Voices from School Communities: Issue 1

Originally published: June 8th, 2020

In response to the murder of George Floyd and the national protests that have followed seeking an end to the systemic racism that targets African Americans specifically and people of color in general, CAPE staff sought out voices from our school communities. We sent out a query to a group of CAPE teachers, artists, and school administrators, asking what they are hearing from students and parents and also about their own perspectives as community members and as educators trying to find ways to teach to and learn in this moment. The following are our first two responses.

Artist Timothy Rey wrote:

As a teacher / artist of color, it is imperative to record and search for (I believe that is part of what is going on now in this country) a language and future that is uniquely our own. That “our own” includes all the voices you mentioned in your email. The dialogue must come first. 

At Telpochcalli, Dana and I are having the students perform their present state of emotion through theater. The prompt is loose enough to give them room to interpret freely. The awareness of the artistic vision always needs to be enhanced in schools. This is what CAPE does. Albeit artists are thought to be “out there” in every way, and students similarly are left out of the “adult conversation” at the table. 

Now is the time for the three of them to meet and talk. Artist-Student-World. WE must instigate the engagement. Part of the work of the artist is to research all the extremes of the world and mold them, and teaching has to do with declaring a space in society for inquiry. 

Feeling for others is sympathy…but, feeling  as others is empathy. That’s what we need at this moment. Empathy can be productive! The Arts can make this happen. I’m not talking about empathy by looking at people of color as victims that are passively acted upon, but rather engaging in an empathy that strives to “humanize” people of color on a continuing basis.

“Defining moment in American history? I don’t think there’s  one.” 
—Studs Terkel

Timothy David Rey

New Sullivan Principal Kathy McCoy wrote:

It is important that we engage our young people and hear their voice. Some of the classrooms at New Sullivan engaged students in a roundtable discussion related to this weekend and today’s events as a result of Mr. Floyd’s death at the hands of police officers.

Our goal today was to guide our students in thinking about this horrific event and try to make sense of it. Some results of today’s discussions from several of our 8th graders:

Student: I do not understand why people are attacking the police…they are not all bad.

Student: Why did the police officer kill the man…He said he could not breathe.

Emotions are raw for our kids!

The message that we shared today was one of hope and peaceful protests.

I pray that the message gets out there!

Yours in education,

Principal Kathy McCoy

Our thanks to Tim Rey and Principal McCoy. CAPE program staff will continue to share these voices from our school communities in newsletters and on our CAPE Network Forum. Our network of schools, students, teachers, artists, and administrators will keep fighting against racism and for a society that is just, equitable, and free. They will “record and search for a language and future that is uniquely [their] own.”

There are many resources available for teachers and artists working with students on these issues, and we will follow up with suggested sites. One essential resource to consult is Black Lives Matter Chicago: https://www.blacklivesmatterchicago.com/