This fall we find ourselves in a confluence of crises: the economic crisis hurting households across the country, the dangers of re-opening during COVID-19, police brutality on the streets and in schools, massive dislocation of families due to climate wildfires, and now Trump’s White House is trying to punish educators for teaching about the history of racial injustice and white supremacy that continues in our country.
On September 30th, join us as Black educators and advocates discuss how we can navigate the present moment and also reimagine the future of teaching and learning. What can we learn from the liberation struggles of the past to inform and inspire our current work? What are students, parents, educators, and community members doing right now that we should support and defend?
About the Presenters:
Karen is an educator, organizer, and coach (of the basketball variety) who currently serves as the Executive Director of Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools (Rethink).
Dr. Richard D. Benson II is a historian of education specializing in the Black Freedom Movement and transnational social movements. He completed a PhD in Educational Policy Studies specializing in the history of education at the University of Illinois. He is currently an Associate Professor in the Education Department at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. He has received a number of grants and awards including the 2019/2020 Robert A. Corrigan Visiting Professor in Social Justice at the San Francisco State University (SFSU) College of Ethnic Studies; the UNCF/Mellon International Faculty Residency; the W. E. B. Du Bois Visiting Scholars Fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Amherst; the C.L.R. James Research Fellowship by the African American Intellectual History Society; and the New York Public Library Fellowship. He is the award-winning author of Fighting for our Place in the Sun: Malcolm X and the Radicalization of the Black Student Movement 1960-1973 (Peter Lang Publishing, 2015), which is a text that examines the linkages and inter-generational continuity of the Black Freedom Movement that evolved from the social pedagogy and political influences of Malcolm X. Dr. Benson is currently working on a book manuscript entitled, Funding the Revolution: Black Power, White Church Money, and the Financial Architects of Black Radicalism 1966-1976 (State University of New York Press, 2021).
Khalilah M. Harris, EdD, JD is managing director for K-12 Education Policy at American Progress and a non-resident senior fellow at the Maryland Center on Economic Policy. Dr. Harris was most recently a host and executive producer with a Baltimore-based news network focused on their Baltimore bureau, education reporting, and social justice commentary. She brings a unique perspective to American Progress from an extensive career of working to expand access to opportunity through an equity lens in community organizing, education, education policy, youth advocacy, and building an inclusive workforce.
In addition to her background as an attorney and researcher, Dr. Harris brings a range of grassroots experiences from founding a Baltimore City school focused on social justice to being a founding organizer with the newly formed Black Mamas People’s Assembly also based in Baltimore City. She organizes nationally with the EduColor movement and served as the first deputy director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. In that capacity, she conceptualized and launched the first African American Women Lead convening by and for more than 150 black women and girls to discuss educational equity at the U.S. Department of Education. Also, while working under the Obama administration, she managed the Diversity and Inclusion in Government Council and implemented the first White House Summit on Diversity and Inclusion in Government in partnership with numerous federal agencies, national and global philanthropies, and tech companies.
A proud alumna of Morgan State University, Dr. Harris also obtained a law degree from the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Pennsylvania. Her research has focused on using critical race theory to examine the presence and influence of Black leadership on education reform, and developing policy through a community informed process.
Jesse Hagopian teaches Ethnic Studies and English Language Arts at Seattle’s Garfield High School, is a member of Seattle Education Association and of the social justice caucus, Social Equity Educators (SEE). Jesse is an editor for Rethinking Schools magazine, a writer for the Zinn Education Project, and the Director of the “Black Education Matters Student Activist Award.” Jesse is the co-editor of the books, Black Lives Matter At School: An Uprising for Educational Justice, and Teaching for Black Lives, and editor of the book More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High Stakes Testing. He is a contributing author to 101 Changemakers: Rebels and Radicals Who Changed US History, Education and Capitalism: Struggles for Learning and Liberation, Why We Teach Now, and Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove’s 10th anniversary edition of Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Jesse is the recipient of the 2019 “Social Justice Teacher of the Year” award from Seattle Public School’s Department of Racial Equity, the Seattle NAACP Youth Coalition’s 2019 “Racial Justice Teacher of the Year” award winner, and the 2013 national “Secondary Teacher of the Year” award winner from the Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Leah Austin joined the Schott team on April 20, 2020 as the Director of the National Opportunity To Learn Network. In this role, she works with grantees and stakeholders to support effective campaigns focused on building systems to provide all students an opportunity to learn through philanthropic support and other strategic capacity building resources.
Leah has enjoyed a dynamic career that has included teaching, grantmaking, organizing, research and evaluation. She is an educator, an advocate and a futurist working to create conditions that allow people to imagine and plan better futures. Her prior work includes serving as the Vice President of Programs for the Southern Education Foundation where she oversaw efforts to advance education equity and excellence for students in the South. Dr. Austin also served as a Senior Associate for the Annie E. Casey Foundation where she managed a portfolio of investments, programs and partnerships designed to increase the educational achievement of children in Atlanta, GA. Before that, she served as a Director of Programs for the United Way of Greater Atlanta providing professional development to teachers and literacy resources to families.
While living in Washington DC, Leah established a national literacy campaign encouraging reading between men and boys, worked on grassroots organizing efforts to successfully advocate for universal prekindergarten legislation and taught elementary school in the District of Columbia Public Schools for five years. Leah holds a doctorate of education in Education Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters in School Psychology from Howard University and a Bachelors in Psychology from Fisk University. Dr. Austin completed certification in strategic foresight and is currently studying to be a yoga teacher while raising an amazing son.
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