How schools are handling Black History Month in a new racial era

Reopening Schools

NEW YORK CITY — For teacher Martin Urbach, teaching Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and the Motown movement in his music class is a part of Black history.

Black Lives Matter lessons include Mary J. Blige, too.

“For me, I’m a white Latino,” Urbach said. “How do I get my Black students, my Asian students, my queer, my trans students to fight for Black lives all together.”

Urbach said his Harvest Collegiate High School students live in a society that may be telling them there is no struggle, because often times they don’t experience the struggle themselves. That’s the challenge, for him, in teaching Black Lives Matter and Black History Month.

New York City Public schools and community organizations are taking part in a Black Lives Matter week of action focusing on racial justice and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline targeting Black students while discussing tough topics like police brutality and racial violence.

In New York City schools, 56% of teachers are white, even though only 15% of the city’s 960,000 students are white. Seventeen percent of teachers are Black, though more than a quarter of students in the city’s schools are Black.

And 40% of the student population is Latino, with just 17% of teachers who look like them.

The goal of the Black Lives Matter school coalition is to improve the classroom experience for students of color by hiring more Black teachers, teaching Black history and implementing restorative justice or using more counselors in schools instead of cops.

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