California Educator

February/March 2023

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"Black History Month (BHM) is a time when I can more easily express the Blackness I live with 365 days a year," says Veronica Talton, an elementary and middle performing arts educator in San Jose. "Even if it's not accepted, it's tolerated during the month of February." For Talton, a member of Alum Rock Educators Association, BHM is a time to recognize Black contributions to the world and share them with others. "Black History Month is a time when we feel safe to cel- ebrate who we are. It's a time of liberation, celebration and appreciation," she says. "I want to bring that to my students, my community and my union." When Talton arrived in East San Jose in 2019, she says Black students told her they didn't feel like they were part of the school community, so she formed a Black history club on campus, open to any student interested in Black culture. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and pushed class- rooms virtual, the superintendent allowed her to open up the club to any middle school student in the district. "It's basically a social justice collective," says Talton, a CTA CADRE trainer. "I created a safe space for African American students and other ethnic minorities who wanted to amplify Black culture." Last year, she brought West African storytelling and drumming ensemble Oriki Theater to perform for students. Talton shared with students her experiences at alma mater Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C., an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), even teaching them a "step" dance that she says was a tribute to Black Lives Matter at School. In 2020, Talton led the effort along with other equity leaders to get the school board to adopt a Black Lives Matter at School resolution. Last Fall, she invited a Black Stanford student to share his experiences at a predominantly white institution and pathways to college through the development of leadership skills. This year for BHM, she's taking students to see Oak- land-based performing artist Donald Lacy to perform his one-man show, "ColorStruck," for middle and high school students. Sponsored by Tabia African American Theatre Ensemble, the show will be followed by a discussion of Black issues related to complexion and colorism. "I think they 'll be able to see themselves in the material," Talton says. "Students will notice that the lighter you are, the more likely you are to be accepted by society." According to NEA, 79 percent of educators are white while half of students are non-white, nationally. Here in California, Black educators comprise only 3.8 percent of the teaching ranks, according to state data, while 77.4 percent of students Celebrating Black Lives at School Inclusion matters in February and all year round By Julian Peeples Duan Kellum's classroom wall, covered with student creations that include pieces on gun violence, race, justice and LGBTQ+ identity. 14 Spotlight

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