Shared Experiences

Hi Friends!
This summer, I’m planning to spend some time highlighting inspiration for the process of:
(1) Seeing your bubble and acknowledging white privilege;
(2) Identifying personal implicit bias and owning it;
(3) Educating ourselves about systemic and institutional racism and its foundation in white supremacy; and,
(4) Taking action through conversations (or more) to raise awareness of these things in our own communities.
I’ll be sharing some of my own experiences and I welcome your experiences if you want to share them (anonymously or not). Everyone is at a different point along this process (and sometimes we backslide or get stuck!), and understanding that can help us be patient and encouraging with each other.
We have all been conditioned by the racism that permeates everything around us, largely invisible to those with privilege. It takes work to see it and then to understand it well enough to work to dismantle it. The more we can support each other in this work, the more successful we will be.
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In the meantime, here’s some happy inspiration for the day. And the Washington Post picked up the news about Arlington’s transgender procedures.
Also, if you haven’t come across the ActionNow newsletter, I’m sharing two recent posts that I found particularly helpful and inspiring, one about immigration and one about being active in this space (language heads up!).
There’s a rally to protect immigrant children on Tuesday, July 2 from 10:00–11:00 am at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20004 (Outside U.S. Customs & Border Protection). For more info, contact
(1) Here’s a story about how Alabama picks and chooses the history it remembers, presented by NPR journalists.
(2) The Southern Poverty Law Center released a new report examining the weaponization of the immigration court system.
(3) If you want to know more about Juneteenth, here’s an excellent piece by Jameelah Nasheed at TeenVogue.
(4) Also from TeenVogue, an article about high school students doing an investigative journalism piece about the use of prison labor by school systems.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Solidarity, Reparations, and Changemaking

Hi Friends!
Today is officially Juneteenth! There are many celebrations going on today and this week, so try to check one out.
The School Board meeting last night was very well attended, particularly by community members wearing purple to support transgender and gender nonconforming students. It was clear from the beginning that Dr. Murphy was going to move the PIP forward (hooray!), but it was still wonderful to hear so many supportive and affirming voices. If you want to watch any of the video, I love Tannia’s statements around 4:00:00. She throws down about tolerance in response to community members who did not support the PIP. And I didn’t watch the whole thing, so there may have been other wonderful responses.
Reparations are becoming something more and more people are willing to consider and understand. According to the ACLU, “Reparations are about acknowledging the damages inflicted on Black Americans through enslavement and post-emancipation exclusionary polices; repair, healing, respect, and restoring Black dignity and reconciliation, so that we can walk together to create a more just and humane society.” They urge asking your representatives to support H.R. 40, a bill that has been reintroduced in Congress. Please also ask them to support H.R. 35, the anti-lynching bill, to come before the full House of Representatives.
Hold The Line Magazine shared the following ideas for changemaking things to do with your kids in a recent newsletter:
“(1) Ask your library to order new books — Have a few titles that might diversify your library’s offerings? Visit their website and search for a “Suggest a Purchase” form.
(2) Start a daily practice of asking your kids how they’ve helped others recently and follow-up with questions and support for the differences their help can make.
(3) Make a donation (small or large) right now to an organization you value but haven’t given to financially.
(4) Support a local poc-owned business when you shop or dine this weekend.
(5) Write a letter or send an email to a local leader or politician, make your voice be heard!”
(1) When They See Us series on Netflix
(2) The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Lecia Brooks testified to Congress about the influence of white supremacy on domestic terrorism and hate crimes. You can watch (Facebook) or read (PDF) her remarks.
(3) A New York Times Race/Related story about a high school in Minnesota highlights that sometimes conversations among students about race after an incident can lead to bigger positive change.
(4) Petula Dvorak wrote an article about black transgender women and the rise of violence against them.
(5) Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, wrote the introduction to a recent Southern Poverty Law Center report on corporal punishment in schools, which is disproportionately implemented with children of color and children with disabilities.
(6) Debbie Truong often reports on education for The Washington Post and this past week, she wrote about bias in textbooks. I haven’t been in the system long enough to know — how does Arlington do when it comes to textbook content?
(1) Embrace Race is hosting another webinar on June 25, called “Nurturing children of color to remake the world.” If you interact with children of color in any way (even if they are not your own), please consider engaging with this material.
(2) Virginia Federal Advocacy Day on the Hill is happening June 24 with Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations (VACOLAO) and Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR). If you’re interested, you can register here.
(3) Also on June 24 is an event hosted by Empower DC called “DC Gentrification and Black Cultural Loss.”
(4) On July 9, SURJ is hosting a webinar with Angela Davis. Registration is free.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Challenging Times

