Thursday, July 9, 2015

ALERT: I'm moving! New postings are at

Thank you for visiting! I have moved (upgraded)! All new and old blog posts are now available at, my new website. I will no longer post to this site. Please visit, subscribe to my email list (if desired) to receive alerts and updates, and click on the "blog" tab to see blog posts starting July 2015. I hope to stay in touch!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Baby Steps into Activism: A Time Sensitive Call to Action

Becoming politically active is not unlike choosing to walk across a mine field. It takes years to figure out how to avoid making regular missteps. And yet, taking action that sparks controversy and upset is bound to happen. No doubt about it, it’s painful to find out that regardless of your best intentions, people you care about think you made an error.

Navigating challenging feedback is tough, especially when there has been a serious attempt to outreach to a diverse set of people before taking action.  What do you do when two of your closest advisers give you different advice? When it comes to issues of race, as a white person, I have frequently felt challenged when two politically-minded friends of color have expressed totally opposite viewpoints and suggestions.

One of my closest friends recently faced this challenge. He’s a white rapper invested in social justice. He just released a song called Listen, and it highlights the receipt of military-grade weapons by a local school district. It’s a good song, and it’s an amazing first step into political activism.

And, it’s not a perfect effort (from an activist's standpoint). There’s a particular phrase that sets things up a bit too much as him being a “protector” for students of color. Since my friend is a white guy, this easily calls to mind the “white savior” idea. We’ve talked about this, and he’s been receptive to feedback.

This one point of feedback, however, should not detract him from forward movement. A large number of people of color in his life are saying: “Yes, you have to do this. Yes, this is a great song. Yes, this is useful. Yes, we are behind you.” A diverse, creative, well-connected set of people have also come together to help produce a video for the song that should help it reach a wider audience and support action steps

But, even with these folks working for free…there is money to be raised to help make the video shoot happen. This is where seasoned activists and caring individuals come in. If you want to help support a budding activist in walking this path, please take a few minutes and contribute even a little to his Kickstarter campaign.

If we can get a bunch of people to contribute even $5 or $10 each, we can demonstrate that taking a risk to put yourself on the line, in the path of critique, is worthwhile. This is a great way to help me send the message to my friend he should continue down this challenging road of learning how to walk the activists’ path.

Please donate whatever you can and share with others who recognize the need to support an emerging activist and all those rallying behind him.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Are We Teachers or Security Guards?

Should a teacher be fired for refusing to search students?

My AWARE-LA colleague, Vitaly, has just written an article explaining how he is being threatened with termination as a Los Angeles Unified School District teacher for refusing to use a metal detector to randomly search his students. Although the policy itself is alarming and implemented unjustly in many schools, this particular situation needs attention because this 21-year veteran educator has created a vibrant, trusting environment for students living in a housing project, a continuation school for students who have been kicked out of traditional schools. These students, attending class in a one-room schoolhouse in the projects with their sole teacher, are inspired to learn and dedicated to the restorative justice and critical pedagogy (a la Freire) this teacher brings to the school.

Vitaly and his students have created one of the most inspiring classrooms I have ever witnessed, and it is likely to be destroyed without outside support and pressure on district officials. Please take a look at the article Vitaly just wrote for the school district's union newspaper about the situation, Are We Teachers or Security Guards?, (article is on page 9 and continues on page 15). It documents research indicating that random searchers have been shown to be destructive and undermine the basic intent, to create safe schools. Please share this post with others to raise awareness about this situation.


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Unmasking Whiteness Institute 2015 - Space Available!

AWARE-LA will offer its 7th annual workshop series on building white anti-racist practice and community in an intensive 4-day institute designed specifically for white people from Thursday, July 23rd through Sunday, July 26th, 2015. The event will take place on the downtown Los Angeles, Mount Saint Mary's University, Doheny campus.

We limit this group to approximately 25 participants. At this time, there is space available. Last year we began a waiting list by mid-May. This year, spots appear to be filling up more quickly.

The cost for attendance is only $200 (before April 1st) and $225 (beginning April 1st) in order to ensure its accessibility to grass roots organizers, students, and those without institutional funding. A limited number of partial scholarships are available (see our info sheet for details via the website link below). We are sorry that we cannot help support housing needs for out-of-town folks. But, we recommend reaching out via your networks for space sharing options in the city.

In case you've never heard of us, this series invites white people to deepen their self-awareness and build community with other white people taking up work for racial justice. Through personal reflection, small and large group dialogue, and experiential activities, this institute invites the exploration of subjects such as:
  • The meaning of whiteness
  • White privilege and multiple identities
  • How to resolve guilt and shame
  • Institutional racism
  • Development of an anti-racist practice and identity
Please visit the main page to download the information sheet, flyer, and registration form. Contact information for more information is on the flyer.

You can also visit the AWARE-LA home page and search under the "projects" tab.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Multicultural Teaching Institute 2015

Last June, the first (what I hope will be annual) Multicultural Teaching Institute offered me tremendous insight into how teachers at the early grades need to be aware of issues affecting transgendered students. I had no idea! So much great collaborative learning took place, it was really inspiring. This upcoming June 2015 I will be a part of this conference again, and I'm truly looking forward to learning from the other presenters. Take a look at the Institute's website to learn more. Registration is now open. I hope to meet you there.

A hands-on, collaborative conference to provide real-world tools in multicultural teaching for teachers of pre-k through grade 12.

Teachers will:
  • engage in creating multicultural lessons and teaching practices
  • develop a deeper understanding of personal limitations and blind spots in teaching
  • expand ability to critically evaluate self and practices within the classroom
  • reflect on personal experience and implicit biases