E17: BONUS EPISODE - Antiracist Schooling: The Angela Day School with Dianna Myles
In this special bonus episode, SooJin speaks to Dianna Myles, the founder of the The Angela Day School, to raise awareness of this new antiracist school that is scheduled to open in Fall 2022. Listen to find out more about this school, how you can get involved and enroll your children, and what the upcoming November info sessions will be about. Our conversation also delves into what antiracist parenting looks like when parenting young children. And we summon our ancestors, especially the words of the late great Toni Morrison and her speech from 1975 that offers a piercing critique of racism and potent instructions for how people of color should respond to racism. Hint: If we only knew our worth... Please read the speech linked below. It should be required reading in every classroom.
“A Humanist View” Speech delivered in 1975 by Toni Morrison at Portland State University
How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith
Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta L. Hammond
I Learn from Children by Caroline Pratt
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C.B. Lee
E17 (BONUS EPISODE): The Angela Day School with Dianna Myles
Co-hosts: SooJin Pate and Hannah Carney
Guest: Dianna Myles
Intro (music by Mike Myth Productions):
SooJin: Welcome to the Antiracist Parenting Podcast, where we're working to create an antiracist world for ourselves, our children, and future generations to come.
Hannah: We are Hannah Carney and SooJin Pate. And we're coming to you not as experts but as parents who want to share our missteps and successes in raising antiracist children. Thank you for being on this journey with us, as we work together to build a community of antiracist parents who are raising a generation of antiracist kids.
SooJin: Welcome to episode 17, which serves as our, I guess, first bonus episode for our podcast. You might be asking yourself, why are we releasing a bonus episode this month? And it is because there is a new school that is planning to open next year, fall of 2022, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
And this school is super special folks. It's called The Angela Day school. And it's a school whose mission centers around antiracism. How incredible is that? The foundation of the school is built on antiracism so the curriculum from the very start is designed to be antiracist. Again, how amazing is that! That there is a school where your children can receive an antiracist education.
So when I heard about this from a friend, I was just so thrilled and excited about the school and I wanted to help spread the word and tell you about it because they're in the middle of recruiting families. So there's going to be some upcoming info sessions that are taking place in November. So until then, I'm thrilled to be able to introduce you all to the founder of The Angela Day School, Dianna Myles. So Dianna, thank you so much for being here. I can only imagine how busy you must be, literally starting a school from scratch. So thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here with us today.
Dianna: Well, thank you so much for inviting me. I really do appreciate it.
SooJin: So could you please share with our listeners who you are, where you come from, and what you do before we launch into talking about the school more specifically?
Dianna: Yeah. So my name is Dianna Myles. My oldest daughter is eight so for the past eight years, I've been a stay-at-home parent who volunteers, where I can, at my kid's school, working in the areas of really trying to think through how to bring the school more in alignment with reflecting students of color and meeting those needs. And I think in that way, that's kind of what started me down the path that I'm at right now in wanting to start a school in the first place. I'm not originally from Minneapolis. I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and kind of have been everywhere. I spent time on the East coast for most of my adult life before we settled here. So I'm excited to do this work. It is deep in my heart. And it's definitely I know is driven most ardently by the fact that I'm a parent who wants to see this for my children, but then also for other people's children.
SooJin: So let's talk about the school. Where did the idea for the school come from? Could you provide an origin story of sorts for us?
Dianna: Sure. The origin story is kind of what I was saying a little bit earlier. It had to do with me getting a little tired of the same old story, which is Black parent enters all-white school. Black parent then tries to make changes so that the school is more reflective of their children.
Change happens very, very slowly and frustration mounts. And I think in a lot of ways, what pushed me to simply say “Enough was enough,” was very much probably something that has happened to a lot of people because of the pandemic. Just the time to sit and really reflect on where my life was and whether or not that was good enough anymore.
And in some regard, I came to the conclusion that while I am an ardent supporter of progressive education—which is why I send my children to the school that I send them to, and I believe that's how children should be educated—I also knew that as children of African descent, they were missing out on a key part of their development, which is their development of their identity.
