Dr. Diane's Adventures in Learning

Back to School: Building an Antiracist Classroom with Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock

August 16, 2023 Dr Diane Jackson/Dr Ronda Taylor Bullock Season 3 Episode 2
Dr. Diane's Adventures in Learning
Back to School: Building an Antiracist Classroom with Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock
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Show Notes Transcript

Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock is the co founder and executive director of we are (working to extend anti-racist education), a nonprofit in North Carolina that provides antiracism training for children, families, and educators. I first met Dr. Ronda at the North Carolina Reading Conference, and she blew me away with the resources and the thoughtfulness she had put behind helping teachers and families really think through how to create an antiracist environment. 

[01:00] Setting Kids Up for Success

  • The importance of setting families and children up for success, especially in terms of antiracist education.
  • Empowering children to recognize fairness and unfairness based on skin color.
  • Encouraging conversations about diversity and reading books with characters from various racial and ethnic backgrounds.
  • Affirming the identity of children of color and addressing colorism within communities.

[03:33] Creating Inclusive School Environments

  • Fostering a welcoming environment in schools for children of all backgrounds.
  • The significance of pronouncing students' names correctly and respecting their identities. 

[05:38] Diverse Picture Books for Welcoming Environments:

  • Book suggestions for building a diverse and inclusive classroom environment.

07:51] Using Books as Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors

  • Reflecting on Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop's concept 
  • The importance of representing diverse experiences and perspectives, and the power of books to affirm children's identities and help them recognize the broader world.

[10:24] Embracing Diverse Stories

  • Encouraging authentic representation of children of color as protagonists in all kinds of stories.
  • Moving beyond oppressive narratives to explore stories of joy, adventure, and Afrofuturism.

[11:54] Selecting Culturally Authentic Books

  • Providing a checklist for reviewing materials and books for culturally authenticity, as well as potential red flags.

[13:48] Recommended Authors and Resources

[15:00] Sponsor Ad:

[17:55] Founding "we are" and Its Growth

  • Dr. Ronda explains the inception of "we are" and her vision to teach antiracism to children, families, and educators through camps, family engagement, and working with schools.

[23:39] Schools Embracing Antiracism

  • Dr. Ronda highlights schools that are working towards embracing antiracism, such as Northside Elementary and Durham Public Schools.

[29:34] Becoming a Peaceful Disruptor

  • Dr. Ronda identifies herself as a peaceful disruptor, aiming to create peace while disrupting systems of oppression.

[31:50] Recognized at the White House

  • Dr. Ronda shares her experience of being recognized as an emerging black leader at the White House during Black History Month.

[35:11] Future Plans for "we are" 

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*Disclosure: I am a Bookshop.org. affiliate.

[00:01] Intro: Wonder, curiosity, connection. Where will your adventures take you? I'm Dr. Diane and thank you for joining me on today's episode of Adventures in Learning.

[00:17] Dr Diane: So welcome to the Adventures in Learning podcast. I'm your host, Dr. Diane, and I am so thrilled to introduce today's guest to you. Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock is the co founder and executive director of we are. we are stands for working to extend anti-racist education, and they're a nonprofit in North Carolina that provides antiracism training for children, families, and educators. I first met Dr. Ronda at the North Carolina Reading Conference, and she blew me away with the resources and the thoughtfulness she had put behind helping teachers and families really think through how to create an antiracist environment. And so I'm excited to have you on the show today. Thanks for joining us.

[01:00] Dr Ronda: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here and just to enjoy this conversation.

[01:06] Dr Diane: It's always wonderful to talk to a fellow educator. When you were speaking to the conference, you talked a lot about the importance of setting families and children up for success. How do you define that? What would set up a family or a child for success in terms of setting up an antiracist environment?

