Evaluating Literature with BIPOC

Evaluating Literature with BIPOC

When you choose literature featuring Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), it is important to know how “deep” you want to get into the content. Readers can read from identifying elements about the culture to becoming emotionally there with the events taking place. The examples below are explanations on expanding your knowledge of different cultural experiences.

Level 1: Shows customs such as holidays, and cultural elements

Shades of Black, A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney

A picture book with positive affirmations and images of children. Pinkney says, “I am Black, I am Unique.” Pinkney compares the different shades of each child to vanilla ice cream, golden brown sugar, velvety orange, and much more. This book shows more cultural elements about the uniqueness of Black children.

This is the Rope, by Jacqueline Woodson

A story about a family’s connection on migrating from the South to the North. A rope that had significance to the little girl’s grandmother living in South Carolina, to the rope being used to tie luggage on a car, and then used to hang a sign on a family reunion. This story highlights how something as small as a rope is passed down to different generations as a family “heirloom.”

Level 2: Describes concepts and themes, folktales

Chicken in the Kitchen, by Nnedi Okorafor

Anyaugo woke up one evening to a decadent chicken roaming in the kitchen. She is afraid the chicken will ruin their yam dishes. She found guidance from Wood Wit, a nature spirit. The Wood Wit gave her advice, and Anyaugo calmed the chicken down. When the chicken left, she learned that ancestors returned to dance showing that death was a natural part of life. This chicken was an ancestor coming back for a midnight snack. This story incorporates a folktale about her African village. 

The Golden Flower: A Taino Myth from Puerto Rico, by Nina Jaffe


This Taino creation story describes how the island of Puerto Rico came into existence when the Earth was a desert without water.

 Level 3: View different perspectives. Gives historical accounts and authentic culture. 

Island Girl, by Junot Diaz

A little girl must illustrate the land where she was born. She is sad because she moved away as a tiny baby and her friends all knew about their ancestral lands. So she asks her grandmother, her cousin, the baker, the barbershop owner, her mom, and her building superintendent about the island. Lola discovers the world that she left behind was beautiful full of culture, music, and even danger.

Ho’Onani Hula Warrior, by Heather Gale

This book provides Hawaiian vocabulary and context about Hawaiian societal roles. Ho’onani preferred doing things differently. For example she wanted to perform Kane, or traditional Hawaiian chants. Her sister did not approve of her because these chants are traditionally performed by men. Ho’Onani was determined and told herself, “Strong and steady. “One the day of the performance, Ho’Onani was strong and made the crowd applaud and wonder in awe. This story challenges cultural statuses, and celebrates perspectives as well.

Level 4: The reader is empowered to change and own the curriculum. It is from historical and social events from different characters where the reader is empowered to take action. 

The Lost Tribes, by Christine Taylor Butler

Ben Webster lives a boring life in Sunnyslope. California. He craves two things, a spot on the school’s basketball team and an adventure with his globetrotting uncle. But there are two problems. Ben can’t play basketball and his uncle doesn’t seem to like him much. One day both dreams come true. His skills at basketball suddenly improve and he earns a place on the team. The same day his uncle arrives ahead of a storm and makes an offer: solve a puzzle-filled game in seven days and Ben can join his uncle’s last expedition. But the digital game isn’t as easy as it looks. Enlisting the help of his sister and friends, Ben soon suspects the game is more than it seems. Little does he know that the clues point to the true nature of the “family business.” You will learn about each of his friend’s origins: African, Navajo, Guatemalan, and Nepal. Just as the title recommends, you will discover Lost Tribes.

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

Written for a teen audience, this book ties three stories: folktale, and two modern tales together. In the folktale a Monkey King desires to master disciplines. Adolescents in the two modern tales struggle with fitting in and dealing with stereotypes. Each story is distinctly different with the plot, setting and characterization. However at the end you realize they all have the same meaning at the end with character development and inner struggle. I would hope this book would empower the reader. In essence we all carry preconceived stereotypes and ideas about different races and cultures. This book addresses how someone deals with Asian stereotypes, and the reader would hopefully relate to them and change.