And there was a part of me that realized in that moment that I no longer had to compromise. Like I had made the compromise. It's a compromise that, I think, lots of parents of nonwhite children make where you are trying to figure out how do I best meet the needs of my child in a world that does not see them and is not reflective of them. I came to the conclusion that that compromise no longer really need to be made. Like why do these two things have to be separate? Why does this high-quality progressive education have to be exclusive to only what is usually just a white population who have the money and the access to these schools? Why does it have to look like that? And why not merge those two? So that's the origin story. That's what got me, took me down the path. And you know, the rest is history. This is where we are now.
SooJin: Oh, Dianna, that is so powerful, you questioning like, “Why do I have to compromise?” And having higher standards for yourself and for your children and for society, in general. That is amazing. And I feel like in some ways that's a real gift of the pandemic. [It] is giving us time and space to reflect—like what you did—and questioning, “What really does matter? And what's really important?” So thanks for that.
Could you share, what's the mission and vision of the school? What are you hoping to accomplish through the school?
Dianna: So I can tell you what the mission and vision are. What we really envision doing is fostering a vibrant and innovative, multiracial, multilingual, and multi-ability community of socially conscious change agents, collaborators, and lifelong learners. That is the vision that we have developed for ourselves. And the mission that kind of gets us there is basically honoring children and childhood through whole-child development and preparing each child to be endlessly curious, lifelong learners and future stewards of humanity.
In a lot of ways, the overall goal for us is to basically strategically and systematically eliminate the academic and disciplinary disparities that are faced by students of color in Minneapolis. That is what we aim to do through the type of school that we're trying to bring. In a lot of ways, the schools that we have right now are frankly failing our students of color. They just are. In general, over 90% of all the disciplinary action in terms of suspensions and expulsions are felt by students of color. And on average, I think the rate is no more than maybe about a third are proficient when it comes to reading or math. And it’s even lower in science. And so these are unacceptable numbers. They shouldn't be the case. And in some regards, it has to do with the fact that the schools, as they are currently designed, intensely focus on teaching to a test and, what I like to call, a no excuses, accountability model where the focus is more on what's wrong with the students, as opposed to what's wrong with the system. So in that regard, we flip it on its head. We decide to look at, saying that what really needs to be in place is culturally-responsive teaching practices that are based in the science that we already have available to us.
It is regularly ignored on every basis because people are so obsessed with test scores about how people learn. We know this information already. And so we focus on that. We focus on providing a learning experience that just nurtures the entire spirit of a child, right? So that spirit is more than just what's going on in their head. It's also what's in their heart. It's also their body. It is a full body experience, providing whole-child support. So really thinking through, what does this child need? Not just like what's in the classroom, but what's happening outside the classroom? What's happening in home life that this child isn't getting, that they should have, that they need in order to be their best person when they're coming into the building and trying to grow as an individual?
Really thinking through how we assess. So getting away from teaching to the tests and doing more authentic assessments, less bubble testing and looking at, “Okay, in a more holistic manner, do we know if this child has learned what we wanted them to learn?” And we can do that without making them sit at a desk with a bubble sheet to determine that.
And then there is the disparity when it comes to the teachers and how it's overwhelmingly white, specifically in Minnesota. I mean, we've got according to the Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota, only 4% of all teachers are nonwhite. That's ridiculous. And we've got, at least, a total student population in the state that is around 35% students of color. So you've got 4% to this 35%, and there's a mismatch there. So for us, that means being incredibly intentional and being a part of the solution to bring more teachers of color into the classroom in front of these students so they see themselves, right? The statistics are there where we know that students do better when they have a teacher who looks like them. And not just one time but more than once. And it just gets better and better the more often that happens.