[01:29] Dr Ronda: Yeah. I think for one, recognizing the need to have race-based conversations with children prior to entering into the schools. We live in a highly racialized world. It's not within our control. We're born into the system. It doesn't mean that we're completely helpless in it. And at the same time, our children are having racialized experiences. And I think one of the ways to help prepare them and set them up for success is having intentional conversations with our children, helping them to recognize fairness and unfairness. If you're thinking about it at a young child's age, sometimes some people are treated unfairly based on the color of their skin, inviting them into conversations to think about that and read books that have characters from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds so that children are exposed to the beauty and the diversity of this world. And I will say, in particular, for parents of color to have conversations affirming your child's identity, how they look, their hair texture, their nose, their eyes, their smile, their skin color. Especially when we think about shades of skin and how shades of skin have been targeted in our society by white supremacy and then sometimes even in internalized, like, colorism within our own community. It's really important that as children are going into school, that they've already been in a space that affirms their thoughts, their ideas, their genius, their black genius, and the different parts of their bodies. Because once they enter into those school spaces, they will be potentially, not always, be subject to treatment based off of how they identify. And they'll be better prepared as kids of color if they're coming from a space that has affirmed their whole physical existence, their language, the food they eat. That's how we can set children up for success.

[03:33] Dr Diane: And then on the school's part, as we're welcoming in children, children of color and white children as well, how do we create an environment that is truly welcoming to all that is intentional in being antiracist?

[03:49] Dr Ronda: Yeah. And I will say on beginning on day one, where oftentimes there's a lot of introductions going on, pronouncing students’ names and a lot of sharing. I would say, from day one, it is very important as educators that we learn to pronounce our children's names correctly. Sometimes that's from allowing them to say their name first, it might be writing their name down phonetically. It might mean pausing when you're struggling and asking, hey, will you say that again for me? Will you teach me how to say it? Your name is important, and I want to say it correctly. One of the ways that we do that in the summer camp that we do through our organization is we find books that focus on kids of color and being in educational spaces and dealing with what many of us dealt with, people struggling to say our names correctly. And so we teach children about the importance of names. We read a book such as My Name is Sangoel. Sangoel is a refugee from Sudan, and when he comes to America, his teachers, his friends mispronounce his name. They misname him. They make fun of his name. They give him a nickname, and he's like, no, my name is Sangoel. And so he creates a whole T shirt to teach his classmates. And so learning about from day one, creating a welcoming environment, because misnaming, renaming, calling someone's name difficult is rooted in white supremacy. And so to fight against it is to be proactive, to recognize that these types of things happen with people, with people of color, with immigrants, and to be proactive and create, like, an inviting environment around learning to pronounce people's names correctly and recognizing that it causes harm when we don't.

[05:38] Dr Diane: And you just referenced My Name is Sangoel. What about some other picture books? Are there other ones that you also recommend for teachers as you're thinking about building that welcoming environment from day one?

[05:51] Dr Ronda: Yes, we like to think about there's some other books. Teach Us Your Name is another text where, again, it emphasizes teaching other people how to say your name correctly. When we're thinking about younger children, another text that we like to use is All The Colors We Are by Kate Kissinger. And in this text, it teaches children where their skin color comes from. So in a lot of ways, a lot of children, when they come to school, they might have only been around people who look like them. And so when they get to school and in some spaces where it's multiracial, in some spaces, it may not be there's still an emphasis on children paying attention to people's skin tones. And so that book teaches children where skin color comes from, and it helps to make kids race conscious and to ask questions and learn about melanin and ancestry and geographical location. And what we like to argue is that it helps kids disassociate negativity with skin color and to associate melanin, associate ancestry, family, not intelligence. And so if we teach children where the skin color comes from, we feel that that's an active way of fighting against these stereotypical beliefs that we hear in society based on skin color. So those are some other again, that's elementary age that we would use those types of texts.

[07:16] Dr Diane: Right. And when you were doing your presentation, you referenced somebody very close to my heart. You were talking about Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop and the work that she has done, really, to revolutionize the way we look at children's picture books in thinking about presenting books as windows and mirrors and sliding glass doors. And I was wondering if we could talk a little bit more about that and about ways that we can change the way that we look at books in the classroom so that truly our bookshelves are reflecting the children that are in our classes. How have you done that with your summer camp and beyond?

