Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Grand Rapids Public Schools’ commitment to equity and inclusion is stated in the district-wide mission: we aim to “ensure all GRPS students are educated, productive, and self-directed members of society by ensuring access to an equitable education experience that celebrates and capitalizes on the diversity of our students, staff, and community.” GRPS’ Family and Community Engagement (FACE) office is committed to supporting this mission by encouraging our district’s families and community partners to become agents of change. We believe that critical conversations need to happen around race and equity.
October’s issue of Power Parent Magazine encouraged GRPS families to reflect, discuss, and connect around these topics as a community.
Power Parent: October 2020 covers each of the following articles:
- NEED TO DO: Talk it Out contains tips for parents for discussing race and identity with their children.
- Watch our exclusive interview with Superintendent Leadriane Roby in GOOD TO KNOW: GRPS Diversity, Equity & Inclusion with Dr. Roby.
- Discover ways to explore the topic of race with your child through books, apps, games, and more in SETTING GOALS: Exploring Books and Media.
- Under CHECK IT OUT: Resources for Healing, find resources to confront the impacts of racial stress as a parent so that you can be the best caregiver you possibly can.
- Why is casting your ballot so important? Read about the importance of voting in NETWORKING FOR SUCCESS: Make your Voice Heard.
- Under NAVIGATING ACHIEVEMENT: Championing a United Grand Rapids, discover how family volunteerism can lead to community unification.
- Find a calendar of cultural heritage festivities and commemorations in FAMILY CONVERSATIONS: Celebrating Cultural Heritage.
Talk About It
Talking about race and racism can feel uncomfortable, and it can feel tempting to avoid the conversation with your child in favor of simply “leading by example:” showing kindness and empathy to all. However, many families who regularly confront racism do not have the option of whether or not to talk to their children about race. That’s why it is important to bring up the topic with your family in a meaningful way, especially if you benefit from the privilege of not representing a racially or ethnically minoritized group.
Here is an overview of the steps you can take, as a parent, to begin (and maintain) a conversation about race with your child.
Exploring Race and Equity through Books!
As a parent, aim to bring up the topic of race as soon as possible, and set a goal to return to the discussion whenever topics naturally arise. Books and media can be great resources for your family as you explore topics related to race and equity together. Award-winning author/illustrator Eric Velasquez says: “Once children see themselves represented in books, their existence is validated, and they feel that they are part of the world.” This is called representation. This infographic takes a closer look at the importance of representation for children of color.
Representation of Children in Books
Recognizing the importance of representation in media, Common Sense Media compiled a list of books with characters of color to offer role models for children. These books can also encourage readers to explore and appreciate cultures other than their own. Follow this link to browse Common Sense Media’s list of books with diverse characters; the list contains books for children of all ages.
Does your student prefer games over reading? Common Sense Media’s website also has a great article spotlighting apps and games with diverse characters. Check it out here!
“In Chadwick’s portrayal of King T’Challa, I saw myself as a superhero for the very first time,” says Kenisha Alexander. Adults and children alike discovered their inner superhero thanks to Chadwick Boseman and Black Panther. The film represents a breakthrough for many Black Americans who have been largely underrepresented in Hollywood movies.
The images above show two children paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman’s character after he passed away on August 28th, 2020.
Resources for Healing
On August 5th, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared racism a public health crisis in our state. Around the country, millions of families of color are enduring racial trauma, which is harmful to children’s health. Child Trends says that “events that may cause racial trauma include threats of harm and injury, hate speech, humiliating and shaming events, or any other form of individual, historical, or institutional racism.”
The American Psychological Association has dedicated a portion of their website to Racial and Ethnic Socialization (RES), resources intended to “uplift youth through healthy conversation about race.” Their parent tool “Racial Stress and Self-Care” contains valuable information, including:
- The emotional, physical, and spiritual impacts of racism on parents
- Potential reactions to racial stress or trauma
- How to confront the impacts of racial stress as a parent so that you can be the best caregiver you possibly can
To view additional RES resources from the APA, follow this link.
