I want to first say that our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Anthony Lamar Smith. Mr. Smith was a son, a father, a brother, a community member. Today we learned that Jason Stockley, a White police officer, was found not guilty of Anthony’s murder. The case has been in court since 2011, and this verdict makes an already excruciating experience even more so.
As the city prepares for the worst this weekend and the days to come, at City Garden, this verdict reiterates our constant reality. We know that our African American students are more likely to be scrutinized, physically harmed, and even killed by police. African Americans in the U.S. are three times more likely to be killed by police than Whites.
The fact that the justice system as a whole exhibits a lack of will to dismantle this reality is both terrifying and devastating. As teachers and staff, we must simultaneously hold our personal feelings of overwhelm and sadness, while redoubling our commitment to love, support, and show up for our students. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are ALL safe and well cared for—physically, emotionally, and intellectually.
Today, we recommit to the transformational work necessary to create holistic change in the systems and structures that perpetuate inequities in our community and across the United States. The pain that this verdict elicits is inextricably tied to the stark inequities that exist in the St. Louis community and the very real impacts that these disparities have on people’s lives:
When our community is hurting, and when we are seeking direction during times of uncertainty, I often return to City Garden’s mission statement:
City Garden exists to redefine education by developing the whole child in an excellent, inclusive, Montessori school; to reimagine community by creating spaces and systems that help to restore our collective humanity; and to reinvigorate our world by creating a culture in which individuals and communities thrive without disparities or barriers to success.
During this time, our mission calls us to provide particular support for our Students of Color, as they wrestle with the inevitable questions and emotions that arise when they hear news of a “not guilty” verdict.
During this time, we have the responsibility to equip our White students with the intellectual and social capacity to have empathy and knowledge to stand in solidarity with their peers and community.
During this time, our mission calls us to provide our students and school community with tools and understanding that help them to be supportive and brave community members and to become “critical lovers” of our wider world and the history that has brought us to where we are today.
During this time, our mission calls us to open our doors and provide space for parents, neighborhood residents, and community members to process their emotions, discuss action steps, and be together. We invite you to join us for our Colorbrave gathering tonight from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
During this time, our mission calls us to invite more partnership and more accountability, to ensure that we are actively contributing to transformational change in our city—for our children, and for the future of our region.
During this time, our mission calls us to invite other institutions and other leaders to join us in deciding that we have had enough. Let us pour as much energy and time into ensuring that the killing of African Americans in St. Louis stops as we put into making sure that our city’s buildings are safe.
Thank you for being on this journey with us. Thank you for your commitment to all of our children and for helping us make our school, and the world, a place where every child has access to freedom and opportunity.
Some recommended resources:
- http://perspectives.tolerance.org/ – an INCREDIBLE new resource: an entire anti-bias curriculum free
- http://zinnedproject.org/2014/11/teaching-about-ferguson/ – specific resources for teaching about
- The Social Justice Book List
- The #Charlottesville Curriculum
- Curriculum for White Educators Themselves on Race and Racism