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Addressing Racism and Social Injustice

Resurfacing the lessons of Ferguson, which continue to resonate today

In a 2015 convening, the Harvard Graduate School of Education asked, “What strategies can educators use to promote justice, fairness, tolerance, and genuine communication in our schools and society?” The discussion came eight months after Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black male, was killed by a white police office in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking a campaign to confront racism and police violence. The conversation was moderated by Professor Paul Reville, director of the Education Redesign Lab, with panelists Tiffany Anderson, then the superintendent of the Jennings School District in Missouri; Tracey Benson, Ed.L.D.’16, now an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte; Ni’Cole Gipson, parent and social media activist; and Valeria Silva, former superintendent of St. Paul (Minnesota) Public Schools — all of whom offered insights on issues of race, inequality, and justice that resonate strongly today, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

Here are a few highlights from that discussion.

How Tiffany Anderson amplified student voice to make a difference

The Jennings District is directly outside of Ferguson. In the days following the murder of Michael Brown, Anderson found a way to bring her students together and provided them with the resources they needed to advocate for themselves and their communities. Here, she talks about that experience.

Tracey Benson on why schools are uniquely positioned to effect change and start the conversation

Schools play a role in perpetuating systemic racism and inequality. Benson explains why schools also may have the power to disrupt that very system.  

Ni’Cole Gipson on why schools need to partner with families and communities to promote justice

Gipson and other parents worked to create safe and loving spaces for Ferguson’s students. Here, she talks about her experience as a parent and the ways in which schools might better support the conversations she, as a black woman in America, needs to have with her son.

Valeria Silva on the work school personnel and leadership must do to pave the way for discussion

Racism often goes unnoticed because it’s engrained in the system of schooling. Silva talks about the work teachers and school leaders must do to be consciously anti-racist and uproot discriminatory practices.

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