Posted 2020-06-16

Racial Equity in Self-Directed Education

When we say we’re about liberation, empowerment, and raising free people through Self-Directed Education, we commit to creating a world where this is possible for all people. To advocate for Self-Directed Education is to advocate for the self-directed learner in everyone to be nurtured, protected, and supported along their path. Where institutions, individuals, and norms threaten access to such a future for any of us, we have a duty to act, to insist a better world is possible. In the US, it seems many are just now realizing what some of us have long known: this means we have a duty to act in defense of Black lives and Black futures.

Part of doing this work in Self-Directed Education is listening to and celebrating the work of Black voices in SDE. Part of this work is to learn more, from the Black people directly experiencing SDE, unschooling, centers, and communities, about what we can do to better support racial equity within Self-Directed Education in our communities, our centers, and our world.

This newsletter highlights some of the amazing Black women in Self-Directed Education, with links to their recent projects you can visit, revisit, and support.

Ours First by Dr. Kelly Limes-Taylor is a great place to start to explore the origins of SDE as a deeply indigenous practice. For the times you need a reminder that stories painting SDE as a movement by and for white people misrepresent the history of our movement, this piece is important to keep close at hand to return to. Also take a look at Kelly’s blog, Our Contingence, which focuses on exploring the intersection of schooling and marginalization.

Crystal Byrd Farmer, founder and facilitator at Gastonia Freedom School, an ALC focused on serving kids with disabilities in Gastonia, NC, has written and published, “The Token: A Common Sense Guide for Increasing Diversity in Your Organization.” In Crystal’s own words: “As a queer Black organizer, I’ve been asked many times, ‘How do I get more diversity in my group?’ Written with a candid and concise voice, The Token describes the experiences of marginalized people in community — people of color, LGBTQ+, disabled, lower income, and others — and explains why they avoid organizations led by people with privilege. I use insightful anecdotes to describe common mistakes made by leaders and the steps to create truly inclusive organizations.” You can preorder the book here.

She Said We Shed is a podcast by Aja Marie about healing black mama trauma. “Created by Aja, and produced by Raising Free People Network, She Said We Shed is a reclamation project for defining a motherhood that acknowledges and helps us heal from the unresolved trauma-induced parenting practices among Black mothers. Aja is raising her Black son while healing from the trauma of being raised by a woman who didn’t heal from whatever harmed her. Black mama trauma is the topic, and honest, love-centered, reclamation and healing are the intention.”

Maleka Diggs, founder of Eclectic Learning Network and co-host of the IOTA podcast with her daughter, finished up her three part series of webinars to support parents during and beyond these difficult times. You can see all three parts here.

You likely already know about Akilah S. Richard’s incredible podcast and network; we’re now also looking forward to her book, Raising Free People: Unschooling as Liberation and Healing Work, which is available for preorder! The site shows a release date in October, but that date has been pushed up and it should be shipping out this August.

”No one is immune to the byproducts of compulsory schooling and standardized testing. And while reform may be a worthy cause for some, it is not enough for countless others still trying to navigate the tyranny of what schooling has always been. Raising Free People argues that we need to build and work within systems truly designed for any human to learn, grow, socialize, and thrive, regardless of age, ability, background, or access to money.” –Akilah S. Richards

In 2019, Heartwood ALC hosted their annual social justice conference, the Liberation & Education Summit, which included a panel about racial equity in Self-Directed Education. Here is a transcript from that event. They cover a huge range of issues that are imperative when thinking about and acting on racial equity in Self-Directed Education.

“How can we create a space where Black children have the opportunity to be free – so that we can model Black freedom. We can model Black liberation in our space, and if we can do that then we have a template. We have some direction for us to follow, some things that we had not contemplated in our battles that we can start moving through in our work– so that we can actually have it for all of us. That for me is what is revolutionary – [it] is that when my kids are in a space where oppression is happening, they can recognize it because they know what it means to feel free.” –Tamika Middleton

Bria Bloom, ASDE Executive Director

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