When it comes to choosing literature for children, always consider their educational needs. Currently literature and experiences need to be more inclusive because this world has a set of diverse people who can contribute to the greater good of our society. We hope these evaluation methods can assist you as you determine books that young children to adolescence read.

Making the argument for children’s literature that represents BIPOC

Making the argument for children’s literature that represents BIPOC

Growing up, what was your favorite book? Did you have one? Was it a common classic, like “Goodnight, Moon” or “The Giving Tree”? Or something unique to your upbringing? 

Who was the main character in your favorite book? Did they remind you of yourself? Did they look like you?

For many adults and children, the answer to that last question is probably, “no”. Children’s books historically have featured two types of main characters: animals and white children. And when 40% of the U.S. population identifies as Latino, Black, Asian, or Indigenous, that’s a problem.

According to a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin, in 2013, of the 3,200 children’s books published, only 93 featured characters or storylines relating to the Black diaspora. That’s only 3% of children’s books published in 2013.

So, why is representation of people of color in children’s literature important and necessary? 

In 1988, educator Emily Style introduced the phrase “windows and mirrors” to refer to literacy and books. The phrase refers to the fact that books have the ability to serve as “windows” into a world unknown or unfamiliar to readers, and as “mirrors” for readers to see their own likeness, experiences, and stories told by the author. This phrase expanded in 1990, when author and educator Rudine Sims Bishop added that books serve as “sliding glass doors”, giving readers the ability to see, and access, something they had never experienced before.

But when all the books you read tell stories that focus on anthropomorphic animals, which are animals given human mannerisms or characteristics; or children and characters that don’t reflect your everyday experience, it can be difficult to turn that experience into a “mirror” or a “sliding door”.

Author Walter Dean Myers acknowledged this in his 2014 article, “Where are the people of color in children’s books?” In this article, Myers, author of the award-winning young adult novel “Monster”, reflects on the moment when his love for reading and his own identity as a young Black man collided.

Books did not become my enemies. They were more like friends with whom I no longer felt comfortable. I stopped reading. I stopped going to school. On my 17th birthday, I joined the Army. In retrospect I see that I had lost the potential person I would become — an odd idea that I could not have articulated at the time, but that seems so clear today.” 

In order to ensure that students and children from historically marginalized backgrounds are able to engage, connect, and develop their love for reading and literature, it is imperative that they are given the opportunity to find literature that not only reflects them, but tells their own unique stories and experiences. But that doesn’t necessarily just start with authors.

In 2015, Lee & Low Books, an independent publisher of multicultural literature, published the first major study examining staff diversity in publishing. Results found that across the 40 publishing houses and review journals that participated in the study, 80% of staff self-identified as white. 

NPR focused on the topic of diversity in publishing in their 2016 article, “Diversity In Book Publishing Isn’t Just About Writers — Marketing Matters, Too”, speaking with Kima Jones, owner of the Los Angeles-based publicity company Jack Jones Literary Arts. From Jones perspective, there is a dire need for diversity in publishing, not just authors and writers, in order to provide the systems level support for writers of color.

There needs to be more women of color in publishing, in positions of power, period. As I see other book clubs and speaking series, reading series, organizations pop up that are dedicated to writers of color, queer writers, disabled writers, other marginalized writers, I’m like: yeah, do that! This is what we need.”

In order for authors to tell stories about diverse characters and experiences, they have to not only make it through the publishing house doors, but ensure that the team working with them on publishing, marketing, and distributing their books understand the story being told and the audience being emphasized. If they’re unable to do that, they run the risk of having their book be underpublicized, not reaching the communities they are trying to uplift.

Diversity in children’s literature doesn’t just benefit children of color, but all children, allowing from an early age for conversations to take place relating to race, religion, ability, and other ways that we, as humans, each come from different backgrounds while sharing similarities. Offering stories and characters that represent people of color allows children not from these groups to build empathy for others, while simultaneously encouraging positive recognition of self for children of color. Think about it, if you are making soup, you need a grouping of diverse ingredients: water, broth, vegetables, seasonings, and meat. When these ingredients blend together, you are fed and sustained. Similarly, a range of ingredients and experiences from people of color can enrich the minds of youth and build their understanding to reduce fear and improve care and love for not only their in-group, but those around them. While anthropomorphism (characterizing animals or other non-human entities with human characteristics/abilities) in literature does have its benefits, allowing writers to tell stories about morals, ethics, and serious situations while placing an emotional distance between the reader and the characters, when every children’s book places that distance, it can be difficult for readers to connect with the story on a human level.

