CTA members throughout the Southland with a passion for social justice converged on the city of Buena Park to participate in a social justice forum hosted by the California Teachers Association.
Recent data shows younger teachers are interested and encouraged by institutions that are aware of and engaged in equity, human rights, gender equality- and for 155 years, CTA has been in the vanguard of protecting the rights of all California citizens.
Members listened attentively to keynote speaker and trainer Chris Crass, whose curriculum and experiences have been taught to social activists throughout the country. The information is grounded in historical and current events to encourage activists to engage in their local communities to improve the lives of local citizens. Crass’s curriculum draws from the stories of both past and contemporary social justice pioneers and activists who have and are currently defending the rights of the weakest citizens of this country.
Crass believes that in learning these histories we celebrate both the battle and success of those who fought before us as we inoculate, strengthen, and prepare for the difficulties of the struggle that lay ahead for this generation. He believes teachers’ relationships with students give them a unique and powerful perspective;
“Educators have a passion for learning, for bringing their best to their classrooms and working with their students, and that passion was felt throughout the day. Teachers with CTA want their students to be engaged and learning in the classroom, but they also want their students to live in a society rooted in economic, racial and gender justice. Working with CTA, I could feel the powerful convergence of the love teachers have for their students and the power of the labor movement to advance a far-reaching progressive agenda for healthy communities, economic justice and dignity for all.”
Group discussions included examining the societal inequities that ultimately led to the creation of the organization “Black Lives Matter” and the continued challenge of creating educated and effective allies for social justice organizations.
Near the presentation’s end, participants gave powerful, personal examples of their experiences, and made affirming statements regarding why they intended to continue their work in defense of social justice for those most vulnerable members of society.
Elizabeth Niederman, social studies teacher and Valley Center-Pauma Teachers Association, shared: “We need to be courageous for justice because white violence is not dead, anti-feminist violence is not gone, homophobic violence is still out there- so we need courage.”
The day-long session consisted of the morning’s presentation, followed by contemporary examples of teacher-leaders in Southern California who have engaged in social justice programs and achieved success for their schools and communities.
Among those stories included the statewide organization Californians for Justice, represented by student organizer Stephanie Aguilon and Long Beach staff Melisa Anne Bautista, who are active members of this organization founded in Oakland in 1996. First established to address a lack of connections being built between students and adults in school, it now boasts satellites in San Jose, Long Beach, and Fresno. It continues to build on their student-centered philosophy of building strong, young leaders throughout the state.
Two San Diego Education Association members- Jessica Moore highlighted her work for the powerful national organization “Moms Demand Action”, and Guillermo Gomez, who shared his group, “Union del Barrio/Association of Raza Educators” and their efforts to help protect the rights of their students and parents in their communities who are now subject to harassment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.
Lead CTA organizer Lisa Adams was encouraged by the interest and enthusiasm of the participants during the course of the day, “CTA will continue to encourage and support these committed social justice warriors, giving them tools they need to stand in the face of power in defense of our most vulnerable students and community leaders, knowing that their union has their back.”