Hi Friends,
I’m working on my update for tomorrow, but I wanted to take a moment to share that I am so grateful for this group and our focused attention on issues of equity, inclusion, race, and systemic discrimination. I am so encouraged by the fact that there are nearly 150 people on this email list and more people find us every week.
Things are tough right now, particularly in APS with so many things going on (leadership changes, PIP, end of school), and that means that for many of us, tensions are high and many people are feeling frustrated. That’s ok — that’s part of being engaged and active in our communities.
Focus on self-care, step away from AEM (a Facebook group called Arlington Education Matters), go for a walk, and take deep breaths. Focus on the little things you have control over and trust that other group members are doing the same. Find a way to go out of your way to do something kind — it will make you and someone else feel better.
And then come back and continue the work.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Gender and Language Discrimination in Schools

Hi Friends!
I’m planning to speak at the June 18 APS School Board meeting where the PIP update will be presented, but they haven’t posted the agenda yet. Our friends at Arlington Gender Identify Allies (AGIA) shared that they are hoping people will speak, “thanking the SB for supporting trans and gender nonconforming students, that you’re the parent of cisgender children and you’re comfortable having them educated in a school district that supports and affirms trans and gender non-conforming students, and that single-stall, gender-neutral bathrooms should not only be accessible, but conveniently located.” If you’re willing to read comments from others who need to stay stealth, please let me know and I’ll connect you to them. Please come if you want to speak (or just to be there in support).
There was a recent article in the Washington Post by Monica Hesse, who writes about gender issues, that really was a beautiful parallel to why people of color need white people to speak up about racism (just as, in the article, Hesse asks men to speak up about sexism). It’s a similar dynamic of asking those with an outsized amount of power in the situation to be the ones to ensure equitable change takes place. Maybe this comparison can be a tool for bringing the conversation up with people.
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Theresa Vargas wrote about the settlement APS reached with the Department of Justice regarding how it educates our English language learners and my main takeaway from it was a quote from an unnamed teacher (they didn’t want to lose their job): ““Most staff members don’t understand how big the issues are. Those of us who know are too afraid to say anything. Parents have no clue.””
This tells me that we need to push even harder to advocate, to learn about the challenges actually facing our students and their families, to empower our teachers and staff to speak up without fear for their jobs, to provide our staff with cultural competency training so they can understand the challenges their students face, so they can understand how big the issues are. We need to truly do the work of looking at our issues openly so we can address them, not pretending that they don’t exist. Speaking of pretending, everyone I spoke with after the settlement story broke had no idea that the suit was even pending. We cannot address what we cannot see.
One of the ways you can advocate is by helping your PTA become more of an advocacy arm to the district on behalf of your school’s staff (who often feel unable to speak up about what they observe). Make sure you’re engaging your school’s teachers, administrators, and staff in a way that supports and advocates for students. Provide ample opportunity for teachers to share with you and coordinate with your school community to advocate as a group.
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Culture change is a marathon of daily steps. Keep moving and bring along as many teammates as you can.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

