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WHAT BECOMES ROUTINE

It’s summer time here at The Park School. 

Summer time brings about summer schedule. Summer schedule brings about summer environment. Summer environment brings about summer attitudes.

Relaxation. Comfort. Peace. Quiet.

For some.

Just two days ago, I woke up to the news that a father named Alton Sterling had been shot by individual police officers. I wept. I watched his widow make a statement to the press. I watched his son, now fatherless, weep next to his mother and be removed from the podium so he could grieve privately. 

But, nothing about his grief was private. His crying and screams for his father were public. 

Just as his father’s death, broadcasted on social media. 

I woke the next morning to learn of the killing of Philando Castile, a man who worked in an elementary school, by an individual police officer. 

I heard the voice of his partner recount what was happening. I heard her say all the right things, all the things I have said to fellow Black and Brown men in my life (all of which they had heard from their caring adults growing up). I heard the familiar sounds of a young child. 

Friends, I have started and stopped this entry so many times, figuring, “When I stop crying, I’ll come back and write the rest.” And, each morning, I have woken up to a new need to write, to grieve, to scream, and to find a way to put words to any of this. Even now, as you read this, your eyes scanning a newly edited version. #Dallas happened. 

The other day, I received an email from a parent asking what we can do as a school and as a community to support and encourage our families who are deeply impacted by the tragedies of these last two days.

And, you know what my response was to her?

It’s summer.

I typed “It’s summer. I’m not sure how many people are paying attention.”

Because, you see, that’s what routine does to you. Routine makes you forget that out-of-the-ordinary things happen. Routine makes you forget that life goes on despite your own life slowing down. Routine makes you wonder if anyone else is thinking, feeling or angry about the same things. 

During the school year, in times of tragedy, my office revolves with faculty and parents who simply need someone to talk to, to process with, and to check in. During the summer, there are only a handful of us here, and my conversations about these deep issues become distant. Silent. Quiet. 

Writing this, I have mixed emotions. I feel something as an educator. I feel something as a parent. I feel something as a mother to a brown-skinned boy. I feel something as the wife of a man who lives in dark brown skin. I feel something as the daughter-in-law of a Pastor. I feel something as the cousin to Latino police officers. I feel something as the granddaughter of a police detective. I feel something as an Asian American woman. I feel something as a student affairs practitioner who held the hand of a young Black man who found out his friend was shot and killed while sitting in his car. I felt something as a director of a multicultural office who sat in the silence of young Black men as we read the names of their kin who had been killed. I feel something as a practitioner who works in an elementary school. I feel something as a sister-scholar to Black academics, professors, and researchers who have been using their agency to dismantle structures of oppression. 

And, I’m asking that you do the same. 

What do the events in this world have to do with your identities? What does this all mean for you as a parent? As a student? As a racialized person? As a teacher? As a neighbor, relative? As a person of faith or a practitioner of humanism? What does this mean for you as someone who lives in a town, city, community? 

By now, you’ve probably seen your fair share of social media posts. And, in different ways, I imagine you are digesting them. Through my multiple social identities, I am providing a brief list of ways that you might want to consider to move forward. This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive. It’s meant to just get you started however you want or need it. 

I’ll post the list below my sign-off. But I wanted to close with a request. A request to hold each other in the light of goodness. A request to hold each other’s humanity in the light of love. A request to hold each other in the act of care, in the act of good, and in the act of warmth. A request for you, individually, to reconcile both the hate you know and the hate you are unaware of in your own mind and in your own heart. I’m not naive to believe that “love heals everything.” I know that love is the stepping stone. And, I’m asking you to take those first steps.

Holding us all in the light of goodness. 

