This Is What Education Activism Looks Like During COVID-19

Apr 10, 2020 12:00:00 AM

by Tanesha Peeples

When you go back in history and look at who was leading the charge in the fight for liberation, it was always a person—or a group of seemingly crazy but brave people—unafraid of the consequences because they saw light at the end of the tunnel. People who had hopes and dreams beyond their—and our—current circumstances, and who would do anything to make their dreams a reality.

That’s how I like to think of us activists still doing work on the front lines.

We’re all fighting a battle right now in trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic. But we—activists around the country and I—have been doing double-duty trying to mitigate the impact of this crisis on our vulnerable communities, while also keeping in mind the pre-existing fight for educational justice that will still be there once the coronavirus passes.

[pullquote]This pandemic has brought to light an ongoing and persistent issue related to the homework gap—the digital divide.[/pullquote]

The digital divide wasn’t as pronounced before COVID-19 hit because students were able to go to school and have access to the internet and computers—depending on how well their school was resourced. But now with schools closed and many districts resorting to remote teaching and e-learning, we’re seeing just how many students will lose out on valuable academic time. And [pullquote position="right"]it’s mostly low-income, students of color who don’t have computers and internet at home.[/pullquote]

So to address this disparity, Zach Wright, Garris Stroud, Dirk Tillotson, Nekima Levy-Armstrong and I started this petition to get the Federal Communications Commission to provide free internet services for low-income families during the COVID-19 pandemic to supplement the laptops being handed out by most school districts.

For those who are able to get online, my girl and educator, Isis Spann, is doing daily lessons for students called “Mrs. Spann’s FUNdamentals of Learning” with relevant and engaging lessons for students of all ages.

My sis and fellow activist, Nekima Levy-Armstrong, is keeping her families in Minneapolis in the loop around slick moves the district is trying to make while parents are distracted and likely disengaged because of life during coronavirus.

She did an interview on Site Forums telling parents the deal and to get them engaged around this issue. Then she circulated a petition that ultimately forced the Minneapolis Public School Board to delay a vote on redistricting, which was supposed to take place on April 28th.

And in the middle of all of that, she was collecting hundreds of face masks and organizing a giveaway for vulnerable families in North Minneapolis. [pullquote]This is what activism and being about your community looks like![/pullquote]

The same thing is happening in Oakland.

The powerful group of parents leading The Oakland REACH organized a relief fund to support over 1,000 low-income families who are struggling to access basic and essential needs.

And while fundraising for their community, they’re continuing to push their campaign around literacy proficiency and push back against OUSD for continuing to host board meetings that are inaccessible for parents without internet.

The Powerful Parent Network is forever putting in work and raising their voices with their new platform talking about issues that impact marginalized communities.

And Christina Laster keeps conversations going on the future of education for Black kids on National Parents Union’s “Managing Day to Day” live Facebook show.

It’s hard out here these days—especially for Black people. 

Nationally, we’re being infected and dying from coronavirus at higher rates. We’re experiencing financial hardship, layoffs or exposure to the virus because many of us are either essential workers or can’t afford to just stay home. And a lot of our students are struggling to access online education, which will contribute to the opportunity gaps that already exist.

But despite these dreadful times, we will fight and survive—just as we always have. And I’m hoping that this bit of insight into the work of people who are still fighting for and keeping our communities in the conversation provides just a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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