At One Schoolhouse, one of our foundational values is “build for belonging”. We believe that the future of education - and of our world - rests in building equitable and inclusive institutions. We seek out diverse voices, listen intently to each other, and build experiences that honor identity. As an expression of that value, we began to acknowledge heritage months and identity recognitions about 18 months ago as a part of our weekly newsletter. The response was immediate and unanimous–our readers told us they appreciated the new features. As we completed the first annual cycle, we took the opportunity to clarify and iterate our practices. Here are our takeaways:
Our goal is to amplify heritage months and identity recognitions of minoritized groups in the United States.
In our newsletter, this means that we want to reflect the diversity of our readers. To borrow the iconic metaphor of “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” created by Black scholar Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, we strive to offer mirrors of lived experiences for our faculty, staff, and readers through recognition of heritage months and identity-based celebrations. For readers who don’t share those experiences, we want to provide windows for curious and respectful inquiry. And there’s a reason we call this newsletter “Open Doors”: We hope we open the doors of dialogue between Academic Leaders, about both their professional work and aspirations, and the personal experiences that have shaped them.
The history of recognitions and celebrations is different from the history or culture that’s being recognized.
Recognitions and celebrations offer only a partial representation of a culture's history and traditions, and they serve as a reminder that there is much more to learn and explore. It’s all too common for predominantly white institutions to recognize minoritized groups and experiences only in their prescribed months. We wanted to make sure that our acknowledgements didn’t fall into that problematic pattern. That’s why we decided to focus our explorations on the history, resources, and narratives of the recognitions themselves. In exploring the complexity of a recognition or celebration, we can lay the foundations for the complex conversations that identity, justice, and liberation must inspire throughout the year.
We prioritize resources and voices that are created by people of diverse cultures and identities.
When you tell a story, you make two sets of choices: what to include, and what to leave out. Those choices can reify power or subvert it; they can enforce oppression or resist it. Whenever possible, we want the subject of the story to be the teller. To ensure that we bring you resources that are diverse, authentic, and compelling, we aim to read more than we write and listen more than we talk. We are humble in the work of curation, and we know we have much to learn.
We’re learning and growing as we do this work. We’re going to make mistakes, and we’re going to keep striving.
You might have noticed that our format has changed recently. Rather than having observances and recognitions pop up as the days or months approach, we’ve started to have the first newsletter of each month devoted to some of the recognitions and observances the month contains. When we dedicated a whole newsletter each month, we discovered that we gained flexibility and space to include more acknowledgements and expand the resources we can offer. Even in this new model, we know we won’t get everything right. Despite our best efforts, we know we will make mistakes and omissions. (If we do, we hope you’ll let us know!) We’re aiming for excellence, not perfection.
We want to honor joy, resistance and resilience.
In our acknowledgements of heritage months and identity recognitions, we want to respect and reflect communities’ full and rich experiences, which include both struggle and celebration. Culture and identity aren't monolithic; they are layered and multifaceted, intersecting and evolving. One Schoolhouse is a hopeful organization. In honoring these complexities, we hope to empower our staff, our faculty, our students, and our readers to cultivate diversity, equity, inclusion, and to ensure that every person feels seen, heard, and valued in our work.
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)