Over the last few years, America, and the world, has experienced a shift. From shouting across aisles and into partisan echo chambers, for many the world has become a scarier or harder place to live. Proverbial and physical walls are under construction leading to the division of our nation. The trenches have been meticulously dug along the lines of race and class. Soldiers of the left and the right lay scattered in no-man’s land and remained hunkered in their current positions. And yet, the world still turns.
The currents of life move us ever closer and push us further apart. Americans from all walks of life must continue to live their lives under the pervasive smog of our social and political climate. Fathers continue to shop for groceries, mothers continue to provide for their families, and children continue to go to school.
It is in the realm of public education that I live my professional life. It is in the realm of public education that I fight against or perpetuate the messages shot from the trenches. It is in the realm of public education that RePublic Schools functions and grows, dedicating itself to reimagining public education in the South; where some of our trenches are dug deepest.
And this year, RePublic Schools has made a commitment to begin the arduous task of filling this deep divide by investing time and resources into the development of their teachers; the people who see, hear, and nurture the future leaders of the South.
RePublic has begun this work in two simultaneous phases. Phase one is providing whole-staff professional development on the underlying mindsets and practices of racial and class bias that affect the scholars and communities that we serve. Phase two is developing a committed coalition to cultivate awareness and develop plans to address issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion as they currently exist within RePublic Schools by providing tangible actions for creating more diverse, equitable, and inclusive classrooms. The goal of this two-pronged attack on the mindsets and practices that affect our scholars and communities is to develop and hone the culturally responsive lens of all staff members, people of color and white alike.
As a member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coalition, I have had the opportunity to see and hear of the impact of our racial and class bias on students from across the cities of both Nashville and Jackson. I have heard educators and administrators, committed to ensuring that black and brown students have the same opportunities to win as their white counterparts, speak passionately about the role our network-wide systems and structures have played in snuffing out and burying the potential and power of our scholars. I have seen this same group commit to working to make lasting change that will reverse this trend and nurture the shared and individually lived experience of all people that work in our organization, from the charter management team to support staff.
Our work is just starting. And it will take time. Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos once wrote, “what didn’t you do to bury me, but you forgot that I was a seed.”
We have unintentionally buried the full personhood of our scholars and staff. With this commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have begun the process of nurturing and protecting the power within the seeds of our people.
Like the people of our nation, we must keep going. We cannot be disheartened by the smog that surrounds us, but instead, fiercely protect that which we know will lead us out of the dark. Our commitment to this work will allow for our people to thrive, closing the gap of the trenches and leading us to level ground. We must continue the work because the world still turns.
Darren Gray is an assistant principal at Liberty Collegiate Academy and a member of the RePublic Schools DEI Coalition.