Dear SEEN Community,
This past Monday night, we were able to come together again for a powerful listening session centering the experiences of parents of alumni and students of color. Moderated by SSCSD alumna Deshaya Williams (’98), panelists Steve Boxley, Warren Dart, Joy King, Patty and Ron Kosiba, and Jennifer and Richard Oliver-Goodwin shared a range of experiences within our schools – as students and parents. One theme that repeated from previous panels is the need for representation in the administration, faculty, and staff. Since 2012, there have been no Black people hired in teaching or administrative roles, and their absence is felt by students. Too often, parents saw their children singled out in class, especially when Black history was taught. As the parents who shared Monday noted, just as they can’t speak for all BIPOC experiences in SSCSD, their children should not be called upon to speak for all BIPOC in history.
In a district without any Black administration or teachers, it becomes imperative that an expansive, robust curriculum is coupled with culturally-responsive teaching. Hiring should be a priority, but so should diversity training and curricular updates, because leaders in our schools don’t need to be BIPOC to affirm that BIPOC students matter. Ending the listening session, Joy King’s advice to parents of BIPOC students was to always advocate for their children. As the “grownups” in our community, we can all work to support and advocate for each and every child. Notes from the discussion will be posted on the SEEN website for your review.
- Donate. SEEN remains committed to paying panelists and moderators for their time and expertise while keeping our programs accessible. If you were able to join us on Monday for “A Seat At This Table” and are in the position to do so, please consider a modest donation of $5 through our GiveButter site.
- Celebrate Pride. Monday morning, Saratoga’s Pride crosswalk was unveiled on the corner of Spring and Putnam streets, between Hathorn Spring and the Carousel. Next Thursday, June 3, at 6 p.m., join Saratoga Pride and the City of Saratoga for the official opening and celebration.
- Board of Education Meeting. The next SSCSD Board of Education is meeting on Thursday, June 10 at 7 p.m. The district’s equity regulation is expected to be under discussion and up for a vote. Save the date, and stay tuned for the agenda, link to stream, and any additional actions.
- Eat Ice Cream, Share Books. SEEN is celebrating its first birthday on Saturday, June 12 at Ben & Jerry’s! Ben & Jerry’s has generously offered to donate 25% of that day’s proceeds to SEEN. As one of our first opportunities to come together *in person*, representatives from SEEN will be set up outside the shop at the corner of Phila and Putnam Streets from 1-8 p.m. with information and activities. All proceeds will go to constructing the first of our SEEN Little Free Libraries, and we’ll be collecting new or gently-loved books that promote representation to stock the Libraries. If you’re looking for ideas of books that affirm our layered identities, we’re happy to announce we will have a wish list and a display at Northshire – buy for the Libraries and maybe one for yourself also! So come enjoy a dish, a cone, or a shake, and celebrate our birthday with us!
- Kemp Harris at Caffe Lena. Musician, singer, songwriter, actor and activist Kemp Harris will be performing at Caffe Lena next week, with a performance on June 4, and an all-ages “Little Folks Show” and songwriting workshop and talk, “When Worlds Collide,” for participants ages 13 and up on June 5. It’s the description of the workshop that probably best conveys the creativity and expression that will be shared on stage both days. Says Harris, “I will say that my lyrics express the totality of the person I am. It is a combination of my experiences as a black, gay man of a certain age living in America. Sometimes, it’s about politics or the society we live in or love and just living, things we all experience everyday. Like a mirror, they reflect my interpretation of the world I see around me. I do not try to convince others to adopt a particular view, nor ‘preach’ a particular ideology. I leave that to others.” Harris has worked with Gil Scott-Herron, Taj Mahal, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, among others. His most recent album is modern blues.
- Being the Grown Ups. In the spirit of the complicated issues around identity, childhood and adolescence, race and racism, and the role of loving adults, we’re highlighting a few episodes from the podcast The Longest Shortest Time. Within the show’s own equity lens, parents and children are always centered. These are just a few episodes in which The Longest Shortest Time talked about parenting in a racialized America. There are other episodes, on raising interracial kids, on raising trans children, on being a gay parent, on adoption, on being an actual professional clown, on raising a child with autism and through that, discovering your own diagnosis.
- How Will They Know I’m Black? In this episode from June 2019, Myra Jones-Taylor reflects on two ends of the parenting spectrum – as a biracial woman with a white mother and Black father, she reflects on their parenting in the 1980s, and then she reflects on her own experiences parenting a biracial child, but one who can “pass.”
- How Not to Raise a Racist. Much as racism today is as much about systems (like schools) as it is opinions, personal actions have an impact. Start with “How Not to (Accidentally) Raise a Racist,” an interview with Dr. Brigitte Vittrup on what it looks like when “white families get this right.” In the follow up, author Eula Biss reflects on her own parenting, “White Guilt and Other Crazy Sh*t,” and the very easy way white parents end up reinforcing systemic racism: opportunity hoarding, or what happens when you advocate for your kids and not each and every kid.
- On Black Motherhood. Anthonia Akitunde was searching for parenting resources that addressed motherhood as one part of a vibrant life, one that also included paid work and a professional career, but found that most books (and frankly, podcasts) were made by white women for white women. So, she made her own site, mater mea, with stories and photographs of “Black moms just doing plain old mom things.” In this interview, “Dispatches from Black Motherhood,” Frank and Akitunde discuss Black motherhood in all its beauty and challenges.
~ The SEEN Team