New anti-racism group calls for hiring more teachers of color

Drawing from the traditions of the African-American church, a local group has formed to address various educational, social and economic issues.

Its first goal is to increase the number of teachers of color in the Rochester City School District.

Called the Movement for Anti-Racist Ministry and Action (MAMA), the group held a news conference Monday, setting forth its objectives and priorities.

"The biblical witness of a God ... who acts within history to advance social, economic and political justice for the poor and unwanted in society, has always been a fundamental and bedrock tenet of African-American religious faith, and is a bedrock tenet of MAMA," said the Rev. Judith Davis.

MAMA, which has a six-member steering committee from local churches, is holding a forum on Thursday, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., for candidates running for the Rochester Board of Education.

This forum will be at the Community of the Savior church, 4 East Henrietta Road, off Mt. Hope Ave., which is where Monday's news conference was held.

MAMA wants to know what the candidates will do "to ensure the hiring and retaining of significantly more race and class-conscious teachers of color as well as other steps to address individual, institutional and structural racism in the RCSD."

Howard Eagle, a member of the steering committee, stressed the importance of taking action.

An understanding of the effects of racism, he said, is important to addressing current problems.

"It's not about dialogue for the sake of dialogue. It's dialogue for the sake of change," Eagle said.

Harry Kennedy, who is director of human resources for the school district, issued a statement saying: “The Rochester City School District is working diligently to address the issue of diversity within our workforce. We have had several meetings with Mr. Eagle and members of the community, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to ensure that we are delivering the best possible outcomes for our students.”

MAMA held an "Education for Action" series, from November to March, which graduated 18 individuals — nine black and nine white. That was followed by the steering committee launching Organizing for Action, which is urging the graduates to develop a campaign to address institutional racism.

The new group grew out of a workshop that Davis held in January 2016 about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," written after he was arrested for nonviolent civil disobedience protesting segregation.

In this April 1963 letter to "Fellow Clergymen," King addressed their recent statement calling his activities "unwise and untimely."

"I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham," wrote King. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

 

By: James Goodman

Source: democratandchronicle.com