Our public school system shut down for a week and a half so teachers could strike for a living wage and continue living in the city where they teach.
They fought for a lot of other amazing things too, selfless things, like making sure the families in the district have a say in what happens to their schools, making sure homeless students and foster youth are looked after, pushing for equity in this black-white town where most of the black kids are in public school and most of the white kids (after 5th grade, anyway) are in private schools, or other cities…
It’s revolutionary: fighting for integrated public schools to thrive.
Public schools are the last chance in the US for kids of different backgrounds, income levels, and experiences to truly be alongside each other. And, it’s my belief that being alongside each other when we’re young is what gives us hope for a peaceful, less divided future.
That’s what makes it revolutionary.
But there’s plenty of loss required to join the revolution.
During the strike, our kids didn’t have school for a week and a half.
This meant our high schooler got her AP study sessions cut short, some kids’ sporting events were canceled, seniors missed out on crucial last days of everything. My eldest may miss the opportunity to bring her grade up. My youngest isn’t going to be in a music recital she’d been looking forward to all year.
We had to scramble (and pay) to find childcare. We went to bed anxious every night wondering if school would be open the next day.
What makes it more difficult is looking around at other school districts, their books and doors open, GPAs rising.
When I look back at all of the social justice groups, schools, and movements I’ve been part of, I see the same thing, at least among affluent, empowered people like me: individual sacrifice for community well being. Giving things away, willingly, without reward or recognition.
This is not an easily embraced requirement, which is why, I’m guessing, so many of the rooms where the revolutions are planned are full of empty chairs and IOUs.
The strike (like the ones before it) reminds me of a quote from Frederick Douglass, a slave who taught himself to read and became one of the greatest scholars in US history, against all odds.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.”
But embedded in Douglass’ own origin story is an exception to his rule. There was a white woman, not nearly perfect, but open enough to see the brilliance in Douglass and risk her own well-being to introduce him to words — words he then used to change human history.
I think we often forget where power lies.
It’s easy to wave a fist at the slave trade, at the government, at the school district.
Much harder to recognize and concede our own small bits of reign.