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Centering Black Bodies, Black History and Black Wellness within Sex Ed – Responsible Sex Education Institute (RSEI)

Written by Sam, RSEI Educator | Published May 8th, 2023

Please note: This blog is meant to be supplemental to the April webinar entitled “Centering Black Bodies, Black History, and Black Wellness within Sex Ed.” RSEI Members can access the recording on the Members’ Home Page. For non-members, please email: Professional.Development@pprm.org 

“Let [them] be born and handled warmly.” – “Anarcha, Betsey, Lucy” website

To handle our Black youth with warmth, means to center Choice, Information, Consent and Compassion in our learning spaces and classrooms. This is a necessary act because historically, Black people have been denied Choice, Information, Consent and Compassion as seen through the many instances of medical and sexual violence against Black folks in this country. 

Some of these instances include forced sterilization, sexual assault, coerced birth control, the Tuskegee Syphilis experiment and more. Unfortunately, instances of sexual and medical violence continue to impact Black and BIPOC folks today. For example, in the last 15-20 years, reports have shown that forced sterilization has and continues to occur in our incarceration and immigration detention centers

These acts directly contribute to the many disparities that exist within the medical industrial complex–and even our education system. According to the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, Black Boys are 3 times more likely to be suspended from school than their white peers and Black Girls are 6 times more likely to be suspended than their white peers. Research also shows that Black students experience the highest amounts of suspension and expulsion compared to other demographic groups. This is often in direct connection to the lack of Choice, Consent, Information and/or Compassion that exists within our many learning spaces, classrooms and educational policies. 

As youth-serving adults, we need to think critically about the policies in place in our Education system –and how these statistics are fueled by our own implicit bias, present-day structural racism and inequitable school policies. 

Choice and Consent: Black people have been denied Choice and Informed Consent in terms of their livelihoods, decision-making power and personal experiences. How can we center choice and consent in our learning spaces–to the benefit of yes, Black students but also all students?  

We need to trust our students to make the best decisions for themselves–and that means giving them choices and autonomy over their decisions. This includes the following: 

  • Allowing students to decide whether or not they want to engage in a Sex Ed lesson
  • Allowing students to freely express themselves through tone, language, hair and overall self-expression in any way that feels best to them
    • Challenge policies that are culturally-insensitive and don’t allow for different forms of expression
  • Allowing students to say “no” in a classroom; and have an adult model what it means to respect their no
  • Allowing students to use the language that is most accessible and familiar to them
    • And reminding students that being familiar with medical terminology can be a way to build health literacy and self advocacy–but ultimately allowing students to choose

Information: Historically and even through present-day, we see how information is weaponized and/or denied to Black folks within the medical industrial complex as well as within our education spaces.

  • Be comfortable sharing ALL options and information with students and trusting that students will use that information in order to make the most informed decisions for themselves
  • Allow room for students to be curious and ask about unexpected and/or surprising topics without shame or consequence
  • Acknowledge the critical contributions made by Black Femmes like Anarcha, Betsey, Lucy, and Henrietta which allows us to have the understanding of reproductive and sexual health we do today
    • How powerful would it be for our Black youth to know that people who looked like them (Lucy, Betsey, Anarcha, Henrietta) paved the way for Reproductive and Sexual Health advancement? How would it feel for Black youth to know that their ancestors were a part of the original fabric that allowed us to be where we are today?
  • Discuss supports like Doulas and Midwives in schools so students are aware of their options before navigating life changing moments in real-time
  • Foster an environment of information where everyone is an expert and has something to contribute to the learning space
    • Research shows learning from peers can be more effective than solely learning from an adult
    • By allowing everyone to be an “expert,” this can also challenge existing power dynamics

Compassion: Our Black students need to feel seen, affirmed and held–especially within our learning spaces and classrooms. Black folks historically and through present-day have been denied compassion, understanding and care–however,  we as youth-serving adults, can challenge that by intentionally centering compassion within our learning spaces.

  • Reflect upon the role of School Resources Officers and Counselors and consider where Sex Ed is the safest for our students
  • Allow room for laughter in our classrooms (students release nerves and energy in different ways)
  • Care for students enough to keep them in the classroom
  • Feature relevant representation of Black people, Black history and issues impacting Black communities
    • Similarly, as youth-serving adults, we must acknowledge the reality of our Black students and the messages they may be receiving from varying sources:
      • African-American history being censored in multiple states; continued violence by Law Enforcement; increased attacks on Black Trans Women
  • Compassion over Compliance: Our job is to care; not to measure compliance
  • It takes a Village: Loop in families and caregivers to support learning and to foster an inclusive and compassionate environment

Our Black youth deserve to feel seen, heard and affirmed. Handle our youth with care. Offer choice, consent and information. Center compassion and warmth in our learning spaces. That is the priority. Content always comes last. 

“Let [them] be born and handled warmly.” 

Rizwan Ahmed
Rizwan Ahmed
AuditStudent.com, founded by Rizwan Ahmed, is an educational platform dedicated to empowering students and professionals in the all fields of life. Discover comprehensive resources and expert guidance to excel in the dynamic education industry.


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