The school year has been unprecedented given the tremendous uncertainty and unrest that is occurring in our country, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and local communities. During February, we acknowledge heart health and Black History. Our heart health and our history are intricately linked together especially for the descendants of enslaved people; that is, Black Americans and those of African descent. The past 402 years and especially 11 months with the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and a racial reckoning, have been undeniably devastating for marginalized Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) in our country, our communities, and our schools, especially for school leaders of color.
While the collision of the twin pandemics has laid bare deeply rooted racial inequities and social injustices in every sector from education to law enforcement to housing to health care that have persisted for centuries, for our Black and Brown school leaders this has long been our lived experience in our professional and personal daily lives. This disproportionality of data is endless and speaks for itself. Now that the darkness of our Black History has been illuminated, it is my greatest hope that we ALL acknowledge that racism is deeply rooted in the structures, systems, and processes in our country, our communities, and our classrooms.
During this Black History Month, I challenge school/district leaders to boldly and courageously lead with their hearts, heads, and hands to care, to know, and to do whatever it takes to begin the journey of providing an equitable, excellent education for all. This means, digging deep and disrupting racism in our schools. Dr. Brandelyn Tosolt says that “White teachers must take a knee against normative [w]hiteness and develop as ‘abolitionist teachers.’ Those teachers who choose to persist with pedagogical approaches that devalue Blackness and support [w]hite supremacy cannot claim good intentions; choosing to center and celebrate Blackness is the path to racial justice.” As we work to decenter whiteness and white supremacy from our hearts and our hallways, we need to raise the bar for all our students, especially those who are Black and Brown. We must lead with vulnerability, transparency, and integrity and with a commitment to educational equity whereas we steadily improve the outcomes for those historically underprivileged and underrepresented. To that end, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi notes, while racism is not always about intent, it is always about outcomes.
Beyond the Black History Month celebrations in our communities, schools, and classrooms, we need strategic priorities and sustainable actions to improve the learning outcomes and lived experiences for BIPOC students.
In this new year, new dawn, and new day of racial reckoning – especially on the heels of the inaugural events of witnessing a new HERstory with Vice President Kamala Harris and poet laureate Amanda Gorman – I am hopeful, enthusiastic, and optimistic about our continued anti-racist journey at PHA.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words inspired us. But it was his actions that led us. I’m committed to leading for transformative change to hopefully realize that dream for the incredibly gifted, talented, and deserving BIPOC students – our gems at PHA.
What about you? What actions will you take today, in March, next year, to create a changed history that our children are proud of?
For inspiration as you contemplate your own call of action, I encourage you to sit and listen to these two provocative songs: first, from half a century ago “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke (1964); and second, “Hope” by rapper Twista ft. Faith Evans (2005) written as a tribute to 9/11 and the war on terrorism. Then, imagine the lyrics of a changed America with access and equity and social justice for all across all sectors.