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Segregated Schools and Inequality in Funding Is Destroying Us

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.30.14 PMFrom The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having by 2016 National Teacher of the Year Finalist

“As a nation, we’re nibbling around the edges with accountability measures and other reforms, but we’re ignoring the immutable core issue: much of white and wealthy America is perfectly happy with segregated schools and inequity in funding. We have the schools we have, because people who can afford better get better. And sadly, people who can’t afford better just get less–less experienced teachers, inadequate funding and inferior facilities.

Middle class America would never allow the conditions that have become normalized in poor and brown America to stand for their kids.

The images coming out of Detroit Public Schools: buckled floors, toilets without seats, roaches, mold and even mushrooms growing in damp, disgusting, mildewy classrooms. Like the images of American torture and abuse last decade in Abu Ghraib, these images should have shocked the nation. Instead, they elicited a collective national shrug, stretch and yawn.

The View from the Burbs is Sweet. Through white flight and suburbanization, wealthy and middle class families have completely insulated themselves from educational inequality. They send their kids to homogeneous schools and they do what it takes, politically at the local level, to ensure they’re well-funded, well-staffed, with opportunities for enrichment and exploration.

I spoke to a veteran teacher (17 years in the classroom) from Maryland. Her school is located five miles from the nation’s capitol and in her career, she has never taught a white student. Never. Her county and its schools are completely segregated. We aren’t in this together.

“61% of Blacks, 55% of Hispanics support gov’t intervention to address school segregation. Vast majority of whites (72%) say nope!” They’re perfectly satisfied with situation as is.

Our most needy students need our best teachers, yet our highest need schools have the least experienced teachers, the most turnover and are becoming burnout factories for those who remain. All the existing structural incentives for effective educators push them toward work in suburban schools, where they’ll be better supported and the workload is sustainable. Nobody wants to talk about this.”

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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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Facing Race 2016

Screen Shot 2016-12-06 at 2.41.52 PMFacing Race Conference 2016
Largest multi-racial, multi-issue, intergenerational national gathering dedicated to racial justice
2300 people in Atlanta, GA
My notes from the conference

A cohesive multiracial movement is our best hope.
Rinku Sen, ED of Race Froward and Publisher of Colorlines

We gotta show folks what it looks like when we love and protect each other. Within our movements, we have to give each other the benefit of the doubt more often… And understand our different roles.”
-Linda Sarsour, ED of Arab American Association of New York

We’re stronger if we are not only united, but coordinated.
-Alicia Garcia, Co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter

Here are the top things that I left feeling clear that these need our attention.

  1. Fierce Urgency — A fascist moment is coming. The only thing that will stop it is us. A cohesive multiracial movement is our best hope. Rinku Sen
  2. Organize and Be Community — Invest in each other. Our fates are intertwined. We need to unlock the humanity of this country. Alicia Garza. Organize. Find each other. Bring forth a system that works for the good of all life on mother Earth. This is our responsibility. This is why we are here. Live the power of the people.
  3. Top priority is Protection of the Most Vulnerable — undocumented immigrants, Muslims, queer and trans, Blacks, women. Designate sanctuaries. Find ways to let people know who they can call, where they can go. Create local first response teams that can take the place of government institutions. Teams include roles such as witnesses, copwatchers, medical and mental health people, legal people.
  4. Radical Imagination is needed right now. Keep imagining radically different potentials for this next stage of our existence.
  5. Our Issues Are All Interconnected. Various movements and efforts must unite. We have to double down on what deep solidarity in practice looks like. We’re stronger if we are not only united, but coordinated. Alicia Garcia This includes all the suffering people.
  6. Whiteness — We must talk about, understand and address Whiteness — Whiteness is an identity formed out of violence and trauma. We must address it head on to move beyond its grips.
  7. History holds so many keys to what has already happened that we can learn from and not replicate. I am listening to the audio of the book the People’s History of the US and it is so valuable to understand the institutional and systemic racism this country was built upon
  8. Media. Who is telling it and what the narrative being told is, is key. Pay attention to who you get your media from. Create media.
  9. Ancestors & Future generations – The ancestors are with us. And we act in service to future generations. Avenging the suffering of our ancestors and earning the respect of future generations.
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Creating Safety for POC in Predominantly White Gatherings

