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CJSF 2019 Summer Rewind: We Want to Do More than Survive


On May 21, 2019, the Communities for Just Schools Fund and Teaching for Change co-hosted a book talk with Bettina Love, author of We Want to Do More than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom.


Check out these reflections from our Director, Allison R. Brown, and our Education Anew Fellow, Cierra Kaler-Jones:



From Allison Brown: "Dr. Bettina Love has unveiled the antidote. And, it is her brilliant, powerful, grounded, passionate self. She is an abolitionist teacher.

In the fight to create schools that offer liberatory, student-centered education, an oft-ignored yet arguably most important party to engage are teachers. They are the ones who can create equitable learning environments. Or not. In her new book, We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, Dr. Love speaks directly to teachers, and she pulls no punches.

Dr. Love is an educator, activist, and hip-hop researcher. On May 21, she cautioned her audience at Busboys and Poets in historic Anacostia DC, and audience of mostly teachers, that she did not write a manual, a how-to, in her new book. Prescriptive offerings like that so often give cover to white educators who can half-heartedly implement a few recommended strategies and refuse to change their own thinking or throw themselves into wholesale disruption of a dangerously poisoned system.

Instead, what Dr. Love has written is a personal accounting of her own growth due to, and into, abolitionist teaching. She exposes the "education survival complex," a system of institutions, regulations, language, and mindset that earns profit from the mere survival of Black children. Abolitionist teachers are employing radical strategies and methods to liberate Black children and work in collaboration with children and their families and communities to create learning environments that ensure that they all thrive...beyond survival.

Abolitionist teachers are employing radical strategies and methods to liberate Black children and work in collaboration with children and their families and communities to create learning environments that ensure that they all thrive... beyond survival.

At the Communities for Just Schools Fund, we resource grassroots organizers who are demanding and creating schools of liberatory education. We support organizers who are doing all in their power to unleash the spirits of children on the problems of the world, that they and thus we all might flourish and be free. CJSF is honored to support groups like Teaching for Change in Washington, DC, which co-hosted Dr. Love, for their work to create and lead the DC Area Educators for Social Justice to amplify the voices of abolitionist teachers and grow their collective power.

I walked away from Dr. Love's talk feeling inspired to more intentionally live and operate as an abolitionist in my own work so that what we do at CJSF and the resources we provide are shining a light on the antidote, offering a North Star for those looking to do the same in their respective spaces."



From Cierra Kaler-Jones: "Dr. Bettina Love moved an audience of educators, parents, and advocates with her candor, authenticity, and brilliance on Tuesday evening, May 21. At the crux of Love’s argument was that through the process of schooling, Black and Brown students are taught about their oppression, but aren’t taught about how their ancestors and their communities resisted, experienced joy, and added to the beauty of our world. More directly, Love states, 'They’ve never educated us to thrive, they’ve only educated us to survive.'

'They’ve never educated us to thrive, they’ve only educated us to survive.'

Her book and her talk makes me reflect on how we might rewrite and reimagine the schools all young people, and their communities, deserve. As Education Anew Fellow, Love’s discussion and definition of abolitionist teaching is at the heart of my and our work. The fellowship is an opportunity to facilitate strategic conversations and partnerships between classroom educators and organizers to continue in the fight for education justice.


At the end of the talk, Love left the audience with a call to action: 'Reform and justice aren’t the same thing,' Love explained, 'We have to tear [the system] down and build something more beautiful, more just, more right.' As Love expands on this in the book, she argues that the structural and systemic barriers that have plagued our nation’s schools for far too long will not be fixed by simple adjustments. The only way to ensure racial equity in schools and create a system that is built to teach Black and Brown students to do more than simply survive, we must commit to the pursuit of educational freedom, not reform. This excites and encourages me, especially as we dream up, collectively, of building schools that are rooted in intersectional justice.

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