“Public school is not only about getting kids a job one day. It’s a democracy-strengthening institution. It’s about making good citizens who care about one another,” advised Nikole Hannah-Jones during the Color of Education Summit – a two-day virtual summit that brings together people from all over North Carolina to exchange ideas and strategies that address systemic racial inequities in the education system. Hannah-Jones is an award-winning New York Times Magazine reporter and tenured Professor at Howard University serving as the Knight Chair in Race and Journalism.
Summit attendees were able to witness a raw conversation around the state of North Carolina’s public education system with Hannah-Jones and her former professor and the first Black journalism professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harry Amana. Hannah-Jones expressed her concern about the future of public education stating that “it has been a long five years. A lot has happened and if you look at the indicators of educational equality, we haven’t seen improvement.” Hannah-Jones shared an anecdotal story about her daughter’s public school journey from pre-k through middle school and witnessing first-hand middle-income white parents opting out of sending their kids to public school by the fifth grade, inadvertently causing re-segregation and inequality of funding and resources to public schools that have become predominately spaces full of Black and Brown students. Public schools are a natural vehicle to bring people together from different backgrounds and share ideas but that has been reduced with the polarization of schools at society at large.
In closing, Hannah-Jones applauded educators and students during the Q&A session stressing the importance of centering student voices and leveraging parents as allies and partners to re-empower educators that are navigating landmines around critical race theory and a public health crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Day 2 – Sparks of Color
The second day of sessions began with a panel discussion reacting to two short videos about racial equity advocates sparking change by broadening the conversation around equity and education in the classroom and being an elected school board member. Panelists discussed the importance of students seeing themselves reflected at every level of the classroom and creating safe spaces for both educators and students to bring their full authentic selves into the classroom. Having just one teacher of color can change the trajectory of a student for the better. The conversation was facilitated by Dr. Iheoma Iruka, Founding Director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, with panelists Letha Muhammad, Executive Director of the Education Justice Alliance; Eugenia Floyd, 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year; Monika Johnson Hostler, Wake County Board of Education representative; and Dr. Loury Ollison Floyd, dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. A link to the recording can be found here.
After the Sparks of Color panel discussion, attendees had the option to listen in on four different breakout sessions:
- Centering Racial Equity in the Classroom
- Addressing Racial Equity in Schools through Community Engagement
- Preparing Students for Postsecondary Attainment and Success Using a Racial Equity Lens
- Fostering Urgency & Action District-Wide
The Color of Education Summit was hosted in partnership with the Dudley Flood Center at the Public School Forum of NC, The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, and the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. The 2020 Color of Education event encompassed a week of virtual sessions from renowned speakers and panelists spotlighting the intersection of race, equity, and education.