Equity Diversity & Inclusion

Bellingham Public Schools, May 2021

Summer is so close, BPS! In May’s EDI newsletter we share: some of May’s heritage and identity months, including Asian and Pacific Islander and National Mental Health Month; quick EDI reflections from BPS staff and guests, May cultural observance, and learning resources for the home and the classroom.

So much to unpack and learn about in the month of May, let's do it!

Peony pink flowers frame a white journal that reads in plain letters "May"
We highlight heritage and identity months in Bellingham Public Schools to recognize contributions of various groups in the United States, many who remain underrepresented in education. We honor and acknowledge diversity allowing us to explore the origins of heritage and identity.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

National Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month celebrates Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. May was chosen to commemorate the Chinese immigrants who completed the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869 and the first Japanese immigrants to the United States in May 1843.

Bring Asian and Pacific Islander heritage into conversations this month. Watch We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate - this film was introduced to us by the Diversity in Action club at Sehome High School, followed by a courageous conversation with student leaders. Review our blog post on anti-Asian violence and visit our references.

Join us on May 26 for an Asian Pacific American Panel to talk about heritage, history, and healing. Please check the EDI calendar for updates.

Mental Health Awareness Month

May is a time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and help reduce the stigma that so many experience. May has been dedicated as Mental Health Month since 1949. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has concluded that 20.6% of U.S. adults (51.5 million people) experienced mental illness in 2019, but only 43.8% of them received treatment. In comparison 16.5% of U.S. youth aged 6–17 (7.7 million people) experienced a mental health disorder in 2016, but only 50.6% of them received treatment.

Bring mental health into your conversations today. Here are some tools to support you:

Jewish American Heritage Month

The Month of May is dedicated to Jewish American History Month officially recognized in 2006 by President George W. Bush. The month of May provides a platform to recognize Jewish American Culture since they first arrived in New Amsterdam (Manhattan Island) in 1654. “For more than 360 years, American Jews have always risen to contribute to society and culture, including science, medicine, sports, business, civil rights, government, and military service,” said NMAJH (National Museum of American Jewish History) CEO, Dr. Misha Galperin. “We’re working to raise awareness about those contributions and to stem the roots of antisemitism by bringing stories of American Jewish experience to life.”

Large purple flowers are on top of a cutting board along with candles, in the top left part of this photo. the wooden background showcases the words "monthly minute" in the bottom left

BPS staff share about 60 seconds personal reflections on the ever-changing world.

Naomi, she/her/hers | EDI Intern

It's crazy how fast the past few months have flown and now we're into May! I find myself eager to try and resume life as normal now that a good deal of my friends and family have become vaccinated and warmer months are ahead. However, with that comes such an odd feeling about "returning to normal." I experienced the Skagit Valley Tulip fields and it was so bizarre and surreal to see so many people in one place visiting the flowers. Then I think about all the individuals who might see something like the Tulip Festival as something socially irresponsible and then anxiety brews. The line between doing things normally and being cautious is extremely thin. One thing we can all agree on is we can't wait until its over!

Tyler Dockins, he/him/his | Kulshan Middle School Instructional Coach

Like many families, the pandemic has given my family some time to watch a few movies together. As my family dived deep into the Disney+ catalog, I stumbled upon some old-school classics from my days as a kid with my son. One of those movies was Peter Pan, a title that now carries a disclaimer. I applaud Disney’s approach in addressing how indigenous folks were portrayed in the movie, stating clearly it’s not okay now and was not okay then. Reflecting on it, I wondered if my 5 year-old son could have the conversation about race and talk with me about those representations in the movie and why they are not okay. Was I making a mistake as a parent introducing these ideas to a kid at 5 years old? Should I not show him the movie so he isn’t introduced to those images? Parenting, like teaching, is hard. I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I decided to go for it, we would watch the movie together and talk about those moments and why they were wrong. After all, we’re talkers in my family. We will take the time to have the conversation and work it out. At the time we watched the movie, I thought I wouldn’t go much deeper than “it was wrong”, because ya know, he’s five years old. Then days later, he said “I’ve been thinking about that movie and I thought it’s not fair that Captain Hook said those bad words about the native Americans, I think they should be able to decide what they want to be called. It’s their choice.” In that moment, I thought “dang, kids are amazing. I can expect more from them if I give them some space and some time to think about tough questions.” A lot of aspects of parenting crossover to teaching, and I’ve been left wondering a lot more: What conversations should I have with my kids (both at home and in school) that I’m not having? What is the impact of lowering my expectations of what kids can do? How often am I asking them to consider voices that are left out?

White flowers are at the top of this photo with a white box at the bottom so the words "Important Cultural Observances May 2021" is shown easily

May 3: The Constitution of Japan

We celebrate Kenpō Kinenbi or Japan’s Constitution Day on May 3. This celebration dates back to 1947 after the second world war. This day highlights Japan’s turn to democracy with three pillars representing this newfound freedom and constitution. The pillars are the sovereignty of the people, respect for fundamental human rights, and pacifism. This day falls during a collection of holidays known as Golden Week in Japanese cultures.

May 5: Cinco De Mayo

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Battle of Puebla led by Texas-born General Ignacio Zaragoza, who led a town of indigenous Mexicans to victory over French General Charles Latrille de Lorencez.

Henry Ford College describes the different ways we celebrate May 5 and how it compares to Mexican culture, “American celebrations of Cinco de Mayo feature parades and parties including Mariachi bands, Mexican folk music, dancing, Mexican and Mexican-American cuisine, etc. While interesting enough in Mexico, celebrations of Cinco de Mayo take place primarily in the state of Puebla, where the 1862 battle occurred.”

