‘Good Trouble’: Fighting for Justice Through Our Union’s Human and Civil Rights Department
February 22, 2023
February 22, 2023
By Taisha Steele
VEA members hold racial and social justice as core values for at least four reasons: One, we promised members of the Virginia Teachers Association we’d always support their mission of educational equity when VTA and VEA merged in 1967. Two, we’re committed to improving life for our students, members, and communities. Three, we’re determined to raise awareness about and advocate to destroy institutional racism in our schools. Four, we understand the need for policy changes to promote a just public education in our schools and for holding our politicians accountable on this issue.
VEA’s Department of Human and Civil Rights (HCR) was established in 2018 to champion this work. Here are some of the highlights of our efforts to date:
This month, HCR will host our fourth Summit on Teachers of Color, featuring a presentation from Dr. Bettina L. Love, the renowned author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. That volume was the focus of a VEA Leaders for Equity and Justice book study last summer. There will also be a panel of National Board Certified Teachers of Color to bring awareness to this credential, including potential barriers and benefits for teachers of color. The summit aims to inform policy and promote best practices and greater diversity in hiring methods in K-12 education in Virginia, because VEA members are working to promote progress in these significant areas affecting minorities in the education workforce: climate and working conditions, retaining teachers of color, diversifying the pipeline through educator preparatory programs, standing up for social justice, culturally relevant practices, cultivation of community, and compensation.
As HCR’s director, I support local education associations, members, and VEA committees in multiple ways. I serve as staff liaison to the Fitz Turner Commission for Human Relations and Civil Rights (FTC), the Minority and Women’s Concerns Committee (MWCC), the LGBTQ+ Ad Hoc Committee, and the HCR Training Cadre. Recently, FTC and HCR revised the Black Lives Matter at School Toolkit and hosted Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action activities in early February. VEA and HCR encourage educators, students, parents, unions, and community organizations to join this annual week of action, use the Black Lives Matter at School Toolkit, adopt the Resolution for Black Lives Matter at School, and hold events to promote racial justice in education. FTC also presents three annual awards, whose winners will be honored at the Delegate Assembly in Roanoke in March.
MWCC and HCR began hosting VEA Vibe Checks two years ago. These are virtual gatherings offering a safe space for VEA members to have honest conversations about equity and racial and social justice issues. Vibe Checks allow educators across the Commonwealth to connect deeply and provide support and care to one another.
Among other projects HCR has worked with members to create:
As we continue to fight for racial and social justice in Virginia’s schools, VEA is proud of the work being done by our members through the Department of Human and Civil Rights and is eager to continue building on that foundation.
Taisha Steele is the director of the VEA’s Department of Human and Civil Rights.