from the Oregon Hospital for the Insane.
City Commissioner Van Turner spoke at the site of the 1866 Memphis Massacre. More than 50 people came out in the extreme heat for a history walk organized by Memphis teachers, which also included the site of the first Freedmen’s Schools in Memphis, the site of notorious racist Nathan Bedford Forrest’s home and slave market, and the National Civil Rights Museum.