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Theme Reflection by A’Zhariya Ellis | Content Leader 

     For the month of September, we wanted our participants to discuss the topic of “Education Disparities within the Black community”. Since summer break is almost over and many of us will be heading back to our respective schools, now is the perfect time to address the disparities that many Black students have faced for decades. I particularly wanted to focus on content that examines experiences dealing with our topic dated between the 1930’s and 1960’s, as there were many inequalities that had lasting effects on the education system as we know it. 

Guiding Group Questions 

  • ​​Have you witnessed educational disparities where you live? If so, have there been efforts made to rectify these?

  • Why is it important to understand a student's experiences outside of school when discussing educational disparities?

  • Do you see any instances of similarities between the educational disparities faced by Black students today as compared to Black students in the past decades?

FILM: Teach Us All

​​Rated TV-14 | Documentary

By: Amari Parker, Hannah Kim, & Luke


Teach Us All is a film about racial disparities in education, segregated schools, and possible solutions for these issues. It examines infamous court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Mendez v. Westminster. It focuses on small towns such as Little Rock, Arkansas and then transitions to bigger cities like New York City, New York and Los Angeles, California. The dark history of schools in each of these cities is uncovered to reveal distinct examples of racial bias that caused children of color to be pushed out of schools or prevented children of color from getting the same level of quality education as their white peers. This film brings about important topics not commonly talked about in education– how the United States is one of the few countries that spends less money on poor than affluent children, and how there is rampant racial and income inequality in education. 

Discussion Questions

  • Did the film broaden your knowledge about racial disparities in education? Can you think of parallels between the film and what you’ve seen in your personal life?

  • What did you know about the Mendez v. Westminster court case prior to watching the film?

  • What was the most memorable part about the film, in your opinion?

Personal Reflection

     This film opened my eyes to many issues in education that I wasn’t aware of, such as Triple Segregation, and introduced me to court cases that I knew little to nothing about, such as Mendez v. Westminster. The historical context and the information about the events of the past that led to these disparities that the film gave was extremely helpful to the understanding of these issues. This film granted me the opportunity to hear from the pioneers of these major school integration movements along with current students experiencing the effects of segregation in schools and this contributed to my knowledge of how far our country has come and how much farther we need to go. Lowman did an amazing job at educating the audience on historical events that made our country the way it is today, issues in education and their effects, the movements to improve conditions/get rid of segregation in schools that are being led by students, and etc. By the end of this film, every person, whether you are a parent, student, educator, or all of the above, has been given the information and tools to help improve our education system in their own way.

     The Director and Producer Sonia Lowman is the Director of Communications for the Lowell Milken Center of Unsung Heros. She currently serves as the Senior Communications Specialist for the International Medical corps. Her purpose is to fight for social justice through film and storytelling. Lowman is a white female, but nonetheless she depicts the real issues threatening students of color within this country and the history behind them. She allows minorities to be the center of the movie and allows them to share their own stories throughout this documentary.


teach us all.jpg

By: Amari Parker


By: Mai Ly Hagan & Allegra Walker

Personal Reflection

     We chose this book because it introduces the themes of educational disparity, and sets them in an intersectional feminist context. In her book, Dr. Morris discusses the impact of educational bias and the formation of the “school to confinement pathway.” As an Asian student, I related to accounts of bias and assumptions made by teachers and administrators, while being aware of the different ways black girls are targeted, even at my own school. This book gave me the language to understand and discuss the criminalization and adultification of black girls in school. 

     Dr. Monique W. Morris is an accomplished activist and educator with a career spanning three decades. In addition to writing “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School,” she has also authored “Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-First Century.” (2014), and “Too Beautiful for Words” (2012). Recently, she produced and co-wrote the documentary adaption of “Pushout.” She is an executive director for Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and a founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute. 



     Morris’ Pushout tackles the adversity black girls face within the educational system and justice system in America. She focuses on the criminalization of these young women, much of which is heavily influenced by society’s expectations, racism, and the inherent patriarchy. Throughout the book, Morris makes it clear through various stories and narratives that black girls are continuously being stereotyped and devalued merely because of their skin color or an authority figure’s prejudiced misconceptions. Black girls’ experiences with school-related arrest and blatant discrimination are chronicled in Pushout, providing the reader with a more realistic perspective on these institutions that supposedly allow children to flourish.

Discussion Questions

  • After reading the book, has your perspective on the educational system changed, or has it maybe been reinforced? How so?

  • What is the shortened age continuum? Specifically, Morris argues that the shortened age continuum has, "stripped [black girls] of their childhood freedoms." In what ways have schools and teachers denied black girls of their right to act like children and teenagers and face consequences for their actions that are congruent with their age and proportionate to the infraction?

  • How can we, as students, actively tackle the issue of an authority figure projecting their prejudice against black girls in the educational system?

