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Asheville’s African American Community & Systemic Oppression

Keeping certain people invisible, not letting them speak for themselves, not letting them be a part of (or lead) important conversations that effect their future… This is oppression. This is racism. This is whiteness. This is white supremacy. If the words ‘whiteness’ or ‘white supremacy’ turn you off or make you feel uncomfortable, please look at how I am using them in this situation below. It is not about the color of any particular person’s skin. It is not about violent or aggressive racial slurs. It is about perpetuating histories and behaviors of oppression, subordination, marginalization and silencing that continue a narrative that keeps those with power as the ones with power and those who have been stripped of their power, continuously subordinated, disregarded, and often harmed.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” came to Asheville and hosted a panel about “what happens when a town gets hot and becomes highly attractive to outsiders.” The panel discussed how the city’s popularity “has placed a significant burden on many of the city’s oldest communities by accelerating a gentrification process that prices out older residents in favor of new and more affluent residents.” The panel acknowledged that “the communities that are most impacted by gentrification are largely African-American.” However, no one from the city’s African-American or Latino community was invited on the panel.

Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 10.47.37 PMDarin Waters, Ph.D. points out, “As a native of this city’s African-American community, I found the absence of these voices troubling. In the case of the African-American community, this experience of exclusion from important conversations has deep historical roots. Throughout the period of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, our community was kept on the social, economic and political periphery. Only in those instances where we were willing to assume great risk were we allowed to speak for ourselves. In most instances, our lives, interests and aspirations, if it was even acknowledged that such existed, were expressed for us, and in most cases by those who were responsible for our community’s marginalization in the first place. The failure to include African-Americans in a conversation that addressed issues that impact their communities so directly only reinforces this history.”

When the audience brought attention to this issue, it was glossed over with justifications that there were people of color on the panel. As if the presence of some minority voices should be seen as representative of all minority voices.
Dr. Waters points out that “by failing to include a representative from the (Asheville) African-American community on her panel, Martin, whose show attracts a weekly listening audience of more than 13 million listeners, not only reinforced false notions about the region, but also perpetuated the sense of marginalization and invisibility that African-Americans have been combating for a long time.”

All quotes from this article, “Were All Things Considered” by Dr. Darin Waters

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The Violence of Othering

After passing through customs, I regretted not talking to the many customs workers in bullet-proof vests, shepherding us through the process. I wondered if the vests were new for them. I wondered what questions I could have asked them to feel into the humanity with which they are doing their job. So much of my sense of hope (and imagination for organizing) rests in the possibility that enough good people who hold jobs that grant them power will resist orders to act in inhumane ways. Targeting and discriminating against people because of their color or religion is not thoughtful and diligent security. It is racist and discriminatory. It is the foundation of Hitler’s regime and increasingly Trump’s regime. If that were the only way for us to insure safety for the people of this country, then there would also be a blanket discrimination against white, Christian men as there are numerous accounts of extreme acts of violence and mass shootings from white, Christian men in this country.

“It was the first time Ali Jr. and his mother have ever been asked if they’re Muslim when re-entering the United States, he said.” – Source: Muhammad Ali’s Son Detained at Airport and Was Asked ‘Are you Muslim?’

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Learn the Full History

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Unfortunately in the U.S. we are not often taught the brilliance of people of African decent in our schools and text books. Do you know the inventors and scientists who are responsible for micro processing chips, telephones and railway trains, chemotherapy, digital cellular networks, traffic lights and gas masks, programmable remote control, laser eye probe surgery, microphone, handheld computers, fiber optics, and so much more? To truly be educated (and not miseducated) we have to take learning and history into our own hands. If you’re a parent, make sure your children are learning this history.

Visit Black Miracles and Purpose Publishing for more posters, t-shirts and resources for and about Black inventors and scientists.

