From Freire Schools Network & School Leaders
June 5, 2020
The past week has been among the most difficult any of us have ever experienced as educators. For some of us, this week represented the boiling over of fear and tension we have known our entire lives. Others among us spent this week educating ourselves on systemic racism and realizing harsh truths about our own privilege and biases. All of us stand firmly with Freire Schools students and staff engaging in community protests against racism and police brutality.
This week, we marched in protest of Black death at the hands of the police. We watched in horror as our friends and neighbors were gassed and beaten by police while rising up against deep-set racism in our cities. We feared for the safety of our students, ourselves, and our loved ones. We cried. We expressed anger. We supported our kids and each other.
Most of all, we listened to our students, our families, and our teachers and staff. We heard clearly your grief, anger, fears, and frustrations. We heard the pain that you feel that Freire Schools has not done all of the work we need to do to acknowledge and fix the real and important ways in which our own systems perpetuate racism and white supremacy.
The memories of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and too many more demand that we sit with the intense and often uncomfortable emotions that we feel and use them to better ourselves and our schools.
So, today, we make a commitment that Freire Schools will develop an actively anti-racist school network. Starting now and continuing over the summer, we will develop an actionable plan to achieve this goal. This is what we know today:
- Our goal is for 100% of our Freire Family members to be actively anti-racist.
- In order for this work to be successful, those in leadership – our board members, network office leaders, and school leaders – need to identify our own biases and how they transfer throughout our organization.
- We need to think about systemic racism within our organization and how to uproot it. To do so, we will audit bias in our thoughts, our actions, our leadership, and our Freire Program (i.e. pedagogy, programs, policies, and systems) and identify our organizational blind spots.
- We admit that we may not always be able to identify our own weaknesses or be best able to assess the needs of our Black community, and so we will ask for help from experts in institutional racism.
- We will move with urgency while also recognizing that our action plan must include immediate, near future, and long-term work.
- We commit to concrete, ongoing work that continues far into the future, long after this moment of national attention and momentum.
- We will create diversity, inclusion, and equity training for all Freire Schools staff – both during onboarding and as an ongoing part of professional development. This includes our own training as school and network leaders.
- We will establish an explicit, regular timeline for leaders and staff to reflect on our anti-racist work and areas for future growth and communicate our progress to all members of the Freire community.
- We will remember at all times that our school was founded on social justice principles, and that Paulo Freire believed that education was the most powerful act against oppression. Anti-racism work is essential to our students, our mission, and our shared future.
Finally, we know that all Freire voices must be heard as we develop our path forward. We encourage all Freire Family members who are interested in working on our anti-racist action plan this summer to email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know that you want to join the planning team. This includes students, alumni, teachers, staff, parents, board members, leaders – anyone who is committed to developing a baseline of trust and empathy in our community, having real conversations about race in our network, and reforming any parts of our Freire Program that do not protect, support and uplift our Black students as they prepare to build the future.
We have work to do – real work to make our schools, our network, and our Freire Family better. We will make mistakes, it will be sloppy at times, and our work will be filled with highs and lows. But our students, our families, and our schools are worth it.