By: Allegra Walker

Trigger Warning: Violence, police violence, racial discrimination 


By: Ania Ocasio


"Addressing the African-American Achievement Gap: Three Leading Educators Issue a Call to Action" 

Trigger: None

by Barbara T. Bowman, James P. Comer, and David J. Johns


American educators Barbara Bowman, James Comer, and David J. Johns shed light on the educational disparities in Black communities, and how the wellness of the United States is drastically affected by such disparities. Economic shortcomings and poor social relations are products of unequal opportunities in the Black community. As well as educational inequality affecting economic success and community relations, schools and jobs with increasing requirements only expand the gap. The authors explain how, in order to eradicate such education disparities, teachers need to have an understanding of these injustices and their origin. Lack of funding for schools in Black communities means less access to school supplies and quality education, an immeasurable inequality. Even in schools with sufficient funding, Black students still face educational disparities because of biased treatment from teachers, or teachers who won’t accommodate their needs. The authors direct teachers to learn more about their students and find out what they need from them, and reshape their teaching and thinking.

Discussion Questions

  • What accommodations should teachers make for their students to lessen inequalities in academic environments?

  • What are some common barriers that teachers should work to rid their classrooms of? Think especially about any biases you as a student might have.

  • The article emphasizes the importance of diversity in learning and experiences; what are some actions schools can take to diversify their curriculum?

Personal Reflection

I greatly enjoyed reading this article, mostly because it offered solutions directly after a problem was introduced and explained. The authors of this article are all Black writers and educators, having first insight on discrimination and inequality in academic spaces. They articulated their experiences in such scientific ways, and described in phenomenal detail all corners and versions of educational disparities in Black communities. My favorite part of the article was the very beginning where each author gave a brief quote about working as educators striving to diversify the experiences of their students. They tie their thoughts directly to the contents of the article, sharing a personal reflection.

Miscellaneous Documentary: Brown V Board 

  • How would the country be different today if “separate but equal” were still the law?

  • The 14th Amendment of the US Constitution says no state may “deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Supreme Court in Plessy interpreted those words to permit forced segregation as long as facilities were equal. Fifty-eight years later, the Supreme Court in Brown interpreted the same words to prohibit forced segregation (at least in schools) even if the facilities were equal. Should courts change the legal understanding of what the words in the Constitution mean as circumstances in the country change?

  • Do you think the schools desegregated as quickly as was ordered? Do you think all schools are fully desegregated to this day?

  • Is your school fully desegregated/ racially diverse? What can you do to improve that?

  • What are some possible major effects that Black students may have developed due to education disparities within school systems nationwide? How will these effects impact one's future?​

Discussion Questions

Trigger Warning: contains racial slurs and racially-motivated violence; viewer discretion is advised

    The goal of this documentary is to shed light on America’s history of educational segregation. As such, examples of educational disparities and anecdotes of hardships are thoroughly discussed. Moreover, the documentary shows in many instances protesters holding signs that criticizes desegregation, some of which include racially insensitive and outdated language. Footage of Ku Klux Klan members and public violence are also shown. Viewer discretion is advised


This YouTube is a 20-minute documentary prepared by two reporters from Time Warner in Jamestown N.Y. as part of the Robert H. Jackson Center's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the cases Brown v. Board (1954) and Brown v. Board II (1955). The reporters were Casey Bortnick and Brooke Buesink.

  • Throughout the documentary, the ways that educational segregation through the “Separate But Equal” policy hurts African-American communities and how the community fought against it to achieve educational equality. The documentary achieves a thorough explanation of systematic racism, in which it gives vivid examples of the negative impacts of a doctrine that was marketed to ensure "safety" in the first place. The documentary objectively shows the sincere efforts of the Black community to drive change in their communities—if not for them, for the next generations to come.

Synopsis + Commentary

brown v board.jpg

By: Emre Güler & Belen Güler 


“The Little Rock 9” by Afaa Michael Weaver,

“Black Girl Magic” by Boston Pulse, & “For My People” by Margaret Walker

Trigger Warning: mentions of death and violence

By: Aliza Baker, Hannah Kim, & Seren Lurie


“The Little Rock 9"

  • “The Little Rock 9” by Afaa Michael Weaver describes his experiences growing up in Baltimore, interspersing his thoughts on race at the time with the names of the Little Rock 9. Weaver touches on happier topics, like discussing his elementary school teacher, as well as more intense ones, including incidents of racialized violence and death. The poem blends reflections on childhood with awareness of and perspectives on racial issues.

"Black Girl Magic"

  • “Black Girl Magic '' is a slam poem by Boston Pulse about the frustrations of young black girls who feel like an afterthought not only in their day to day lives, but in a white-dominated, eurocentric education. They express frustration at not only their education but the treatment they get from white students and teachers because of their race. “Black Girl Magic” is a way that these girls use to vent their frustrations and show their pride and ambitions.

