St. Louis T4BL Study Group

The St. Louis Teaching for Black Lives (T4BL) study group includes 23 educators from Kirkwood R-VII School District (K–12) in Missouri. Their goals are to: 

  • provide support for Black students and teachers within the district
  • promote a positive picture of Black history within the district by modeling best practices for teaching Black joy

Members meet in person every month and they start each meeting by reciting “An Invitation to a Brave Space” by Mickey Scottbey Jones.

In January 2023, they discussed the first three articles in Section 3 (Gentrification, Displacement, and Anti-Blackness) of Teaching for Black Lives: “Burned Out of Homes and History,” “The Most Gentrified City of the Century,” and What Do You Mean When You Say Urban?

Many members remarked that they had not learned the history of housing segregation and its impacts as young people. One member commented, “They did not want us to know what really happened.”

The group also discussed the importance of language and how massacres are often labeled “riots” by the media when it involves Black communities, such as the East St. Louis and Tulsa Massacres. 

The significance of language came up again when they discussed words that function similarly to “urban,” including: 

  • Free and Reduced Lunch
  • Title 1 School
  • Disadvantaged
  • Underserved
  • At-risk

Linney Early, co-coordinator, said, “The fact that we all know as educators what those words mean and what we’re implying when we use them. It just keeps that stereotype of Black people as disadvantaged, and when you see Black students, you think there’s something wrong with them that you have to immediately start assessing.”

One study group member said:

The internal work is so critical to everything that you do as a teacher. Every interaction you have with your students that are in your class everyday matters. Those conversations have to come from doing that internal work.

The group resonated with the quote by Dyan Watson in “What Do You Mean When You Say Urban?” in Teaching for Black Lives:

We need teachers who will examine themselves as racial beings who teach other racial beings and figure out what they are doing wrong and what they are doing right.