Eduardo Lara and his godson Akeem Ruiz. Courtesy photo.

People Post is a space for opinion pieces, letters to the editor and guest submissions from members of the Long Beach community. The following is an op-ed submitted by Eduardo Lara, a lecturer of sociology at Cal State Long Beach and a former candidate for the LBUSD school board and for District 2 council member, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Long Beach Post.

Social movements often create niche-openings allowing for change to follow in the form of cultural, social and political shifts in society. The global Black Lives Matter movement has surpassed the traditional niche openings, allowing for the swift structural changes to occur in immediately and for the potential for more sustaining changes to evolve as the movement is still in full gear.

Here in Long Beach, our own local chapter of BLM and its allies have been engaged in a series of organized and peaceful demonstrations that are still ongoing, including a student-led protest scheduled outside the school district office today demanding action against racism in schools.

Juan Benitez, LBUSD Board of Education vice president, recently wrote a piece, “A new 2020 Long Beach Promise for all,”  calling for a district resolution that’s in alignment with the recently passed Framework for Reconciliation in Long Beach. As a CSULB sociologist who’s an expert on racial justice and who has been teaching for over 20 years, I am in support of such immediate action to ensure that Black students and parents are centralized and listened to as informers of educational policy, practices and curriculum.

Later today, the school board will be meeting to discuss and vote on a tentative budget for the next school year. District budgets are a reflection of their values and I applaud the board for considering bold action during its budget meeting to champion Black Live Matters Long Beach demands by earmarking funds specific to Black communities; it’s the right course of action for the movement and moment we’re experiencing.

Specifically, I support demands to reinvest in Black students to close the opportunity gap in all content areas, integration of a Black Lives Matter K-12 curriculum, the hiring of more Black teachers and mandatory transformative justice programs in lieu of suspensions. These demands align with the spirit of the social movement recently taking place around the world, demanding an end to racist police violence and institutional discrimination. These matters are situated in 400 years of both overt and structural manifestations of white supremacy—the metaphorical disease that is the cause of the symptom, racism.

Board member, Megan Kerr, recently wrote a tweet sharing, “This time in history is giving us the opportunity to look at all systems and work to root out systemic racism and white supremacy. It won’t be quick or easy, but now is the time to rebuild systems and practices to fully support and model equity and restoration.” Kerr gets it and her words suggest she will move with expediency to pass a resolution adopting a similar framework to the city’s, allowing for information gathering to identify racial barriers that stymie opportunities for Black students.

I have faith in board members Diana Craighead, Jon Myer, and Felton Williams listening and doing right by the voices of our Black community. Clearly, the weight of this moment is not lost on Williams, who recently shared that his brother was killed at hands of sheriffs in 1970 while in custody. The emotional labor it takes to convey such a personal story takes courage and I thank him for being public about police violence.

From slavery, to Jim Crow laws, to school segregation, to mass incarceration of Black people furthered by the war on drugs—white supremacist institutions take on new iterations in every generation. To borrow a fellow teacher’s own public comment to the school board, Cesar Armendariz writes, “Presently, education is not the great equalizer. But it can be. I have faith that it can be done here in Long Beach. Our city is blessed with incredible students, parents, teachers and community members. Together, we can reimagine and rebuild a system of education where Black children can thrive. A system were Black students are not suspended at 5 times the rate as White students. A system where they are not 25 points below English Language Arts standards or 62 points below math standards. A system where 100% of our Black students are college and career ready, rather than only 23.8% as reported in 2019.”

Black people have been ringing bells signaling urgency ever since they were ripped from their homeland via the transatlantic enslaved African trade; the bells continue to ring and it’s deafening. I urge the board to be on the right side of history by heeding the bells and taking urgent action.

Beyond the bells are louder voices, millions and millions of Black voices and their allies chanting for justice to be adopted in every fabric of society, including, and perhaps most importantly, schools.

Social change begins with the little ones and they look up to adults for leadership by example. Join me as an ally to the Black Lives Matter movement to break the chains of white supremacy so that all Black students can breathe freely in this world and by extension all students can breathe. George Floyd never had that opportunity. Let’s change that for the kids of LBUSD.