Race is an aspect of our American culture that is often ignored, glossed over or mishandled. Additionally, to succeed in promoting equity, tolerance, and justice, childhood is the time to address these issues by understanding children’s development and encouraging positive feelings about their racial and cultural identity, as well as others’. Working with youth makes it incumbent that educators are prepared to address issues of race whenever they surface such as in history or social studies lessons or when current events brings them forward such as events in our recent history.
Through presentations from researchers in the field, small group discussions, and reflective exercises participants will engage in conversations about race/racism, explore ways to address issues and topics that will meet students where they are in their racial development, and practice techniques for creating safe space for difficult discussions.I walked to and from the museum each day, giving myself time to reflect and think about what I was learning. Even after a long train ride home, and a weekend to further reflect, I still have much to process. I don't think I've ever learned as much at a conference or workshop before this, and after 29 years in education, that's really saying something.
We met in the education classrooms of the museum for our sessions, but we had time each day to wander through the exhibits. Even after 5 days, I didn't get to see everything the museum had to offer.
When you reach the end of this level, you once again walk up a winding ramp, slowly moving out of darkness into the light. This level, A Changing America, covers the years 1968 and beyond.
The upper floors are comprised of an interactive gallery, Community galleries (L3), and Culture galleries (L4).
Being in this place, this space, was so important to understanding issues of race. In the previous years this workshop was taught, participants did not have the benefit of spending their time in the space that is the museum. I am grateful to have had this opportunity as a member of the 4th cohort.
I was struck by so many things while here, but experiencing the history in this way laid a strong foundation for the ideas I had to grapple with during the week. During our time in the exhibit spaces we were encouraged to find artifacts and stories that could serve as entry points into conversations on race. Here are a few that struck me.
Ticket stub for Washington, DC to Montgomery, AL for Selma-Montgomery March.
Denim vest worn by Joan Mulholland during Civil Rights Movement.
Straw hat worn during the 1966 March Against Fear.
Bust of Maggie Walker.
Desks, sign, and wood-burning stove from the Hope School.
Quilt made from suiting samples with embroidered flower details.
Dress designed by Anne Lowe.
Shards of stained glass from the 16th Street Baptist Church.
This is just the beginning of the story of my week. Stay tuned for more. I'll be back tomorrow to flesh out some of the content of the conference.