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s.t.a.r.t. Students Attend 2nd Annual Missing Voices Conference

February 7, 2014

s.t.a.r.t. Students Attend 2nd Annual Missing Voices Conference

On Thursday, February 6th, s.t.a.r.t. leaders Amirah Ellison, Nagma Garane and Kellie Winchell attend the “Missing Voices Conference for Culturally-Responsive Teaching” at St. Mary’s University in Minneapolis.

Our keynote speaker was Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Ladson-Billings proposes that our so-called gaps are not an accurate representation of the problem. Our problem, says Dr. Ladson-Billings, is that we have an education “debt” that we owe to descendants of slaves and First Nation people upon whose backs this nation was built, and who were denied access to reading and a proper education since the founding of our nation. The debt is moral, social and economical, she says, and we share responsibility for repaying this debt.

We did physical movement with dancer Kenna Cottman and listened to cultural narratives by storyteller Nothando Zulu. Attendees at each table were then invited to brainstorm what justice means to us:

Justice is:
A leap of faith—A JUMP!
That takes courage in action, a vision,
Hope, people coming together
To give everyone what they need
Shared power and true belonging.

Attendees divided into three groups: 1) educators and administrators; 2) students; 3) parents and community members. All were asked to share conversation and notes on what the morning dialogue meant to them and what actions they would like to take to play their own role in repaying the education debt.

The conference was an inspiration, and a reminder that the work of s.t.a.r.t.–to educate ourselves and one another about the “voices less heard”–is important work. Through this work, we not only reduce our collective debt; we honor the courage and example of those who have gone before us and who have brought us to a deeper understanding of justice and equity. The more we listen, the better able we are to repay the debt.

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