"For My People"

  • Margaret Walker writes to her people who have lived and are living oppressed lives because of their skin color. Beginning with the history of African American slavery in America, Walker shows the reader through each stanza how racism affects children from how they are taught to think of themselves as “small and different” to finding small pockets of happiness as they grow older, despite continuing to face injustice. Walker ends her poem by hoping for a new world powered by those who are just and fair, and by those who will heal the wounds of the past as well as prevent the wounds of the future.  

Discussion Questions

“The Little…”

  • How does the contrast between casual facts and discussion of violence add to the message of the poem?

  • This poem is written from the perspective of a twelve year old, and later a fourteen year old- what was your perception of race and racial issues when you were that age?

  • What do you think this poem’s message is about the role education plays in shaping children’s views of racial identity, both their own and others?

“Black Girl…”

  • What factors do you allow for ideas of white centrism to exist within our school system? 

  • How can we try to improve upon the curriculum currently being taught?

“For My…”

  • What effects does repeating the phrase “for my people” have on you, as the reader?

  • How might education play a role in what Walker hopes to see in the future?

  • What images come to mind as you read this poem?

  • Do you think the “new earth” has come to life yet? 

  • If not, what steps can we make to advance the arrival of this “new earth”?

Personal Reflection

“ The Little Rock 9”

  • I was really struck by the vividness of the imagery in this poem, especially juxtaposing recollections of presumably innocent childhood with reflections on racialized violence. The poem sends a very clear message about the author’s experience growing up and hearing about acts of racialized violence as well as hearing about the Little Rock Nine. It touches on both the normalization of violence against Black people and the psychological toll of hearing about such violence.

  • In addition, the poem really makes me think about the ages at which we learn about race and racial identity and how that is shaped by our privilege. While kids who are BIPOC are often confronted with the ugly truths of racism from a young age, white kids are sheltered, and do not “have” to learn about race. In addition, the school system fails everyone by not teaching honest, unbiased lessons about the history of race in the US.

“Black Girl Magic" 

  • I am a white person in a white-centered society, and so this poem reminded me of my privilege and how I have never had to try and prove myself a worthy student because of preconceived notions about my skin color or culture. However, I am unsurprised by the fact that a perfect storm of sexism and racism still exists in the American school system.

"For My People"

  • When I first read the poem aloud, I realized how repetitive and tedious it became to say “for my people” at the beginning of each stanza. I saw this repetition as comparable to how Walker and her people have repetitively experienced and continue to experience deprivation of equal human rights - the perpetual hope for equality and justice is portrayed through the repetitive words of “for my people”. In connection with this month’s topic of education disparities, Walker talks of how her people were taught to look upon themselves as “poor” and as people that “nobody cares” about. In spite of this, Walker continues to hope for a better world. She hopes, as written in the last stanza, that one day, an equal and just world will heal the wounds of the past.

By: Hannah Kim

By: Aliza Baker

By: Seren Lurie

PODCAST: “ The School to Prison Pipeline - Justice in America

Trigger Warning: None

* Also Available on Apple and Spotify podcast services 

By: Sophie Wilcox


What is the school to prison pipeline? How does it/has it been affecting children all across America? This term has become a part of the lexicon but do people really have a deep understanding as to why it started and as to how it affects children throughout their whole lives? This episode of Justice in America goes through just that. The hosts talk about the issues with modern rehabilitation, the foundation of the first quaker prison, why the Brown v Board decision is more complicated than it seems, alternatives to policing students in school and so much more. In this hour long episode, the two hosts also interview Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project. Dianis goes in depth on the term the school to prison pipeline, specifically the history of it and how it coined its name. They all discuss the forms this pipeline takes and the effect it has on poor, black, and brown children in particular. 

Personal Reflection

This podcast episode was definitely one of the most informative episodes I have listened to in a while. The hosts are animated and break down this seemingly complicated term in a way that when done listening, you’ll be an expert on an issue way more prevalent in American schools than one would initially think. This episode is a must listen if you want to work towards a more just schooling system and if you want to be exposed to the inequities that could be taking place in your own school. 

Discussion Questions

  • Think about the school you attend: Are there police in your school? Is disciplining equal across all races? Discuss the content of this podcast in regards to your personal school?

  • What in this episode did the hosts say/bring up that challenged something you already held to be true about this issue? 

  • What surprised you about the history of the school to prison pipeline?

  • Discuss the idea of pre delinquency. How do SROs and school administrators get away with punishing children based on preconceived notions? How do we get away with this?

    Josie Duffy Rice, the main host of the Justice in America podcast, received her undergraduate degree from Columbia University and her JD from Harvard Law School. Rice has focussed her writing on prosecutorial accountability and criminal justice. Her writing on Josie’s writing on race, gender, culture, and politics has been featured in The New York Times, Slate, Gawker, Ebony, Daily Kos, Rewire, Interactive One, and Spook Mag, among others.



September 2020

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