Then I think the last thing that we do is we allow ourselves the breathing room to simply be as flexible as we need to be to meet the needs of every child. In some regards, I think there are schools out there, charter schools or even choice schools, that offer a chance to put your child in an area of progressive education. But, usually sometimes, like for instance, the most popular one is Montessori. We kind of flip it on its head and we say, we're not going to sit with just one progressive model of education. We are going to allow ourselves the freedom and the breadth to really pull in multiple pedagogical approaches. So that means we're looking at Waldorf education, Reggio-Emilia. What progressive education looks like when you're looking at, you know, Dewey-inspired, progressive education and Montessori. There are things about each of these that are incredibly strong and it should not be overlooked. And in allowing ourselves the freedom to say, “Okay, just because it's not what Maria Montessori would do doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good idea for this child.” It gives us that space to ensure that we are still child-centered. We are not tied to the dogma of the pedagogy. What we're really tied to is what that child needs.
SooJin: So many beautiful things that you just shared with us. All that you have shared, it kind of reminds me of when teaching at the college level, I would have students who would visit me during my office hours and say, “I feel like dropping out. I want to drop out because I feel like this institution isn't made for me. It's very clear that this college, this university, is not made for me.” And they also shared stories about their time in high school and they're like, “Dr. Pate, I feel like my whole education— It's never been for me. Like it's been working against me.” And hearing you talk about your school, this school, The Angela Day School, it's like the antidote to all that. It's antithetical to all of what we know about traditional, conventional not only public education but also private education. So, gosh, what a gift, Dianna! That you are providing this kind of education, curriculum, pedagogical approach, this whole human education that tends to the full humanity of our children within the context of social justice, within the context of remedying all the ways in which historically and presently our current education system is harming students of color, especially Black students and Indigenous students.
So I just want to thank you so much for that. It's just really, really incredible work. Everything that you said are things that I've heard other educators talk about, but you're actually doing it. You're actually going to be implementing it in your school. And it's not additional like add-on things. What I mean by that is, you have a lot of existing schools like, “Oh, we need to diversify. We need to be inclusive. And your school? It's already assumed, right? It's not something that we need to add on to like what exists. It's already a foregone conclusion that, of course, those elements are there. It's natural aspect of the school.
Dianna: It’s just a redefinition of what a school is.
SooJin: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. So could you say a little bit about Angela? Why Angela? Why name the school after this particular person?
Dianna: Absolutely. Mmmm, when thinking through the names of what we wanted to do, the easy thing is just to pick a tree. And I was like, we are not naming our school after some tree or flower [or] plant despite our dedication to the environment as part of one of our priorities. If we're going to be an antiracist school, we need to embody that. And that starts with the name. So for us, that means making sure that when you hear that name, you have to ask yourself, “Who the heck is Angela?” Right.
And Angela is one of the three names we know of the original enslaved Africans who were brought in 1619. And the decision to name the school after her, to recognize and to name her as one of those individuals who was kidnapped from where they lived and forced to come here and whose work along with the work of all the others who came with her then and afterwards is responsible for everything that you see around you right now. This nation would not exist in its current state were it not for the unpaid work and toil and bloodshed of Angela and her descendants. So that's why we chose that name. It is a strong statement from the very beginning that our school is about taking a very clear and decisive approach to the history of our nation and recognizing that the true history of our nation is the history of the people who were brought here—either brought here or who were here first—abused for the purposes of building a nation. Just as simply put as it can be.
That is what all of our students will know and understand by the time they leave us. Because it's in knowing that history and knowing what has happened to your ancestors and where your ancestors have been and what they did despite all of that, right, is what helps you develop as a human being and to develop your identity and to understand your worth.
In a lot of ways, that's kind of how I see antiracism. It's less about trying to preach to people whose mindsets you're trying to change. It has absolutely nothing to do with that. It has everything to do with developing a strong sense of self and countering those narratives that are constantly bombarding you and steeling yourself against those things. And then on top of that, understanding why those narratives are coming at you, understanding the history that built those narratives, and then having the fortitude because of the strength that you have within yourself and the knowledge of that, to then go out to make the changes that need to be made from a policy standpoint to better the circumstances of your people. Plain and simple.
SooJin: Wow. That's some deep ancestral stuff that you've just shared with us. I just think how powerful it is that four centuries later, here is a school that is in honor, in recognition, in homage to one of the first enslaved Africans who were kidnapped and who helped build this country. First of all, just how powerful that is. I'm sure Angela probably never would have guessed in a million years that four centuries later, there would be a school named after her. But also for the students coming in. Like me, even just thinking about, it provides me a sense of empowerment and I'm not even Black! So for the kids who are graduating from the school named after this woman, I just can't imagine how empowering that will be for them. That they have an education that is rooted in the majesty, the power, the brilliance, the resilience of this woman and all the people that she stands for. Oh, it just feels so very powerful.
