Richard Barth's Weekly Thoughts: Regions' Response to Protests

ByRichard Barth, KIPP Foundation

We are well into week three of the nationwide protests sparked by the horrific killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more. If you have not yet read KIPP’s official statement on the protests, you can do so here.

The KIPP mission statement starts with the words, “Together with families and communities,” and ends with the words, “to build a more just world.” We must not and we will not rest until these aspirational words are the lived reality for our kids, our families, and us all.

In today’s note we wanted to give a few highlights of how Team and Family is meeting this moment.

Minnesota

Due to lockdowns and store closures, many of the close to 500 KIPP families in the Twin Cities do not have access to groceries, drugstores, or public transit. Following the lead of Black organizers and leaders, KIPP is organizing supply drives for families as well as supporting existing drives in progress. So far they have filled the gym and two classrooms with donated goods!

On June 3, KIPP held a Day of Action where staff, alumni, parents, and community volunteers came to help distribute supplies to families and community members. With COVID-19 safety measures in place, students and parents gave short speeches in front of the school. And art teacher Ali Bodine also led the making of protest art by students and community attendees:

New Jersey

In a June 2 article on schools’ responses to the protests, KIPP Thrive Academy principal Modiegi Notoane-Eugene spoke about the importance of educators helping students grapple with what’s going on, while also honoring their own emotions. “As an educator, before I can even put that hat on, I had to think of myself first as a black woman,” she told the reporters. To address this in her school, she invited a Rutgers University professor to speak to staff about how to process recent events themselves and then address them with their students.

Meanwhile, also on June 2, KIPP Seek Academy assistant principal Christopher Blair spearheaded a day of action. Here is the announcement they shared, encouraging families and community members to speak out in memory of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. See a recap video of all the social media posts for the day below.

DC

The KIPP community in DC has come together to financially contribute to activist organizations supporting the movement for Black lives. Members of the board of directors will match every dollar donated by staff to the NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund or Campaign Zero, up to a max of $40,000. In addition to also closing schools for a day, KIPP has decided to make Juneteenth a holiday for the entire DC region, and to give August 28th off so whoever wants to participate in a Washington rally for racial justice can do so.

Philadelphia

On June 18, KIPP will be hosting a virtual discussion about the organization’s approach to race and equity. KIPP Philly CEO Jessica Cunningham Akoto, KIPP alum Christopher Johnson, and KIPP parent Amanda Keyes with share their own reflections and facilitate a panel discussion about KIPP Philly’s efforts around equity and anti-racism. Check out this powerful video by 3rd graders in Mr. Brownlee’s Wildcat class. It was created when a student asked, if his life really mattered, why do people have to say it all the time.

Southern California

This week, KIPP SoCal is launching an online portal called Together For Justice, which offers resources for action against systemic racism. The homepage will include a continuously updated “Resources for Change” section, with info on how to get informed about racism and antiracism in America; take action to encourage and support reform; and engage with organizations on the front lines of social justice. There is also an “In Solidarity” feature highlighting different organizations, anti-racism resources, and KIPP voices on a rotating basis

Pride Month 2020

And I am also proud to see our schools celebrating Pride Month to support our LGBTQ students and staff and to create safer schools for all regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity and/or gender expression. In the words of our team in Philadelphia “Let’s stand together to fight bigotry and hatred!”

Virtual KIPP Class of 2020 Graduation Celebration

For the first time ever, we will bring the entire network together for our virtual KIPP Class of 2020 Graduation Celebration on Saturday, June 20 at 3 pm ET. Learn more about the event here.

Want to help shower our seniors with love and send them off in style? Here are two ways you can get involved:

1. Publish a message: Shout out specific students, a class, or all 2020 seniors with video and photo messages on your social media platforms using the hashtag #TogetherWeAreStronger. Encourage seniors to leverage our virtual photobooth as well!

2. Show up! Saturday, June 20 at 3 pm ET on the national KIPP Facebook page.

Just like graduation, voting is a rite of passage. It’s one of the most effective ways to make your voice heard. So kicking off during our virtual graduation, we have partnered When We All Vote to make sure that all eligible KIPP students, educators, and families register to vote. You can also register to vote right now here.

I leave you with an incredibly uplifting virtual choir of KIPP students and staff raising their voices in song together.

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