On February 23rd and 24th 2024, over 200 BIPOC educators and educational leaders came together for the Convening: two days to recommit to the work of educational equity and liberation. During the weekend educators collectively discussed problems in the education system. Then, they collaborated on ways to restructure classrooms and to address these problems while centering self-care in their work.

TAF is a student-focused and educator-focused organization. It is hard work for educators of color who are pushing against a system that isn’t built to support them while perhaps being the only non-white educator in the building. At the same time, students seeing teachers who look like them is invaluable in their educational journey. 

From the opening performance by Northwest Tap Connection to the concluding Affinity Salons and happy hour, educators spent the weekend getting inspired and rejuvenated to remember the why behind their teaching and continue doing that work.

During the event, attendees had four opportunities to choose breakout sessions focused on specific ways to imagine, heal, and build. During any breakout time, educators addressed at least one of these themes in a session. For example, at one point, in one room, educators were talking with formerly incarcerated folks about how to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline; in another, they were starting the work toward community care by developing a concrete plan for continued self-care; in another, two librarians led teachers through strategies to build diversity hubs in their schools.

Now, let’s examine what it meant to Imagine, Heal, and Build at the Convening.

💭💭🧠 Imagine 🧠💭💭

Imagination was central to Saturday’s keynote address by author and professor Ruha Benjamin. She reminded attendees that before we can make a better future, we have to believe that one is possible. Otherwise, technological advancements will maintain the same harmful biases and systems that exist today. For educators, working to make classrooms spaces for imagination to flourish is an investment in the best future that students can dream.

There were also plenty of sessions to imagine a better education system. TAF’s own instructional coaches showed how PBL fosters imagination toward liberation and equity. Another session, Cultivating the Genius of Black Learners by Dr. Debra Sullivan, imagined classrooms that use decades of research to meet the needs of Black students.

Sabrina came specifically for that session and got a whole lot more throughout the weekend.

🚑🩹 Heal 🩹🚑

She believed she could, but she was tired, so she didn’t.

Other sessions at the Convening focused on strategies to set boundaries, center purpose and passion, and prioritize self-care.

“What does compensation for that look like?” was a helpful tool one attendee noted. That simple question helps to disrupt common assumptions that BIPOC educators will do extra work uncompensated.

Self-care drove Bonita Lee’s session, Center In Community Care: Explore maintenance, self-care, and community care in our co-created space. She first walked the group through the distinctions between maintenance, self-care, and community care. Certain practices can fall under multiple categories, but they all need to be intentionally implemented. Everyone left her session with self- and community-care goals written out.

There were also sessions on managing mental health, trauma, and burnout, and Yoga Behind Bars taught a session on using embodiment and movement for self-care.

The Convening was a place for people to give and receive knowledge. Dr. Webster, for example, led a session – Unpuzzling Black Male Mental Health – on Friday and participated in sessions all day on Saturday.

🛠️ Build 🛠️

Attendees also took time to learn how to rebuild their classrooms.

A good example workshop was the session Bringing Racial Equity to the Forefront: It’s Time to Walk the Walk! lead by Roosevelt Alumni for Racial Equity (RARE). RARE has used cross-racial coalition-building to make a documentary about race and education in Roosevelt High School’s history and to do racial equity work at Roosevelt. They talked through that process and what teachers can do to bring people together in the interest of racial justice in their own schools.

By the end of the Convening, attendees were a little tired after a long week but also feeling strength and rejuvenation. That’s what many, like Will Sanchez, said.

The Network for EdWork will continue to do work like the Convening to help sustain educators of color as they do the hard work in their classrooms each day. 

One that we are looking forward to is the Martnez Summit, which will be held from August 2nd to 4th. We will have more information soon.

Attendees at last year's Martinez Fellow Summit