So who is this school, in terms of grade level, [for]? What kind of families is the school for?
Dianna: This school, I would say, in a lot of ways is homage to an old tradition that was in some ways lost after Brown vs Board. The negative that came out of that is this weird assumption that what was being asked for, at that time, was that Black children be allowed to be in the same classroom with white children because, if they were in that classroom with those white kids, they would do so much better. Like there was like some kind of osmosis that would happen and allow them to grow into better citizens as a result.
And the pushback that this is, is really to say, we are taking back control of our children. And we're taking back control of how they are educated because the problem with the situation when schools are segregated was not that they weren't in the same class with white children; it was really because of resources—that the resources were not there. So there was no equity in what they were able to accomplish. I mean, at the end of the day, people who are impoverished will make the most of what they have no matter what. And so quite frankly, it's quite amazing that they were able to do what they were able to do at that time in the first place, just with that little bit that they had. But imagine what you could do if you were given on par the same number of resources. And right now, we're at that point, right? But we have access to those same resources. And now we can set right what has happened, which is, we can take responsibility for our children and educate them in a way that honors them as whole humans, worthy of respect who are not less than and are given a true narrative of their history.
So I would say this school is for any parent—in particular parents of color—who want to have their children educated in a place that honors their child's heritage. Ideally that would look like a beautiful solidarity across the races. It would be this gorgeous mix of all the communities of color that had existed here in Minneapolis coming together and saying this school is a reflection of all of us. And every child, regardless of where your ancestors came from, will see themselves in the classroom, and will have a full understanding of their worth by the time they leave us. So that's who it's for. I would say this is who it was set up for.
And I say that because, you know, on average, in terms of the type of school we're trying to create—which is a progressive education school—I think that only like around 5% to 6% of all students in private schools, which is where progressive education kind of lives, are Black and Latino. That's it. That means that we don't have access to this kind of education. In a lot of ways, what we're trying to do is we're trying to flip that script. We're trying to say, look, it may not be available in this paid area, but we're going to make it available and freely available to this population of people to let them know that this is your right to have access to this kind of education. And we want to do this with you. We want to create this beautiful community, this beloved community with you, in the words of bell hooks.
In terms of grade levels, our intentions are to start K-5 and then grow one grade after that. We have received authorization to go all the way to eighth grade, but our true intentions are to go all the way to high school. So as long as everything runs smoothly and we have a good opening and lots of families who come to us, that means that after about three years of operation, we can apply for an extension to allow us to keep it going, keep the movement going all the way to high school. But that's where we're starting. We're starting K-5.
SooJin: Okay. And is it open to families who live in Minneapolis/St. Paul? That area?
Dianna: As a charter school, we are open to anybody. And we will be based in Minneapolis so most of our families will come from there because, in general, people send their kids somewhere that's closest to where they live. We're hoping to be on the North side. So we're really hoping to target families that are in North Minneapolis. But also those in Wouth Minneapolis, just outside the city, like near Phillips and Central, as well, because those areas are also areas which have large Latino and Indigenous communities. And those are the families we also want to reach, as well.
SooJin: Awesome. So what can folks expect by attending one of your upcoming info sessions?
Dianna: Ooh, we've got a few ideas rumbling. It could be something as innovative as just having a chance to experience what it would be like to be in the school for your child, what their day might look like. We're also looking into the idea of doing some outdoor ed with some of our families to show what our sports and games curriculum will look like for students. And then aside from that, we'll also do some really strategic community outreach.
We have some very clear ideas of what programs we want to bring, but it's also important to get some more family input on, what do you as a family, what are you looking for? What do you need? What are you missing in the school that you're currently sending your child to? So we've thought through, right now, our first year [which] is to thinking through just food insecurity and basic essentials and trying to tackle that.
