Tracey McKee – April 25, 2023
A couple of weeks ago, I met with Joy Warner, the recently retired director of Community School of Davidson (CSD) in Davidson, NC. I wanted to talk with her about her journey to find an anti race/ism curriculum for CSD. Community School of Davidson is a K-12 public charter school that has been wildly successful; the annual lottery to attend the school attracts thousands of families. An inclusive and personalized learning experience for all students has been a centerpiece of the CSD vision since it opened. Over the past decade, as our country has grappled with the impact of racial injustice, Joy and her administrative team found themselves considering how the school could better prepare staff and students to understand this complex issue.
As a first step, CSD made a commitment in their school improvement plan to broaden the perspectives of students and staff regarding race, class, culture, and more. This led them to review and revise the school curriculum, ensuring it taught accurate and age-appropriate history. They crafted a policy statement detailing the school’s commitment to anti racism. But how did they help staff and students identify, understand, and talk about race/ism in a developmentally appropriate manner? The CSD leadership team wanted to offer its staff and students something more comprehensive.
After looking for some time and not finding the right curriculum/instruction, Joy came upon Dr. Lucretia Berry and Brownicity, and she was sold! I asked her what it was about Brownicity that she found compelling.
“What I love is that Lucretia is, first and foremost, an educator. Good educators know that the best learning and outcomes arise when participants are in a safe learning environment with no judgment or blame and that effective professional development for teachers is not one-and-done. You need time to reflect, process, discuss, and grow. Lucretia innately understands the importance of time in the process of learning.”
A review of Brownicity’s curriculum and discussions with Lucretia assured Joy that the goal for Brownicity is to encourage learning and build community. “I’m aware of DEI [Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion] staff development programs that divide rather than unite, and we absolutely had to have a program that facilitated new learning in the context of our community.” Equally evident, Joy observed that the Brownicity workshops are built on hope, healing, and optimism rather than doom and gloom. “It is vital in this important work that we BELIEVE we can do better and move towards healing and community with one another.” And, finally, she was pleased that attention is given to precise language. “Ensuring that participants operate with a common language is a critical piece of the process. Understanding terms and definitions used to discuss racism is vital in our ability to have meaningful and intentional conversations.”
Community School of Davidson began Brownicity workshops with staff, and Dr. Berry also offered parent sessions within the school community. They received much positive feedback. While all students at CSD are exposed to a history curriculum that is inclusive, accurate, and truthful, student interest brought about an elective course designed and taught by Dr. Berry being offered at the high school level. There have been Hues of You summer camp classes offered at CSD by Dr. Berry and Dr. Glass, as well as developmentally appropriate lessons in all elementary classes. The work being done helps facilitate developmentally appropriate conversations about phenotype (skin color), race, and culture with younger children. Notably, even when there was growing backlash across the country regarding anti race/ism training, CSD’s high school students continued to sign up for Dr. Berry’s elective course; CSD added an additional section to meet demand.
Thinking about her search for a path to examine and learn more about anti race/ism at Community School of Davidson, Joy shared some final thoughts,
“Teaching [about] race/ism is fraught with the potential for misunderstanding, high emotion, and further division. The beautiful ideals on which our country was founded are worthy of the hard work. Examining the hard truths in our history can help us be better prepared in the future as we continuously strive to reach the beautiful ideals of our country.”
It is no small feat to carefully navigate these challenging conversations while attempting to build bridges between people with optimism and hope for the future. This is what Brownicity does. Dr. Lucretia Berry and her team have approached anti race/sim training with the craft of educators. As we wrapped up our conversation, Joy said, “It’s as Maya Angelo would have it; Lucretia and her team help us to know better so that we can do better.”
Thank you to Joy Warner for her time and insights.
Skillfully designed by Lucretia Berry, a professional educator, the Foundations course helps build your understanding, equips you with language and a framework, and grows your capacity to engage in transformative change. The course is offered online, on-demand, and in-person. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to bring Foundations to your organization.