“There must exist a paradigm, a practical model for social change that includes an understanding of ways to transform consciousness that are linked to efforts to transform structures.” ― bell hooks
I’ve been thinking a lot about our film making its way into Canadian release through the Toronto Black Film Festival this week into next. It’s a timely piece and one I feel that is positioned to be a thoughtful counternarrative to the debate and legislation making the rounds on restricting discussions of foundational identity markers and historical truths in schools – race (which is the focus of our flagship film), but also much broader markers such as gender, culture, and sexual identity. Not to mention the debate on whose historical truths get told and whose do not. And ultimately, who gets to decide. As an educator, a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a citizen, and simply as a human being, I am more than a bit alarmed.
If you have been on the fence about these issues playing out in state houses, local school boardrooms and the ever-running news cycle (a general recap of what is happening here), our film Defining US Children at the Crossroads of Change is one I hope you watch for a realistic perspective and deeper understanding of what leading educators and students are saying is needed and importantly, what is happening in many of our schools to affirm the students they serve – beyond the negative outliers we hear about in our news feed! Decisions are being made in real time on what can be acknowledged, addressed, or taught in schools and there is simply no better time to be a more informed citizen on this debate.
I believe in building bridges of understanding (often referred to at Defining US as the building of hearts and minds). I also believe that when we know better, we have a much better chance of being and doing better. That said, though healthy debate is always welcome, I believe we must also acknowledge that race is a foundational part of our identity in America and educators cannot be color-blind when the world our students exist in is not. Race is front and center in their outcomes, opportunities, and acceptance of their whole selves. Nor can we expect longstanding systemic issues related to race and racism to disappear by choosing to not discuss the issues. And I believe so holds true for other markers that make us our fully human selves
The educators represented in the film each have their own approaches to the work of supporting students. They are not advocating for a cookie-cutter approach to what is said or implemented in schools. Neither am I. But there is a common thread of need – we have historically left behind our Black and Brown children and now is the time to rectify the problem. See them for who they are, the gifts they bring, the possibilities they hold, and help them get through. Regardless of family circumstances, poverty, race, or where they happen to live.
Black and Brown children are now the majority of students in K-12 American schools. That is a fact we cannot deny. So, the question becomes, how do we do better for these students? We start by acknowledging and affirming their full selves. We put supports in place to ensure that a student’s personal or home circumstances don’t impede progress to being their best selves once they leave behind the schoolhouse doors. We ensure that every person’s history is part of the true American history, taught with skill, knowledge, self-awareness, and in age-appropriate ways. And we give the adults who work with students the appropriate training and reflection time needed so they can build within to best teach the students in front of them.
I believe in bridge building to better understanding, and I also believe in embracing change when it is needed. Please take 90 minutes of your day to watch the film while the festival is open or reach out to us for other screening opportunities. We have such an opportunity to build a bridge over the divide that faces us all. I hope you join us in this work!
#BuildingBridges #LetsReasonTogether #PowerofMedia4Good #PowerofEducation4Good