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Navigating Turbulent Waters: Back-to-School Organizing

September 21, 2021 at 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm CDT


About the Event

As educators and students go back to school this fall, they face multiple crises: a still-raging pandemic, right-wing censorship of educational content, and — despite billions in federal aid — a chronic lack of funding. Join us as we hear from union leaders, teachers, and community activists about how they are organizing through these turbulent waters to build their unions and protect their classrooms. From San Antonio, where community members and educators are demanding grassroots input into how federal relief funds should be spent; to Seattle and across the country, where teachers are pledging to Teach Truth; to Arizona, where educators are demanding protections for themselves and their students in a state where legislators seem to believe that COVID doesn’t exist. We can all take inspiration and lessons from these organizing stories as back-to-school 2021 tumbles and turns into a new school year.

Jesse Hagopian is a high school teacher in Seattle, an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, and a founding member of Black Lives Matter at School. Jesse edited the book More than a Score: The New Uprising Against High Stakes Testing and is the co-editor of the books, Teacher Unions and Social Justice, Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice. and Teaching for Black Lives.

Alejandra Lopez grew up in the southwest side of San Antonio and has been involved in social justice movement work in Europe and the United States for more than 15 years with focuses on immigration, racial, and economic justice. She currently serves as the president of the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel, a union that represents more than 2,000 education workers in SAISD, and is a founding member of PODER, the union’s rank-and-file social justice caucus.

Cecily Myart-Cruz is a teacher, activist, and the United Teachers Los Angeles president. The first woman of color in the union’s 50-year history — having previously served as NEA Vice President for six years. Cecily has taught for 26 years, at both elementary and middle school levels, most recently at Angeles Mesa Elementary. As a UTLA Area leader, she has worked with schools, parents, students, and the community to oust 23 “bully principals.” Cecily has collaborated with school communities in initiating the year-long boycott of district periodic assessments in protest of excessive testing of students. She is no stranger in taking direct action, whether it is fighting against co-locations, demanding Ethnic Studies for students, declaring the end to the criminalization of youth, local and statewide lobbying efforts, and much more.

Rodrigo Palacios-Tenorio is a public school educator in Arizona since 2002, with two decades of experience in the classroom. A career-long member of his local teachers’ union and a member of Arizona Educators United since 2018, Rodrigo Palacios was the recipient of the Chicanos Por La Causa Latino Teacher Award in the Spring of 2021. This award recognizes educators working to better the lives of their Latino community and students.

Moderated by Zakiyah Ansari. Zakiyah Ansari is the Advocacy Director of the New York State Alliance for Quality Education (AQE), the leading statewide organization fighting for educational justice in New York State. Zakiyah is the mother of eight children and grandparent of four. Zakiyah has dedicated more than 20 years of her life to the fight for educational justice and ending the oppression of Black and Brown people. Zakiyah was named one of City and State magazine’s “25 Most Influential in Brooklyn.” Zakiyah volunteers her time with the NY Justice League and Resistance Revival Chorus. Zakiyah is a 2020 Atlantic Fellow for Racial Equity.

The event is hosted by Rethinking Schools and co-sponsored by the Urban Education Justice Project.

Participants will need access to Zoom. Register for the Zoom link and get a 20% discount code for Rethinking Schools books and magazine.

ASL Interpretation will be available


The event is free. To make events like this available to more educators and activists, we would greatly appreciate your solidarity donation.


September 21, 2021
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm CDT