A Recap of the Equity Summit By Barbara Mullen
How do you bottle lightening? How do you capture a moment in time so pivotal and powerful that it leaves you both speechless and so fired up you can’t stop talking about it? You can’t. Still, in the next few paragraphs I’ll try. The Second Annual New England Equity Summit was a joy to plan but even more of a privilege to attend. Dr. Bettina Love, Associate Professor from the University of Georgia and author of We want to do more than survive: Abolitionist Teaching in the Pursuit of Educational Freedom, was our keynote speaker for the evening. How can you talk about Dr. Love without using the words, brilliant, or revolutionary? Dr. Love’s book, that many participant’s pre read before the summit, set the foundation for a conversation that centered on students and how we can continue to impact the system for educational liberation.
In the afternoon, students and community activists joined Dr. Love in a circle that allowed them to share their perspective on how whiteness disrupts their learning. Others were allowed to “bear witness” to this conversation, but sitting outside of this circle, they could not comment. What surfaced from the thoughts and minds of student and community activists was very powerful and jarring.
During the main programming time, educators, activists, non-profit leaders and others from the New England education community joined in for an evening of learning and leading. Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Angelica Infante Green, joined us and shared her vision for educational equity and liberation. She then stayed to learn with other practitioners from across the region. The most powerful part of the evening was the “why” behind our gathering. We gathered to heal. We gathered to love on one another and to commune. We gathered to grow and to learn from a leader in education. We gathered to hear testimony from student leaders who took the charge to improve their schools alongside teachers, principals and superintendents. We heard from school leaders who have begun closing student outcome inequities through continuous improvement work with CLEE. We heard from Dr. Love, who challenged us to not just be allies who look on and “hope” things get better for our students; but co-conspirators who put something on the line daily, in pursuit of the educational liberation our students and we all deserve.
The evening ended with a song by a student performer whose voice, clear and free and unwavered, reminded me of a time when I used to hold that trust in myself as I was learning myself. It also reminded me that our students are not going to wait on us to get it together. They’re going to keep pushing us and telling us what they need at every turn. We have to be willing to listen. We have to be willing to be uncomfortable as adults (which is often the result of learning and growing) in order to ensure we are being responsive. They are powerful beyond measure and we are in their way. It was beautiful to see the community come out to leverage our collective heart and expertise to lift up our brilliant RI students and one another!
We hope you’ll join us next year!