4: What to Focus on While Effecting Change
While common themes emerged during the discussion, panelists made some distinct points about what those seeking to effect positive change for Black learners should keep in mind as they move forward.
Dena Simmons said, "We have to think about where race and culture plays into anything that we implement, [because] if the person who’s implementing it is racist, then the implementation of it could be racist. So whatever we do, we have to apply an antiracist, abolitionist, anti-bias approach [to] put humanity back into our schools—and do it ASAP.”
Collaboration between Researchers and Practitioners
In order for practitioners to be able to make meaningful changes based on research, "[that] research needs to be rooted and grounded in the needs of the school district and in the tradition of the school district," said Patricia Garcia, superintendent of Geneva City Schools in New York.
“Academic performance is in itself a colonized discourse," noted Emdin, because "practitioners have been seduced by the imaginations of white scholars who have their own perceptions of what [good pedagogy] means"—but "we can reimagine genius to be vernacular.”
Gray made the point that when putting in place and maintaining a remote learning model, educators need to ask, “How do we communicate effectively with our families?”
Reshaping Black Learning with Technology
One opportunity presented by the pandemic is “thinking about alternative ways of learning, including technology," Tyrone Howard said. "I think what is critical in this moment is that we allow technology to be the conduit that helps to enhance our communication models.”
5: Is It a Sprint or a Marathon?
Early in the discussion, Emdin talked about the importance of keeping in mind that it takes time and a deliberate approach to create meaningful change. “Using speed to emancipate," he noted, "is the difference between fast food and soul food: sustenance.” To drive home that point as the discussion wrapped up, he quoted rapper Nipsey Hussle, saying, “The marathon continues.”