KANSAS CITY, Mo. — How we handle the next few weeks and months will set the tone for the takeaway from George Floyd’s killing.
For many teachers and parents, there’s a big focus on educating the next generation.
Saint Teresa’s Academy has a staff member dedicated to teaching diversity and inclusion, and the school’s president said the role will now be elevated.
Students aren’t attending classes right now, but educators are staying occupied during the summer break.
“Over the summer there’s a lot of planning that goes into what will we do next school year? What will we talk about?” Brianna Walker said.
She said recent news is “the perfect storm to add just what we needed for the next school year. It will help us in taking our teachers and taking our staff members and our students and parents out of their comfort zones.”
Walker teaches diversity and inclusion to staff, students and families. After George Floyd was killed, she told the Saint Teresa’s family it was hard to focus at work.
“I was very transparent in that email, saying it’s been hard for me to work, you know, because there’s a lot of mental things that go into everything that was happening that week,” she said.
It’s been an emotional time for so many, and Walker is using those feelings to really dig into the purpose of her role.
“My job is not to direct,” she said. “My job is to inform and to advocate, ‘These are different possibilities. These are different situations that you may encounter. Here are some possible solutions or ways that you can then talk about it or work through that.’ Not to direct and say, ‘This is the way you need to do it,’ because it’s all circumstantial.”
Education was the main mission Monday for a group of parents in Johnson County. Dozens stood at Mission Road and 98th Terrace, kids and parents rallying together.
Leslie Boe helped organize the event with her son and other parents in the area.
“It’s never too early to start talking about racism and what it does to community and to people,” she said. “I think it’s just a constant quest to look for opportunities to educate yourself and show your support for people of color.”
Boe also understands her role as a mother and said she’s encouraged her son to come to her with anything that seems confusing.
“Kids are always watching and learning, and so from the youngest age, they’re taking things in and absorbing things,” Boe said. “It’s OK to ask weird questions and hard questions and that even if mom doesn’t know the answer, we’ll try to find an answer together.”
Walker agreed adults can’t let fear stand in the way of having conversations that may seem uncomfortable.
“They notice the difference, and they’re not scared to say it’s different. I think we can’t be scared when they bring it to us as adults, and as the people that they look up to, we can’t be scared,” Walker said.
She’s encouraging families to have discussions about race.
“I want them to make sure that they are comfortable to come and talk to me about those things, to ask those questions,” Walker said. “That’s first and foremost, the foundation, the conversation; that’s what starts the education. Whether they have us looked up to or not, we have something to learn, but we also have something to give to them as young people. We have to utilize that.”
FOX4 also spoke with Dr. Siabahn May-Washington, president of St. Teresa’s Academy.
“I know it’s a very challenging trying time that’s happening right now, but it’s a great catalyst for change,” she said.
Want some help talking with your kids about race, racism and the recent protests? CNN recently partnered with “Sesame Street” for a town hall. Rewatch it here.
Walker also provided the following reading list suggestions:
- Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice (Paperback) by Paul Kivel
- Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk
- On Being Included by Sarah Ahmed
- Race Talk and The Conspiracy of Silence: Understanding and Facilitating Difficult Dialogues by Derald Wing Sue
- Kansas City Public Library staff-created resource list