As parents, reading to your child is a necessary part of child development and is one of the simplest ways to foster a love of learning and build connection with the little human you’re raising. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind what values you hope to instill in your child as they grow up, and how their exposure to literature that reflects not only the world they experience every day but also the world beyond their lived experience can contribute to their development. Making an effort to seek out children’s books and resources that reflect BIPOC and their perspectives, is one of the simplest ways to build your child’s ability to empathize with others, especially those who may not look like the people they are exposed to everyday. 


From the Achievement Gap to the Opportunity Gap: How can communities support students from all backgrounds?

From the Achievement Gap to the Opportunity Gap: How can communities support students from all backgrounds?

For the past 50 years, the conversation around equity in education has surrounded a central topic: the academic achievement gap. But what is the academic achievement gap? 

Born of the movement for standardized testing, the academic achievement gap is, as it is most commonly referred and simply put, the difference in scoring between students of color (Black, Latinx, Indigenous) and their white counterparts, with students of color historically receiving lower test scores than white students at a similar age or grade in school.

One of the most common examples of standardized tests and the academic achievement gap comes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), or sometimes called The Nation’s Report Card. The NAEP is a standardized test administered by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) on a recurring basis since 1969, selecting a sample of fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders across the nation for exams in areas such as math, reading, writing, and science. According to the most recent research by the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis (CEPA), on the 300 point scale measured by the NAEP in math and reading, white eighth graders scored an average of 23 points higher than their Black peers and 21 points higher than Latinx peers in reading. In math, white eighth graders scored an average of 28 points higher than Black peers and 21 points higher than Latinx peers.

However, the academic achievement gap as it is presently viewed, while seemingly cut and dry, does not account for two influential factors: improvement in scores over generations and the difference in learning styles, ability, or cultural differences for students from under resourced backgrounds.

When looking at the difference in scores on the NAEP 8th grade reading exam, what isn’t emphasized is the difference in scores between 8th graders over a 30 year span. The same research from the Stanford CEPA shows that in the years between NAEP exams taken in 1975 and 2015, Black students in 2015 scored an average of 18 points higher than their historical counterparts in reading and 32 points higher in math. Similarly, Latinx students scored an average of 15 points higher in reading and 30 points higher in math than their 1975 counterparts. Meanwhile, white students scored an average of 4 points higher in reading and 18 points higher in math exams in 2015 than in 1975. This difference in scoring shows that while the “achievement gap” exists, it is closing in as the years progress. 

Why is this significant?

This “closing” of the “achievement gap” highlights that over the years, as a greater focus and case for anti-racist education has entered the mainstream, students are given access to greater opportunities, more culturally competent curricula, and changes in policy that emphasize equity over equality. As stated by Ibram X. Kendi in his 2016 article “Why the Academic Achievement Gap is a Racist Idea”, “Americans have been led to believe that intelligence is like body weight, and the different intellectual levels of different people can be measured on a single, standardized weight scale. Our faith in standardized tests causes us to believe that the racial gap in test scores means something is wrong with the Black test takers–and not the tests”. 

When considering the definition of the word achievement, many would agree that it’s meaning is: success garnered through effort, courage, or skill. However, under that definition, can it be said that students of color are not putting forth enough effort, maintaining enough courage, or building enough skills to compete with their white peers? 

Shavar Jeffries, head of the group Democrats for Education Reform, emphasized this view of the achievement gap in Kevin Mahnken’s 2020 article, “The achievement gap has driven education reform for decades. Now some are calling it a racist idea”.


“If we name this an ‘achievement gap,’ particularly in a country that has a racist history, it reinforces a context where people are already predisposed to think that certain folks of color can’t achieve the same way as others. You can call it marketing if you want, but I think how we frame things matters.”

