Board colleagues: We must order an end to the Know Justice Know Peace trademark fight

For 160-plus years, the Denver Public Schools have been governed by an elected Board of Education with one employee. When a majority of the board gives a directive, the superintendent must comply with it.

When there isn’t guidance, the superintendent can use discretion on how to move forward in certain areas. The decision for the district to move forward with trademarking the name of Know Justice, Know Peace was not a board decision.

Still, the Board of Education is within its rights to direct the superintendent to release ownership of this name to the four Black women who created the original podcast.

When George Floyd was murdered, an uprising began around the nation, and the people, including myself, took to the streets. I witnessed firsthand the power of student voice; it was the voices of students that led our district to end the over-policing in our schools. A month after the passage of the 2020 resolution to end the district’s contract with the Denver Police Department, a podcast was born called “Know Justice, Know Peace the Take.”

These four Black girls went to Washington, D.C., to learn about their history and returned to DPS on a mission to improve the educational experiences for all students. I saw their hard work and encouraged them to write a resolution, and I helped get it passed. 

In September 2020, we unveiled the Know Justice, Know Peace Resolution, and within a month, it was passed unanimously by the school board.

Unfortunately, the core tenants of this resolution are still unfulfilled by the Superintendent, and that is in large part to the transition from Susana Cordova to Dwight Jones to Dr. Alex Marrero. Still, Dr. Marrero is responsible for ensuring that the district abides by the KJKP Resolution.

I believe the district trademarking this name in response to the four women’s decision to become an independent group was morally and ethically wrong. What message does this send to our student leaders across the district? 

In 2019 I was elected as the youngest board member ever, and I am the only board member in history to go through the student voice and leadership program in DPS. If I knew that my free labor was the property of the Denver Public Schools, I would not have participated in the program.

On September 23, two years after the introduction of the Know Justice, Know Peace Resolution, an Indigenous elder, Dr. Tink Tinker, requested we withdraw using the land acknowledgment he gifted to the Denver school board. Out of respect for his request, we honored its withdrawal, and without discussion or debate, a new one was read into record. 

I am unsure if this was the most appropriate move without having conversations with other elders in the Indigenous community.

Just as President Joe Biden has the authority to cancel all student loans with a stroke of a pen, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education has the authority to instruct our sole employee – the superintendent – to sign over the trademark to the young ladies of Know Justice, Know Peace.

At a time where we have been found guilty of institutionalized racism against Black boys, a time where we have yet to fulfill the modified consent decree, a time where we have major declining enrollment, a time where our families are questioning if they are safe in our buildings, and a time where our academic achievement gaps are larger than they have ever been, we should focus on the more important issues facing us as a district. 

As an elected official, I always have folks on both sides of an issue, but this one, I have not had a single parent, student, or taxpayer tell me that trademarking this name and stealing it from these young ladies is the right decision.

I would challenge my board colleagues if they have had anyone tell them this is the right thing to do. 

Therefore, I am calling on my board colleagues to direct Superintendent Marrero to end the trademarking of Know Justice, Know Peace and focus on the more pressing issues before the Denver Public Schools.

While we need the Board of Education to step up and do the right thing, we need the community to step up and share their thoughts. Please email us your thoughts on this trademarking lawsuit at [email protected]

Auon'tai Anderson
Auon'tai Anderson
Auon'tai Anderson is Vice President of the Denver Board of Education

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