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Womens March on Washington

WomensMarchQuite an inspiring platform for the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday. It’s been reported that over 200,000 women are planning to attend in Washington and marches are also happening all around the country/world. Read the full document. Understand the complexity of what people are standing up for. Revealing our numbers is just the beginning… then we continue to work together to make these principles a reality. Together we are capable of so much.

  • Womens2Women’s Rights are Human Rights and Human Rights are Women’s Rights.
  • Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice.
  • Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of violence against our bodies.
  • We believe in accountability and justice for police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color.
  • It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.
  • We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education.
  • We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.
  • We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings.
  • We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. We believe that creating workforce opportunities that reduce discrimination against women and mothers allow economies to thrive.
  • We believe in equal pay for equal work and the right of all women to be paid equitably
  • We recognize that women of color carry the heaviest burden in the global and domestic economic landscape, particularly in the care economy. We further affirm that all care work–caring for the elderly, caring for the chronically ill, caring for children and supporting independence for people with disabilities–is work, and that the burden of care falls disproportionately on the shoulders of women, particularly women of color. We stand for the rights, dignity, and fair treatment of all unpaid and paid caregivers.
  • We believe that all workers – including domestic and farm workers – must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage, and that unions and other labor associations are critical to a healthy and thriving economy for all.
  • We believe Civil Rights are our birthright. Our Constitutional government establishes a framework to provide and expand rights and freedoms–not restrict them. To this end, we must protect and restore all the Constitutionally-mandated rights to all our citizens, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability.
  • We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • We believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin. It is our moral duty to keep families together and empower all aspiring Americans to fully participate in, and contribute to, our economy and society. We reject mass deportation, family detention, violations of due process and violence against queer and trans migrants
  • We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands.

wethepeople3

 

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Don’t Be Afraid — Be Focused, Determined, Hopeful, Empowered

May we all find this place of hope and motivation and the courage to keep showing up… and may all young people find peers and adults to walk with you, encourage you and remind you of what a badass human being you are and how incredibly important your wisdom, skills and insight are to the future. I am so grateful for the many moments of authentic inspiration from this First Lady…

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What Do We Do?

Urgent messages are coming out of Aleppo, horrific violence against civilians (particularly women and children) has intensified. A genocide continues to happen and the world sits silently, including myself. I breathe and offer prayers and light a candle. May their souls escape the suffering… And I wonder… what do we do?

I will me honest, I don’t really understand all of the pieces and connections between Russia and Syria. What I gather is that people on the ground say that Russia is heavily involved in the inhumane mass torture and murder of civilians, while Russia says it is terrorists. What do we as global citizens do to join together to over-power the violence and hate-filled terrorism that is overcoming this world… and also our local communities?

Meanwhile (cause we only care when it threatens our own safety?), Trump has just announced that he has nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of EXXON, as the U.S. Secretary of State. Not only is that horrifying from big corporate OIL money being at one of the most powerful positions in our government, Tillerson was awarded Russia’s prestigious Order of Friendship by Putin in 2013 for his work with the Russian oil giants, further illustrating the potential ties between Tump and Putin moving forward. Is what is happening in Syria a glimpse into what could happen here? There are so many warning signs from points in history and realities in other countries that point to the possible future of the United States. Can we of good hearts find the vigilance to step out of our comfort zones, activate, and unite to truly make our communities safe against violence and terror? Starting now?

And then moving closer to home… yesterday a black man was found on the side of the road here in Asheville, beaten on his morning jog, and left there with a chord wrapped around his neck. This is terrorism. This is unacceptable. How do we stand up against the increase in hate crimes?

Last week Bryan Stevenson spoke about 4 things that are essential for us to do at this time in history. One of them is to STAY HOPEFUL, that we have to protect our hopefulness because when we become hopeless we become part of the problem. And it is our hopefulness that will motivate us to stand up when others say sit down, or speak up when others expect us to be quiet. My hopefulness rests in the power of all of us with good hearts… all of us who believe in human rights, in treating all people with dignity and respect, and in caring for our planet in ways that support its ability to be alive and healthy for our children’s children and their grandchildren.

