In response to the modern-day lynchings of Ahmuad Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and in New Jersey, Maurice Gordon, that have all taken place within the first six months of 2020, the United States and the entire world have witnessed a resurgent demand for racial justice.
The current protests and social revolution known as Black Lives Matter is rooted in the historical struggle for Black liberation in the United States of America. This is the legacy of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Fannie Lou Hammer, Audre Lorde, Martin King Jr., Ella Baker, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells and Oluwatoyin Salau. The moral fire within our spirits that has engulfed our nation in response to the public murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police is not simply about abolishing the police; the fire raging in us today is the fire that Baldwin referred to as “the fire next time”. And while the fire of Black Lives Matter reveals the need for change, true transformation requires deconstructing the 401 years of institutional, structural and personal racism that pervades every aspect of this nation. Due to the top-down and bottom-up tactics practiced in the United States, White supremacy and anti-Blackness have found their place in Lawrence Township, and made their bed in Lawrence Township Public Schools.
The overt White supremacy experienced by young Black women who were taunted at a Lawrence High School football game in the fall was not an isolated event. This was the key to the locked box of Black people’s traumatic lived-experiences of both overt and covert White supremacy in Lawrence Township, and more specifically Lawrence Township Public Schools. The flood of #BlackInLawrenceNJ stories and the October 2019 incident staunchly contradict the placating and superficial catechism “hate has no place in Lawrence Township”. Such a communal narrative denies the lived experience of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) persons, and the trauma they experience. Clearly communicated, community informed, measurable actions need to be taken.
We, a collective of over 1,000 individuals to-date, are therefore sending this letter to the district’s Board of Education and superintendent to end systemic racism and implement a radical reconstruction agenda for our public schools.
We need revolutionary change in our town. The historical sea of unisolated, ignored, traumagenic events deserves it. The fire in our bones and our protest demands it.
We look first to our education system to acquire the radical change Lawrence’s needs.
We will no longer be silent or silenced.
As a collective of over 1,000 students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and residents of Lawrence, we make the following demands on our public school district to end systemic racism and all related injustices:
Accept all #BlackInLawrenceNJ stories pertaining to LTPS as true and consult the community around ways LTPS will publicly acknowledge the adverse impact systemic racism has had on people’s lives as exhibited in these stories.
Institute Black/African-American courses and curriculum content.
Hire and retain BIPOC faculty and professional staff which is representative of student demographics.
Conduct an audit of current hiring practices through statistical review, interviews, surveys, and adopting standardized, best practice, hiring solutions.
Eradicate Detentions, all suspensions and expulsions, and take the necessary steps to establish and implement restorative justice practices and policies.
Remove any law enforcement assigned to current Lawrence Township Public Schools.
Hire a diversity, inclusion and equity coach for each school building.
Commit to providing a Pre-K-12 curriculum and instruction development inspired by an abolitionist teaching framework and culturally responsive pedagogy.
Hire an educational equity consultant to conduct an equity, culture and climate audit.
Commit to explore culturally specific ways to increase family involvement and community engagement.
Embrace and actively support a Black student organization and a minority teacher organization.
Reserve a seat on the Board of Education for a Black alumnus of LTPS and undergo an audit regarding LTPS Board of Education election practices.
We encourage Lawrence residents to continue to sign our petition at https://blmlawrencenj.wixsite.com/ourdemands/home and read the stories on Black In Lawrence, NJ (Facebook) or @BlackInLawrenceNJ (Instagram).
Fred Vereen, Jr.
Renard & Erika Smoots
Nyya & Roxanna Flores Toussaint
Black Solidarity Group
This letter was read by Nyya Toussaint and Lisa Austin at the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education meeting on July 8.