I spent last weekend at the National Writing Project Urban Sites conference in Birmingham, AL, and what a weekend it was. Along with the usual events at a conference of educators, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute held its own convention. So we heard about the city’s history of civil rights action from people who participated — who joined thousands of children to march in 1963 and go to jail. Probably the most inspiring conference I’ve ever attended.
And what lessons about civil rights we do not learn in history books — extremely smart organizing, courageous teachers who taught the kids to seek their rights, and a level of violence and intimidation to try to stop them that was far higher and more brutal than I had ever imagined. There was also the silence of many good people, until things got so bad that they couldn’t be ignored.
The theme of the NWP conference was “Writers of Social Justice: How One Pen Can Change the World.” But my question in my speech was: “Whose pen?!” And the answer: Every one of us must know it’s OUR pen. The budget cuts and school closings and narrowing of curriculum and attacks on teachers are today’s version of social injustice because they hurt poor children the most.
So you’re busy, you’re overwhelmed, you have no time. But you know what you really need to do.
Teacher advocacy, Teacher Voice