By Britt Hawthorne
The summer of 2016 was painful. I locked myself in our home and didn’t leave for two weeks. Struck with grief, anger, and fear, I started reading everything I could about equity, race, and structural racism to understand and dismantle white supremacy. Fast forward to 2017, I found myself leading conversations with social justice folxs, but I still hadn’t healed from the killings that happened in 2016: Keith Lamont Scott, Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and many more. The mainstream antidotes of bubble baths, chocolate, and Baptiste yoga didn’t seem to do the trick. My Western diet of self-care resulted in consumerism, saviorism, and my right to comfort. So, I continued doing what I knew, seeking more education.
As soon as I heard about Embracing Equity in July of 2017, I quickly signed up for the first program hoping to learn more facts and figures; instead, I started healing. Our cohort included a dozen racially/ethnically diverse members inside the Montessori community led by four diverse facilitators. School administrators, classroom teachers, Wildflower partners, and university students joined together to discuss and center racial justice. My cohort partners and I spent our time being deeply reflective, practicing empowering phrases, and working towards active participation. I heard new perspectives, I gained tools to host critical conversations, I practiced disrupting racism, and I created a critical action project—an Instagram account initially titled Listening & Learning.
My Instagram account was an act of courage. It focused on creating an online community centered around anti-racist teaching. I truthfully shared the many ways I unintentionally perpetuated white supremacy culture inside my classroom, my favorite anti-bias materials, and how I select books for our classroom collections. This path of truth and justice became my self-care.
I love Joseph Oteng’s definition of self-care: "Self-care is also: addressing your own problematic thoughts and behaviors; removing toxic (not just challenging) people/situations from your life; holding yourself accountable for what you do and say (and apologizing authentically); doing your own self-work to be emotionally literate.” This definition was a game changer for me. Self-care no longer meant disconnecting from my community to drink wine while watching The Handmaid's Tale. Now, I am vested in assessing my wellness as I am in community with others so I can build my own compassionate accountability.
Other educators were looking for someone to walk with them on this journey, too. It's not that we didn't want to host these conversations; teachers were looking for a supportive community that would challenge their thinking and provide resources and feedback. Just as I didn't receive any of this information in my Elementary Education program or in my Montessori training, neither did they. Now, with over 10,000 followers, I am co-creating a community of teachers committed to justice and equity via social media. In August, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a 2-day, in-person Embracing Foundations workshop in New Haven, CT with Daisy, the founder of Embracing Equity. That evening, we met with a local social justice teacher, Tanesha, for pizza and critical conversations.
Along with facilitating in-person workshops, I’ll be co-facilitating Embracing Identity, an online, cohort-based program. Embracing Identity focuses on the tenet of Montessori teacher education -- the spiritual preparation of self. It is structured into five 90-minute online sessions over the course of 5 months. This is a pathway to what Dr. Barbara Love defines as building a “liberatory consciousness.” Through Embracing Identity, I have continued to build an awareness and analysis of oppression by becoming more vulnerable about my failures, remaining uncomfortable when learning, and taking action to gain a new set of accountable allies.
As I write this, I couldn't be happier to announce my role as the Director of Communications of Embracing Equity, and given my critical action project, this feels particularly wonderful and momentous. As the Director of Communications I am spending my days hosting critical conversations, sharing articles, responding to emails, and spreading the word. I will continue to facilitate Embracing Equity workshops and cohorts, and I will continue to share on Instagram so that we can be in community and support our individual and collective healing.
Rooting For You,
Note: I am forever grateful to Tiffany Jewell for introducing me to Dr. Barbara J. Love’s work.