Fighting for Survival

By Chanelle Ferguson '21, April 5, 2019
Bettina Love’s lecture highlights abolitionist teaching and the pursuit of educational freedom.

On Friday, March 22, Bettina Love, an award-winning author and associate professor of educational theory and practice at the University of Georgia, appeared at Ithaca College for a public discussion on her new book, “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and The Pursuit of Educational Freedom.”

The discussion was hosted by the School of Humanities and Sciences and was the Department of Education’s spring lecture. Each year, the department brings in a speaker whose work focuses on issues of freedom in education.

During her talk, Love discussed her research, which highlights the ways in which urban youth negotiate hip-hop music and culture to form social, cultural and political identities to create new and sustaining ways of thinking about urban education and intersectional social justice.

She also highlighted was the responsibilities of educators, especially white educators, to engage in abolitionist teaching and serve all children equitably. Her book identifies how white educators can authentically focus on freedom in education and not only teach, but personally learn, the history of all students to build connections and success for students in and outside the classroom.

Jean Copenhaver-Johnson, associate professor and chair of the Department of Education, came away from the talk impressed. “Dr. Love maps out the kinds of work that would be associated with de-centering whiteness, refusing the educational survival complex, and acknowledging that poor schools and economic inequality are not accidents but instead are intentional results of discriminatory policies (past and present) that privilege whiteness,” she said.

In her book, in which she also discusses her personal experiences and highlights, educators who supported her, provided resources, and confirmed that she mattered, Love presents an idea of “politics of refusal.” She ties this to black women having “a natural born resistance” where they challenge structures which make it harder for them to achieve success.

Love’s lecture had a major impact on students who attended. “Dr. Love spoke to my soul when she said that if we can’t change the hearts of people, we have to change the law,” said Laura Waxman ’19. “That inspires me to continue to fight.”