By emphasizing equity in education, rather than equality, the idea of the academic achievement gap has slowly begun to dissipate, as educators and administrators recognize that in order for students from under resourced backgrounds to score at or above the level of their white peers, these students need advocacy from their community outside of the classroom. While scores show that the “achievement gap” has closed significantly in the past 30 years, there is still much work needed to be done for students of color. This means that, as a community of advocates for students, we must focus not on the achievement gap, but on the opportunity gap and the aspects of our society that influence the gap in access for students of color and those from under resourced communities. 

The use of the phrase “opportunity gap” has been adopted on a nationwide scale by a number of organizations and leaders across the realm of education. The 2018 blog article, “Why We Say ‘Opportunity Gap’ Instead of ‘Achievement Gap’”, posted by Teach for America defines the “opportunity gap” as: “the arbitrary circumstances in which people are born—such as their race, ethnicity, ZIP code, and socioeconomic status—(which) determine their opportunities in life, rather than all people having the chance to achieve to the best of their potential”. 

As a society, by introducing the idea of the opportunity gap into our everyday knowledge and conversations around education and access, we shift the blame for educational inequities from being the fault of the child struggling with academics, to the fault of the systemic influences that serve as barriers to their success. And, as a society, together we can find ways to eliminate these systemic barriers, through mentorship and community engagement, financial support of educational organizations, or policy changes in local elections, to ensure that all students, regardless of their background and upbringing, can bridge the “opportunity gap” and achieve long-term academic success.


Why I Celebrated With a Kiowa Tribe

Why I Celebrated With a Kiowa Tribe

Tents, chairs, flags, ancestral clothes, and a dedicated circle of Kiowa men and women gathered to honor their ancestral tribe. One by one the dancers methodically moved into the circle to the rhythm of the drums. Left-right-left-right dancers stomped continuously as they joined other members invited into the large Kiowa ensemble. “Womp, womp, womp” the men drummed that kept each dancer dancing. Steadily as the Kiowa drummers hit their drums Kiowa men, teens, and boys stomped their feet unanimously to the rhythm left-right-left-right. Their heads moving from side to side and their arms raised to shake the feathery-fan as the beat went on. “Womp womp,” drums pounded as sweat ran down the dancers’ faces. “Womp Womp,” drums pounded but they danced on to tell the story of the gourd dance. “Doo-doo-duu-doo” the high-pitched bugle sounded. “Yaaa” as the dancers yelled after the bugle played. “Doo-doo-duu-doo” the bugle played again, and the dancers unanimously yelled louder as the bugle sounded. Feathered fans blew in the wind and shook rhythmically reminding all of us of the story of the Kiowa tribe.

July 4, 2015, I witnessed this miraculous celebration of the Kiowa tribe. They gathered in Oklahoma where we traveled through dirt roads and empty towns to get to the camp grounds. The Kiowa tribe has danced for thousands of years. Dancing retells stories from the tribe’s quests, freedom, and triumph. Traditionally Kiowa and other tribes dance in July because the sun shines higher and longer. With the sun out longer tribes have more daylight hours to dance. In pure reverence I visited the Kiowa in order to understand my individual freedom. The Fourth of July is celebrated when Americans were free from the British law. However for me instead of cooking or viewing fireworks, I chose to see another example of freedom. This freedom was displayed as a tribal circle. This freedom was the use of words that I never knew and will never know. I saw men and women who danced despite the burning sun. The dancers looked forward when the drums banged, and the bugle blared to celebrate who they were as people. The various clans wore woven blankets over their buttoned shirts and pants. We did not see the decorated feathers.

Indigenous tribes in our nation are a part of our history. Nelson Mandela explained that freedom “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” Indigenous tribes had a time of freedom and their dance enhances a glimpse into how free they truly were. They developed ideas, customs, and a culture that empowered a group of people.

In the evening, we ate. When we ate, they shared stories about the Kiowa family. Through oral storytelling, their dance and song all made sense. They rang the bugle to signify when it was time to charge in battle, and they danced representing the warriors marching on the battleground. I was told that they gathered to tell their story of the ancestors through song and dance. During the dance, any person entering the circle had to be covered in traditional clothes. Anyone, like me, who was not Kiowa was allowed to observe and could not participate in the dance. Since this dance also represented soldiers entering the battlefield, Kiowa women dance if invited.