[07:51] Dr Ronda: So we understand that representation matters. We understand that children's books have historically been used, unfortunately, in some ways to create an idea in kids minds about who was superior and who was inferior, who was important and who wasn't important based off of who's included and who's excluded. And so we try to take the approach of one recognizing that, as educators, the books that we use need to be reflective of the children in our classes. Now, someone might argue, well, my books are if I'm teaching all white children, all the books I'm reading are all white, right? So on the one hand, it's like, oh, yeah, well, my books are reflective of the kids that I'm teaching. But that's where the windows and the mirrors piece comes in in the sliding glass doors is not just to see oneself in a text, but it's also to see people from whom we are different. And please note, I always say from whom we are different. Because when we say people who are different from me means that we're the norm.

[08:52] Dr Diane: Right.

[08:52] Dr Ronda: We're centering ourselves. Centering ourselves. So people from whom we are different, we need to learn about them because they are a part of the world. They're in our community. And it's important that we understand that the world is bigger than us. And then in our trainings and the one that you were participated in, we also like to say, beyond representation, what does this do for children? For children of color? It gives possibility to experience windows and mirrors and sliding glass doors. It allows children to imagine who they are currently and maybe who they want to become, to see themselves in different places. It affirms their identity. It lets them know that they matter. That if a teacher is teaching about people who look like me, I matter. For white children, it's more than just, oh, they need to see people who are black and brown. For white children, it helps to decenter whiteness and recognize that the world is greater and more diverse than just their individual selves or their individual community. It also affirms the humanity and people from whom white children are different. So it helps to affirm that black lives matter because we're learning about them in school. And historically, we have to name that. Historically, that has not been the case, that black and brown people were not included in the curriculum. And if we take now, I say historically, if you go down to Florida, that's currently what's happening. Right. So trying to take out stories about African Americans and our contributions.

[10:24] Dr Diane: Right. And we don't want that to happen. Instead, we really do want to focus on showing diverse stories and being able to show not just a single story, but to show multiple perspectives and multiple possibilities as well.

[10:38] Dr Ronda: Right.

[10:39] Dr Diane: One of the things that has driven me crazy when I look at schools and look at the books is if you go into a classroom, what you typically see are famous dead people. And it's a very small list, and it's like, okay, we're more than just slaves. We're more than the past. What about the current contributions? What about people in fiction, in fantasy? Children of color should be featured as your protagonists in all of your books.

[11:09] Dr Ronda: Right. And doing mundane things such as going to school, liking science. When we talk about culturally relevant pedagogy, we talk about how are you representing other groups of people? Is it always from an oppressive lens and storyline? Because black people and brown people, indigenous people, people of color, we're more than our oppressive histories. We're more than the colonized histories of Europeans harming our communities. There's a lot of joy and things and adventure and science fiction, Afro futurism. There are a lot of ways that we can be represented. So it doesn't always have to go back to an oppressive story.

[11:54] Dr Diane: Exactly. And one of the things that I know you had talked about when I was with you before was how do you select books so that you're not doing harm with the books that you're bringing in? I'm wondering, would you be able to give sort of a brief context for anybody who might be listening to get them started and then resources to go to from there if they want to dive deeper?

[12:18] Dr Ronda: Yeah. So, for one, we provide a checklist for reviewing materials. It's important to note that just because a book is on a recommended reading list, even for a multicultural list, it doesn't mean that it's a good book. Like, it still needs to be vetted and read prior to exposing it to children. One of the things that we always talk about as a red flag is whether or not a book is culturally authentic. And by culturally authentic, what we mean is, does the race and ethnicity of the author align with the race and ethnicity of the characters in the book? That's not always 100%, like, a wrong setup. Right? But it is a red flag to pause and slow down, because historically, white people have had access to write their own stories and then to write about other ethnicities and cultures. And sometimes those stories will fall along stereotypical lines, either in the content of what's written or in the visual imagery of how black people are narrated and depicted. So if the books are not culturally authentic, you do need to check to see, is this a stereotypical storyline? Are the images drawn true to character, or do they have over exaggerated features? Because historically, thus, caricatures are one way that white supremacy has shown up in the depictions of Black people.

[13:48] Dr Diane: And so as you're thinking about some of your favorite books and authors, are there people that you would want us to go and take a look at right now? People that are sort of top on your mind, on your bookshelf?

