Not an Optional Read: An Interview with Carina Saucedo on Black Lives Matter at School
During the 2021-2022 school year, Project LEAD offered Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice edited by Denisha Jones and Jesse Hagopian as the reading for their book study, which was given to a number of universities and colleges, including the University of St. Francis (USF), in the Fall to then discuss in the Spring. Black Lives Matter at School is an enjoyable yet thought-provoking read that is filled with a collection of interviews, essays, poems, etc. from educators, students, and activists who have, directly or indirectly, worked on building the Black Lives Matter movement across the country.
After reading, I got a chance to sit down and speak with Carina Saucedo, an Elementary Education major at USF who holds a bilingual endorsement. Not only is she a spearhead for MERIT, an acronym for Multicultural Education Recruitment in Teaching, but she has done some extensive work within the club discussing the integral matters noted in Black Lives Matter at School, in which we addressed in our conversation. Carina shared her thoughts and ideas to a list of five questions I complied after reading, which I felt were left unanswered, concerning issues that had to be addressed, or warranted opinion.
1. Why would you encourage others to read Black Lives Matter at School?
a. I believe Black Lives Matter at School should not be an optional read. The different
information presented throughout the different chapters really pushed me to reflect on my
own biases, previous experiences, and conversations I’ve had with other educators about
similar topics. After reading the book, I realized it should be a required read. Not only
does it push readers to think about their own experiences in similar situations but it
encourages them to have honest conversations and think about what push should be made
in order to ignite the change needed in our education system to better support our African
2. What is one thing that you took away from the book?
a. Talking about race in the classroom is important. Not the “we are all different but in this
classroom, we are the same” conversation, but the acknowledgment that our skin color
represents something beautiful and invaluable and that the history behind it should be
spoken out loud.
3. What comes to mind when thinking about culturally responsive teaching? How will you as a
teacher be culturally responsive?
a. When thinking about culturally responsive teaching, I think about the different cultural
strengths that each student in a classroom can bring to the learning experience. As a
teacher, in order to be culturally responsive, I plan to harness those cultural strengths
each student brings and incorporate them into their learning. By doing this, I would not
only be exposing my entire classroom to different customs and cultures they may not be
familiar with, but also encouraging them to have an open mind to them which in turn
would create a supportive learning environment that celebrates the diversity presented in
the cultural differences.
4. How do we approach such macro issues such as social justice, racial justice, racism, equity,
etc. in our classroom with such little time to do so?
a. I think it’s important to take into consideration the age range in which these macro issues
are being presented and find different ways in which we can incorporate them into
students' learning in a format that they will be able to understand. A HUGE way that I’ve
seen this incorporated is by ensuring there is diverse literature in the classroom for
students to access throughout the day. The greatest thing about this is that as teachers we
can tailor it to the age range of the students we are teaching in order to embed it into the
curriculum and the content being taught.
5. In chapter twenty, Jones and Hagopian stress that we need to bring a stop to teaching
students inferiority history. What is the danger of a single story? What does or will it take
to shift the narrative of the history presented to encapture positive representation of all our
students, especially black students?
a. A single-story creates stereotypes, and the problem with these stereotypes is that they
focus on an incomplete story that only comes from a single perspective. In the book
Black Lives Matter at School, Chapter 20 talks about an early childhood teacher who
instead of teaching her kindergarten students the traditional history route of the
enslavement of African American people as the genesis of black history she chose to
expose her 5 and 6-year-olds to the black inventors and their ideas of creating new things
that people across the world can use to better their lives. Doing this completely shifted
the traditional aspects of the history that is normally taught in the classroom. These are
the different actions we need to take as educators in order to shift the narrative of the
traditional history presented in our classrooms in order to positively represent the
students in our classroom. Based on the agreed-upon curriculum I do understand the other
perspective of “this is what we’ve taught every year” but just as education keeps shifting
and evolving as educators we need to do the same. Another option would be to teach the
history that is traditionally always taught but then find resources and incorporate different
materials where students are exposed to the second POV presented in the history being
addressed in the classroom.
Robert Elkins is a senior Secondary English Education major at the University of St. Francis. When he isn’t reading and writing, Robert enjoys graphic designing, taking walks, and watching an assortment of videos on YouTube. He has been based in Joliet, IL for about ten years, and plans to teach at one of the local high schools in the area after graduation.