The Loveless Age of Schooling

An African-American boy does his homework forlornly

This past Tuesday marked the first day of school for CPS students and educators. The evening before I reviewed and rewrote my plan several times over with the sense that I was missing something, something crucial. My material and standards were all aligned, my charts were big and bright and yet looking at my plan it felt distant. I realized I was not following my own advice in sharing my authentic voice with my students. How could I open the year without talking about my mission as an educator to bring love back into schooling? So the next morning I stood before parents and a classroom of third graders talking about love.

Love has been my compass for all that I do for some years now; it was the central idea of my master’s thesis for teaching and continues to be my personal commitment in organizing in spaces that bring me face to face with the inhumane behavior of politicians and mean-spirited people alike. Three weeks before my classroom mini-lecture on love I had been invited to meet with other professionals in the American Federation of Teachers to continue discussion and action planning to create more racially equitable policies for Black males and their families. Experts in the field of education, incarceration, and economics discussed inhibitors to this group and we as participants were tasked with coming up with tangible solutions.

My main takeaways from this convening were: the narrative of lovelessness that grounded our work and our collective sense of needing to get back to love, not just in schools but as a society. In the economics subgroup we discussed the need to return to the strategies like those of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that used a language of love such as ‘freedom’ instead of ‘opportunity cost’ when proposing economic policy. We felt the need to place people over corporate speak in our language to signal a return back to a place of humanizing our work.

Rekia Boyd’s nephews protest her killing in 2012.

Rekia Boyd’s nephews protest her killing in 2012.

While at this convening my BYP100 family were engaged in another action to demand the firing of Dante Servin who murdered Rekia Boyd and is under review by the City’s “Independent Police Review Authority” (IPRA). As I watched the UStream of the action I could feel the deep sense of community among those resisting this constant denial of Black humanity; IPRA board members staring coldly as Rekia’s brother showed the bag of bloody hair that was turned over to the family from the evidence. The meeting was shut down by Black folks and allies in tune with our insistence of loving and protecting our humanity in the face of a hateful city. We will be back again this Thursday where a recommendation is expected based on IPRA’s review of the case.

To my third grade class, my organizing community, and to so many people who are living complicit with lovelessness and business as usual:

Contrary to what we may have been taught to think, unnecessary and unchosen suffering wounds us but need not scar us for life. It does mark us. What we allow the mark of our suffering to become is in our own hands.

—bell hooks

Editor’s Note

After this piece was published, IPRA announced that it would recommend Dante Servin be fired. The recommendation is not binding on Supt. McCarthy and the Chicago Police Department, so BYP100 and other activists continue the struggle. In an act of great love, activists who had gathered to demand justice for Rekia Thursday, Sept. 17 marched to Dyett High School to join with the hunger strikers there.

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About Johnaé Strong

Johnaé Strong is a CTU member, educator and organizer based out of Chicago seeking to build liberatory education for people of all ages. She also works to connect education to active participation in the shaping of a more just world for all people as a member of Black Youth Project 100.

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