Vote for Parisa on Tuesday

Hi Friends,
If you get as many election mailers as I do, you know how contentious the Commonwealth’s Attorney race is this year. You may also know that I chose to endorse Parisa even though normally I don’t endorse political candidates in this group. (Also, no one asked me to write this.)
I know that voting for change can be scary. I know that when people you know and respect and who are good people choose to support the incumbent, you might doubt your convictions, doubt whether the situation really is as important as Parisa is campaigning about. I know that these doubts are normal and part of being open-minded and engaged with our communities.
I also know that we need to be brave. We need to trust our community members who share their lived experiences in Arlington. We need to listen and amplify their voices. We need to follow their lead and vote for change, for true criminal justice reform.
If you are wavering at all on voting for Parisa, please reach out to me. I’m happy to share with you what raises my confidence in her over and over (and yes, I have doubted myself).
I know some of you might have personal connections to the incumbent and that she may be a good person. I don’t dispute that. I ask you to look beyond our own personal knowledge and listen to our fellow community members who have experienced something entirely different.
The incumbent does not believe that systemic racism exists in Arlington (I was present when she said this at the first NAACP criminal justice forum). She chose not to engage with our Black and Latinx communities when they invited her to a forum, and did not attend a second forum hosted by the NAACP.
I am particularly concerned about her record bringing charges against childrenWhether they are convicted or not, children and families who are involved in the justice system can be permanently affected by that experience. Every opportunity should be taken to avoid taking legal action against a child. The incumbent’s record does not bear this out.
If a few anecdotes feel like not enough evidence of a pattern, please remember that many people affected by bias in the justice system do not tell their stories openly. Recognize your white privilege, understand that it prevents you from seeing the experiences of people of color, and trust that the stories you do hear are the tip of the iceberg.
We focus a lot on educational equity in this group. The Arlington Education Association (AEA) endorsed Parisa: “AEA believes that Parisa’s deep commitment to social justice together with her restorative justice approach to law enforcement is just what Arlington Public Schools needs to create a safe, healthy environment in which students and staff can thrive. Her statement to the interview committee, that “in order to take action to stop the school to prison pipeline, we must first acknowledge openly that it exists”, resonated with the committee and aligns with AEA’s commitment to combating injustice in our delivery of educational services to our community.” (emphasis added)
Arlington’s Special Education PTA (SEPTA) shared a Q&A with both candidates, which includes the incumbent saying that a statute that “criminalizes disruptions to instruction at school” should “remain a tool for individuals who willfully choose to disrupt a school proceeding thus interfering with the ability of others to learn.” Given what we know about implicit bias (and that APS staff are not currently trained on cultural competency in a consistent way), this means that children of color and children with disabilities are more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor for disrupting instruction. Parisa’s response shows a clear dedication to diversion programs and for repealing that statute.
Please vote for Parisa on Tuesday, June 11 at your regular polling place. Thank you for listening, amplifying, and following underrepresented communities in bringing meaningful change to Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.