Peace and Park, 

Dr. T

  • Listen. Listen without judgment. Listen to hear. Listen to heal. Listen to connect. In times of hurt, we often think of ourselves and of our own judgment. I’m asking you to listen. 
  • Read. Not just social media blogs, but read books and scholarship and critical information. Read why Ta-Nahisi Coates had to write his book Between the World and Me.  And read that book. Read Blindspot by Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald.
  • Hold up that mirror. Figure out your hidden biases. Take Banaji and Greewald’s Harvard based Implicit Assumptions Test and better understand your own biases. 
  • Believe that it’s different. Many of us grew up getting different messages about what it means in our society to be a “boy or a girl.” I ask this question all the time in workshops and it’s one of the easier questions people can answer. So, I beg you to understand that we also grew up with different messages about what it means to be “Black and not-Black.” Why do I phrase it like that? Because people who are Black in this country have been given very explicit messages about what/who/and how they are valued — and not valued — in our society. Believe that these messages have been different, have been pervasive, and have been destructive. Believe that if you are not-Black, then you (we) have been given those same messages about the value — or not — of Black people in our society. That means something. 
  • Believe that talking about race matters. Here is a powerful StoryCorps (3 minutes) of a son and mother talking about race. It doesn’t help us to be color blind because the world isn’t color blind. For parents of older children, I believe this is a video that is helpful to start an honest dialogue. 
  • Ask questions. Find out what your community police department does related to anti-bias training. Ask/request that the officers have extensive training in anti-bias work. Write a letter or email. Many responsible and responsive police departments are already doing this and have role modeled its effectiveness. It is important to signal, as a member of the community, that this means something to you. 
  • Awareness in public. Be mindful that a community has memory. For example, though not all of us were in New York, many of us hold a community of memory around 9/11. For many Black and Brown people, the community of memory is filled with anxiety about violence; experiences with being targeted and questioned; and assumptions about goodness. Be aware that there are Black and Brown friends, colleagues and strangers who are experiencing a deep sense of anxiety at this time. Given the individually-acted killings in Dallas, there are police officers and families of police offers who are also experiencing a deep sense of anxiety at this time. Those can both exist. Act with compassion. 
  • Express love. Each night, I ask my son, “What are the three things I love about you?” And, depending on the day, he answers two of those differently. It might be “You love me because we had special time together and that we went to the movies today” or “You love me because I was kind to others today and that I tried my best today.” But, the third one, the third one is always the same. It’s always the same. “And, you love me because I am Brown.” As the mother of a son with brown skin, he needs to know that he is loved. He needs to hear, from his early age, affirmation that his brown skin has meaning. And, though the world may eventually tell him that his brown skin means something less, he’ll remember that, somewhere, at some time, someone told him that he is loved. How do you express this? How do you signal to the Black and Brown community that you believe in their lives? 
  • Take care of yourself. For people of color, for people who are Black, take care of yourselves. For years, months, and especially these past few days, you have woken up each morning to see someone who looks like your brother, your father, your sister, your auntie, your mother, your uncle on the news and on your social media feed. Half-awake, you may have even thought it was someone you knew. Maybe this human being was someone you did know. All of that is working it’s way through your own body, your own heart, your stress hormones, and your mind. Take care of how you need care. Ask for help. Give help to others if that’s what you need. Keep yourself in the light. For those of us who are not Black, we must participate in the care of communities in ways they need or want. I can’t tell you how each and every Black person needs or wants care — that will require you to listen, talk, share, and observe how others want you to show up. Remember when you called yourself an “ally” or put up that “ally sticker” on your door? Yeah. It’s time. 
  • Say their names. They are people. They are people. They are people. You are a person. You share a humanity. Do not distance yourself. When you are talking with your children, don’t just refer to Philando Castile as “the guy who was shot in Minnesota.” Be sure to talk about him as a partner, as a school employee, as a human being. Alton Sterling was a father and a husband. 
  • Seek resources. Finally, because so much is shifting beneath us, there has been an emergence of posts about how/when to talk to your children about these events. I found this resource to be helpful (and note that it’s still ongoing) about “How to talk to your kids about Dallas

 

I am asking that you individually and collectively adopt these above items as a part of your routine. 

Honoring Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Okay, I’m a bit biased here.

“IT’S ASIAN PACIFIC ISLANDER HERITAGE MONTH!”

While we, as educators, strive to provide information about diverse groups all year, these designated months (e.g., Latino Heritage Month in September; LGBTQ Month in October; Native Heritage Month in November; Black History Month in February; Womens Month in March … ), I am so thankful when I see a bump in information during May! 

As an Asian American — born in the United States to immigrants — my cultural heritage was never a part of my school curriculum. I mean, I learned (a little bit) about Japanese Internment; Chinese Railroad; and kind of the Korean War. But, that’s it. And, really, when you read those three things again — do you really think that those lessons were supportive of Asian Americans? (Hint: They weren’t). I grew up feeling like my people – or people who sort of looked like me – were enemies of the state. I grew up feeling like who I was, somehow, was anti-U.S. I never, ever remembered a lesson that included Asian Americans that made me feel valued.

Hence, my 400+ page dissertation on how Asian American and Pacific Islander students experience education. 

But, in May, I get to focus on my Asian American heritage. I get to open up Facebook and see lots of posts about Asian American and Pacific Islander culture, issues, policies, action, and communities. 

And, I dread when June 1st rolls around; because, I know, it’ll take another 11 months before my newsfeed shows me anything positive about my people.

At Park, we’ve really encouraged learning about different communities throughout the year. And, we like giving a little bump of visibility to communities during heritage months. 

Here is a note I sent out to our faculty if you’d like to do any of these at home or with your classes!

