Message to Neag Community from Equity and Social Justice Comm.

June 5, 2020

Message to Neag Community from Neag School Equity and Social Justice Committee


Dear Neag School Community,

Our hearts ache. George Floyd’s life matters. Breonna Taylor’s life matters. Ahmaud Arbery’s life matters. Black lives matter.

Racist violence is killing Black people and destroying our community, nation, and larger world. The violence happens every day. Every single day. Racial violence happens in the streets, in prisons, at parks, in our schools and college campuses across the nation, in research that perpetuates racism, and online. It is systemic violence that is built into and normalized in the everyday policies and practices of social institutions, including our educational system. It is a violence that suffocates racially minoritized people literally and figuratively. It prevents racially minoritized people, particularly Black people, from fully thriving because nothing and no one can thrive without being able to breathe. 

As educators, leaders, coaches, and community activists, we know that one of the frontlines of this racial violence is in our domain: in our classrooms, schools, campuses, offices, and sport arenas; through our teaching, advising, coaching, support, and leadership; in the curricula we select, the research we do, the practices we engage in, and the policies we create and implement. We have the responsibility to confront this violence so that students and educators alike can be their authentic selves, thrive in their humanity, learn, and flourish. 

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

— Audre Lorde, poet

We support Black communities, organizations, and other activists who are participating in resistance against histories of brutality and specifically in response to the vicious killing of Black people. As John Lewis says, this is the kind of “good trouble; necessary trouble” that must be created by people of conscience so that those of power and privilege are forced to listen, to change. We call on our fellow educators and leaders, including ourselves, to make their own kind of “good trouble.” Change your classrooms, change your teachings, change your schools, change your policies, change your practices, change your hearts, change your minds, and embrace Black lives and each person’s full humanity. Educating and leading in this way means you will cause “good trouble,” but we must do so. In the words of James Baldwin, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

As a community, we can create anti-racist policies, engage in anti-racist practices and research, as well as offer equity-based leadership and teaching. To do this, however, we must start with ourselves, especially if we hold a privileged racial identity. We must engage in the process of learning and unlearning. We encourage you to educate yourself and seek resources that will help you to challenge racism and engage in anti-racist leadership and education. Lean into listening — listen to the voices of the people that are hurt and continuously harmed by racism. 

What is clear is that to do nothing is to be complicit in white supremacy. We abdicate our responsibilities as educators and leaders if we do not work hard toward anti-racist practices, policies, leadership, and research within our own schools, campuses, classrooms, and organizations.

A number of the Neag School Equity and Social Justice Committee members identify as racially minoritized, and the following message is to our fellow colleagues of color:

Leaning on the wisdom of Audre Lorde, Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare. Our pain and trauma are real. And, taking care of ourselves and each other is necessary. Alongside this, our hope for humanity is our legacy. We come from people and communities who have been resisting oppression and advancing dignity for all, generation after generation. We are the change makers. We are gifted with a vision for a better society. That gift is also a burden, but one we can carry together. Let’s be in community with each other. Let’s love. Let’s hope. Let’s lead. And, let’s rest, when we need to rest.

Below, we provide a few resources that we have found helpful. This is not an exhaustive list, and we encourage you to seek other resources, to share and discuss them with others, and to work in a spirit of collaboration and solidarity to make sustainable, meaningful change. In addition, please note that the Equity and Social Justice Committee will be organizing a Community Reading Initiative during the upcoming academic year, which will have the option to join virtually. 

Learn more about this initiative, and if you are interested in joining, please complete this form. In addition, the Equity and Social Justice Committee will also continue efforts to strengthen community partnerships, advocate for equity and social justice practice and policies within the Neag School, and build community among Neag School constituents. 

We also encourage you to stay informed with initiatives led by Dean Kersaint as the Neag School develops its diversity and inclusion plan and its broader strategic plan. We encourage you to be in touch with the Neag School’s leadership to voice your ideas, concerns, and to support the Neag School in being a leading anti-racist school of education. 

Anti-Racism Resources

Anti-racism resources available online include a list of resources curated by the Neag School’s Grace Player and Danielle Filipiak, as well as a working document for scaffolding anti-racism resources available via Google Docs. Also read “Questions Academics Can Ask to Decolonise Their Classrooms,” from The Conversation.

Resources for Black and Non-Black People of Color:

    Additional Resources:

    • Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change by Ellen Pao (Fall 2020 ESJC Community Reading Initiative Book
    • On Being Included by Sara Ahmed (Spring 2021 ESJC Community Reading Initiative Book)
    • How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (Spring 2020 ESJC Community Reading Initiative Book)
    • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Fall 2019 ESJC Community Reading Initiative Book)
    • Dear America: Notes from an Undocumented Citizen by Jose Antonio Vargas (Spring 2019 ESJC Community Reading Initiative Book)
    • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B DuBois (Fall 2018 ESJC Community Reading Initiative Book)
    • Intersectionality by Patricia Hill Collins & Sirma Bilge
    • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire 
    • Race on Campus by Julie Park 
    • Understanding Words that Wound by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic 
    • White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo 
    • Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum 
    • We Gon’ Be Alright by Jeff Chang 
    • The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor
    • Teaching Community by bell hooks 
    • Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks
    • White Rage by Carol Anderson 
    • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander 
    • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
    • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Uluo
    • We Want to do More than Survive by Bettina Love

    In solidarity,

    Neag School Equity and Social Justice Committee (ESJC)

    Luz Burgos-Lopez

    Jason Courtmanche

    Danielle DeRosa

    Danielle Filipiak

    Liz Howard

    Jillian Ives

    Adam M. McCready

    Glenn Mitoma

    Kenny Nienhusser

    Patricia O’Rourke

    Grace D. Player

    Lisa Rasicot

    Ashley N. Robinson

    Ann L. Traynor

    Mary P. Truxaw

    Susana Ulloa

    Kiara Ruesta 

    Milagros Castillo-Montoya

    Ian M. McGregor

    Click here to see Dean Kersaint’s Op-Ed in The Courant