School Equity and PTA Funding Disparities

Hi Friends!
There are a lot of things coming up in the next week:
- A reminder that you have until June 11 to provide feedback on the draft PIP for the School Board Policy J-2 Student Equal Educational Opportunities-Nondiscrimination regarding transgender students. Please share your affirmation of transgender students and support for the update!
- Please vote in the School Board caucus on June 6 and 8.
- Please vote in the primary election on June 11. (For my Commonwealth’s Attorney endorsement, see this post.)
- Please consider attending the VOICE Action event on June 9 — flyers in English and Spanish are attached. From one of our members: “This is a pivotal time for Arlington with the arrival of Amazon and other large corporations. There have been a slew of recent articles describing what has happened to working class people in San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, and other places when the tech companies move in. Too often people of color are disproportionately negatively impacted. On the other hand, we can look at the change coming as an opportunity. We have learned a lot about what cities can do to protect their affordable housing supply, and how officials can make sure that the new financial benefits and programs are equitably distributed. We will hold our politicians accountable. This is another chance to put Dismantling Racism and Allyship Work into practice. This is a two hour commitment to do some anti-racist work.”
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Last week, APS announced that the Virginia Board of Education had honored 12 Arlington schools with the “2019 Virginia Index of Performance (VIP) awards based upon student achievement and other performance indicators during the 2017–18 school year.” Congratulations to those schools! I do want to point out that 75% of the 12 schools had a %ED of less than 15% and student bodies that ranged from 64–81.2% white. The remaining three schools had a %ED between 23–35% and student bodies that were more diverse, ranging from 46.6–47.2% white (all stats from 17–18 school year). We will have a better indicator that we are closer to truly educating all Arlington students to their potential when low %ED and high %white are no longer correlated with performance recognition.
Related to this, the CCPTA recently held its annual leadership workshop, which was very well attended and was a great success. If you have school-aged children, please consider being active in your child’s school’s PTA. There is so much opportunity for informed parents to speak up for equity. Here’s part of what I shared with that group:
From VA PTA Position Statement Advancing Equity & Diversity
“Virginia PTA reminds its PTAs to:
- Openly assess beliefs and practices to assure inclusiveness and guard against discrimination;
- Make every effort to create a PTA board and membership that is inclusive and reflective of its community;
- Foster programs, events, and practices that eliminate bias, prejudice, and misunderstanding within their communities, and celebrate cultural diversity;
- Actively participate in parent education programs run by your school division which are designed to welcome immigrant families in each school community.”
Equity Implications:- Please consider that Arlington’s schools are segregated by income and race. Out of 32 schools, 12 schools have over 40% of students considered economically disadvantaged, all but two of which are located south of Route 50.
- Please consider that PTAs in Arlington do not all have the same ability to raise similar amounts of funding or to provide similar levels of support and opportunities for their students and staff. 2017–2018 PTA budgets at Arlington elementary schools ranged from $20,000 to $190,000, a spending range from $42 to $304 per student. Over $2 million was spent at the 26 schools that shared their information, and about 75% of that total was spent by just 14 schools.
- Some PTAs in Arlington have been able to achieve amazing things — new playground and facilities upgrades, hiring companies to provide after school enrichment opportunities, landscaping and beautification efforts, classroom libraries and seating options, and generous teacher appreciation efforts, all of which increase opportunities for many of Arlington’s students.
- Please consider as you plan your activities and budget needs that very well-intentioned and appreciated efforts by any PTA can unintentionally further exacerbate inequities among schools. The VA PTA Equity and Diversity Position Statement encourages members “at all levels to monitor, support, and advocate for programs and policies that embrace diversity and inclusivity as strengths and work to eliminate structural inequities that limit equitable learning opportunities.” Let’s encourage our school communities to take a county-wide perspective on addressing inequities in Arlington.
Opportunities for Impact:- Donate to the CCPTA’s CPCI grant fund — PTAs donate to the grant fund, which is then disbursed to grant applicants for specific purposes that meet strict guidelines and are evaluated by the CPCI Working Group twice a year.
- Participate in the CCPTA’s Partnership Program to collaborate and develop a mutually supportive relationship with other PTAs and school communities.
Examples for Discussion:- A PTA holds an annual auction as one of its main fundraisers for the year. A cover charge of $20 is set for parents to participate and many items start at $200. The only way to participate is to attend in person.
- A PTA plans to pay for a facilities upgrade to the school, with the principal’s permission. They commit to contributing a set amount of funds from the budget each year for five years to pay for the project.
- A school principal regularly attends PTA meetings and during budget discussions, the principal expresses strong preferences about how the PTA budget should be spent. The principal also regularly expects the PTA to pay for things for the school and the PTA Board approves them without membership discussion.
- A school community is very diverse, with approximately 20% white students. The PTA Board is made up entirely of parents who are white. Communication from the PTA is always only in English and always only electronic.
Let me know if you have questions or want to discuss this further.
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Some changes are coming in Arlington related to Nauck/Green Valley:
- The Washington Post had a great story about the name change.
- Arlington County Board Chair, Christian Dorsey expressed support (YouTube) for the name change.
Affordable Housing and Housing Discrimination are also getting a lot of press:
- If you missed the recently Housing Arlington discussion at the end of May, it’s posted (YouTube) and they are accepting feedback.
- The ACLU (among other things) is taking on a housing discrimination case in Chesterfield County, VA because a company bans residents from living in its apartments if they have a criminal record of any kind. Claire G. Gastanaga, Executive Director of the ACLU stated: “Longstanding obstacles in the criminal justice system have created race-based differences in outcomes, even for the same types of crimes. Given these differences, criminal record-based discrimination is racial discrimination.” This is why criminal justice reform matters.
There is also a lot of recognition of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to grant women the right to vote around right now, which is awesome. But we must remember that the movement was and the recognition of it is whitewashed. Check out SPLC’s Weekend Read about it.
Listen Up, Learn Up, Speak Up. Keep doing the work. It’s making a difference and it matters. And you are not alone. VOTE!
Listen. Amplify. Follow.