“Safe spaces are spaces that offer opportunities for connection. Safe spaces serve as a refuge for Black and Brown bodies. In safe spaces they are loved, there is validation (and) there is mutual trust. In safe spaces, a person of color feels whole.”
~Arlene Arias, LCSW, Ed.D.
On October 21, 2016, our co-founder advanced the idea of improving educational experiences for children of color by affirming classrooms as safe spaces in her debut TEDx talk. Core to our mission is advocating for improving racial congruency in every classroom, school, and district. In short, we strongly believe every student should have an opportunity to access teachers and educational professionals who share their ethnicity. Black and Hispanic children in the Waterbury Public Schools do not have equal access to that opportunity.
In her talk, Dr. Arias shares her experiences as a Black female student in the Waterbury Public Schools and how she now recognizes the importance of having Black teachers. She says this about her time with Mrs. Booker, “She was familiar and she was safe, and it was unspoken. If Mrs. Booker was safe in the space we called school then I was safe.”
The fact that Black and Hispanic students are disciplined at greater rates, perform at lower rates and are given access to Talented and Gifted programs at lower rates than their white peers leads us to believe growing the number of Black and Hispanic teachers is of paramount importance. Dr. Arias notes that trauma is a barrier to recruitment. She says, “why would a person go right back to the environment that was so taxing.” So “if we don’t have safe spaces for Black and Brown children then we don’t have safe spaces for Black and Brown teachers.”
We believe all educators should be working to become more culturally competent. In the near future, we will be piloting a two-day, 10-hour training course for educators focusing on building cultural competence. In the meantime click here to see our Five Phase Cultural Competency Model. Enjoy the TEDx talk.