But I would be very curious to know and would want to know more about what else families are looking for in a school that they're currently not getting so that we can make sure that, at least, in our first—or maybe not in our first year. It depends on how big the want is—we can bring that, as well, because this is a parent-driven and -created school. It is the brain child of— If we could dream up our perfect school, what would it have in it? And to be a democratically-run community school, we need more input. And we want more input, and we want to make sure that it is really, truly reflective of the community. So I would say that's kind of the third thing that we would do.
So those, they wouldn't all happen at the same meeting. We'd probably have different ones tailored to different things. But in general, those are the things we would do.
SooJin: Okay. Great. So where can people go to find more information, sign up or apply to be a family? Could you provide that kind of info?
Dianna: So enrollment hasn't opened yet, but you can share your interests with us on our website and say that you would be interested in having your child enrolled. Cause then we'll alert you as soon as enrollment opens so that you can kind of do the process and sign up. Our website is theangeladayschool.org. That's where you can go to get more information about our school and to express interest. You can sign up for the mailing list to get regular updates about what's going on. That's the central location where we're keeping everything.
SooJin: So what can students, family members—what can they expect? What can a child expect when they enter your school?
Dianna: I would say what they can expect is a holistic approach to progressive education. That is what we're anchored in. We take that one step further and meld it with antiracist principles.
So that's the type of education that people can expect their children to receive. And it's supported by this laboratory school model, which gives our teachers the space to really be as innovative as they can and want to be. It gives us a chance to constantly check in on ourselves and ask, “Okay, is what we're doing working?” And if it's not, “Okay, what do we need to do differently?” It's this very kind of constantly changing-for-the-better learning environment for children.
The other things that you can expect is language immersion. We're doing Spanish language immersion as one of the key programs for our school. And so for those families who are Spanish speaking, you can expect that we haven't forgotten that culture is directly tied to language and that your children will receive that instruction and that, that portion of their identity will be honored at our school.
You can expect a very well-rounded and, I would say, non-traditional learning experience. So beyond being in the classroom and learning those traditional subjects—which in and of itself aren't going to be taught in a traditional way, mainly because we're doing an interdisciplinary approach. So there isn't going to be a specific reading hour and math hour. It really is pulled together because that's kind of how those things work. They work together. They are not really technically separate. We do that for?? I'm not sure what reason. So we're pulling them back together.
But then there’s another portion of your day where your child might be off going to handwork and knitting, or there'll be out at our farm, working on the land and that tied to whatever academic work they're doing. They can expect this really a robust arts program and movement that is a little bit different than sports and games. So, you know, like circus arts.
You can expect a different approach to discipline. We step away from the idea of discipline and we move towards the idea of cultivating community and responsive citizens. For us, that means blending theories of restorative justice with conflict resolution and allowing that to be the central space for resolving problems and disputes. You should know that your child isn't just going to be sent home because they did something that was a mistake because that's what children do. They make mistakes as they grow. And it's our responsibility to help them understand what was the mistake and allow them to grow from that and not shutter them off or exclude them for that. I mean, what kind of growth does a person have when that's the only repercussion that occurs when they make a mistake? School's about growing and learning, and it shouldn't be about excluding and demoralizing the spirit of a person who is just trying to understand how to be a person in this world. So, yeah, I would say that's what you would see.
SooJin: Dianna, this is truly my dream school. Wow. When you talked about when you were first conceiving of this school, thinking about what would be the ideal school that we want for our children? I think this is a dream school for many, many parents, especially parents of color, families of color, out there. So thank you so much for making this happen and providing this incredible gift to our community.
Dianna: I am humbled and honored to do it. I just hope that it is received well, and it meets everything that we have tried to put into it.
SooJin: The focus of this podcast is on antiracist parenting. And before we move on to our lightning round, I was wondering, could you share just a little bit about how you implement antiracist parenting in your life? I know this is a huge question. So just maybe a few concrete examples would be great to give our listeners an idea of how antiracism— Like we see how antiracism is going to be implemented and how it plays out in the classroom, in the school setting, in terms of pedagogy, in terms of relationship with teachers and student-teacher relationships, and also the school's relationship to families. But curious, how does antiracism play out in your parenting?