During times of celebration such as the Fourth of July, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, we should tell the story of our ancestors. We should be willing to tell our children so that these courageous and truthful narratives can be passed on. When I watched them dance, I could see they were storytelling by their shifts in their angles and when the drums and bugle lowered and heightened their timbre.

I lacked a connection to their dance because I lacked knowledge of their language, dialect, food, and clothes. Every color, necklace, and feather were foreign to me. I felt out of place, because I wore summer clothes, my hair was short and curly, I did not know a soul on those campgrounds, and most of all I could not speak their language. Despite my discomfort, I stayed. I stayed to gather a glimpse of an example of America’s real freedom and a glimpse of America’s history. Kiowa’s were free once before and roamed the land with knowledge and wealth. Kiowa’s cherish and value their family so their history can be remembered.

History books do not fully tell the aspect of oppressed individuals. My lineage is African, and the connections that I felt later on reflected my African ancestors with the rhythms of the drums. Their ability to dance in unison was a true symbol of freedom and signs of how I felt our nation could come together. There were other people who were not of Kiowan lineage attending to view as well. At one point in time, the Kiowas and other Indigenous people were free creating their own laws, culture, and cultivation of our land. This experience was more than celebrating the holiday; it was to gather an experience and a story that my history will never tell me.

As we gather together in our other celebrations, remember to be thankful people in your life.
Visiting the Kiowa tribe gave me a better understanding of their culture and traditions that have been established for thousands of years. Here I saw proud children and families who understood and connect with their individual story. Each story that they danced and sang was a symbol of their past and their history. Through this gathering their Kiowa tribe came alive. You can discover more about the Kiowa tribe at https://www.facebook.com/KiowaKidsWeeklyNews/

Learnings from Trinidad & Tobago Educators

Learnings from Trinidad & Tobago Educators

Trinidad & Tobago Training: Learnings & Reflections 

How We Can Learn From One Another Ending Cultural Opposition & Biases

 I had the honor of visiting Primary (Elementary) and Secondary (High School) schools in Trinidad & Tobago in 2019. Educators on their beautiful island shared similar challenges and experiences that other educators face here in the United States. My biggest take away was that educators living on the island needed a better hardware infrastructure, faster Wi-Fi, and cohesive educational leadership. 

From the culture, I enjoyed eating Roti every day in Trinidad. I asked over 25 residents on the island what their favorite thing on the island was, and I was told the food. It was true the kinds of food that I ate was unique and authentic to their island. The parts of the island where I stayed exhibited clean air and water where the clean air blew strongly each day. Their island respects the environment and I was amazed how many stores did not allow customers to leave with plastic bags. I also learned that Trinidad is the bigger island and Tobago is the smaller island where they are governed by the same entity which is why they are called Trinidad & Tobago. What fascinated me was that there is a large Indian population because Indians were sent to work as Indentured laborers in Trinidad & Tobago on May 30, 1845. Now, they celebrate their arrival as Indian Arrival Day on May 30th each year. This change implemented a culture that makes Trinidad a melting pot of many people or persons. 

 In the schools, some classrooms and hallways had no walls allowing the continuous fresh breeze to be felt. You could hear and Soca music any time throughout the day. Walking in the courtyard, I saw palm trees and fruit plants right next to us.  For school governance, I learned that some schools were governed by their Ministry (government) and many other schools were Private. Private schools and government run schools had similar funding challenges. The teachers had an internal drive where some shared, 

 I was excited to see the diversity in ages and ethnicity amongst the educators. There were African teachers, Indian teachers, principals, and administrators. Most importantly though, they considered themselves as Trinidadians. They did not consider themselves as Black teachers, or Indian teachers as what we hear in the U.S. 

The racism and hatred amongst the people did not exist during my time. I do understand though experiencing the culture for a longer time period would have given me a broader view of the dynamics and tensions. However, when I reflected on my experience above was that despite the internal unrest for education change. There was still a bond and a sense of community that I do not feel in the United States. 

