F&C Students Speak at Black Lives Matter Protest on Front Steps of Board of Education

February 13, 2019

On Thursday, during Black Lives Matter's week of action, students, educators, and parents rallied for an extension of the city's black history curriculum. On the front steps of the Tweed Courthouse, current home to the New York Board of Education, Freedom & Citizenship students Iaisha Johnson and Kirsten Daye spoke to fellow protesters about why the current curriculum perpetuates ideas of white supremacy. At their school (Maxine Greene High School for Imaginative Inquiry), there is no space for Black History even during the short month of February.

Iaisha and Kirsten are currently members of the "student rights" group in Freedom & Citizenship where they are investigating the problems of zero tolerance policies, metal detectors, and student disengagement in schools. In their speech, they bring together the problems of a white curriculum and the disproportionate criminalization of black youth in schools.

Full Text:

"Where are our heroes? Where are our scientists, inventors, business leaders? Black Minds Matter. We stand here today because generations of children are affected by this lack of inclusion. We stand here today because we value the black youth. We value the representation of blackness, love and acceptance. We fight for equality. We fight for education. We fight for gun reform. We fight for LGBTQ rights. We fight for them all. 

It is not okay when a black child's only remembrance of their culture is slavery. It is not okay to be silenced when we ask for more. It is not okay when our white counterparts are able to learn about the very people that pillaged, raped and murdered our black ancestors. Our history should not just be unit in a curriculum of white supremacy and white colonization. I should know more, black children in America deserve to know more. This school system needs to change, this curriculum has to change. American history is more than just the white side of history. American history is indigenous, black, and hispanic history. Our education should reflect that. Black Minds Matter.

I am nothing more than what I see, what I hear and most importantly what I learn. We need more teachers of color. This is a black child's reality, a child of color's reality. We deserve to hear the truth, to hear our history in its entirety, to know more than the oppression that we've been taught in school. It is not enough, it is not fair to have a child learn more about their oppressors than themselves, to know how our people were slaughtered but not how strong we were, how smart we were how resilient we were. The New York City school system is a reflection of this country's failure to address their mistakes, to recognize that Black Lives Matter. We cannot and we will not stand by and let this school system, this nation forget about the black youth. 

Chancellor Carranza, we ask that Black History and Ethnic Studies be added to the curriculum for all students. We ask that the discontinuation of the zero tolerance policy be brought into effect throughout all New York City schools. We ask that you recognize and defeat the cultural bias fueling the criminalization of black youth in the school system. We ask that instead of policing our freedom of expression you provide counselors that will make an effort to understand us. So please, think of our future and remember that Black Minds Matter."