This PDF from the BLM movement represents a comprehensive collection of lessons to empower us toward healing and continued action toward racial justice (click to open PDF):
Your Voice Counts
“The history of voter suppression in the U.S. is really the history of voting rights in the U.S.” Did you know that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee Americans the right to vote? When the founding fathers wrote “We the People,” the individual states were left to decide who “the people” referred to. At first, only white landowning men were given the right to vote, and Jim Crow laws passed in 1877 suppressed the Black vote. The 19th Amendment of 1920 finally give white women the right to vote, but it wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that Jim Crow voting laws in the southern U.S. were eradicated. Unfortunately, the history of voter suppression didn’t end with the Voting Rights Act (Source: Dave Roos, How Voter Suppression Works).
This video gives a great history of voting rights and voter suppression in the United States:
Teaching Tolerance’s Future Voters Project is an initiative that educates students on the history of voter suppression to help them realize the importance of their vote. If you are the parent or caregiver of a student who is approaching age 18, this resource might be valuable for you to explore together as a family. Additionally, the theme for Teaching Tolerance Magazine’s most recent issue is “Democracy in Action.” Follow this link to read the magazine, which shares “stories about fighting youth voter suppression, protecting students from immigrant families through sanctuary schools and districts, countering weaponized whiteness in schools,” and much more.
For parents who want to educate their children on the history of voting in the United States, the book Lillian’s Right to Vote by Shane W. Edwards is a fantastic resource. Below is a recording of this this book being read aloud; the FACE office encourages you read this book with your child, and use this helpful Family Discussion Guide from ADL to continue the conversation as a family!
Toward a United Grand Rapids
There are many benefits to volunteering as a family; not only can you spend quality time together, you as a parent are also demonstrating the power of compassion to your children and leading by example. In addition to strengthening family bonds, volunteerism also strengthens communities. The act of volunteering makes us more aware of the issues faced by our community, allowing us to develop a greater sense of belonging.
The following is a list of ways you and your family can support a more equitable Grand Rapids through volunteerism and good citizenship:
- Volunteer as a family (remotely or in person). As mentioned above, volunteering is a great way for GRPS families to gain pride as a community and demonstrate good citizenship. Volunteers can either give their time remotely or in person (while following safety guidelines). Here are a few opportunities focused to serve our communities most impacted by COVID-19:
- Visit the Heart of West Michigan United Way’s website to view their list of volunteer opportunities in the Grand Rapids area.
- Other great organizations for families to volunteer with include Feeding America West Michigan, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Women at Risk, ACT (Artists Creating Together), and Kids Food Basket; check out the complete list on the GR Kids website.
- Even though we’re currently facilitating learning via distance learning platforms, there are still ways for GRPS parents and caregivers to give their time to their child’s school! Check out this list of awesome ideas recommended by the Family and Community Engagement (FACE) office.
- Buy locally from POC-owned businesses and restaurants. Many businesses and restaurants owned by people of color (POC) have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- To find a list of Black-owned restaurants in Grand Rapids you can support, follow this link (many of these restaurants have pick-up or delivery options; contact the business directly for more information). The Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) website is also a great online resource.
- The West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce website contains a list of their member restaurants and other businesses that are worth checking out.
- The West Michigan Asian American Association’s Business Directory lists businesses and restaurants around the region that you and your family can support.
- Support local Native American-owned businesses! Follow this link to shop Native American-owned artisan products, view art by Jason Quigo, local Native American artist, or have your dinner party/wedding catered by Jiibaakwaan Foods!
Celebrating Cultural Heritage
Although your student(s) celebrate and learn about cultures through our curriculum all year long, having a calendar reminding busy families of heritage observances can be a great way to prioritize cultural exploration for your family. Here is a list of celebrations, holidays, and heritage months you can include on your family calendar:
|January||20: Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
27: Holocaust Remembrance Day
|Black History Month
1: National Freedom Day
12: Chinese New Year, 2021
|Women’s History Month
8: International Women’s Day
March 13- April 15: Deaf History Month
31: International Transgender Day of Visibility
|Celebrate Diversity Month
Autism Awareness Month
2: World Autism Awareness Day
|May||Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Jewish American Heritage Month
|Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month
15: Native American Citizenship Day
19: Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day
|July||26: Disability Independence Day
30: International Day of Friendship
|September||18-20: Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year celebration, 2020
September 15- October 15: Hispanic Heritage Month
|October||12: National Indigenous Peoples Day|
|November||National Native American Heritage Month
27: Native American Heritage Day
|3: International Day of Disabled Persons
10-18: Hanukkah 2020
26-January 1: Kwanzaa