By Julie Stivers
[This post is part of the YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement]
Have you watched the powerful documentary film, Teach Us All? This crucial and compelling film—directed by Sonia Lowman and distributed by Array—documents educational inequality in the US, framed with the history and lasting impact of the Little Rock Nine. The film is available to stream on Netflix or—to increase reach—you can host a screening at your school, district, or library. (Watch the trailer here.)
I was lucky enough to attend a screening organized by a group of equity-focused assistant principals in our WCPSS district. Watching—and then discussing—the film with fellow educators made the experience even more meaningful. For me as a viewer, the crucial thread running through the entire film was the powerful student activism piece and how it directly relates to this year’s YALSA Presidential Theme: Youth Activism through Community Engagement.
Teach Us All highlights students championing for their rights, building grass-root organizations, questioning inequitable and structurally racist school policies, and working with each other to enact social change within their schools and communities. Youth voices were the most compelling:
“It is up to us as students to create that essential change.”
“Real change happens when the people who need it, lead it.”
Teach Us All highlighted several community led, youth-based organizations that work with and through youth on issues related to educational equity and social activism.
“A national nonprofit organization founded in 2011, Students Matter promotes access to quality public education through impact litigation, communications and advocacy. Students Matter fights for education equality in the court of law and in the court of public opinion, where students’ rights and voices matter most.”
“We are building a powerful community determined to advocate for meaningful policies that can ensure a just and equitable school system for all our young people.”
“Together, we are growing a new generation of real leaders who will unite our society. Students develop civic leadership and design solutions for real integration and real representation.”
Additionally, Teach Us All is committed to inspiring youth to engage with their schools and communities using a social activism lens. On the Teach Us All site, further resources are organized by stakeholder, including educators, parents, organizations, and most critically, students.
Have you seen Teach Us All? What were your main takeaways? How do the issues identified in Teach Us All relate to libraries? What inequitable and structurally racist policies and practices exist within our libraries that need to be examined and dismantled? How can library staff work with youth to develop community led, youth-based programs that empower youth to examine issues related to equitable library services and programs?
We would love to hear from you in the comments.