I really thought Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely were going to set the tone for ALAN when they began the two day conference with a full on charge to fight white supremacy. Reynolds said “Literature doesn’t matter if you can’t apply the story to our real life.” Laurie Halse Anderson picked up the plea toward the end, challenging participants to bring 3 new, diverse attendees to the next conference in Houston. But little else was said aloud about the overall whiteness of books, publishing, conferences or the language, literature or reading associations.
“Many of us in this room are no better than these cops: you put them [students] face down in the street. Those kids, those cops are no different from me and from you.”
Left with that charge, that one up front to overcome white supremacy what the hell are we going to do? Reading this blog isn’t enough, nor is writing it. Words are powerful, words embody spirit, but our backbone and our hands move rocks.
I’ve been trying to think of ways for those who keep asking ‘what can I do’. I know those paradigms are hard to shift, but I know it can be done. I’m better at the practical than the theoretic, so, I’m going to start with a few suggestions and hope they lead to more ideas and strategies in the comments.
- Join and attend your local NCAAP or Urban League, Attend meetings of you local Board of Education.
- Subscribe to you local ethnic newspapers.
- Start looking for ADA accommodations. Does your church have a sign language interpreter, or have access to one? Can a person in a wheel chair navigate your classroom? cafeteria? football stadium?
- Learn new teaching strategies that are culturally inclusive. Yes, there are books to help you with this.
- The very next time someone in your presence makes that racist, homophobic or other hate based comment say something. Don’t sit and simmer, but speak up.
- Read adult history books written by iPOC scholars. Learning the history is crucial.
- Cite Native American, African American, Asian American, Latinx, disabled or LGBT+ scholars in your teaching or writing. If you can’t think of any germane to your field (trust me, they’re there) then start with a little W.E.B DuBois, Don Nakanishi, Sonia Nieto, Paulo Friere or even Ta-Nehisi Coates.
- Find 3-4 marginalized authors to add to your list of favorites and start giving their works as birthday and Christmas presents.
- Don’t assume gender. Start asking ‘what’s your pronoun’, or use they/them/their until you know for sure. And, make it easy on others: list your pronouns in your email signatures and on your business cards.
- Look for and purchase greeting cards with brown faces.
- Remember that those plays, movies and TV shows with Asian American, LGBT+, Latinx, Disabled, Native American or African American or Muslim characters aren’t just for people in those groups. Watch them!
- Visit business that don’t have all white clientele, preferably that are new-majority owned.
- Sponsor a local educator to go the next national conference that you attend. Don’t think you can afford that? Then get 3-4 of your friends or family members to donate. Plan to meet that educator at the conference.
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