In Fall 2022, the Zinn Education Project hosted welcome gatherings for over 1,000 Teaching for Black Lives study group members. Participants listened to a conversation facilitated by Ayva Thomas, with the book’s editors, Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au. To start off, Dyan was invited to read her powerful letter, A Message from a Black Mom to Her Son.

Afterward, study group members shared reactions in the chat. One person commented, “It teaches us that advocacy for children is so essential.” Another participant said, “I was nearly moved to tears as I considered Dyan’s experience. I hurt for the kids that I and other teachers haven’t acknowledged or seen for who they are.” 

Ayva continued the interview by prompting the editors to each share their favorite section or article, Wayne selected James Baldwin’s A Talk to Teachers; Jesse selected two pieces from chapter 2, “Enslavement, Civil Rights, and Black Liberation;” and Dyan said, “I don’t have a favorite piece! I love them all.” One audience member shared in the chat that listening to the editors’ description of the pieces made them “excited to hop around to read the different parts of the book.”

The editors were next asked, “What does it mean to teach for Black lives?” A  participant noted, “It was incredibly powerful to hear from the editors to really understand the WHY behind this project.” 

To wrap up the conversation, Ayva asked the editors share one word to describe what it would have meant to them to have their teachers teach for Black lives.

Dyan: “Seen.”

Jesse: “Empowered . . . and valued.”

Wayne: “Angry but in a left revolutionary angry sense.”

Ayva: “Affirmed and radically loved.”

Study group members reflected on the conversation together in breakout groups and met educators from across the country. One participant told us, “I feel grounded now about how the year will go and I’m also really excited about the extra opportunities that ZEP is providing for us. I was thinking this would be a regular book club, but it’s so much more!”

Read more responses to the event below.

I gained inspiration and motivation to push forward in my role and responsibility on my quest to being a “liberated gatekeeper”.
Simply beautiful. It brought me to tears. I thought this could be my last year in public education. Just not feeling like I’m making a difference. But that letter inspires me.
Maybe I have more . . .
Some direly needed motivation in a tough time alongside a refreshing reminder of what things can/will be!
A takeaway from tonight’s Welcome Event is the important understanding shared by Jesse Hagopian that Teaching for Black Lives rejects the monolith that there is only one way to be Black. Black identity has to be taught with a focus on intersectionality so that all Black lives can be affirmed.
“I pray that they [teachers] stand up for you in ways that leave you feeling strong and capable.”
— Dyan Watson.

This is what I aim to do with my young, Black students as their teacher.

I feel driven and inspired to make sure that students in my class feel seen, and that the experiences of Black students are centered in my classroom.
Being in this group is important to me because I believe that being in community with other anti-racist educators makes me a stronger teacher for all of my students.
I gained a sense of purpose and direction as I strive to become a more informed human, parent, and teacher. I am honored to be a part of this study group and look forward to all that I will learn.
I think the most important take away was that everyone has different experiences and different reasons for being part of these study groups, but that is something to celebrate. We can all learn from each other while we learn together.
The most important thing that I gained from the session today was that there is true desire and intent to do this powerful work. My thoughts, opinions and ideals had a voice and it was truly a common space that I shared with others.