Race and Class

A Brooklyn Teacher Is disciplined for Telling Her Students to Refer to Themselves as Africans—Not Americans

Absent from the controversy is the boisterous United Federation of Teachers. Last month, Gomes sent a letter to UFT borough representative Robert Astrowsky, expressing her "outrage at the apathy and lack of support" that she and Nzingha have received from the union. In her letter, Gomes, who is the UFT chapter leader at the middle school, lays out her version of the circumstances surrounding the disciplinary action against them and some students who took part in the rallies. "Because of the large turnout and show of solidarity by students, an in-house inquisition was launched," she charged. "Corbett began to drag students into her office and interrogate them without parental consent or representation. The questioning was based on the pretense that students had been 'solicited' to join the protest. Also, students' notes were [seized] in order to find evidence of foul play on the part of the teachers involved."

Gomes noted that she has asked for a "consultation with a union delegate who has specific experience with cases like mine" to no avail. "I have waited without success to hear from such a representative." And "despite the limited advice and fearful commentary" she has received from one low-level union functionary, "there has been no direct communication" between Gomes and the union hierarchy.

Yaa Asantewa Nzingha: dramatizing race
photo: courtesy of Yaa Asantewa Nzingha
Yaa Asantewa Nzingha: dramatizing race

Additional reporting by Amanda Ward

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