African American Political Forum Hosts Press Conference with Sullivan County Licensed Professor Matthew Hawn | WJHL
SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) — The African American Political Forum (AAPF) held a press conference Monday ahead of Sullivan County teacher Matthew Hawn’s appeal hearing to get his job back.
The nearly hour-long briefing consisted of a panel discussion of AAPF leadership, Hawn supporters as well as Hawn himself.
Award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates and poet Kyla Jennée Lacey were on the call.
It was their work that Hawn used as study material in his course on Contemporary Issues for which he was fired.
The author couple spoke at the conference about their personal experiences and how they feel the black perspective needs to be shared in the classroom.
“I didn’t present my perspectives to the students. I wanted students to understand the perspectives of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kyla Jenee Lacey. They don’t have to agree with their points of view, but what I do is that I asked the students to understand their points of view and their points of view, which is very important in our community. You know, my community is a 95% white school community,” he said.
He argued that his students are not academically competitive with their peers in other parts of the country because they are exposed to more diverse educational content.
“My students need to go out and compete for jobs and admissions to top universities. And while a student from Amherst, Massachusetts can discuss some things, we can’t in Sullivan County and it does them a disservice,” Hawn said.
Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw is the executive director of the African American Policy Forum and a supporter of Hawn’s program.
“I come to all of you today as an academic, a third-generation teacher, and as an American deeply troubled by the war on teachers that is being waged under the pretense of protecting our students from indoctrination,” he said. she declared.
Crenshaw said she believes children should be educated about the experiences of those who are different from themselves, especially today. She added that she thought Hawn’s class material he was fired for was both timely and appropriate.
“Matthew was robbed of both his livelihood and his passion because he sought to help his students reflect on the difficult time of last year’s protests over the police killing of George Floyd and the police who shot Jacob Blake,” she said.
Members of the AAPF indicated that they would be present at the appeal hearing scheduled for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in Blountville.
Sumi Cho, Director of Strategic Initiatives for AAPF, has come out of retirement to lead the #TruthBeTold campaign.
“The American Policy Forum has launched the ‘Truth Be Spoken’ campaign which is a national effort to organize support for educators like Matthew who seek to teach and accurate and inclusive history is the curriculum. We are here to say that ‘no educator should be fired, decertified, disciplined, harassed, subjected to violence or death threats for seeking to educate their students about systemic racism and other forms of discrimination,’ Cho said.
She said it was important to her that the representative of the AAPF appear at the call on Tuesday.
“We understand that local decision makers have to make their decision which we hope will be the right decision. And we will be there to support Matthew every step of the way to say that no teacher should be punished for teaching the truth about our past and our present in order to learn from our past mistakes to better our country,” he said. she declared.
Hawn said he was excited about the hearing and hopes it will work out in his favor.
“This is my home. It’s a wonderful place. There are great people here. My family is here,” he said.
The fired teacher added that there are positives that came out of this experience and those are the people he met.
“If I need to, I could ask a great poet to come speak at our creative writing class or if we have a journalism class, I’ve befriended an award-winning author and if we have questions about our legal system, especially in the areas of civil rights, with Sumi and Kim, these are great resources for a teacher to have,” he said.
Hawn said he’s looking forward to returning to teaching for the Sullivan County school system because that’s where he graduated and it’s his home community that he hopes to improve.
“I’m still confused as to why I’m here. You know, my students and I had tough conversations about a lot of contemporary issues over a decade,” he said. “I fully expect to be reinstated.”
News Channel 11 will have full audience coverage Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in Blountville both on air and online.