 Right now, in 2020, America is faced with racism and white supremacy ideologies. The ideologies were stemmed from the desire to conquer, have economic power, and to strip down the souls of the ones they captured. These ideologies that were created by our ancestors affect us largely by a lack of knowledge and ignorance from one another. For example, where you might see someone stay a hurtful racist comment, or shout words that are highly unjust. Sadly of course seeing the malicious attacks of George Floyd and Ahmad Berry were stemmed from these systematic ideologies so that the muted voices, black and brown, and poor cannot be heard. 

 Trinidad and Tobago are haunted by slavery and impoverished neighborhoods. However, the historical deficits and racial ideologies on the island are being shifted where hope and unity were realistic. We can learn from Trinidadians and other international allies. Racism is not as deeply embedded in their culture. I was told the only time it comes out is during political arguments. However, for the most part, Trinidad and Toboggans live happily and strive to be better citizens. We can learn that living amongst one another, food, music, acceptance beyond tolerance of cultures can create change.

 On Trinidad and Tobago News Forums, ” In Trinidad’s history (distinct from Tobago’s), the episode of Emancipation was crucial in changing the character of the population of the island. For one, Trinidad became a magnet for the emancipated slaves of the other, older and more-densely populated islands, especially Grenada, St Vincent and Barbados. An estimated 10,278 of these West Indian immigrants came to Trinidad between 1839 and 1849, while between 1871 and 1911 about 65,000 immigrated. By 1897 there were about 14,000 Barbadians living in the island. The largest immigration, however, came from the importation of 143,949 Indian indentured labourers between 1845 and 1917.”

 I met dedicated, caring, kind, and brilliant teachers. Some educators started their own private schools, others wanted to find ways to revolutionize the island, and others just wanted a better way. What I loved was that the educators poured their heart out when I visited their schools to better learn and provide a solution for their challenges. Here is what some said. 

  • Would like the Ministry to effect the repairs so that the school could return to normal functioning.
  • Collaboration with stakeholders interested in literacy development is always welcome.
  • Provide a booth as the TUTTA teachers convention.
  • Planning a remedial reading program for students at different levels in the school.
  • More sharing of what works by actual practitioners in local classrooms too many teachers are skeptical of changing their practice, they prefer to stay in their teaching comfort zone and blame the students and their parents
  • The availability of resources and the experience of being immersed in a classroom which utilizes these techniques so I can use that lived experience to apply to my classes.
  • I would like guidance and assistance to connect with international companies to receive materials for my students for use within the classroom.
  • The provision of resources (books, charts etc.) that would enhance the teaching and learning experience. Also, more training sessions to keep persons informed.



Discussing racism and equity in the classroom

Discussing racism and equity in the classroom

I interviewed three educators to gain their perspectives on how other educators can discuss equity and race in their own classrooms. You can connect with each of them through their social media platforms. 

  • Crystal Everett @CrystalCalledit (Twitter)
    Real World Learning Coordinator, Kansas City Public Schools
  • Akiea Gross @wokekindergarten (Instagram)
    Former New York Educator, Founder Whole Kindergartener, Coaching Manager 4.0 Schools, Adjunct Professor Hunter College
  • Dr. Khalil Graham (LinkedIn)
    Executive Director Dallas Charter Schools

What is Your Experience?


My role as the Real World Learning Coordinator for KCPS is administered in our career and technical education department.  My office is inside of Manual Career Technical Center and we have different programs for real world learning. Our goal is to connect students to real world learning experiences, including internships. The regional goal laid out by the Kauffman Foundation is to have all high school students graduate with at least one market value asset by the year 2030. My role as Real World Learning Coordinator is to cultivate these experiences.

What is Career Technical Education (CTE)?

Career and technical education provides students with an opportunity to gain skills and certifications that prepare them for the workforce directly after high school.  Students choose CTE because they want something hands on. CTE is a great fit for Real World Learning as industry recognized credentials are also market value assets.

