By Leah Q. Peoples and Lindsey Foster
The Black Panther Party, originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, established the Oakland Community School for young Black people in Oakland, California. The Panthers believed in the “liberatory power of education” and understood that there was an emancipatory necessity involved with educating themselves. They developed their Free Breakfast for Children Program to feed thousands of Black children and recognized the simple ideology that children simply cannot learn their best when they are hungry. Their breakfast program, ran from 1969-1980 was so successful that in the first year, they fed over 20,000 young people and sparked similar food programs in 36 other cities. Moreover, the Black Panther’s program inspired the current billion-dollar federally funded free breakfast program that the US government provides to young people whose families are below the poverty line.
It is this legacy and these histories that illustrate Black communities’ ingenuity and resourcefulness. The restrictions around remote learning or hybrid versions of schooling that will rely on both in-person and remote learning, call us to forge a new pathway for educating students. At this moment, control over students’ education is returned to families and communities. What could education look like if it was led by the needs of families and communities and educators partnered with them to make it a reality? This is a great time to leverage the schooling that takes place at home, free from the typical institutional barriers that existed prior to the pandemic. How can our young students play central roles in crafting their own educational experience this year? Black history teaches us that young people, especially Young Black students, have extraordinary potential to lead and educate. Many of the educators in Mississippi Freedom Schools and Sabbath schools were young people who understood their ability to educate their communities.
Finally, resourcefulness is about making due with what you have and creating a way where one otherwise may not exist. It is not about settling or being complacent; it’s about exercising your collective agency, survival, contentment, and peace. In this blog post we challenge you to use your resourcefulness and the current opportunity to redefine and restructure education to usher in the most radical equity yet - a type of education equity that will liberate Black students and students of color from institutional oppression; a type of education equity that will equip students to transform society; a type of education equity centers the needs of families and communities; a type of education equity that is healing; and a type of education equity that fuels even our wildest dreams.