One of the organizers of the February 5 event Repairing the Fault Line: Making School Spaces Safe Spaces for Trans and Queer Black Students, first-year doctoral student monét cooper, spoke with Ellen Shanna Knoppow from Pride Source prior to the event. The event was a community conversation in celebration of the annual Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools focusing on the needs of trans and queer black students.
“I think if we want school spaces to be safe, affirming, learning spaces for African American [and] Latinx students who identify as trans and queer or gender nonbinary — but especially girls — we have to do better,” cooper said. “We have a mandate to make spaces, and foster spaces and co-create spaces where those students can understand and realize their potential. A lot of times, those students are pushed out of school spaces because of these identities. Some students may have [already] come into their trans identity or their queer identity; others may be wrestling to identify in those ways to accept those things and embrace those things about themselves.”
The organizers planned the program for students (ages 12 to 35) to discuss their experiences in one group, while an “intergenerational” group consisting of parents, educators, and community advocates—who may or may not be queer or trans—discuss their own observations and ideas for ways they can do better to meet students’ needs. All participants then gather to organize and set goals for how this important work should proceed.
“We hope that by bringing together different intersections in the Detroit community, the Detroit area, we can have a real, brave and robust dialogue about what it means to be black and queer and trans and a student in this particular region,” she said. “The whole objective is that it’s not just what we do in a school space, it’s how can a community and school as an institution constantly be in dialogue with each other in doing this work?”