We laughed together last Friday, sharing stories of our children’s growth over music and food. Some things felt familiar to me, like greens and cornbread sopping up potlikka. Others, new -- Haitian puffs and Jollof rice. The potluck was the culminating event for a month full of recognizing African, Caribbean and African American Heritages. And all were invited to come, to participate, and to share pieces of these cultures, even if you couldn’t necessarily identify with them.
It was no different from what was done the months leading up to February:
January, there were bits and pieces of Asian heritage incorporated into the work cycle, making space for origami and lessons about the Chinese Zodiac. In December, families were invited to share stories of different belief systems. In November, there were celebrations of Native American Heritage with trips to the Native American Museum and fry bread lessons. And for October -- food, dancing and storytelling at the Teatro de la Luna to recognize Hispanic heritage.
Even though there were no set rules for celebrating each monthly cultural theme, every experience shared was purposeful. For families, opportunities were created; opportunities to honor and make space for the many voices and experiences that make up our school [even if they were different than our own]. For our children, it protected the space that is childhood -- not asking them to shrink or hide who they were at home in an effort to belong at school. Instead, it allowed them to share themselves with pride, while discovering others with joy, wonder and innocence.
That was almost lost days leading up to Friday’s gathering. There were conversations around how to best present the potluck. Should African American History be used to describe it? How would that make people feel? Was it exclusive? Was it “us against them?” What did you say to families who couldn’t relate or identify with the theme? There seemed to be this fear that was neither new nor an anomaly. It seemed to come up whenever something unfamiliar was introduced, challenging how much space we took up and requiring us to move over for one another. Somehow celebrating one felt like erasing all others. That was never the purpose, not for the monthly cultural themes or for any of the other events hosted by SHA. Quite the opposite, in fact.
When SHA’s Executive Committee first came together, everyone was asked what they wanted to accomplish this year. We went around the table, asking each other and the two goals that kept coming up -- 1. To communication better and 2. To include the voices of those who felt unheard. These goals were important to us because they came from larger conversations or experiences that started the year prior. We’d all been touched by families at the school who felt they didn’t see themselves or hadn’t been considered when decisions were made. We’d sat in meetings where families advocated for equity and inclusion and transparency, because diversity wasn’t enough. Those goals were important to us because they directly addressed what families told and showed us they needed. It was our effort of supporting the whole family, the whole child, and the whole community. Every program, event, meeting -- every experience was planned with that in mind. We did it with intentionality and on purpose, as a means of sending a very clear and concise message: you belong here, with us.
Everyday our children go to a school, where they’re gaining a better sense of who they are, who others and, where they all fit into this world. We want them all to hear how valuable they are, not in spite of their differences but because of them. We want them to know that we recognize them --their race, gender identity, family structure, language, food preferences, religious practices, special needs, gifts. We not only recognize them, but we honor them. We also want our families to know the same. If there is any doubt about that or suggestions for better addressing that within our community, we ask that you speak to us. We are here and open to you. We don’t have all the solutions, but we can work together to better address your needs. We encourage you to come to our next SHA community meeting, let’s have open conversation for better serving our whole community. We are still committed to making sure we all are heard.
Join us for our next community meeting on Tuesday, March 13 at 6:15pm.
Until then, continue to take care of yourselves and each other.
SHA COMMUNITY MEETING / Tuesday March 13 / 6:15pm
Location TBD - Childcare will be provided
Please RSVP parent and childcare attendance on Konstella.
BM PCS BOARD MEETING / Thursday, March 15
5-7pm @ Breakthrough
If you would like to RSVP on Konstealla, please do so and the SHA will share RSVP numbers so the board is able to have seating available.