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Member & Activist Spotlight

Tamika Walker Kelly: There is No Better Time to Be Part of the Union

Tamika Walker Kelly, an elementary school music specialist in Fayetteville, North Carolina, believes that from the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no better time for educators to advocate for themselves and their students.
Tamika Walker Kelly is an elementary school music specialist in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Published: June 18, 2020

What we’re seeing right now is another boiling point in America: the effects of systemic and institutionalized racism coming to a head. Black Americans and their allies are coming together to stand up to injustices — whether it be protesting police brutality or asking for justice in changing laws and policies that affect Black Americans disproportionately—and it’s been a broad spectrum of people.

It wasn’t just older or younger Americans. It was families, educators, and students coming out into the streets to lift the collective voice. It’s a difficult thing for Americans who have been comfortable and complacent in their privilege, but it’s been beautiful to see so many people come together to have the difficult conversations and who are engaged in activism in a way that’s never been done before.

How we navigate this moment is going to set us up for how we approach the future in terms of our collective community of humans, and it will have a ripple effect in our classrooms and our interactions with people in our government.

This is an opportunity to build true, meaningful, authentic coalitions in our communities, to deepen our knowledge around the effects of racism and how it not only impacts Black people and other people of color, but how it affects white people and the dominant culture that we’ve been living in, and understand how all things intersect with one another.

Educators have the ability to lay the groundwork to help our students understand what is happening in the world now and how they will be the catalyst to change the future.

We, as educators, sometimes forget that our students’ lives extend beyond our classrooms, and we are teaching them to enter a world that will be starkly different than the world we grew up in. We have to equip students with the language and tools to talk about these situations. But also, to create the world that is necessary for everyone to be respected, loved, and valued—and educators are in the unique position to do that.

To do that effectively, this must come with a reflection of the biases we bring into the classroom as educators. We must rethink how we implement pedagogy and curriculum and how we navigate human relationships in our classroom. Our Black students and other students of color need to feel valued. They need to have curriculum and educators who look like them and access to equal opportunities. Educators can do this by advocating that every student has access to a high-quality public education that’s fully funded and fully resourced.

We have to go to bat for our kids, community, and our fellow educators. We do this when we show up in the streets, at the ballot box, or on lobby days for conversations with legislators.

The year 2020 will be such a pivotal year, particularly with the November election. We have an opportunity to change the landscape for public education by who we elect to our local, city, and national offices.

The North Carolina Association of Educators is the most important organization in the state. Our union touches every community in North Carolina. It has a strong vision to guide an organized, collective effort of people to speak up for the safety and wellbeing of students and educators—whether it’s validating their lives or making sure they’re protected from COVID-19. There's no better time than now to be a part of the union.

Librarian leans over seated students at the library who are reading a book

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