We must center the voices of Black and Latinx students
AYINDE BENNETT | 6/25/2020, midnight
This past January, I attended a student forum led by Teens Take Charge, which featured a debate with the NYC Deputy Chancellor Josh Wallack and other NYC DOE leaders. These students impressively convinced their opponents and a packed auditorium at the Bayard Rustin Campus that segregated schools were alive and well in New York City. These students, reflective of the NYC demographic, are still continuing the fight for school integration (yes, in 2020), among other things like the right to live without fear as a Black or Latinx person in this country.
Black and Latinx students face great inequity in this country. Our young people encounter the police on a daily basis, including first thing in the morning when many enter their schools. For years, they have complained to educators about such, but have we given them our ear? If a young person tells me that their school feels more like a pipeline to prison than a step towards their desired postsecondary plan, then it is my job to listen and make the adequate changes. And it’s yours.
As the great Paulo Freire taught us, who best to talk about what it feels like to be oppressed than those that are oppressed? I implore educators to collaborate with students. Prioritize their seat at the table when school-based decisions are being made. And education based non-profits should create student advisory boards, as they can help guide us to an equitable education system that nourishes the minds of our young people and fully supports them.
Our young people are angry about what is happening in the world right now, and our role as educators is to listen to them.
Ayinde Bennett is the Postsecondary Access Manager at the Urban Assembly, a network of 23 themed, public schools in New York City.