[14:00] Dr Ronda: Yes. It's so funny because I've just been reading books that are not children's book lately, but those were the first authors that popped in my mind, and now I feel like I need to there's one that what is his name? There's so many books that all escaping me right now, but I will come back and pull out some of those authors, because there's some, like in our summer camp, all of our books have a specific purpose for leading with an antiracism framework, and we also like to recommend books that aren't necessarily connected to overtly challenging racism. Right. We also like for kids just to read books for fun and to value the imagery in the text.

[14:51] Dr Diane: Well, we'll take a break for our commercial, and when we come back, we'll look at some of those books.

[15:00] Sponsor Ad:

[16:08] Dr Diane: So, welcome back to the Adventures and Learning podcast. I am with Dr. Ronda Taylor Bullock, and we're talking about ways to build an antiracist classroom. So, Dr. Ronda, on the break, you went and grabbed some books to share with us, so I'm going to turn it over to you.

[16:23] Dr Ronda: Yes. I will say that one of my favorite illustrators is Kadir Nelson.

[16:30] Dr Diane: Absolutely.

[16:30] Dr Ronda: And He's Got the Whole World in His Hands. But we have several books in our house by Kadir Nelson. Like, the imagery is just beautiful and the pictures could tell a story by themselves in addition to the text that he uses. Another one of our favorites is Crown, Ode to the Fresh Haircut. It's just a great book about boys loving their hair and the value of going and getting a fresh haircut. Another really good picture book that we have is Eyes That Kiss in the Corners. That's a beautiful one by Joanna Ho. Yes. Another beautiful text with the imagery and also an identity affirming text, one that makes visible experiences of Asian American students, or children, I should say, in general, and helps to navigate some of the experiences that they have and that other children have or project onto them, just based off of the stereotypes that they are absorbing in the world around them. And so these are books that help have conversations and that are just good to have to represent those windows and mirrors and sliding glass doors in our classrooms and in our homes.

[17:55] Dr Diane: So let's talk a little bit about we are. We'll transition into it. I know that you guys, as part of your three pronged approach, part of what you do is your summer camp. Can you tell us a little bit about what prompted you to found we are and what you see as your role in the world? Because you're not just in North Carolina, you've gained national recognition as well. I know you were at the White House in February, and I'd love to hear more about what you all are doing.

[18:21] Dr Ronda: Yeah, so I started thinking about we are in the fall of 2014. So I had left my job as an educator, where I had been for almost ten years as a high school English teacher and entered into a PhD program. I was in a Policy, Leadership, and School Improvement PhD program at UNC Chapel Hill, and at that time, I was a mother of a three year old and three month old, and the country was like, on the brink of racial turmoil. If you if you can recall, Zimmerman had been acquitted at that point of murdering Trayvon Martin, a police officer had murdered Mike Brown, and it was just a lot. So it was that it was me being a mom to two young kids and then being back in school at a historically white campus, coming from teaching at a historically black high school, which I was there for almost ten years, but going back to UNC because that's where I did my undergrad. I was re-immersed into a very white space and was experiencing racism on a day to day basis, from professors to classmates. It was almost a daily occurrence. And so I just paused. I'm a woman of faith, and I'm a believer. And I was like, God, what are you trying to tell me? Because these things are happening to me. They're not happening to my classmates, they're not happening to my husband. They're happening to me. And so part of what I took out of that experience was I was already interested in race and racism from a very early age in my own personal, lived experiences. And I just came to the conclusion that I was supposed to do antiracism work on a much larger scale. And the first thing that came to me was doing work with children, because in thinking about the George Zimmermans of the world, they've had years to build those biased beliefs. And it's really hard to educate and the bias out of an adult, not that it's impossible, but it's very hard. So I started thinking about what would happen if, as children, we learned about skin color, we learned about race and racism, or we learned about fairness and unfair treatment based on skin color, which is more accessible for young kids. And what if we use children's books as a way to affirm healthy racial identities in children instead of unhealthy ones? Right. And so the first idea came from working with kids, and I was like, well, how would I do it? The English teacher in me was like, books, yes. And so the idea of doing a camp came first, and then I was like, well, if you're working with children, you need to work with their families, too, because they need to learn as well, because many of us didn't have that type of education. And I was about through with adults because it was just too much. I've seen people verbalize a commitment to change, but then their behaviors don't always follow. And at the same time, if you're working with children, you're working with their families, you got to touch the educational system, too. And that's where that three pronged approach came from. And I reached out to my husband to share the idea, and he's looking at me like, we have two kids, you have left teaching, you are in a PhD program, and now you want to start an organization, which I didn't know it was going to be an organization at the time. I knew it was going to be a thing, and I knew it needed a name, and these were the things that I wanted to do. Right. But he is a supporter of me and all of my ideas, and he's actually our co founder, Dr. Daniel Kelvin Bullock. So that's kind of how we are came to be. And I reached out to other people in my PhD program who had already verbalized, like, an antiracism commitment and lens and said, hey, I have this idea to start this organization. Will you join me? And everybody I asked said, yes.