Dianna: So I look like the parents that have younger children. My oldest is eight. And so then I have four. So in a lot of ways, antiracism in my household is really focused right now on identity development and pushing back against anti-Blackness because that is what they encounter as they come to understand the world on a daily basis. They're receiving message after message after message that there is something less than about blackness, about black people.
And it's my job to try and counter that. So in that regard, because my kids are a bit younger and aren't really in the place to understand the full history of our nation and why that exists, it looks more like bringing materials into the house that are reflective of them that are, you know, very positive representatives of them. It looks like adapting what's being brought home to them from school. Like one example I can think of is, there was this little song that my daughter was singing about Thanksgiving and the food that you eat for Thanksgiving. And the foods that were in the song were all foods that we don't really eat. So I switched the song up and I added in the foods that we eat, right, that are a reflection of our culture. ‘Cause that's what you're doing. For us during that period, it is a time to honor our food traditions and to be thankful for what has been passed down by our ancestors to us. So that's like a taste of something I might do.
And then on top of that, just kind of like affirmations about instilling within them a knowledge of their worth and helping them recite that for themselves.
As they get older, it will be different. We’ll then come to the point where we'll be having some conversations that are more in depth about the history of their ancestors. Right now, it's just very light. We know your ancestors come from the continent of Africa. We know, at least, one half of your family comes from two specific tribes. We can do those conversations. But like a really in-depth history of why half of their ancestors were brought here and for what reasons—those are the conversations we'll have later.
And then also just having a conversation about how people will view them. And I like to say trying to stay safe because, at the end of the day, you can't control everything. But you can attempt to try and, to the best of your ability, mitigate possible harms that might be done against you simply because of the color of your skin.
And just having very honest and frank conversations with them because I know that they will always be seen as older than what they are and that people will have negative connotations about them just because their skin is brown.
There's one other thing I think about when it comes to helping raise my children as antiracist, as people who see their worth as Black people: in helping them understand, as the late great Toni Morrison said, that it's not their job to educate the oppressor. That antiracism isn't about trying to change, challenge those narratives because it is such a waste of time and energy trying to explain your worth to a world that is simply demeaning your worth. Not because it's actually true but because it is in the interest of the world to demean your worth for the purposes of capitalism, power, and money.
So it really is in my household about building up my children's self-worth, preparing them to be agents of change who are actively involved in addressing disparities. You know, doing the work that I'm trying to do right now and in a space that they want to work in and being a part of changing the policies, addressing those disparities, and not allowing themselves what's important.
I think the world will allow us to try and think that sometimes because that's the easy way to look at racism. The simple way to look at is to simply say, we can rid ourselves with this racist world if only people would change how they think. No! It is a waste of your time It is a waste of your energy. There is always something new that will pop up. It is a game of whack-a-mole and it is not your job to do that. So I would say that's the last thing that I really want to instill within them.
SooJin: Ooh, Dianna, I wish I had you as my mama growing up. My goodness, do you know how many decades’ worth of labor and tears and frustration and anger and rage and feeling like I am hitting my head up against a brick wall? That would have saved me: just hearing that kind of advice and approach.
I’ve finally come to that understanding. Everything that you just shared—like what you are trying to instill in your children—about not only is it not your job to educate the oppressor but, in educating the oppressor, it's not going to matter. It doesn't really lead to change because racism isn't about ignorance. Plenty of white folks know what's going on with Black folks and Native folks because, if you ask them, “Do you want to change places with me?” No white person wants to change places with a Black person in America! Right? So it's not a problem of ignorance. It is willful. They know what is going on.
And it's everything that you said. It's about the investment and the commitment to money, to exploitation. It is baked into our system that we exploit certain people to get these economic, financial rewards that are only for a particular group of people.
And how amazing are your children going to be to have now a lifetime where they're focused solely on uplifting, nurturing, owning their power and agency in this world that isn't shrouded and isn't in reaction to all these forces and entities that are working against them because they're not even a part of their scope of consciousness. They're not worried about the oppressors. They're just worried about being, yeah, maximizing and optimizing their power and agency with the skills and talents and passions that are of their own making.
