In December, the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) held a two-day People of Color Conference (POCC) focused on a variety of programming for people of color and allies to come together, reflect on their individual experiences and learn from one another. This conference was attended by thousands of educators across the country, including Sterne educators Nick Marti and Louann Katz-Curtis. Below is a summary of Nick and Louann’s key conference takeaways.
What is something you learned from the conference or an overall takeaway?
Louann: The overarching theme of the PoCC was “Belonging." Many speakers including Soledad O’Brian and john a. powell* spoke of belonging as the key factor in DEI work and how we should focus our efforts on ensuring that all community members feel a sense of belonging. They spoke of Equity, Inclusion, Justice and Belonging (EIJB) as a better model for what we think of as “DEI work”, and I think the EIJB framework is an excellent direction for inclusivity work.
Nick: I loved john a. powell's keynote on Belonging and Targeted Universalism, which he calls “Equity 2.0.” In his talk, powell described how the impact of structures may often be different than their intended purpose or service, and how the dismantling of those structures is based on a practice he calls “Bridging.” I did some research on powell and have since started listening to “Who Belongs? A Podcast on Othering and Belonging.”
Something you plan to apply to your work at Sterne.
Louann: As a counselor, I attended two sessions: "Mental Health and Racism" and "BIPOC Students with Learning Differences." Both were very informative. One of the most valuable things I learned was about the "Healing Blueprint" (outlined below). I plan to use this concept in my work to help give students a voice and help them engage in difficult conversations to build a community of Belonging.
Healing Blueprint (Process of Healing):
1. Work towards healing with all participants.
2. Seek accountability - begin to repair harm.
3. Reintegrate where there has been a division.
4. Strengthen the community and individuals to prevent further harm.
Nick: One of my major takeaways from the conference is the reminder to pay very close attention to the language that I use in my classes, and specifically in US History. A couple of examples include:
- Shifting the dehumanizing nomenclature of “slave” that is presented in many U.S. History materials to the more humanizing term “enslaved person.”
- Paying attention to the names of characters in Algebra word problems, as well as their pronouns, to further mainstream that aspect of identity.
Anything else you want to share with regards to your attendance at the conference?
Louann: The conference was transformative. Although I am not a person of color, I appreciated that every speaker was a person of color. The insights and honest conversations were so valuable. Dr. Celidwen said two things that really resonated, “We must be participatory, not just a witness” and, “We are responsible for what we bring to the system." The conference reinforced my strong desire to be part of the change and growth at Sterne and to serve as a strong ally to our BIPOC community.
Nick: It was really great to be in a community with other educators of color. I noticed a few familiar faces from past training and workshops and felt reassured that there is a large and important bloc of individuals across the country pushing for greater access to an inclusive and culturally responsive education for all students.
*john a. powell spells his name in lowercase. You can read more about that on his wikipedia page.