[22:24] Dr Diane: And how has it grown since 2014?

[22:28] Dr Ronda: Oh, wow. Well, we now have three employees. At one point, we had four we're looking to hire to fulfill that fourth role. So we have four employees, plus or minus. Right. We have four distinct roles for our organization. Our camps have gone from the pilot year, just one camp, to four total camps, two in Durham, two in Greensboro, and we added third through fifth grade. We start with first to second, and now we see about 135 children between the four camps. We were going into our 7th, we had our 7th annual Let’s Talk Racism conference earlier this year. And so we started with like about, I think maybe it was 145 attendees at our first conference. We've had up to 500 registrants. So each program has grown over the years. I will say these last two years have been a little more challenging because of the anti CRT or anti critical race theory rhetoric. But the summer camps, that attendance has not slowed down, and it's been a beautiful thing to see.

[23:39] Dr Diane: That is such a positive thing. And you've had a chance to see schools as they work on antiracism. We hear in the headlines all the time about the things that aren't working as they're pulling things out of schools, the banned books, the antiracism crowd. Are there places where it is working? Are there examples where you've seen schools that are truly embracing this and doing the right things?

[24:11] Dr Ronda: Yes. So I would like to shout out Northside Elementary in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and their principal, Coretta Sharpless, who's a black woman, and she leads with an antiracism lens, unapologetic, dismantling and disrupting white supremacies in the school's mission statement. And they've paired with a local college researcher to work with their staff to continuously develop and analyze how they're leading with an antiracism lens. And it's just been phenomenal to watch and to see how the staff comes together. They're not perfect by any means, but they're on the journey, and that's what's most important. Are you on the journey and are you moving in the right direction? I will say in Durham Public Schools, my husband actually is the director of Equity Affairs. And again, this school district is not perfect by any means. And at the same time, there are measures put in place every year to ensure, hold the district accountable, hold educators accountable, hold our parents and community members accountable to providing a racially equitable school system. So again, maybe not where we need to be, but in Durham Public Schools, they're on the journey. Right? And I think that matters, to be on the journey. And to be moving in the right direction versus taking out African American Studies versus removing equity positions from the district. Right.

[25:43] Dr Diane: It's a spectrum, yes, but there are at least schools that are on the right direction on the spectrum in terms of being on the journey. That's good to know. The news gets so depressing so often. So it's lovely to hear that there are schools that are on the journey. I want to hear a little bit more about your personal adventure in learning. I'm intrigued to have gone back to work on your doctorate with two small children. I did that myself. I think I still owe my husband about 300 loads of laundry from that time period. And what led you to want to do your doctorate? How did you get to where you are today?

