Processing police violence in our communities

It has been a long 4+ months since the last time I posted. Today’s post will be a short update on what we are up to in the midst of very trying times.

THE BACKSTORY: It has been a tough year in our community. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all witnessed Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd less than 2 miles from our school. In the aftermath, the neighborhood around us faced utter destruction: vandalism, looting, fires. Students and their families lost homes, jobs, access to food and household supplies, and their sense of security. There was confusion, anger, fear, and we weren’t able to process any of it together in person.

Skip ahead almost a year to the trial of Derek Chauvin. Everyone is on edge and here we are facing another very public police killing. This time the victim is 20-year-old Daunte Wright, killed in Brooklyn Center, where several of our students live. Again, there are protests. The police response is strong and swift, we are put under curfew, the National Guard is called in. Within days, bodycam footage is released in Chicago from the March 29 killing of 13-year-old Adam Toledo.

TODAY: I don’t believe that we can ignore these things and just carry on like nothing has happened. We usually talk about these things in my Heritage Spanish classes, and although right now I can’t feel the tension and unease (because we are not physically together), I know it is there.

After seeing this fantastic resource on social media over the weekend, I adapted two of the activities to use in my classes this week. On Friday we were told that we were getting Monday off as a mental health day. It was a much appreciated break to do whatever we needed to just get through. However, due to our work study program and pandemic schedule, that means I only see each class once this week. We only got to the first activity today, and that’s all we did. It was worth it.

I’ve shared an image below of the activity we worked on today in two of my heritage classes, and will work on tomorrow with the other two. You can also click here to see the full slide deck.

There was a time last year when I really worried that we would start to see anti-Blackness from our Latinx students. Around 85% of our school is Latinx and the majority of the other 15% is Black. When destruction erupted up and down Lake Street, I was afraid my students would respond with anger towards their Black peers. And while I know many students were hurt, confused and angry, I did not see any evidence of the anti-Blackness I had feared.

Instead, today, I saw solidarity. Empathy. Determination.

We used Canva to create our graphics. It’s a powerful tool and creating a teacher account gives you and your students free access to everything, even the premium (paid) content.

Check out some of their work below.

Ultimately, in the worst of circumstances, my students demonstrated that they are better than many adults at seeing past the division to the big picture: we are all fighting for the same things.

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