Sunset Park SchoolIssue 34Winter 2021
FROM THE PRINCIPAL’S DESK
It is now February and it’s hard to believe that soon, our children will be able to enjoy warm days once again. There isn’t much we can do right now, but to look forward and hope for better days. When there are glimmers of light that do shine through, it is our job to freeze those moments and savor them.
This winter has brought us a new president and leader of our country. During the inauguration, the best part for me was listening to Amanda Gorman read her poem. It filled me with more hope and fostered a sense of collective purpose. Let us savor a few lines:
to compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us,
but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms
so we can reach out our arms
to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true
Among the many layers of brilliance of Amanda Gorman’s poem is how well it’s steeped in history and the teachings of many of our elders, including Coretta Scott King. When speaking to young people, Coretta said to, “break new ground in our restless search for truth.” Amanda broke new ground like this and made a call to action for us to do so on a new level with each other and with our students.
Amanda is calling on us to wait no longer. We too must teach our students to find hope and search for truths. It is essential, more so than ever before, that we teach students the power of a voice, the power of a vote, the power we all have, individually and collectively to change history. We need to break new ground and help our students to do the same. They need to know how to be historians of the truth, how to be scientists in search of the truth, and how to be leaders in search of the truth.
To do this in a meaningful way, we must join a movement. A movement that had started long ago--long before today. We, together here, in Sunset Park, have to get on that train. We can no longer wait for the next one.
This is no easy task, because unfortunately, truth is not something that is free, and often not easily accessible, and arguable often obfuscated. Bluntly speaking, there have been many lives that were sacrificed for the truth and many lives that are still sacrificed today.
As a school, we will turn a corner this February. I want to invite you all to join me in Black Lives Matter week of action in schools. I am proud of the United Federations of Teachers and their reaffirmation of Black Lives Matter. As a school, we have to figure out how we can provide our students with more representation and exposure to Black people, Black culture, and/or Black history. This is a starting point where many of our students will see themselves. And through this work all of our students will realize the freedoms they have been granted because they are part of a community of people who have been brave in breaking new ground in search for a truth.
We will take a look at our curriculum and begin in February but hopefully it won’t end there. These six BLM principles will guide us:
Collective Value means that all Black lives, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status or location, matter. “Everybody is important, and has the right to be safe and happy, no matter what religion they are, where they are from, how much money they have, or who they love. Another way to say that is collective value.”
Globalism is our ability to see how we are impacted or privileged within the Black global family that exists across the world in different regions. “Globalism means that Black people live all over the world, in lots of different ways; they may not have the same experiences, but they are all connected.”
Loving Engagement is the commitment to practice justice, liberation and peace. “It’s so important to make sure that we are always trying to be fair and peaceful, and to engage with other people (treat other people) with love. We have to keep practicing this so that we can get better and better at it. Another way to say that is loving engagement.”
Restorative Justice is the commitment to build a beloved and loving community that is sustainable and growing. “We know that if you hurt somebody, you have to help them feel better; you can't just say, "Sorry," and walk away. We also know that it’s important for kids to be able to make a better choice another time, and it’s grownups’ job to help them make better choices and to give them chances to do that. Another way to say that is restorative justice.”
Intergenerational is a space free from ageism where we can learn from each other. “It’s important that we have spaces where people of different ages can come together and learn from each other. Another way to say that is intergenerational.”
This work is only possible because we have already started our own preparations.
- Integration was at the forefront of our district. We have been part of this movement for desegregation in middle schools. We have rid test scores as an indicator of where they think our children should be placed. We have rid the inequities of auditions and entrance exams that have favored privileged children.
- Implicit bias training was mandated across the district--all staff in our school were given opportunities to understand implicit bias and the bias that we all carry. This training was essential for us to begin this work today. This was just the tip of the iceberg and hopefully these types of training will continue through the DOE and to our families.
- We have joined forces with the district Equity Team. We have representatives from our family support team to staff students that give Sunset Park a voice on these teams. We have created our own Equity Team and our team has been recognized on the front pages of the press as being bold in their own seek of the truth.
- We are working to create a system for collaboration on shifting our school wide curriculum to be more aligned to the Culturally Responsive Sustaining Education framework.
I find inspiration in our readiness and excitement. For those of you who feel more trepidation, take heart in knowing that by participating in our community you too are leading this work. Have confidence that it is the right thing to do to no longer teach the binary perspectives of the past, present and future. Together, let us see and dive into the complexities that existed, a history that is not only white, but an array of colors. Let us teach the truths.
EuJin Tang | Principal--Directora--校长 | Sunset Park School
ps. here are some activities and helpful resources
- - Videos: This Sesame Street video is amazing, and not only discusses racism but the importance of being an "upstander" against racism. It focuses on the power of action and even dips into microaggressions. This might be an excellent conversation starter for children in grades K-2. Hey Black Child by Maya Angelou.
- - Coloring pages: BLM, Women, Globalism, Mom, Love Yourself, BLM kids
- - Books: More, More, More said the Baby by Vera Williams, Shades of Black by Sandra Pinkney, Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara, So Much! By Trish Cooke, Pretty Brown Faceby Andrea Davis Pinkney. Black All Around by Patricia Hubbell, Who are You? by Brook Pessin-Whedbee, Draw! by Raul Colon, Milo’s Museum by Zetta Elliott