As part of SOE’s longtime commitment to achieving social justice through education, the school organized a series of events in spring 2021 that featured renowned Black scholars and educators speaking out on overcoming anti-Black racism and all its detrimental effects.
Led by SOE’s Diversity Action Committee (DAC), the speakers were chosen to align with the academic year’s theme of undermining anti-Black racism, said faculty members and DAC co-chairs Emily Fisher and Will Perez. Perez is SOE’s inaugural associate dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Lecia Brooks ’78, chief of staff of the renowned Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), kicked off the speaker series on February 17 with an overview of the SPLC’s ongoing work as a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond. Among her many points was the built-in intersectionality of anti-racist work. “You can’t be anti-racist and not care about LGBTQ rights, or anti-Semitism, or ableism, or other forms of oppression,” she said.
Brooks was followed by Dr. Bettina L. Love, author and Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia. At her March 15 appearance, she discussed the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN), an organization she founded to develop and support teachers and parents to fight injustice within their schools and communities. Being anti-racist takes significant time and energy, she told the crowd. “Our culture tells us it’s not okay to take breaks from this work or from any work,“ she said. “But that’s a mindset of white supremacy. We need to rest in order to be able to keep going. Rest is resistance.“
Dr. Tyrone Howard, author and professor at UCLA, closed out the series on April 15 with a talk about concrete actions to lift Black students and their families. “We need to shift from offering safe spaces to offering brave spaces,“ he said. “Safe spaces provide support; brave spaces encourage dialogue and hold people accountable. The work is uncomfortable. But it‘s necessary.“
Nassif quoted Fuller‘s speech in a follow-up note to attendees: “Let’s do the [equity] work that may be neither ‘safe nor popular, but is right.‘“In addition to the DAC speaker series, the spring 2021 semester kicked off with a keynote address by renowned civil-rights activist Dr. Howard Fuller for an event titled, “Equity in Catholic Education: Are We Living the Legacy?” Held on January 18 to coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the event drew more than 350 educators to hear Fuller’s speech and to commit to concrete plans for eradicating racism in Catholic schools. Attendees have since formed a Facebook group to track progress and to support one another’s efforts, said Sister Rosemarie Nassif, SSND, director of LMU’s Center for Catholic Education and organizer of the conference.