At Aspire, we hold a responsibility to engage with our young people around race, bias, and injustice that are part of all of our lives.
By: MALA BATRA, CEO – ASPIRE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
PUBLISHED: September 2
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Aspire Public Schools was built on a commitment to equity. As an organization serving primarily Black and Latinx communities, we are committed to taking an anti-racist stance – to actively disrupt racist policies and practices within a system of education that was built to serve some and not all.
And today, as we as a nation navigate a dual pandemic of health and racial injustice, we must confront these realities collectively. Our young people are hurting and healing in ways they may not have the words or tools to make sense of. They are taking in information every day that can raise questions and cause trauma – images of police violence against Black people, images of immigrant children in cages, the loss of icons including Chadwick Boseman and John Lewis. At Aspire, we hold a responsibility to engage with our young people around race, bias, and injustice that are part of all of our lives.
We take this responsibility seriously. We know these conversations require creating safe and trusted spaces, we know they require doing continuous work around our identities and our own biases. And we know it’s important to facilitate age-appropriate discussions that support students to make sense of their experiences at a level of cognition that aligns with academic standards and social-emotional development. And we seek to partner with parents to have these conversations at home in ways that feel right to individual families.
During our Community Conversations over the past year, our collective Aspire community of families, students and educators lifted up five core values: Agency/ Self Determination, Culture of Belonging, Community Partnership, Bienestar/ Well-being, and Joy. We believe that engaging in critical dialogue about race, privilege and current events rests on these cherished values. We want to cultivate the agency and self-determination within our scholars to be agents of change in our communities and in our country. We seek to create classrooms where all young people feel a deep sense of belonging, and can be their authentic selves. We strive for a time when all our young people experience the bienestar/ well-being that all young people deserve. To get there we must do the courageous work of making meaning of our history, our identities, events and injustices happening today and in the past. And at times, it means, we must be willing to be uncomfortable.
We have heard from some families not to bring politics into the classroom. We agree. And while we don’t bring political stances into our classrooms – we do bring stances of justice, of anti-racism, of love, of belonging, and of humanity. We say Black Lives Matter because we believe part of educating our Black scholars is to see them, to love them, and to provide an affirming counter narrative to the anti-Black messages they may be receiving elsewhere. We say Black Lives Matter because we recognize the historical and current marginalization of Black Lives. And we know that doing so does not devalue any other person or race. We say Black Lives Matter because by recognizing the persecution of our most marginalized people, we have the opportunity to address oppressive systems.
Our young people are amazing and will continue to do amazing things. We are grateful to be part of the journey that prepares them to take on the world, with all of its challenges and all of its beauty.