“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.
In light of recent events in our country it feels necessary to take a step back and lean in, all at once. Doing this requires us to consider who we are in the context of our lives, what we have been taught and what would be best to unlearn. If we find ourselves within the profession of education or in a position of leadership, the desire to be a change agent is most likely magnified. Many of us in this realm are acutely aware of the need for change and want to do something to be a part of bringing that to fruition, but we don’t always know where to begin.
Since many hands make the load light, it seems safe to say that many minds light the way to the kind of change we need to heal, both as individuals and as a whole. We learn from those who have experienced more than we have, our parents, grandparents and older siblings. Then we go to school and are exposed to more new information, learning from our teachers and classmates. We are most likely taught how to use the library and now the internet to find information. As we get older, we begin seeking out others who are knowledgeable in specific areas so we might learn from them. It is a fairly simple concept, at least when it refers to learning about photosynthesis or algebra. When we apply this racial equality and anti-bias, anti-racist work we need to understand for and within ourselves first and then embody it in our teaching and leadership.
A very impactful first step is cultivating awareness. Being aware that there is a problem is the first step to finding a solution. Being aware that color blindness is not something to celebrate. Being aware that seeing color is valuable and necessary because it means you actually see the person and can appreciate your differences. Being aware that you do not have all the answers, especially if you are a white person with a desire to be better. With that awareness it becomes imperative to seek information, educate ourselves and begin to elicit hard conversations.
We have included a list of resources to begin shedding light on the road to change.
What to read?
There have been many wonderful books published in 2020 on the subject of anti-racism and racial equality and many of them have been out of stock or difficult to obtain. The selections offered here can be used for all ages, children through adult and may be less recognizable titles. This is intentional. As an organization we work with children and educators, who work with children. It is never too early to begin these conversations as we consider that children are introduced to these issues from the moment they enter the world. Let’s teach them what it means to be anti-racist and what it looks like to do the work as an activist for racial equality.
Anti-Racist Baby: Ibram X. Kendi. This picture books shows kids nine steps they can take in the direction of building a more racially equal and anti-racist world.
This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work: Tiffany Jewell. A handbook designed to equip young people with the tools they need to be actively antiracist.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You: Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. This book seeks to explain why young people are growing up in a world of racism and what they can do about it.
Brown Girl Dreaming: Jacqueline Woodson. The author shares the story of her childhood, particularly her experiences as a black girl growing up in 1960s South Carolina and New York, through the medium of poetry.
The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person: Frederick Joseph. Joseph presents himself as the friend many readers need, touching on topics including cultural appropriation, “reverse racism” and white privilege.
The Talk: Conversations about Race, Love & Truth- Thirty diverse authors and illustrators discuss racism, identity and self-esteem. Perfect for families to read together and discuss.
What to watch?
If you are looking for another way to educate yourself on these issues, consider choosing one of the following films and building in time to have a conversation around what was witnessed, the impact it had and how what was gained by the viewing of it can be used going forward.
Selma: Directed by Ava DuVernay. Selma chronicles the tumultuous civil rights campaign in 1965 Alabama, to secure equal voting rights for Black Americans. It goes into greater detail about the Selma-to Montgomery march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson that outlawed discriminatory voting practices across the nation.
12 Years a Slave: Adapted from the 1853 memoir with the same title, the Oscar-winning movies focuses on the journey for Solomon Northup, a free Black man in New York who is kidnapped and enslaved in Louisiana for 12 years before being emancipated.
Malcom X: Spike Lee’s film explores the life and work of the renowned human rights activist El-Hajj Malik E-Shabazz, famously known as Malcolm X.
13th- This documentary, directed by Ava DuVernay, has been recommended by many activists as critical viewing for all Americans. It explores the history of the American prison system and the disproportionate targets and criminalization of Black and Brown people.
When They See Us: Another project directed by Ava DuVernay, this four-part drama series recounts the stories of the men known as the Central Park Five who were wrongfully accused and spent 5 to 12 years behind bars.
What to listen to?
If you find that you need another option due to time constraints or because you are particularly fond of auditory learning, these podcasts are great options to educate yourself while on the go.
The Nod with Brittany & Eric. This podcast tells “the stories of Black life that don’t get told anywhere else.”
Come Through with Rebecca Carroll. Join host Rebecca for 15 essential conversations about race in a pivotal time for America.
Yo, is this Racist? Hosted by Andrew Ti and Tawney Newsome, this podcast takes questions from listeners about whether something is racist or not and breaks it down.
Be the Bridge with Latasha Morrison. This podcast is another step in cultivating conversations that will hopefully lead to real change.
Spending time pursuing any of these works of art will no doubt open your eyes, ears and minds to the real issues we are facing as a nation. Most importantly they seek to open your heart to hope for a future that is ripe with real change. We are in need of real change, and that change starts with each one of us. So, take some time, not just during the few weeks of Black History Month, but over the months to come to explore these works of art. Let that exploration begin the change within that is essential for the kind of growth needed to facilitate change. The change of ourselves, our families, our communities and our nation.