Justice as Praxis in Education (Day 2): Bringing authenticity & ourselves to justice in research & praxis

Light shooting from a central spark

You are a light.

Your story is a gift that we can all learn from.

Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

Today is day 2 of the Justice as Praxis in Education Conference.

We opened by watching Amanda Gorman’s beautiful “The Hill We Climb” and reflecting on her powerful words and what we took from day 1 of the conference and our time together.

We were then led by the amazing and beautiful Drs. Cati de los Rios & Leigh Patel, who spoke to us about Doing Methodological Justice in research. What a joy to watch these powerful women and scholars engaging in conversation about research that is deeply rooted in community, in long-standing work with communities, and in acknowledging that we tell our stories about communities and for particular audiences. It’s an important reminder for those of us who are academics. Are we doing research with and for communities? If so, then highly ranked peer-review journals may not understand the boundaries we push through centering stories and voice and refusing to decontextualize them and take them out of their fullness, richness and communities. But, this doesn’t mean those stories don’t belong in the academy. We can do our work in AND alongside communities. In fact, that is what we are called to do.

I got the privilege to speak as the lunch keynote for this beautiful event. I asked more questions than I gave answers, considering who we are, what our roles are and how we continue to move towards justice as praxis in education. My talk notes are here.  What blessed me most about giving this talk was being in community in a keynote. Was so grateful for those who came out and engaged in thoughtful ways in the talk.

We are closing out through writing out now.

I am reflecting on the blessings of doing this work.

I am reflecting on my light.

My light reflects your light.

Tell your stories, my friends.

Live, write, speak, teach your truth.

Be in community.

And be well.

Justice as Praxis in Education (Day 1): Preparing a Place, Holding Space & Creating Magic from the Margins

purple smoke

I have the privilege of being a part of a small community gathering of educators looking at what justice as praxis in education might look like, feel like, be like? How can we create spaces for theorizing justice & building pedagogies of justice? How can we reclaim justice as a fundamental right? How can we move away from our individual notions of winning and towards a collective healing that can only be realized when basic justice is a reality in education and in the world?

I want to share my privilege with those who may read these words because even in the past 8 hours, I feel an important shift, multiple important reminders of what the work of justice actually looks like, feels like, is, for me. And while there are certainly fundamentals of justice, as the powerful Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings reminded us in today’s open conference keynote, there is also a balance in finding one’s role in the work of justice, one’s place within a greater, beloved community.

The day began with a powerful restorative circle led by Dr. Maisha T. Winn, someone who is dear to me and my heart. Dr. Winn asked us first to consider and share who we are and why we are here in a virtual circle where everyone spoke in turn. These seem like simple questions, but they are profound. They ground my work in justice, in research, in education. She then asked us to consider the idea of pandemic as a portal, from the work of Arundhati Roy. If pandemic is a portal, what are we moving away from? What are we moving towards?

I am moving away from invisibility, fear, obligation, and a need to justify & prove my worth.

I am moving towards freedom, community & generosity.

From that grounding, the power of theorizing justice imperatives from Drs. Grace D. Player & Justin A. Coles. Dr. Player brought us first into a meditation on justice and challenged us (but it was a real challenge for me) to visually do work that heals, bringing creativity & artistic acts as a part of theory making.

people on a hill

Dr. Coles had us consider the outer-spaces and what it would look like to image our communities. What does it look like to radically dream and live abundantly? How do we speak back to a culture where darker people suffer most? How can be create alternative realities? 
My outer-space

Who comes into these spaces with us? Who is excluded from these spaces? What parts of ourselves show up & are held back?

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings was, as I mentioned, the lunch lecture, and everyone should just listen to and bask in her beautiful wisdom and brilliance. I live-tweeted her lecture, but here are some of the parts of her lecture that most profoundly impacted me:

In the afternoon, the second workshop session was led by Drs. Theda Gibbs Grey & Dywanna Smith on promoting pedagogical justice.

I was struck by the way Dr. Gibbs Grey began with the reminder that we are here because of our ancestors, our foremothers, a theme for me. How do we hold space for Black girls, in and beyond classroom spaces? How do we identify and address structures that render Black girls invisible, as pedagogy? Who do we give up on? Allow to fail? Provoke to disengage? And how do we transform this in our teaching and advocacy?

Dr. Smith then began with love letters to those who carried her, leading us through a journey from the damage of ingesting dominant ideologies to claiming the power of her voice. As educators, teacher educators, humans, we must constantly move beyond the damage dominant ideologies create to co-create sanctuary spaces for Black girls like she was, using writing as a tool for catharsis and justice to make magic. What good is gaining tenure if we lose our souls?

Before we broke for reflection, Dr. Gibbs Grey referred to “Stand Up” by Cynthia Erivo and the Biblical line, “I go to prepare a place for you.”

What places are we supporting teachers to create for students? What places do we create for students? How can we enact pedagogies of love that honor the full humanity of students we are blessed to have in our lives?

Stay tuned for what’s next…