AKIEA pronouns they, them, their

As an abolitionist within the institution of school. I have the freedom to dream of the possibility of a world without schools. If I believe education is liberation. What does that look like outside of schools? The experience of being in schools helped me understand why I had to get out. As a creator, I have a team called Women Amplify. Women Amplify’s black, queer, trans, and those who have muted voices. 

Once I left schools in 2018, I found a lot of my healing in music & the arts. I was able to reimagine liberation. I was able to approach my work with an open mind.

What is an Abolitionists? 

I think we have the ability to see beyond the harm. Abolitionists are the freedom dreamers. We are able to see beyond the confines on what we have been indoctrinated in. We are the people who can be the destroyers and creators. We are not afraid to burn it down and build it up. I think of myself as a freedom dreamer, creator, and as a healer.


I have been a career educator. I started as a school teacher in high school and elementary. I moved into leadership as a school leader with middle schools in African American Communities. For the last two years, I have been providing leadership development where I supported new school principals on developing their skill sets. Currently, I am the founding Executive Director of a charter school network focused on STEM. Our students primarily live in low income communities where we eventually want schools at full scale across the city.

Why start a Charter School Network? 

Every kid deserves a chance to learn and every kid deserves a kid a chance to be successful. 

I have always been motivated by wanting to have a greater impact believing that we can educate great citizens and great scholars. Schools are an institution, and not just a single entity. I have been looking at the grand plan where we can create change in the sense of community through education. [I chose this community because] our lowest performing schools are happening in the southern states when you research. Specifically, South Carolina has a history of students underperforming and not meeting state standards. I heard stories of families looking for change and other opportunities for those options to grow. We want to create career and college readiness. Additionally, being able to put job cultivation and higher education at the forefront is a dire need. 

What current challenges do you face?


This has been my challenge of finding those teachers who want to enhance their student’s experience. This role as the Real World Learning Coordinator is brand new to KCPS and I started my role in October.  This year it is about finding those teachers who want to be engaged and who want to provide real world learning experiences. I don’t think we can do a lot of things without teacher’s buy in. In general, I think teachers want Real World Learning. It is my job to make these experiences easier by coordinating field trips, ordering buses and completing registration for experiences as needed. I need to help make it easier for them or find mechanisms to help them know about these different opportunities outside of their building.  This will look different moving forward, but I hope to assist teachers and not create additional burdens to providing necessary and innovative approaches to education.


People need to understand schooling and education.

Schooling is indoctrination. It is a product of colonization. When they came over and created boarding schools, it stripped people of their culture. We have to shift our language. Language perpetuates harm & ideology. Once we uphold that we can exist beyond those confines. It is getting back to how our ancestors do it. Then that is where unlearning is back to the roots. It starts with deep dives of our history. Many museums have been putting it [our history] online. Learning of our own history will take us back to our roots.

Education is liberation. Education is our roots. We need to create a new ecosystem of community care; an ecosystem of self-learning. The best education is from elders, colleagues, and friends. We need to envision ecosystems of community care where it looks like communal learning. Communal care is not confined to four walls. 


There are a couple things. For one, there is a resource allocation anytime in education. Whether they are a school, nonprofit, or higher ed. You find yourself being stretched thin meeting multiple needs day-to-day. Externally, schools are trying to create a strong bond with the community where school trust has to be built without having the savior mentality. 

Secondly, honing in on fundamental skills for teachers teaching and students learning. Meeting these demands, we see struggles; where many students are coming in with a multitude of gaps. It is pushing teachers to do what they do, scaffolding reading or math, expecting teachers to meet state standards, and building their competency on where their students are at. I am trying to build effective teaching strategies.

How can you initiate the conversation with other teachers about equity and race with their students?


I have been trying to find my space and voice in it.  Teachers need to have a better understanding of how systemic racism is built into the education system. It is not just the large conversation about defunding and police. It is also about the policies that are a part of the school district. Consider discipline, for example. Do you really need to call a police officer or a security officer to take the student out of class? What does it mean to write students up? What are some ways for relationship building so it does not escalate? I think they need to see those small things and small ways that racism is ingrained into our education system. It is just not a black person killed by the police. These are everyday things that are both subtle and blatant. They should recognize the journey our students are on, as well as this opportunity to empower them, despite their circumstances.

