Why I started the Abolitionist Educator group

My name is Lauren Gooden, I am an educator and the founder of Sojourner. To put it simply, I started this group because I was tired of being the one. The one to constantly stand up for equity in the face of teachers and administrators who thought it was a side note or just a special interest. I'm tired of being the one teacher attending training and PD that teaches equitable education. I'm tired of feeling like the only one who treats my students like like they matter. But I know I am not the only one. I know you are all out there, trying to dismantle white supremacy and racist policy in your schools. You spend long nights and early mornings using all of your brain power to build culturally responsive and sustaining lesson plans. You research the successes of professionals that look like your students and make sure they are represented in your class, even though they are not featured in their text books. At staff meetings you suggest restorative justice to support students development rather than punishment that ushers them into the school-to-prison pipeline. You listen to students because they have value as human beings and you embrace who they are. You find a way to make your classroom a safe haven, even when the rest of the school is not. You teach your students social and emotional skills that give them the ability to live in their world as they are; to build coalition and community with their peers, to think critically about their oppression so that they may dismantle it and to develop a positive sense of identity in the face of the negative stereotypes about them. You are an abolitionist educator. And maybe you are tired, too. Tired of waiting for your school or district to adopt anti-racist policies or bring you professional development that teaches practices to promote equity. I sure am tired of waiting and I don't think we should wait any longer. 

 

This goal of this group is two-fold.

We all become abolitionist educators, staff and administrators seeking knowledge and building new systems of anti-racist education while dismantling the old white supremacist structures. We strive to achieve equity through abolition in our everyday practice even when it comes at a cost or poses a risk to our job security. 

In James Baldwin's 1963 talk to teachers he said  "you must understand that in the attempt to correct so many generations of bad faith and cruelty, when it is operating not only in the classroom but in society, you will meet the most fantastic, the most brutal, and the most determined resistance. There is no point in pretending that this won’t happen". 

 

We pull more folx into the fold to move from creating a few abolitionist classrooms to effecting change in entirely abolitionist schools. If the district won't bring the PD and schools don't implement the practices, then we're just going to have to make it happen ourselves.

The more educators, staff and administrators we get on board with abolition in education,  the closer the system gets to becoming abolitionist, anti-racist and equitable for all. We do have some power here, quite a lot when we come together. Let's start this work together and see it through until everyone else follows. In that same talk Baldwin said that teachers must "go for broke" and that's what I'm ready to do, will you join me?