One of the things that has become an "easy" win for me was starting with books. I love books, so with a little Googling and a whole lot of Amazon-ing, making intentional choices about the books that I put on the shelves for our family was a pretty painless first step. There are a million book lists out there, but I recommend checking out publisher Lee & Low publishing or try some of the book lists recommended by social justice educator and author Debby Irving. A couple of my personal favorites are The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson and The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas.
My next step was to add to our art collection. We have pieces that celebrate our family or have sentimental value, of course, but I began to take note of black artists who really inspired me through their work and word art that frames the beliefs we hold in our family. I fell in love with the "Golden Dancer" piece by Dexter Griffin at Shon's grandmother's house and purchased one from our home. Eventually this extended into holidays. We kept the pieces that meant something to us as individuals, but we don't *only* have white Christian normative Christmas decorations. We've talked about Kwanzaa, from which a kinara sits as my kitchen table centerpiece awaiting our celebratory dinner. Last year my aunt and uncle were accidentally shipped a chocolate Santa with an order that they've made, so they passed it on to us. All year long "black Santa" sat in a place of honor on our book shelf until finally Shon let the kids enjoy the chocolate in October. I replaced chocolate Santa with a beautiful painting for my wall this year. On the flip side, we also have straw Swedish ornaments passed on to me from my grandmother. For me it's not about putting up African-American art and images for the sake of having African-American art, but choosing pieces that have meaning to celebrate the diversity of our home.
The final, more difficult and less tangible shift we've tried to make has been around how we have switched our conversations. We discuss hard issues, we try to understand multiple perspectives around issues. We're careful about our jokes and we name actions and words that are not okay (from ourselves and from others). I may not agree with much (most) of the actions of some of our elected officials, but we try to provide context for why others might agree. I want my children, all four of my children, to question - their beliefs, those around them, and the status quo.
So why am I sharing all this on my professional blog?
Because these are changes you can make in your classroom. Ask families what artists and books they have in their homes. What holidays do they celebrate? How can we diversify our bookshelves and bulletin boards? How do we make sure we're going beyond the surface? I hope my daughter doesn't study only MLK Jr and Rosa Parks for the first eight years of her education. I want her to see herself in the texts and the pictures on the walls. And likewise, I want my white children to experience more than just their white culture. I want them to know names of activists like Kwame Ture (you may know him as Stokely Carmichael, but you may not know him at all) and read the works of Ta-Nehisi Coates (one of my favorite contemporary writers). I want them to see the world for what it is, not what we think it might be because of our geographic location and homogenous populations. I want them to have an intelligent debate about why Colin Kaepernick took a knee - and know and understand the *real* reasons.
I made these changes for my children at home, but when you're a teacher they are ALL "your" kids. They all deserve to see themselves, and even in our most homogenous schools, we're doing kids a disservice if we are not providing them with windows into the lives of people with different experiences from their own.
Ready to make some shifts but not sure how? Check out the resource page I've started building, reach out - I'd love to come share or connect you with a person in your area, or check out this site for celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day! While I understand that we don't want to reduce multicultural literature to one day, there are some fantastic resources to get you started ahead of and beyond Jan 25, 2019! And finally, I'd love to have you share your own ideas and shifts in the comments!