With systemic racism, there has to be a history lesson around KCPS (Kansas City Public School District) specifically. Those things are more apparent now. I am reading a book breaking down the desegregation case. Its goal of increasing student achievement by solely pouring money into school buildings was an utter failure. I have gone through training provided by human resources and there was little to no mention of desegregation efforts. I do encourage anyone with an interest in public education to read Complex Justice: The Case of Missouri v. Jenkins by Joshua Dunn.


Right now, people want to have conversations on all of those things. We have this condition to keep people comfortable. 

These feel like buzz words for white people: Diversity & Inclusion, and Equity. These words serve their own ego to make them feel safe & comfortable. Hiring all black teachers is not equity, that is not how it works. There is no such thing as equity. When we are talking with kids. We have to stop using terms such as bias. Real equity is that white people are seeding their power. If schools want to have equity, they are seeding their power.

The truth is looking at racism and trans-discrimination. 

It is about the message not just the content. We need to talk about what is being prioritized. If I can get a curriculum with black children, how are you even talking about it? You need to talk about the message. Two people could be reading the same book and the message might be different for both of them.


My work is the unlearning of black and brown folks, and POC. My work is families first, and then educators, to unlearn the harm we have eternalized. White people should not be teaching black folks. My work censors children. I do this from a place of censoring black children. When black people are free, all people are free. White people need to hold themselves accountable for the harm they have caused.

I cannot teach anyone how to do anything without unlearning first. It is your responsibility to unlearn first. 


What we need to consider is how we build a sense of self with racial equity and power structures. A man might have different power vs. a woman. Also, a man of color has different power structures. People look at the surface level of slavery, gender, and equality. Once you peel back the layers of the traditional powers, then someone sees the sphere of influence. I hope we can help people to start their journey and then be open and moldable with that conversation where they want more research and more guidance. 

With a student I would advise the teacher to come in as a learner and the person without all of the answers. You should listen to students. 

I have pushed teachers to go above and beyond to build.

Rethink diversity, equity, beyond black history month, Latino history month. Pushing teachers to have an inclusive mindset when it comes to the students they serve. Rethinking the traditional thoughts around, how do we celebrate differences in general. Your students are different every day and you want to find ways to celebrate them. Celebrate them in the text that you select, the ways that you are teaching, or be shining a light. Teachers have to go outside of their comfort zones so that their classrooms can be seen as a safe space when their students come through their door.  What makes them unique and how can you celebrate those personal identifiers. Those identifiers are learning the history of the local neighborhood. Learning the fabric: institutions, people, and what is important, so you don’t come in with those biases and assumptions. Know the people you are going to serve. 

Suggestion on teachers being empathetic about uncomfortable stories from social media.


Teachers need to cultivate those safe spaces, understand and know what is going on. The burden shouldn’t be on Black people to educate others about history, systemic racism and injustice.  Teachers need resources, as well as the confidence to say, “I don’t know the answers, but I want to understand.”  I do believe one of the ways that teachers can demonstrate empathy is to build relationships with their students and earn trust.  


Respond over react. We have to sit with it, call in from a place of love and empathy. Let’s call each other in. Support one another in our own healing. How can we call each other in, where we can actively and safely heal with one another. Learn more about abolitionists: 

  • Dr. Bettina Love
  • Angela Davis
  • Audrey Lord
  • Charline-Black Queer and Black Abolitionist

 Recognize and call each other in.


I always look at teachers being unbelievable communicators. I do not see it as our race framework nor our gender framework. When we feel uncomfortable, what’s the framework that we can use to talk about that? Some teachers have the morning huddle, where it is like an open mic to get their student’s heads engaged, and giving kids the opportunity to talk within a structure. Teachers can provide an avenue of support. Support does not always sit on the teacher’s shoulders. Teachers provide a gateway to another educator, counselor or someone else to provide a light. It is our job to help and process those things, create aligned pathways, to get what they need and to shine in the classroom. 

When these topics come up, I am a person of hope. The greater good can be achieved. Hope & Action can lead us where they want us to be. How to put actions behind their thoughts. Schools can be a great place in our country.