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Living in Asheville and moving in circles with healers and social innovators, I struggle with how both of these groups often avoid addressing and discussing issues of oppression and cultural patterns of superiority, particularly White supremacy. It has been incredibly nourishing to be at the Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference this weekend, joining a team that is holding space for dialogue around dismantling White Supremacy culture, how it shows up at a conference like this, how it shows up in our lives and communities and how as healers, this is an essential component that we must address to truly be able to do the healing work being called for at this time. This conference has made this conversation a central part of the platform and gives many opportunities for its mostly White attendees to engage in meaningful dialogue, practical learning, and healing. In addition, they have created a SisterLove space that is a sanctuary only for women of color. I return today for day 3 and am deeply inspired and hopeful that I will continue to see more courageous leadership like those of this conference who recognize the central role that this awareness must have in predominantly White gathering spaces that are in service to a greater good. And I bow reverently to the women of color who spoke up and invited action to be taken so that they too could experience this healing women-only conference as a place of refuge, medicine and returning to the ancient roots of healing that course through their cultural lineages.

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Writing What’s On My Heart… & Why

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I am feeling called to write more. I don’t yet know the path and pattern that will help me carry though with this… but I have faith I will find a way that feels in alignment with all else calling to me. Your encouragement, suggestions of things you’d like to read from me, and gentle witnessing are welcomed. Accountability is probably a good thing too!! Below are some recent facebook posts that share core expressions of what’s up for me.

June 24, 2016

My desire~

  1. To bring down these harmful and oppressive systems and institutions that are violent, unjust, and destroying lives and cultures.
  2. To cultivate a world rooted in love, vibrating with healthy connections of care, respect, and shared responsibility for nourishing life, all life.
  3. To do the above in community, with family. Working, organizing, acting, praying, grieving, celebrating with people I love… being creative, witty, and wise as we find ways to do the above without using the master’s tools… to be spiritually guided by forces bigger than ourselves, helping each other to stay grounded and healthy, to stay joyful and loving, to take care of ourselves as we take care of each other, as we stay committed to change and freedom.

I believe we must be able to be with both— the intensity of the facts of what is happening on our globe right now and the ability to embody the world we want to live in. To the extent that we are able, we must sit with the discomfort and the angst, the rage and grief, of the news, verdicts, and faces of state-sanctioned and hate-fueled violence and the impacts of systems built upon an order of superiority, oppression, discrimination, and abuse of power. And we must experience and celebrate love, joy, connection and well-being. We must bathe in nature and loving relationships and the pleasures of beauty, art, touch, dance, laughter and celebration. This is all a learning curve for me… I am speaking to myself just as much as I am sharing with anyone who is still reading. I want to join in this challenge with all of you. I believe in your good hearts and I believe that as a collective we could actually make a difference.

From Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

Let’s be about this work today. What will you do to get us closer to freedom, good people? ?#?letsdothis?
If you aren’t aware, a lot has happened this week.

July 4, 2016

Such a mixture of realities in my heart today… and lately. I haven’t had the words to shape into posts in response to all that is happening, all that I am feeling and experiencing. My relationship with social media causes me to feel a sense of responsibility to write when I am feeling intense feelings or am aware of significant events happening. As a big ‘feeler’ in the world, I am often called to share my experience… perhaps it will be an invitation for others to see a different perspective or tune into current events. Perhaps if I share how I am coping or not, strategies I am using or needing, it will be valuable for others who experience so much intensity in life. Sharing is also healing for me as it helps me not feel isolated in the intensity I experience. Lately, however, the feeling side has over-powered the public writing side as I sit with one mass tragedy or trauma or circumstance that baffles or invokes tremendous grief in me, one after another, while also attempting to live balance in my life and with those I love.

So without much commentary, here is what I am seeing on my facebook stream and in the news right now that impacts me. First hand accounts about what this holiday, the 4th of July, feels like for a slave, some Black people, some Native Americans. Warnings about how the fireworks impact people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, those who have lived amongst gun fire and explosions and are triggered by the sounds. Pictures of fireworks, family picnics, fun times on the water. Insight about today’s new moon. Continued grieving for these mass killings happening every other day it feels like… in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Syria. Hundreds of innocent people dying. Teachers protesting and being targeted for their protests in Mexico. Indigenous peoples of the global South organizing for the protection of the Earth, their people, and their cultures. Queer, LGBTQ+ People of Color making their voices heard about the inequities they face from all directions, the violence and lack of protection and security. Black folks standing up for their people, their right to live the promoted values of this country. And here locally, the grieving, anger and organizing for the young man killed by a police officer in Asheville 2 days ago and another young man killed on Sunday.

{…. taking a deep breath….}

May as many of us as possible truly ACT in ways that bring about Freedom and Liberation for all.

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