Oh, I just really wish I would've known that 30 years ago.
Dianna: It is a game changer when you finally come to that realization. There is another quote that Toni in the speech that I listened to that brought me to that space. She attributed the quote to Elijah Muhammad. He simply said that if you knew your worth, you would get up off your knees. If you knew your worth. And it is time for us to stop sitting there, begging for a seat at the table, begging to be recognized and appreciated, and simply take and develop that, which is for us and doing it ourselves. Stand up, take hold of your agency and what is inherent within you because it is so powerful.
SooJin: Wow. Thank you. Thank you so much for that. I love that we've brought in the words, the power, the magic, and brilliance of all these extraordinary ancestors: Angela, Toni, Elijah Muhammad. That's amazing. Are you okay with us shifting to the lightning round?
Dianna: I am certainly ready. I’m gonna I do my best.
SooJin: So no big deal. Just whatever comes to the top of your head. Fill in the blank: Anti-racist parenting is…
Dianna: It's a constant journey in learning, in betterment, in individual growth. It is a journey that you take with your children. It's not something that you take separately from them. You are growing with them in the process of trying to reach that promised land of understanding and wisdom.
SooJin: Beautiful. I love how you highlighted that it's a partnership with our children, that it is a journey with our children. It's not something that we do on our own. It's not some solo project for adults only; it is absolutely in partnership with our children. I love that. Thank you. What's the last thing that your children did to make you smile? One or both?
Dianna: [Laughter] Ah, you gotta quadruple that.
SooJin: Oh, you have four?
Dianna: I have four.
SooJin: Oh, my goodness! Hold up: uou got four children eight and under?
Dianna: Yes. Yes.
SooJin: And you’re starting a school from scratch?!?
Dianna: I think they need to change that phrase to like, “Hell hath no fury like a mother…” [Laughter] There is nothing you won't do for your children. So yeah, I would say that a lot of that energy simply comes just from the love that I have for them and a certain determination.
Um, I'm trying to think of something. Our days are simple. I still sleep with two of my small ones, but they're not in the bed anymore. They have their own little spaces, but they're still in the same room with me. And my youngest always comes— Not my youngest. My second youngest always [comes] ‘cause she can get out. Winston can't get out of his crib yet, but she can get out and she always comes to me in the morning. And gives me a kiss and asks for a hug and says, “Good morning.” And it's just the sweetest way to start the day. I hope she stays like that.
SooJin: Oh, what I wouldn't give to be greeted in the morning like that by my daughter. How incredibly sweet. What are you reading right now?
Dianna: How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith is something I started reading a few weeks ago. The one thing I am actively reading right now is for my children, introducing them to the world of Harry Potter. So that's what my evenings look like right now. It's reading like a portion of a chapter here and there.
I would say if anything, if I wanted to recommend something, is Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain, which is an excellent read. These are all non-fiction cause that's where my mind is right now. And then another one that inspired me to feel like this could actually be done is a book called I Learn from Children. I forget the name of the author, but it's just about a progressive education school that was started in New York. It's called City & Country School. It's just kind of inspiring to think about how from very simple origins, how do you build a school and develop a school when the focus on how you're going to develop it is just based on your observations of how children learn, right? You take those observations. You take yourself out of it as the person, the purveyor of knowledge, the idea that you should be the center of attention and, instead, focus that attention on the child and just kind of watch and see how it works and see how they learn. And introduce things here and there, but really kind of detach yourself through those observations, taking those observations, and then developing a space for learning based on those observations. It's a very beautiful understanding of what learning looks like when we, the adults, take ourselves out of it, take our egos out of it, and really focus on the child.
SooJin: Oh, those are great recommendations. I'll make sure to include all those in the show notes. I'm curious, because you mentioned Harry Potter, are you familiar with the Children of Blood and Bone series?
Dianna: I have not. But that's mostly probably because I haven’t— Did you read that when you— Was that something that was out a long time ago or is it new?
