SEEN Weekly Update – Celebration, Reflection, Juneteenth!

Dear SEEN Community,

The last week has been a significant one for equity in Saratoga Springs City School District, and for this group. On Thursday, the SSCSD Board of Education passed the equity regulation (0105-R), after adding definitions for key terms. With this action, the Board upholds the opening paragraph of the regulation itself:

This regulation empowers the District to act to disrupt and eliminate systemic inequities, and yes, to model antiracist behaviors and language. It brings the District in line with the equity framework and policy approved by the NYS Board of Regents. While the introduction (and yes, push-back) largely centers around racism, the regulation aims to disrupt a range of bias and “isms” comprehensively to ensure systemic equity for each and every individual. Together, the District’s policy and regulation set the table for the work to come. Implementation is not automatic, and will continue to require conscientious action by the Board, staff, students and parents, and yes, from SEEN.

Many thanks to the Board of Education (particularly the Policy Committee) and to the District Equity and Inclusion Committee (particularly to the DEIC Policy Subcommittee). Together, these two bodies and (sub)committees put forth tremendous effort, research, and work, and the students, staff, and families will benefit from these repeated actions and forthrightness for decades to come. Thank you to all who served and continue to do so, and to everyone here who submitted public comments in support.

We also celebrated SEEN’s first birthday last week with our “Birthday Bash” at Ben & Jerry’s. This event raised $1,200 towards SEEN’s Little Free Libraries project, which is enough for three Libraries to add throughout town! Thank you to our benefactors at Ben & Jerry’s, our collaborators at Northshire Saratoga, and to everyone who came out for ice cream and/or donated books. We are currently securing locations and planning for a building event later this summer.  If you missed us last weekend and would still like to donate books, SEEN will be in person again this Saturday, June 19th, as part of the Juneteenth celebration in Congress Park, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Please feel free to bring books to drop off then.


Actions

  • Saratoga Springs Public Library will hold its annual budget vote and election of new Trustees, Carol Daggs and Frank Brady, on Thursday, June 17. The Trustees are uncontested and the budget is zero-growth. Voting will take place in the Dutcher Community Room on the first floor of the library from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • C.R.E.A.T.E. Art in the Park. On June 19th, from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m., C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios and Saratoga BLM are hosting a community event open to all to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth in Congress Park. There will be opportunities for art-making, community gathering, and conversations about racial justice. Food, music, and art making are open to all.
  • Affinity Groups. In collaboration with C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios, SEEN is hoping to create a local affinity group for young people ages 10 and up. C.R.E.A.T.E.’s Juneteenth event will be an opportunity for young members of our community to come together in the spirit of racial justice and to learn more about affinity groups. Please spread the word, and meet in the park on Saturday.
  • Board of Education Meeting. The last Board of Education meeting for the year is scheduled for Tuesday, June 22, at 7 p.m. The meeting agenda will be posted by Monday, June 21, and the meeting will be streamed by WebEx through the District website. Those wishing to submit public comments should do so by 3 p.m. on Tuesday, June 22.

Resources

Saturday’s Juneteenth events are equal parts cause for celebration and reflection. We share here a few overall resources and historical references for reflection.

  • New York Public Library. Home of the Schomberg Center for Research in Black Culture, NYPL has a number of resources online, including a booklist for children, and will be hosting a virtual literary festival, “Words Like Freedom,” on Saturday from 10:30-5:30 p.m., featuring authors Farah Jasmine Griffin, Clint Smith, Ben Okri, Desmond Meade, Yaba Blay, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Donika Kelly, Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, Kiese Laymon, and Hanif Abdurraqib. And if you’re looking for music to accompany your dance break between talks or you’re focusing more on the celebration part, NYPL’s Library for the Performing Arts will be featuring guest DJs spinning music and spoken word recordings from the library’s collection that “reflect upon the meaning of Black freedom.” Listen online, at The Lot Radio, Saturday from 11:30 to 4: 30 p.m.
  • Primers from the National Museum of African American History & Culture and The Root. NMAAHC has a great collection of primary-source materials and overview essays on Juneteenth, as well as video tours of galleries.  This short, 3-minute video provides a good summary for those just learning about Juneteenth, as it is now a state holiday (and seemingly a federal one too).
  • A Second Independence Day. Juneteenth is sometimes referred to as a second Independence Day. To reconcile the context for that, (re-)read Frederick Douglass’s “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” a speech the abolitionist gave July 5, 1852, nearly 10.5 years before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and just 2 weeks short of 13 years before Juneteenth. If you’d rather give voice to the words, the Zinn Education Project has recordings of actors Danny Glover and James Earl Jones reading the speech.

~ The SEEN Team

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