Diversity & Equity Newsletter

February 2021

February is Black History Month

Big picture

When did we start recognizing Black History Month?

Black History Month became a nationally observed month in 1976 under President Gerald Ford but has a longer, lesser-known history as an annual observance week. In 1915, Carter G. Woodson and Jesse E. Moorland founded the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) after frustrations in school with only learning history from specific group's points of view. This foundation would promote studying Black History, as well as celebrating the accomplishments of African Americans.

In order to help schools better organize their efforts, Woodson launched "Negro History Week" in 1926. He chose the second week in February since it encompassed both Frederick Douglass’ birthday on February 14 and Abraham Lincoln’s birthday on February 12. Much later, in the 60's, schoolbooks were still found to only mention two black people for the entire century since the Civil War and something further needed to be done. Universities and colleges started adopting Black History Month into their activities, and in 1976, President Ford declared it a national observance on the 50th anniversary of its first celebration.

Since then, each year Black History Month has had different themes. This year's theme is The "Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity."

What is Black Lives Matter?

Big picture
In July 2013, Alicia Garza, Patrissa Cullors, and Opal Tometi created a Black-centered political will and moment building project called #BlackLivesMatter. The movement began with the use of the hashtag #BLACKLIVESMATTER on social media after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African American teen, Trayvon Martin, 17 months earlier in February 2012.

BLM's mission: "Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes by combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy."

Black Lives Matter is a member-led network with over 40 chapters currently. Members work together to build local power structures to intervene in violence inflicted against the black community by the state and vigilantes. They aim to protect black communities from harm via community support and redistribution of funds in the criminal justice system.

Many people have heard the phrase "Defund the Police" when talking about Black Lives Matter. "Defund the Police" is a common slogan that can be heard at protests and, while it may sound confusing, it simply means reallocating some funding away from the police force and spending it instead on severely underfunded social services and programs such as social workers, crisis support workers, housing initiatives, education, employment, healthcare, and youth services. These services would support whole communities to reduce crime rates and raise education and wage rates.

Diversity & Equity Committee Member Spotlight

Every month this year we will be spotlighting a different member of the Diversity & Equity Committee. In this space, they will be able to talk about what they do at ASUA, why they are on the committee, and what they like to do in their free time!

This month's spotlight is Tim.

Big picture

Hello, My name is Tim Kurpiel and I use pronouns he/him.

I started working at A Step Up Academy 6 years ago after graduating from Temple University with a degree and certification in Early Childhood Education PreK-4th grade. Over the 6 years that I have worked at ASUA, I have filled many different roles. I first started out at ASUA as an instructional assistant before I became certified in Special Education and assumed a role as an assistant teacher and then eventually a lead teacher, which I held for 3 years before becoming an Inclusion Support Teacher last year. This year, I again assumed a new role as the Jenkintown Full-Virtual Lead Teacher. Having held many different titles with many different responsibilities at ASUA has provided me with numerous opportunities to not only grow as an educator but as a person. I love learning with and from our diverse group of students at ASUA. Outside of school, I am a new father to a 7-month-old baby boy, I love Philly sports, fishing, riding my beach cruiser around Lansdale, and recently fell in love with the game of golf.

Enough about me though, I joined the Diversity & Equity Committee because it is a way for me to not only continue my growth as a human but to show my support that I am an ally to all. Growing up with an aunt with Cerebral Palsy, I saw first-hand the challenges she faced just to be seen as a person and at times her not feeling like she had a voice in the world. I joined this committee to advocate for those that may still be learning how to do so themselves, to learn first-hand from others who are different than myself, to gain a fresh new lens about the challenges that others face, and to use this new knowledge to grow as an educator so that everyone in my classroom feels seen, heard, represented, and valued for who they unapologetically are.

Check Out These Links!