Award-winning author and the Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia Dr. Bettina L. Love addressed the Taft community during a Community Time virtual visit this week, and shared insights into cultural knowledge and history that can create meaningful allyship and better understanding.
"What I want to do today is start this conversation about the creativity, the ingenuity, the genius of Black folks," Dr. Love explained. "We oftentimes think a crisis—a pandemic—is a time to retreat. I want to tell you today that a pandemic, a time of multiple crises, is not a time to retreat, it is a time to double down on justice. And as you all are thinking about what justice means in your lives as young adults, I want to offer this idea: You can’t do social justice work or liberation work or abolitionist work if you don’t know the beauty and the creativity of Black and Brown people. It’s not just about knowing our pain, it’s not just about knowing our trauma, you have to know who we are: why we are beautiful, why we are wonderful, where joy comes from… You have to see us in our whole humanity to fight not just for us, but with us."
Her talk, entitled Living a Hip Hop & Abolitionist Life: Resistance, Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality, & Black Joy, featured elements of work done at Taft during Black History Month and MLK week. Dr. Love traced the history and evolution of hip hop and other musical genres to their origins with Creoles from West-central Africa--Sierra Leone and Liberia--who used cultural knowledge, suffering, and creativity to find freedom and joy through coded language in music.
"We have to start seeing beauty in Black culture, in Black creativity because if you see our beauty you will realize we don't need saving. What we need are individuals who are ready to fight with us," noted Dr. Love.
Dr. Love’s writing, research, teaching, and activism meet at the intersection of race, education, abolition, and Black joy. She is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers, directing her intellect and energies toward bringing educators, parents, and communities together to build communal, civically engaged schools rooted in Abolitionist Teaching. The goal of her work is intersectional social justice for equitable classrooms that love and affirm Black and Brown children. Her visit with the Taft community, explained Dean of Multicultural Education Andrew Prince, “part of our ongoing efforts to ‘acknowledge, respect, and empathize with people of all different identifiers’ and ‘strive to understand and combat symptoms and causes of systematic oppression.’"
In 2020, Dr. Love co-founded the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN). ATN’s mission is to develop and support teachers and parents to fight injustice within their schools and communities. In 2020, Dr. Love was also named a member of the Old 4th Ward Economic Security Task Force with the Atlanta City Council.
Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics, including Abolitionist Teaching, anti-racism, Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, Hip Hop feminism, art-based education to foster youth civic engagement and issues of diversity and inclusion. She is the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum GET FREE.
In 2014, she was invited to the White House Research Conference on Girls to discuss her work focused on the lives of Black girls. For her work in the field of Hip Hop education, in 2016, Dr. Love was named the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. In April of 2017, Dr. Love participated in a one-on-one public lecture with bell hooks focused on the liberatory education practices of Black and Brown children. In 2018, Georgia’s House of Representatives presented Dr. Love with a resolution for her impact on the field of education. She has also provided commentary for various news outlets including NPR, Ed Week, The Guardian, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
She is the author of the books We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her work has appeared in numerous books and journals, including the English Journal, Urban Education, The Urban Review, and the Journal of LGBT Youth.
Photos courtesy bettinalove.com