Equity & Access Newsletter

Secondary Edition

*The young lady in the middle has her hair processed, which straightens the hair but can also damage it).

What does your hair have to do with your professionalism?

Do you ever worry about your natural hair affecting your career aspirations? Hairstyle can be a struggle for some African American people. Should they go "natural" with their hair or get it processed and straightened? Why is this a big deal? We're just talking about hair right? African Americans who may want to wear their hair in a natural state, may have to choose between career and identity.

Many definitions exist that define the differences with "natural hair." I will try to define this in the simplest terms; "the make-up of how your hair is supposed to behave from its original state without adding chemicals that may damage the hair or scalp."

For some, they feel as though they have to give up part of their identity to be taken seriously in their profession. Straightening their hair is considered eurocentric, and I must do this to be accepted by white society to progress. Some people view the natural look as unkempt and unclean, which means it's not appropriate in the workplace (in the minds of some).

Think about the people of color you see on television and if you can tell if they're going natural or if their hair is straight?

The video below shares how the issue of natural hair and working in media as a profession.

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Equity Champion Perspective

Each month we try to share a perspective from one of our equity champions. This month, Sean Nevills at Central High School reminds us that Colin Kaepernick is not the first athlete to use his celebrity to heighten the awareness of social justice issues. A little over fifty years ago during the Mexico City Olympics, two Americans brought international attention to their cause.

Sports Activism

By Sean Nevills, Head Football Coach at Central High School, Equity Champion

Many athletes of color have used their platform to express social injustices crippling our society. The captivating story of Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the National Anthem at a National Football League game to raise awareness of law enforcement reform continues to be a recurring topic in the sports and political landscape, even over two years later. However, before Colin Kaepernick, the Olympic duo of Tommie Smith and John Carlos rocked the sports and political world over 50 years ago with their gesture of social and sports activism.

On October 16, 1968, Tommie Smith and John Carlos made their stance on the world’s largest sports stage as they were honored and received medals in their respective track event at the 1968 summer Olympic games in Mexico City. In the historic image, Smith (middle) and Carlos (right) are shown raising a gloved fist. Their gesture was in response to the racial inequalities hampering their generation and to promote dignity amongst African-Americans.

Though, as in the case of Colin Kaepernick, Smith and Carlos’s call to action faced harsh criticism and scrutiny. Smith and Carlos struggled to regain prominence as elite athletes following the event, and their athletic careers quietly came to an end. Tommie Smith went on to be an instructor at a California community college. John Carlos’s post-athletic career rèsumè includes representing an athletic design company and coaching high school track.

The brave gestures of athletes like Tommie Smith, John Carlos, and Colin Kaepernick remind us that sports icons are in a unique position to use their platform to empower their communities and raise awareness to causes that afflict them.

For more information on the story, read “Fist to Knee” by Jarett Bell from The Crisis Magazine.

Fist to Knee (article)

Image provided by The Washington Post

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What's In Your Toolbox?

How to Start and Grow Your GSA

All of our high schools and several of our middle schools have a GSA (Gay-Straight-Alliance). These groups exist to support students who may identify as LGBTQ or may want to be an ally. Regardless if your GSA is just getting started or has been in existence for years, there are always ways to make your GSA function better and promote inclusive spaces for LGBTQ students and all students at schools.

GSLEN has provided an eight-part series on how to enhance your GSA with students and staff at your school. If you're interested in providing a training for your staff please check with your site leader and our office to plan and schedule a session. GLSEN Springfield also provides professional development as well. Please contact me if you have any questions.

The GLSEN Jump-Start Guides (8-part series)

Empathy vs. Sympathy? Which Are We Using to Support Learners?

We all have various identities that we display for others (voluntarily and involuntarily). As educators, we have expectations for students, especially when we know they have the ability or potential to do or excel at the lesson/project.

Sometimes sympathy can get in the way of us seeing a student as they would like to be seen. Sympathy can cause us to increase our level of pity and their ability to perform at a higher level. Feeling sorry for that student is not going to help us move them emotionally or academically. Pity can also communicate that we are superior, putting us in “savior mode.”

Empathy allows us to see and feel what someone may be going through, providing a clearer picture of the student. We can find out more about the student’s identities which may lead us to see them as they may want to be seen. Empathy allows us the opportunity to walk along with someone to support them. As we walk along with someone, we gain an opportunity to build a stronger connection with them and develop a meaningful relationship.

Even though sympathy lets the student know you care, it doesn’t help them build their emotional intelligence and resiliency as empathy does.

Click the video below by Brene’ Brown which discusses the differences between empathy and sympathy and the impact of both.

Women Voices - Hear them Roar

If you've read any of my previous newsletters, I'm always preaching to you about doing "of the month" types of lessons and activities. The reason I discourage that approach because sometimes those are the only times peoples within those groups get represented or acknowledged in positive ways.

It's important for young girls to see women who inspire and in strong positions. But it's just as important for our boys to see that image as well. Even though March is Women's History Month, I would encourage you to use this month as a highlight and not the finale.

Explore these various books that highlight women in positive ways.

Various diverse books that represent women and girls (grades K - 8).

Upcoming Events

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