“Start with yourself, but don’t stay there and don’t do it by yourself”

That’s a quote from Dr. Iheoma Iruka as she responded to the question: What’s a good first step for individuals and organizations to take who are just starting to incorporate a racial equity lens in their work?  A wise reminder for anyone seeking to dismantle structural racism and system barriers in early childhood.

Dr. Iruka, Chief Research Innovation Officer and  Director of The Center for Early Education Research and Evaluation at HighScope Educational Research Foundation, was the keynote speaker at the summer NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (CGLR) meeting. View a recording of her presentation here—“Solidifying our Villages: Addressing Opportunity Gaps and the Education Debt Through a Racial Equity Lens.” 

In her keynote, Dr. Iruka challenged participants to address the root causes of inequities in our communities, and to examine the “how” and “what” of the work to address these inequities using a RICHER approach:

  • Re-educate about history
  • Integrate rather than just desegregate
  • Critique everything
  • Humility of privilege
  • Erase racism
  • Re-vision new ways, approaches, theories, teams, etc.

She encouraged the audience to focus on providing counter-narratives that lift up the strengths of families and communities of color, rather than assigning blame, and creating villages of protection, affection, correction and connection. The importance of bringing the voices of those most impacted by systemic barriers to planning and decision-making tables was also emphasized. 

The keynote address followed a morning of learning and discussion among NC CGLR leaders including a panel discussion focused on data and equity featuring three NC School District Equity Leaders:

  • Dee Edmundson, Executive Director of Equity, Johnston County Public Schools
  • Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Executive Director, Officer of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Guilford County Schools
  • MariaRosa Rangel, Director of Family and Community Engagement, Office of Equity Affairs, Wake County Public School System

NC CGLR community partners also shared some time brainstorming together in virtual breakout groups around strategies to slow or stop the impact of increasing inequities in their communities due to COVID-19. Groups were encouraged to think big. Read some of their ideas here.