Talking About Race and Identity

Dear Families:


A day at Brooklyn New School is a busy one.  A week, even more frenetic, and in a month and a year, a lot happens.  Through it all, teachers work together to support your children while also grappling with societal issues that have impact on schools and learning.  Many a Monday is devoted to staff meetings in which teachers talk about race, equity, identity and more.

We are fortunate to have a dedicated team of teachers and educational assistants who help to make this happen.  Many thanks to the Race and Equity Committee, which has offered a menu of media titles to the staff, and through a process of choice, divided the entire faculty into smaller groups in order for us to delve deeply into these issues.  This year we are reading and discussing:

Black Appetite White Food by Jamila Lyiscott

We Want to Do More Than Survive by Bettina Love




The Hate U Give & On the Come Up by Angie Thomas


1619 Project, the Podcast Series created by Nikole Hannah-Jones

Our small groups are facilitated by staff members who rotate leadership roles from one meeting to the next, striving for equity of voice and open sharing of experiences, thus strengthening our community approach to taking care of our children and each other.


A second committee is called the ESI (Expanded Success Initiative) CREATES (Culturally Responsive Environments Achieving Transformative Equitable Solutions) Committee.  This group of teachers, administrators, and educational assistants participates in professional development provided by NYU Metro Center while also analyzing attitudes and perceptions here at BNS.  This work has resulted in a goal, in which teachers will be provided with professional development in restorative practices. The goal is to use restorative strategies in work with adults as well as work with children.  In the upcoming weeks and months, we will meet with a staff developer to further our understanding of restorative practices.


Over the last couple of years, we have also  developed a set of affinity groups for our older students. These groups each started organically through student advocacy for a place to talk with others about layers of their identity.  Affinity groups cover a range of identity issues including:

  • race (Conversations of Color)
  • having a disability (physical or otherwise) (DAAC – Disability Activists & Allies Community) 
  • being adopted (Adoption Group) 
  • gender and sexuality (GSA). 


Adult advisors facilitate the discussions, provide additional resources, and regulate the norms of the space. Student need and experience guide the conversations.  There are also pop-up student groups. Banana Splits, for example, addresses issues around divorce and there is even a Grief Group for dealing with the loss of a loved one.


All of the above speaks to the need to be known, whether within a classroom, a school or a community.  A group of parents are in the process of planning for further communication around race and equity amongst the parent body.  Be on the lookout for communications from this group.  


Many thanks to Mira Jacobs, mother to fifth grader, Zakir, in Antoinette and Nancy’s class, who shared with us her new book Good TalkGood Talk is a graphic novel for adults in which Mira reflects on talking to her son about race and identity.  It’s an inspiring book and probably should be required reading for anyone raising a child. You might want to read it.  


 All for now,







Leave a Reply

© 2018. All rights reserved.
WordPress theme: Dameer DJ. Photos: Justin Weiner