Both public and private schools, composed of a primarily white and educated workforce, play a critical role in standing against racism and injustices.
“In my own experience, many educators are comfortable being looked at as curators of culture in their institutions and intellectuals who drive initiatives toward diversity,” shares Rafael Eaton, head librarian. “But they don’t see themselves tackling the systemic troubles that roil beneath the institution’s facade.”
In summer 2020, LJCDS began a number of initiatives to kick-start formal conversations around race and to discover each individual’s stance on the subject. The faculty and staff leaned into learning or unlearning assumptions about systemic racism.
A voluntary group of faculty, staff and administrators underwent the Justice in June curriculum—an online learning plan that provides a starting place for individuals seeking to become better allies. For 10, 25 or 45 minutes a day, for one month, individuals committed to reviewing and studying curated materials. Group Zoom meetings led by Eaton served as an opportunity for individuals to begin to interrogate their roles in society and process their new (and uncomfortable) awareness about the reality of Black experiences in our nation.
To continue the school’s commitment to building a more diverse, equitable and inclusive community, LJCDS selected How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi, for the all-school faculty/staff summer reading. Throughout fall and winter 2020, employees across all departments and divisions participated in guided bimonthly discussions in small groups to reflect on Kendi’s perspective of race. Topics included biological racism/antiracism, cultural racism/antiracism, ethnic racism/antiracism, bodily racism/antiracism, powerless defense and capitalism’s role in perpetuating racism.
Kendi’s book serves as an introduction to key concepts to unite the community with a common language. This powerful first step allowed faculty and staff to lean into difficult conversations, embrace diversity and create a sense of inclusion and belonging in the community.
“Education is a part of it, but not the cure, and this is why we have chosen to focus on education with our leadership, faculty and staff first,” shares Eaton. “We are the ones who can institute change at a policy level. Our accountability practice is a long overdue step on the way to this overhaul of a preexisting structure, and one that we are excited (and, of course, a mite nervous) to begin.”
2020–2021 Speaker Series Guests And Professional Development
Carol Wells – Activists, Artists & Sisters
Founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Political Graphics
Janice Rhoshalle-Littlejohn – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: A Moral Reckoning
Author, journalist and associate director for the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities at the University of Southern California
Lynne Thompson – Finding Your Particular Voice: Resistance, Persistence and Anti-Racism
Author, poet and former director of the Employee and Labor Relations Center at the University of California, Los Angeles
Natalie Gillard – Factuality, the Game
Creator and facilitator of an interactive experience that simulates structural inequality in America from the vantage point of someone with a different identity/background than their own
Jody David – Armour Race, Rap, and Redemption
Roy P. Crocker Professor of Law at the University of Southern California