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By Julian Peeples

Educators converged virtually on CTA’s Equity and Human Rights (EHR) Conference last week, attending a variety of interactive workshops on diversity, equity and social justice, and honoring our union’s 2021 Human Rights Award Winners.

The four-day conference focused on the theme of Truth, Healing and Action, with engaging sessions in the categories of socio-economic justice, equity in special education, equity lens in schools, racial justice and the LGBTQ+ Movement.

CTA President E. Toby Boyd delivered the EHR closing keynote about the role of educators in the continued struggle for equity, justice and human rights. Here are five takeaways from his speech:

  1. These Conversations are Important

“CTA’s Equity and Human Rights Conference is where we come together to have the important conversations that are all too often avoided because they are uncomfortable. It’s a chance to learn from each other, to understand each other and to celebrate each other.”

  1. Truth in Our History is Part of Meaningful Change

“The history of this country is rooted in white supremacy. We need to acknowledge it, recognize it, own it and take an honest look at our history. We must understand this before we can begin to change the toxic systems we still live under.”

  1. We Need Ethnic Studies Now

“As educators our job is to educate and teach the truth – all of our truths. That’s why we have fought so hard for ethnic studies, so that these truths aren’t just consigned to a day or a week or a month. We have a duty to teach our students about their ancestral legacies and to celebrate them every day. Culture is essential in the fight for racial justice and equity, and it is the right of our students to have access to a quality ethnic studies curriculum.”

  1. The Pandemic Exposed Vast Inequities

COVID-19 has exposed not only the inequality of educational opportunity in our country, but the access to basic health care and support. As we begin the return to in-person instruction, we need to respect and address the concerns of families of color, who are more likely to want to continue distance learning, and who—at least initially—have been more skeptical about getting vaccinated.”

  1. Let’s Make Some Good Trouble Together

“The late Congressman John Lewis was a giant of the Civil Rights Movement. His passing last July was a tremendous loss for us all. Congressman Lewis once said ‘You have to tell the whole truth, the good and the bad, maybe some things that are uncomfortable for some people.’ As we look to the past to learn where we come from, let’s use that knowledge and our experiences at this conference to change systems built on oppression and to shine a light on the future.”