SooJin: It's fairly new. I think the first book came out maybe two or three years ago. It's a trilogy, and the last of the series is coming out this year. And it's going to be made into a film, I believe. But anyway, the reason why I'm sharing that with you is because the author, she specifically wanted to create a fantasy series for Black children that was as fantastical and as amazing as Harry Potter. So it's like the Harry Potter for Black children, for people of color. It's phenomenal. You will love it and your kids will love it.
Dianna: Well, thank you. Pulling up Harry Potter is just kind of me taking from my childhood and wanting to share that magic with them. But yes, I'm going to look into that because there was another book that I can't remember the name. They've done four books. Four different classic books that have been rewritten through the historical, cultural lens of nonwhite folks. So there's one for Little Women. There was another one that was rewritten for Treasure Island. Those are some books I'm hoping to dive into when the time allows me to do it. So yeah, I am with you, SooJin. Let's remake some of these classics and create these worlds for our kids to see themselves.
SooJin: Yes. My dear, what are you doing to take care of yourself?
Dianna: That has been top of my priority lately. I think that this last year has been a bit of a whirlwind. And I have a tendency, when I focus on something, I really focus on it. Like I am laser focused. You cannot get me off of it. I will get it done, if I say I'm going to get it done. But sometimes, as a result of that, when I get into that mindset, I can neglect myself.
So I'm at that point right now where I'm reevaluating my self-care and what Dianna needs to be her best person. So for that I'm looking at the foods I'm eating, trying to think through some more self-care in the morning through meditation, and also bringing more movement back in. Because if the pandemic did anything, it took away the gym for me. I'm that person who needs other people with me. It's just my personality. I need to see that they're working really hard and that peer pressure is what will make sure that I keep going and I won't stop. Because it's easy when you're by yourself to say, “Oh, I'm just gonna take a break ‘cause I'm feeling hot.” But if someone else is next to you and they're still going, it's like, “Okay, I can't stop now ‘cause I'm gonna look silly.” So I keep going because of that peer pressure. So the pandemic took that from me. And so I'm trying to pull that back in because just taking better care of my body and my mind to giving myself the space to simply think about other things than the school. Because from the way I function as a person and how I can be very focused on a task and a project, I can forget about myself. And so that's where I'm at right now. Reevaluating that. Trying to bring those things back in.
SooJin: Great. And then the last question is, what question would you like our podcast to answer in a future episode?
Dianna: I'm going to pull this back to the school a little bit because it’s something that's on my mind. Anti-racist parenting can seem very siloed, like what's happening in your world and what are you doing inside your space. But I wonder if there could be space to look at, from an educator's perspective, how they would go about cultivating support for parents to do that within their homes. And it also kind of what that would look like if they were trying to not only help parents cultivate that within their home but also mirror that within the classroom and how they would go about doing that. I'd be really interested in hearing the process from a co-parenting kind of mindset. Because when they're not with us, they're there. Right. What does that look like if we're working together? So that's a thought.
SooJin: I'm thinking maybe we could partner with you. I mean, once your school gets up and running, having teachers come in, sharing their stories. And I don't know, I'm just thinking off the top of my head, but it seems like this could possibly be a future partnership where our podcast could explore that question with the families and educators at your school. Perhaps.
Dianna: That's a possibility.
SooJin: Yeah. Okay. Well, anything else you'd like to say or share before we say goodbye?
Dianna: The only thing I think I would want to say is, if you have any questions about the school and what we're doing, we are an open book. The school is not mine. It is not the property of the people who are helping to also open it. It belongs to every parent who wants to be a part of it. So please know that we're here. We want to hear from you. And if you have any questions, want to talk, if you want to expand on the knowledge that was shared today and get some more information, please feel free to reach out.
SooJin: We'll include all that information in the show notes, folks. Thanks so much.
Dianna: You’re welcome. Thank you.
SooJin: Okay. Goodbye.
Dianna: Bye bye.
SooJin: We just want to say thank you for joining us today. You can find more information about us and past episodes on our website antiracistparentingpodcast.com. A big shout out to Mike Myth Productions for the intro and outro music.
Hannah: This work requires us to challenge ourselves and take care of ourselves. Be well.
SooJin: Be antiracist.