UPPER MARLBORO — Two days before the Feb. 1 Prince George’s County Board of Education meeting, Board member Raaheela Ahmed was making her way from board member to board member to gain support for a cause she believed in.
Board Chair Segun Eubanks had told her she needed to work up a consensus for the Black Lives Matter at Schools Week proclamation to appear on the board’s Feb. 1 agenda, and she was going to work as hard as she could to make it happen.
“Black Lives Matter is the embodiment of a very important and strong social justice movement that a lot of our students and facility and staff identify with,” she said. “So this type of power organizing in education is something I really want to see.”
Black Lives Matters at Schools is not officially affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement and focuses on opening a dialogue on race inequities through education and showing students how they take part in their local communities and beyond.
The movement began in Rochester, N.Y. with a small group of parents and teachers who wanted “to create a day of education, dialogue and action that will actively engage a significant number of educational communities throughout Monroe County in activities which support understanding and affirmation of black lives,” according to the group’s vision statement.
Bryan Trueblood, a College Summit Coordinator at Central High School, said the program will provide an optional curriculum for all grade levels. It had received an endorsement from both the Maryland State Educators’ Association and the Prince George’s County Educators Association.
The point of the week is to establish an understanding and affirmation of black lives, Trueblood said.
“This resolution calls on the district to explore and grapple with the past, present and future status of black lives in our society. And affirm the status as ‘equal to’ and not ‘second to’ the lives of others,” he said.
The specific proclamation on behalf of the board says the board “endorses and encourages teachers and students” to participate in the week as Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) should be “places for the practice of equity, for the building of understanding and for the active engagement of all.”
Ahmed and Trueblood both acknowledged that some might be uncomfortable with Black Lives Matter being in schools, noting that ‘all lives matter,’ but both emphasized that the students of the minority-majority school district deserve to have conversations about the reality around them.
“I think it’s really important that we acknowledge that there are social justice issues in our community, in our society and our children see it, and it cannot be ignored,” Ahmed said. “I also think so much of history is written by the victors and so much of minority history is not reflected in our history books, and social justice movements like Black Lives Matter provide a forum for that learning and understanding.”
She also emphasized that the point of the week is to encourage dialogue and help lead students toward productive civic actions.
“It takes what you learn, and what you know and what you hear, to the next level and says ‘lets do something about it.’ And that’s a key difference,” she said.