Report on Day of Dialogue on Race & Education Community Forum 9:00am - 2:00pm Friday November 13, 2020
On November 13th, over 200 students, educators, and community leaders came together to participate in a day-long dialogue on race in education in East Baton Rouge Parish. The day included panels, small group dialogues, and workshops, all focused on the critical intersection of race and education with an emphasis on the root causes of racial disparities in education in the context of our local schools.
Many participants commented throughout the day that a wider audience would benefit from the historical and social analysis taking place, especially school board members, the incoming superintendent, and anyone in an educational leadership position in our community. As part of the day’s call to action, we ask that this report and the embedded videos be forwarded widely throughout our community, especially among school leaders and decision-makers.
The lunch panel featured Dr. Lisa Delpit, Dr. Press Robinson, and Dr. Jose Aviles. Dr. Press Robinson, the first Black school board member in EBRPSS, spoke to the process by which efforts to integrate Baton Rouge’s public schools in the 1980’s were undermined by mass divestment from public schools and policies that ultimately worsened conditions for Black students. Dr. Robinson argued that “the detrimental effects of desegregation are playing out today, and the effects are becoming more and more pronounced.”
Dr. Delpit spoke to what she calls the “smog of racism” in educational institutions. She explained, “Students internalize the smog of racism and question their own abilities. We must see our children as the brilliant beings they are with the history of brilliance they bring to our classrooms. And we have to gain the knowledge to be able to set the stage for the flowering of that brilliance by allowing them and us to see clearly what the smog of racism has been hiding.”
Dr. Aviles emphasized the role of belonging & inclusion to combat the ill effects of systemic racism, emphasizing how programs like the Pre-Scholars Academy at LSU are creating communities of belonging & inclusion, proving that students who have traditionally been denied access to college can become the school’s greatest assets, even outperforming other students, when they are adequately supported. He urged people to take action in their own sphere of influence, urging participants, “If we all do our part and get out of our comfort zone, we’re going to change the world.”
See the video of the lunch panel below.
These morning and afternoon sessions further set the stage for dynamic conversations:
In the closing plenary, participants were asked to share their vision for education in EBR. Participants called for changes , including:
“A reinvestment in public schools that centers the leadership of Black and brown communities”
“Policies [that] focus on equity and restorative practices within the educational system”
“A lot more truth telling like we had today. If we can't diagnose the problem, we can't get to the real solution”
“Hire a local leader as superintendent and work to improve all schools in the parish, and not just the magnet schools.”
In summary, the day brought together community stakeholders for engaging and insightful conversations. Please join us in spreading the word so that more stakeholders in our community can gain the historical information and analysis that carried the day.
The event was co-sponsored by Dialogue on Race Louisiana, Humanities Amped, and Serve Louisiana.
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