May 5: National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls

Hanna Harris was a 21-year-old member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe, who went missing in July 2013. Hanna's birthday was May 5 and the tragedy of her disappearance sparked the Montana Congressional Delegation to lead the way for passage of a Senate resolution declaring May 5 as a National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls.

Data from the U.S Department of Justice indicated that Native women face murder rates that are ten times the national rate. Senator Tom Udall spoke on these depressing statistics “The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis is appalling and demands the attention of the federal government and our nation—especially now in light of reports of domestic violence increases caused by the coronavirus pandemic".

The REDress Project is a platform to highlight the missing women and girls and was created by Jamie Black. Black creates installations using these Red dresses to raise awareness about this cause. In an interview with American Indian Magazine Black stated that "she uses red dresses because “red is very sacred and powerful. It relates to our lifeblood and that connection between all of us.”

We can all learn more:

May 4: Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking)

This event is celebrated in the Netherlands to acknowledge and pay tribute to those who passed away during WWII, they pay tribute with two minutes of silence throughout the region. Flags are lowered to half-mast but then raised in time for Liberation Day or in Dutch ‘Bevrijdingsdag’ occurring the next day on May 5. Remembrance Day is commemorated every five years in Dutch cultures celebrating freedom and the end of World War II for the Netherlands.

Fun Fact: according to the Kingdom of the Netherlands website “Following the end of the Second World War in 1945, when Canada had liberated the Netherlands, Princess Juliana presented Canada with 100,000 tulip bulbs as a gesture of gratitude. Since then, the tulip has become a symbol to represent the friendship between the Netherlands and Canada.”

May 9: Isra and Mi’raj

A Muslim philosopher named Syed Abul A'la Maududi was an Islamic philosopher who explains Isra and Miraj as the two parts of a miraculous journey that the prophet Muhammad took. Isra is an Arabic word that describes the site of Surah-Al-Israa in Jerusalem where the Prophet Muhammad then went to Mi’raj or his ascension into heaven. This journey is best described as a physical and spiritual journey and marks a significant event in Muslim faiths.

May 22: Harvey Milk Day

Harvey Milk was a human rights leader in the United States, winning a seat in the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He advocated for a wide range of human rights and environmental protections. As an openly gay leader, he helped pass a gay rights ordinance for the city of San Francisco that prohibited anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment. He is remembered for his work on equality.

“All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.” - Harvey Milk

How do we bring Harvey Milk's legacy into our conversations?

May 31: Memorial Day

On this day we take the time to observe and honor the individuals who died for the United States of America by their service in the US Armed Forces. This event dates back to the Civil War in 1868.

"May we never forget freedom isn't free." - Unknown

our learning community

Living Room Conversations: Hope

Living Room Conversations brings us, families and educators, and structure to open dialogue about diverse topics. Inviting dialogue promotes engagement and increased respect and empathy across identities.

In this highlight, Living Room Conversations offers a conversation guide on hope: "Instead of resigning ourselves to our current situations, we can dream and build new possibilities. This is hope in action. In this way, hope is an energy source that resides in each of us. It is a type of knowing beyond the five senses of touch, smell, sight, hearing, and taste. When we hold hope in our hearts and minds–when we hold the vision or dream of something new, better and more life-giving–we are compelled to move toward it. We have a choice: to keep hope alive or to give in to doubt and let hope fade away, calling it a waste of time, useless daydreaming and overly optimistic thinking."

The conversation guide includes introductions, agreements, and 3 rounds of questions for the home or the classroom.

Titus Kaphar: Can art amend history?

In this TED talk, artist Titus Kaphar asks if there's a way to amend historical sculptures, not erase them, but amend them. Watch Titus in a live showcase of art, composition, and history.

A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction

A Pathway to Equitable Math Instruction is an "integrated approach to mathematics that centers Black, Latinx, and Multilingual students in grades 6-8, addresses barriers to math equity, and aligns instruction to grade-level priority standards."

The math equity toolkit offers educators resources for diversifying curriculum in the areas of math and logical thinking.

More training and workshops are available on the EDI calendar, including:

Wayfinding in the Pasifika | May 12: Join Samoan storytelle, Kiana Fuega, to learn about the amazing technologies used in Oceania cultures to navigate vast bodies of water. Hosted by the Burke Museum.

Harriet Tubman & Maryland's Underground Railroad Livestream Tour | May 16: This is a livestream version of the full-day tour, highlighting Harriet Tubman's life and features sites in Maryland associated with her.

Please check out the EDI calendar for more information and events to increase our collective understanding and enhance our community relationships.

Partnering with families, Bellingham Public Schools will develop a space for sharing and celebration. Families are invited to submit suggestions, videos, photos, and descriptions of celebrations and stories to janis.velasquezfarmer@bellinghamschools.org. Check the EDI blog for community responses.

Each month, we will highlight nationally recognized heritage months and other days of identity, celebration, and remembrance with narratives, links to local events, good reads, exhibits and more.

Policies and practices

Depending on the holiday, family traditions and beliefs, some students or staff may miss school or class to observe a holiday. Please refence Policy 3122 and Policy 5409.

  • Holidays may have an element of fasting and/or late-night events. We ask staff to make reasonable accommodations to support staff and colleagues.
  • We also ask staff and PTAs, including coaches/advisors to try to avoid high holidays for events and exams, whenever possible, in accordance with 2340P.
The Bellingham Public School Logo in red and blue, a family is to the left in red and blue