Garfield’s very own alumna Allani Seals and past Y-Scholars mentor Theresa Hardy have started their own movement to tackle racism in the classroom.
“The #unfilteredtruth movement was started by Trailblazer black and brown students to give them a space to talk about their oppressions within education” says Seals. “It was really designed to shine light on institutionalized racism. Things that black and brown students encounter on a daily basis like being singled out and the zero-tolerance policy where you do something and the consequence is getting kicked out of the school –which can lead to the school to prison pipeline” said Hardy.
“We’re really shining light on structural racism and once you acknowledge something and get it out there, the hope is that something is done about it.”
The movement has been introduced to students across Seattle, “The Trailblazers program is a program that was designed to give students the opportunity to educate their educators, on topics including implicit bias, how to communicate with students of color, microaggressions, etc. “ says Hardy.
The Trailblazers are black and brown students that attend Washington Middle School. “We’re only at Washington Middle School right now with about 28 kids but we’re hoping to expand to high schools and elementaries.” The Trailblazers are mentored by Garfield students, many of whom are part of the Y-Scholars program.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity for them to have mentors that look like them and could relate to them” said Hardy.
“Washington came to mind because the population of black students is small–identical to what’s going on at Garfield. So we thought we could come and provide more support and leadership opportunities for black and brown students.”
Allani Seals, the co-leader of the program, graduated from Garfield High School in 2018 and is now attending the University of Washington, “I chose to get involved because I had a lot of unresolved trauma and misplaced rage coming from high school. Being a Garfield alumni, I didn’t quite find my niche but now I feel like I have a way not only to give back to the community and school that I came from but also give back to the youth who are also going through similar things as me. I think it’s a very productive way for me to place my rage–it’s productive rage.”
Seals is not the only one with this frustration. Many students of color attend and leave school with a feeling of helplessness and defeat towards the education system. Seals has used these obstacles as a tool to drive her career.
“This program just works to support and empower at predominantly white schools like this.“It really is all about practices and policies that are harmful for students that look like the Trailblazers. This gives them an opportunity to not get snatched up by the system.”
Policies within a classroom often target students of color, specifically black and brown students, that disproportionately send them down a rabbit hole they cannot get out of.
“Within our classroom we try to not perpetuate those inequalities. In terms of discipline, we try to not send kids out of the class or call security, or send them to the principal” said Seals. “We also give them a level of autonomy. I think overall our classroom is very different.”
Lessons in the classroom include modern, historic, cultural and intellectual topics that educate and challenge these young minds, “Right now we’re really focusing on women’s history month. We started off class with a “her story” tribute. Everyone had to write down five women that inspired them and why.
“We’ve made a kahoot for hip-hop pioneers, and then another for leaders in history that beat the odds.”
“Sometimes we have more traditional lessons. Next week, I’ll be talking about women of color in history” explained Seals. “It’s pretty much a year long workshop on things they don’t learn in school.”
The student’s first chance to educate their educators occurred a few months ago, with the topic being implicit bias. “That was the first time in Seattle Public School history where kids lead a professional development during a staff meeting. It was a big deal, we had a 7th grade boy and a 8th grade girl actually lead the whole thing. The second one was “how to build healthy relationships from a student of color’s perspective” says Hardy.
These students are taught skills many high schoolers still struggle with, but that are critical to master, “A lot of the mentors took the initiative to talk to the teachers with their mentee, so they’re modeling what it looks like to talk to your educator when your grade is not where it should be” says Hardy. “It really is about mentoring.”
This program has opened up various opportunities for leaders and students alike, “I got the opportunity to speak at a conference. We presented on racism in college education at Minnesota state universities 43rd pan-african conference” said Seals. “It gives the students a chance to be themselves in the classroom. Because there aren’t any white students, they don’t constantly have to worry about that imposing whiteness, watching what they say and having to censor themselves. It provides the opportunity to talk about “taboo” subjects within life.”
This program is single handedly unfiltering the truth. Layer by layer these kids are digging through the dirt and uncovering the truth that was buried years ago.