Throughout this past month I have read numerous commentaries, reflected, and discussed with colleagues about how Black History Month has been celebrated and honored in their organizations and personal lives. I also read alongside my 10th grade daughter as she learned about Black Americans who have shaped this country and changed the course of events.
Recognizing Black History
I am struck by how little I learned about Black Americans until I was a doctoral student studying Rhetoric and Public Address in the 1990s. Only then did I begin to devour the richness of our country’s history and the tremendous contributions of Black Americans. I studied the social movements of the 1800’s and Black leaders, giants of their time, who sacrificed enormously to impact change – Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, William Wells Brown, just to name a few.
Fast forward to 2020. We as a country found ourselves in an awakening. It was long past time to address the continued racism and systemic inequities that exist in our country. It was time for us to remember the sacrifices of those who gave so much of themselves to impact change. It was time to recognize that it is not enough to acknowledge systemic inequities but to actively confront them.
Our Role as Charter Leaders
Those of us who work with charter schools must believe in this imperative – if not us, then who? Charter schools are, at the core, responsive to their communities. Charter schools are nimble and agile. Advocates contend that charter schools meet the needs our students and families. If this is true, then we had better confront the inequities and the racism that our students of color continue to experience.
What are we doing to change this? We have the power and privilege as leaders within the public education system to do something. Looking back on how Frederick Douglass escaped slavery to become an eminent human rights leader who wrote and spoke eloquently on the issues of the day, and who Abraham Lincoln turned to for counsel and advice, how is it possible that those of us in education today could ever believe that we don’t have the ability to impact change? We have the power and we MUST use it for the good of our communities and act with urgency.
CSI’s Commitment to Equity
In the Summer of 2020, the Colorado Charter School Institute (CSI) Board passed an Equity Resolution that serves as our organizational call to action. It is our declaration that CSI recognizes that we CAN and WILL use our position of authority to ensure that equity is at the forefront of our work. Also, CSI staff convened working groups to define diversity, equity, and inclusion. CSI’s School Improvement and Equity Specialist hosts regular “Equity Coffee Chats” for staff, and we have also started a staff book club focused on themes of equity. While these are small steps, we know they are necessary and will facilitate further action.
It is my hope that Black History Month has served as a reminder of the Black Americans who should be honored and revered for their contributions, and at the same time, a call to action to confront systemic racism throughout our country all throughout the year.