And… those with good hearts have to be ACTIVE and ORGANIZE ourselves and do all that we can to connect with the good hearts in other people, particularly those who might be vulnerable to following orders of violence. As Renku sen said, “If you have some privilege, then you must risk it.” What sacrifices are we willing to make to protect the dream of freedom for all people?

 

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29th People of Color Conference

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29th People of Color Conference

Sponsored by The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as part of their commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning.

This will be my third year facilitating the White Affinity Group Sessions at this phenomenal conference.

The mission of the People of Color Conference (PoCC) is to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. It equips educational leaders with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools. It also focuses on academic, social-emotional, and workplace factors that impact equitable and just performance outcomes for students and adults alike. Programing attends to the fact that human beings are complex, with needs and concerns informed by multiple identities and intersections.

Unlike most independent school settings, the majority of the PoCC attendees and presenters are people of color. The wisdom and perspective of people of color tends to be a “minority” view in independent schools (and other businesses and organizations in the U.S.). The NAIS People of Color Conference offers attendees the empowering experience of an interactional space that more closely mirrors world racial and ethnic demography.

This year’s conference is in Atlanta, GA, a fitting location given the human and civil rights challenges we face today. This event is a call to action for schools in society, calling on educational leaders at all levels, from teachers to trustees, to work together to solve the challenges we face, recognizing that collaboration is fundamental to innovation. The conference invites critical thinking about the concerns of today. Working together magnifies the capacity to confront and eliminate the implicit and explicit structures that thwart the wellbeing and performance of all members of (independent) school communities and helps to ensure the relevance and success of people of color.

POCC is designed for people of color, relating to their roles in independent schools. The programming supports people of color as they pursue strategies for success and leadership. Its focus is on providing a sanctuary and networking opportunity for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities.

This event is a distinct professional development experience in the national education landscape. It provides an opportunity for educational leaders to refocus their work and learning through an equity perspective. The conference includes general sessions with keynotes, dozens of practitioner-led workshops, extensive affinity group work, and dialogue sessions.

NAIS sponsors PoCC to support the complex dynamics of independent school life and culture and the varied roles people of color play and experience in these settings.

The first National Conference for Teachers and Administrators of Color in Independent Schools was in 1986 in Reston, VA with about 100 participants. 2016 will be the 29th PoCC conference with over 3600 participants.

Affinity Group Sessions

PoCC hosts affinity group sessions to provide an opportunity for sharing and exploring your life and experiences within safe and supportive spaces defined by membership in a specific racial or ethnic identity group. Affinity group sessions are designed to help conference participants engage in conversations that matter, share successes and challenges, celebrate identities and engage freely within a space defined and protected by and for those who share race and ethnicity in common. Unlike all other conference programming (which is open to all irrespective of race and ethnicity), affinity group space derives its meaning, integrity, and transformative power from participation by same-group members. NAIS recognizes nine identity statuses for affinity groups. NAIS recruits facilitators from each of these groups to support the process.

It is important to underscore that affinity groups are not places to go “to learn about others,” even when the “other” is a participant’s child, friend, or colleague. Each of us is welcome in the affinity group space that matches our self-identified race or ethnicity. Entering any other affinity group extinguishes the safety and trust that defines them.

The overarching vision for PoCC affinity group work includes

  • facilitating opportunities for affirming, nurturing, and celebrating lived experience of affinity group members

  • discussing issues related to racial/ethnic identity development in a safe environment where people who share that racial or ethnic identity can generate community, fellowship, and empowerment

  • modeling a structure that acknowledges the complexity of race and ethnicity by encouraging affinity groups to affirm, explore, and examine intersectionality (e.g. race and gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation), within each community.

Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)

At the same time as POCC is SDLC, a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9–12) from across the U.S. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community.

 

***All of the text on this page is taken from the NAIS POCC website.

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