Lower Division:
  • Play excerpts from music around the world. Here is a good calm and peaceful one to play as children are coming in and getting settled. This is piano and erhu (a 2-string Chinese instrument).
  • Read aloud a great book highlighting Asian American or Pacific Islander main characters — some which might make race central or peripheral to the story. 
  • Beautiful playlist of Hawaiian ukelele music for breaks or snack time
Middle Division:
  • GREAT video of Asian American children of Immigrants (great for Grade V especially!) But, please watch it first — it might make you cry on the first watch. 
  • Just a fun silly break to teach people how to say the state fish of Hawai’i (humuhumunukunukuapua’a). It comes in handy — I was once asked how to spell this at a trivia contest! 
Upper Division:
  • As a “brain break”, here’s a great link to an online quiz testing knowledge of Asian geography! 
  • Haikus follow a 5-7-5 syllable pattern. Drawing from whatever your lesson plan is for the day, ask students to come up with a haiku that introduces (or sums up!) your lesson. Works great for all subjects!

And, for your additional listening pleasure, check out this beautiful video (h/t to my friend Kehaulani) of Hawai’ian Aloha, a collaborative musical piece! 

Peace and Park, 

Dr. Talusan

Being Muslim at Park School

“But, no one is asking for it (a group, an opportunity, a class). Why would we offer it?”

As a diversity practitioner for almost 20 years, I have heard this question over and over again. “If the Black students aren’t asking for a group, why should we create one?” or “If Asian American students aren’t asking for Ethnic Studies, why should we propose one?” or “If no one is asking to talk about race and racial identity, why should we offer a group?” or “We only have three Muslim students, and they aren’t asking for a prayer room, so why should we look for available spaces?”

There are many other ones to add, but I’ll keep this brief.

There are three key answers for me:

(1) Typically, what’s good for groups that have been made invisible that have been underserved, is good for all. (that same logic does not work the other way, FYI. Meaning, it is not true that what works for the dominant majority works for everyone… ya heard).

(2) These opportunities often lead to more confident, engaged, inspired, and involved groups and communities.

(3) Because for far too long we have only told “one story.” It’s time to see/hear/make known other perspectives.

There is an existing danger of a liberal mindset. And, that danger is often a “I’m not ______(racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist) because I’m liberal.” Sometimes, this “We are so progressive” often means we forget the ways in which we are not.

In many progressive, liberal spaces, the topic of religion is often avoided. That’s why, in my introduction or when I’m beginning a workshop, I always share my religious identity — both because it is a part of who I am, but also because stating that I am a religious person who does work in equity and justice means that those identities, for some, are competing.

For me, they are not.

So, what does it mean for us, as a progressive, liberal community to talk about religion?

It means that we include others.

It means that we structurally create space for people to share, explore, identify, and build community.2013-logo-lo-res-286x300

In a recent program hosted at Park called “Being Muslim”, participants shared what it felt like to be in this space — talking about religion, but talking about religion at Park School.

  • “I think my parents would be surprised we are talking about this. I was taught that religion was personal and private.”
  • “I am nervous. I’m not sure what to say here. But, just know that I’m a little nervous.”
  • “I grew up in a very religious household. Where we only talked about this one religion and was only in circles with one religious identity.”
  • “I grew up in a multi-religious community. I had friends of every type of religious background.”

But, what does it mean to be Muslim at Park? What do families who are Muslim want families who are not Muslim to know?”

  • “I want them to know that Islam means peace.”
  • “I want them to know that there are many different types of Muslims. There are many different ways that people identify.”
  • “That being Muslim is both a religious identity but also an ethnic identity – one that is as much a part of me as anything else.”

The program officially ended at 7:45pm, but the “meeting after the meeting” ended around 9:00pm. Parents and families stayed around, talked, shared more, and made connections with each other across grade levels. Just as this program happened very organically, so did the dialogue that night.

What’s next? Many families were asking about opportunities to engage in inter-faith dialogues. What would that mean at Park? What would it look like to be a progressive, liberal school that openly walks towards dialogue on all aspects of identity?

What were your first messages about faith and religion?

How do you, if at all, identify related to faith and religion?

What would it mean to engage in inter-faith dialogue?

 

Peace and Park, 

Liza

Honoring Latino and Hispanic Heritage Month

Nationally, the United States honors the dates between September 15 – October 15 as Hispanic Heritage Month. While we at Park strive to provide inclusive engagement of communities all year, this time allows us to pay particular attention to Hispanic and Latino communities.
Below are some helpful resources that you might try in your classrooms. It may even be small changes like adding a book from the list or including an activity during the week.
  • PBS has great video clips and discussion topics about diverse issues facing Latino and Hispanic Americans
  • National Education Association has a list of easy-to-adapt activities for grades K-12
  • Time Magazine for Kids is also a great resource for printable lessons and teaching resources
  • Finally, one of my favorite resources is Mamiverse, and this site includes a diverse list of books featuring themes, characters and issues related to Latino and Hispanic issues
How might you include issues in math or science? Highlight researchers, scientists, scholars and inventors ofLatino or Hispanic heritage. Use examples that impact Latino and Hispanic communities as you create math problems or problem sets (e.g., demographics, cultural references).