[26:25] Dr Ronda: I like to say I'm an accidental entrepreneur, and I'm an accidental PhD student in my career. I was in my 9th year of teaching knowing that I needed to do something different. And the majority of the years that I taught, I taught 9th grade English. And so I would have literally hundreds of kids coming into high school not reading on grade level, black and brown kids. And so I wanted to be an elementary school principal because I cared. I felt like it was a social justice. It was a civil rights issue. I was not equipped. I did not have the skill set to teach these children how to read at 1514 years old. That wasn't my skill set. I was supposed to teach you to analyze what you've read. And so were kids coming in not reading on grade level. It was too many. And I was like, this is a civil rights issue. I am not a good enough teacher for these children. I need to go back to school, and I want to be an elementary school principal and come back in this school district and disrupt that's not to blame the teachers. That's not to blame the leadership, but this was my passion, and I was bothered by it. And so I was going to be an elementary school principal, and I was going to do whatever I needed to do to put things in place to get these black and brown children in our school district reading on grade level before they left. And I happened to talk to one of my black mentors who was there at UNC when I was there in undergrad. Her name is Ms. Houston. Ms. Terry Houston. I saw her at an event on UNC's campus because she invited me back, my husband and I back to speak, and I told her what I wanted to do, and she said, Rhonda, you already have a master's degree. If you go back to school, you need to get a terminal degree. And that is the only reason I went back to school to get a PhD. Because she told me to. And it was not in my radar. I'm a first generation college student. Even as an adult, that was not on my radar of something to do. Now, I will say my husband went back and got his PhD first. And even at that, I still wasn't like, I'm not going back to school to do this right, to write a long paper book. But after her encouragement, that is why I went back to get my PhD. And I went in telling them, I'm here to learn how to research. I don't want to be a professor. I'm going to take what I learned. I'm going back to be an elementary school principal, just so we all know. These are my intentions. And that completely changed once I got there.

[29:10] Dr Diane: It's funny how the universe has different plans for us sometimes.

[29:15] Dr Ronda: It is. And I'm happy with what I've chosen to do. And I want to be connected to children more. I'm not as connected as I was as an educator, clearly. And I do get to see them throughout the year and then in the summer, young people, but I want to see them more.

[29:34] Dr Diane: And I saw that you signed your email as a peaceful disruptor. I loved the way that you did that. And I was wondering if you could describe for the listeners sort of what you view a peaceful disruptor as being.

[29:47] Dr Ronda: So I came upon that identity for myself during my PhD program, and I described myself as disruptive peace. And basically, you can't just be a peacemaker because some people's peace comes at the expense of others. Historically, it's been white people's comfort that rules, and that's to present day, if you're learning about race and racism, if white people are uncomfortable, then the conversation has to stop, right? So some people's peace comes at the expense and the oppression of others. So I didn't want to be a peacekeeper. I wanted to be a Disruptive peacemaker. And so I want to create peace. But sometimes you have to be disruptive. You have to disrupt other people's peace, which means disrupting the harm that they've been causing, making it visible so that there's a greater shared peaceful experience. And so I'm a Disruptive peacemaker, and I feel like that very much encompasses who I am. I value peace. I value joy. I value rest. I value community. At the same time, I understand that sometimes you got to shake things up a little bit, and you can't just always go with the flow.

[31:13] Sponsor Ad: Thank you for joining me on today's Adventure and Learning.

[31:16] Dr Diane: I'm your host, Dr. Diane. And just a quick reminder that if you would like to receive our newsletter, be sure to visit Dr. Dianeadventures.com and sign up. You'll also find the complete show notes for every episode at that website. And now let's conclude our interview and today's Adventure and Learning. I was wondering, would you describe a little bit about going to the White House in February? You were recognized for the hard work that you've put in. And I'd love to hear a little bit more about that experience.

[31:50] Dr Ronda: Yeah, it came as a complete shock. The invitation was like, the week before the event. At first I was like, is this spam? I think it is, who gets invited to the White House? And through an email, I'm like, how do you get my name? Where did all this come from? I had all these questions. And I remember telling my husband, I'm like, either I'm going to the White House or someone just stole my identity because I had to put in my Social Security number. But at any rate, I was invited to the White House as a part of recognizing emerging black leaders in our country, which was also part of the larger Black History Month events that the White House normally hosts. And so I am a North Carolina ten to watch with United Way. And so that's kind of how I got on the radar to be invited. And we first spent the earlier part of the day at the White House, and it was like black leaders from across the country. So we're sitting at the table, all of these dope young black minds, people who are doing creative, innovative things, from being a medical doctor and having this huge following to people leading, like, social justice work and environmental justice. Eric Garner's daughter was at the table with her niece, and I was just like, wow. And so we're at the table in the White House, and we have top black White House officials coming in one after the other for Roundtables. And so I'm sitting at the head of the table. So every speaker that comes in is sitting right beside me. So Keisha Lance Bottoms is sitting right beside me. Right?

