For two Saturdays in March, I was gifted the opportunity to participate in a discussion with Rochester’s own Dr. Bettina Love, author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. Invited by Kilolo Moyo-White, I engaged in a Parent Leadership Training & Professional Development opportunity hosted by PECAN. The two days spent being led by, listening to, and learning from Dr. Bettina Love was both empowering and humbling. It was a blessing and an honor to be invited.
As a white adoptive mom to a Black child who was born in a different country, it is critically important for me to continuously and relentlessly increase my cultural and racial knowledge and awareness. This is critical for multiple reasons, most importantly – it will help me raise my daughter, Meseret, in a way that fosters her identity and cultivates her spirit. Secondly, it will equip me with the tools needed to take effective, abolitionist action in the pursuit of educational freedom for my daughter and countless other children. The discussion with Dr. Love provided me with tools and strategies for both of these.
While several learning highlights came from these discussions with Dr. Love, here are the three most significant for me.
Actively Striving to Be Antiracist
One of the most significant learning highlights I gained from the time spent with Dr. Love is how crucial, necessary, and urgent it is to be an advocate for equity and be relentlessly antiracist in this equity work. Dr. Love talked about what it means to be a co-conspirator versus an ally. She also used the term, “intersectional justice” several times. Hearing all these terms used together: antiracism, equity, co-conspirator, intersectional justice broadened my racial knowledge and awareness while also shedding light on what I need to learn next.
Tackling the Whole System
A second learning highlight gained from the discussion with Dr. Love is the idea that antiracism and abolitionist work is not about tinkering with the edges of injustice. It is not about reform. It is not about simply reimagining education. It is about, however, going after the entire system: the policies, practices, programs, procedures, and people that perpetuate inequity and oppression. I have heard this over time and am coming to understand it more each day. Dr.Love’s expertise and wisdom helped strengthen my understanding of just how much we need to disrupt the very systems that are deeply rooted in white supremacy.
Spirit-Lifting & Spirit-Cultivating
The third and most significant learning highlight came when Dr. Love, in her March 20 discussion, talked about the idea of ‘Spirit-Lifting’ and ‘Spirit-Cultivating.’ To give this idea context, in chapter 2 of her book, Dr. Love has a section titled, “Spirit-Murdering.” In this section, she states that, “Racism literally murders your spirit.” She also goes on to state, ”Spirit-murder is not only about race and racism; dark people’s other identity categories, such as gender, citizenship, religion, language, class, ethnicity, nationality, and queerness, are additional, distinct factors driving discrimination, bigotry, and violence.” After reading her words and learning about Dr. Love’s own experiences with spirit-murdering, I then listened closely to her talk about the critical importance of ‘Spirit-Lifting’ and ‘Spirit-Cultivating.’ This resonated with me so strongly, as my husband and I intentionally aim to, at every opportunity:
~Cultivate our daughter’s spirit
~Celebrate her Blackness
~Lift up her excellence
~Foster her identity
~Support her joy
The things we do with Meseret, say to her, surround her with, and talk with her about –regularly and with intention– are not simply important, they are critical to countering and undoing the harm done by the spirit-murdering that happens in school specifically, and in society in general. The truths that Dr. Love shared offer immense encouragement and empowerment on this journey of ‘spirit-lifting & spirit-cultivating’ with Meseret.
While the time with Dr. Love has ended, our work as parent leaders has only just begun. I will follow the lead of the abolitionists that surround me today, and I will take more assertive action when I am called to act more directly.
Thank you Dr. Love. Thank you ROC the Future. Thank you PECAN. Thank you Kilolo. Thank you fellow parent leaders. Thank you abolitionists past and present. Thank you Meseret.
Each of you brings new learning and new opportunities to be a better advocate for equity and to be a better mom.