[33:35] Dr Diane: Wow.

[33:36] Dr Ronda: The President's press Secretary Kareem Jean Pierre is sitting right next to me. And it was just amazing to see all of this black excellence in the White House. And I was just wild because I did not know that they were there. And not that their representation, but they were smart and critical thinkers, and they lead with social justice antiracism. They understand systemic issues, systemic harm, systemic racism. And it didn't feel performative like they were their authentic selves. And I told people I'm not easily wowed. But I was definitely wowed. And that was just in the morning. I mean, in the in the early part of the day. So then that evening, we went to a party at Vice President Kamala Harris's home. Oh, wow. So I get to the gate, and they're doing security checks. I'm seeing all these famous people. I'm like, how am I in this line with these people? And I get to the top and they say, you have a VIP ticket. I said, VIP? I thought the whole event was VIP. So I was allowed to go in her actual home and take a picture with her and our first gentleman, Doug. And it was just amazing. I was so thankful. My heart overflowed my cup runneth over for being in that space. And then we partied with DJ D Nice for the evening. And, yeah, it was just an amazing experience.

[35:02] Dr Diane: and so well deserved. So what's next for we are? And what's next for Dr Ronda?

[35:11] Dr Ronda: Currently, we're working with a strategic planner, which we had not done previously. And I feel like our board, we have a really dope founding board member, board members of a really dope board, and so we've done really well for ourselves, I believe, getting us getting We Are to this point. And now I think we're at a pivotal place for growth. And so we're bringing in Dr Margaret Brunson to do strategic planning with us. She's a black woman here in Durham who's going to help us take We Are to the next level and help pull out even more of the vision. I have a lot of dreams for where I want us to go. I want us to be partnered in a long term relationship with a local school here in our school district, where we're helping that building that similar relationship that Ms. Sharpless has at North Side, but with the school here in Durham that's being led with the antiracism framework and then becomes a school to train teachers. So now your student teachers are coming here to learn how to teach in our district, with our student population, but also with this antiracism liberation themed framework and with culturally relevant pedagogy and doing things that we know work for kids. And so that's one of the things that's coming up. And we just want to keep growing. We want to become an institute where we're having more employees, not for the sake of growth. Like I told people, scale has always made me uncomfortable, the language of scale. And when I first started, everybody was like, where do you see yourself in three to five years? What does scale look like? And I didn't get in this work as a serial entrepreneur. I got in this work for my passion. And, yes, I understand that this type of work is needed in more spaces, but that doesn't mean we have to do it, right.

[37:04] Dr Diane: Right.

[37:05] Dr Ronda: But then recently, I got excited because at our environment, which we're learned, we're building the ship as we go, but we're creating a liberated workspace that many of us have never experienced, many of us on our staff, none of us on our staff. And it gave me joy to think that I could create a system for hiring people to escape from these white, supremacist laden workforces. That gave me joy, like the idea of growth, for that to be a safe haven for people, not perfect by any means, we still have to be decolonizing our own thinking as well, to be able to imagine what's possible in this space. But all of our employees can name today that where we work and we are is very different from the work environments we came from, especially for those of us who were educators. And the idea of growth for that purpose made me excited. And so I really want to put in the work to get the funds so that we can hire more people to do the work and also support black and brown people to reimagine what a work environment can look like. That's much healthier for us and achieving like a greater purpose.

[38:28] Dr Diane: Well, that sounds like an incredible goal and I would love to have you back as you're growing and making your dreams come true. Dr. Ronda. Taylor Bullock thank you so much for being on the Adventures and Learning podcast. It has been a privilege for me.

[38:42] Dr Ronda: To talk to you today. Thank you so much for having me, Dr. Diane. I really appreciate the opportunity to share more about myself, the work I'm doing, and the dope colleagues, board members and community that loves on us every chance I get. I appreciate being able to tell our story.

[39:00] Dr Diane: Well, thank you.

[39:03] Outro

Watch the entire podcast episode on YouTube.