Working Towards Becoming An Anti-Racist School

At the Morse School, we acknowledge that we live in a society shaped by systemic racism and racial inequities. From a lifetime of exposure to white supremacist cultural attitudes we each carry hidden biases. Left unchecked, these biases limit the voice, undermine the success, and negatively impact the well-being of children, families, and educators of color in our community.

We are committed to identifying and dismantling racist structures, hearing and elevating underrepresented voices, and striving to achieve an equitable and just educational experience for all Morse School students.

We recognize that the road ahead will be long and difficult. In working to disrupt our own biases, we will make mistakes and experience discomfort. We will need to accept non-closure. We also know that there is urgency to this work, that there is power in community, and that we must keep moving forward. 

Steps We Are Taking in 2020-2021

The noted psychologist and author Beverly Daniel Tatum has compared structural racism, the assumed superiority of whites, and the assumed inferiority of people of color to a “smog” that we all breathe. “We don't breathe it because we like it,” Tatum notes. “We don't breathe it because we think it's good for us. We breathe it because it's the only air that's available.” At the Morse School, we recognize that the members of our community represent a very broad range of experiences and that we are all in different stages along a continuum of awareness about the existence and effects of structural racism. We are therefore looking to provide all members of our community with multiple opportunities and entry points to engage with the important and necessary work of understanding and undoing structural racism within our school.

Here are some of the initiatives we have planned for the 2020-2021 school year:

  • Monthly Race & Equity Working Group meetings (see information below)
  • Community-wide conversations focused on anti-racism & social justice (Fall, Winter, Spring). (The fall 2020 workshop, The ABCs of Racism, offered by Wee The People was attended by more than 40 Morse School parents and caregivers!)
  • Monthly Small-Group Staff Conversations about Race, Racism, and Implicit Bias
  • Train-the-Trainer Model to Prepare Staff Equity Facilitators (This team, facilitated by Dr. Darnisa Amante-Jackson and made up of a diverse group of 10 Morse School educators, held its first meeting on November 10, 2020)
  • Parents & Caregivers of Color Affinity Group
  • Staff Members of Color Affinity Group
  • Ongoing review of school-based data (including disciplinary data) using an equity lens
  • Ongoing review of policies, pedagogical practice, and behavior management practices to ensure that children’s academic, social, and emotional needs are addressed through supportive, anti-racist educational interventions.
  • Equity-Informed Hiring Practices
  • The development of clear, school-based protocols to identify and address harassment, microaggressions, or discrimination that are observed or experienced in our school.
How You Can Get Involved

As adults responsible for raising the next generation, we have an obligation to reflect upon - and work together to understand and disrupt - the dynamics that have historically fostered white privilege while devaluing and disempowering individuals and communities of color. To do this, we will need to become more comfortable talking to each other - and to our children - about racism. Here are some steps you can take individually, within your household, or in community with other members of our community who want to make our school more equitable and just.

>> Join The Morse Race & Equity Working Group

Over the last two years, the Morse Race & Equity Working Group has engaged in a process that we hope will ultimately involve all members of our school community in conversations about how the dynamics of racial oppression impact Morse School students, families, and teachers. Our purpose in coming together is to create a safe and brave space to do the critical work of coming into awareness and taking action to dismantle racism. This space will enable difficult and powerful conversations about the racial justice and equity work we need to do as individuals, at the school level, and in our community to disrupt the system and transform the educational experience of students at the Morse School. The Morse Working Group on Race & Equity meets monthly and is open to all members of the Morse School community. 

  • At the group’s September 17th meeting, participants engaged in a thoughtful conversation centered around White Signs of the Times in Cambridge, an opinion piece by Dr. Sheldon Lloyd Johnson, which contrasted our community’s stated commitment to recognizing and valuing people of color in Cambridge, against the daily lived experiences of people of color who are often made to feel invisible in our City.
  • At our October 15th meeting, the group engaged in a preliminary conversation about what a bias reporting system might look like at the Morse School. The discussion was grounded in a review of Racial Literacy Key Terms and two short videos: Peanut Butter, Jelly & Racism and Check Our Bias to Wreck Our Bias.
  • At our November 19th meeting, the group engaged in a conversation that leveraged the learning from October around bias and microaggressions and how these messages can cause trauma and a lack of belonging, and also impact student achievement. The discussion was grounded in a review of Racial Literacy Key Terms, a short Courageous Conversations video, a look at statements on belonging from Cambridge Public Schools students, teachers, and families (collected through the Building Equity Bridges project), and the article The Psychology of Belonging and Why It Matters.
During the winter and spring of the 2020-2021 school year, the group will meet on the following dates: January 21st, February 25th, March 18th, April 15th, May 20th, June 10th

Until further notice, Race & Equity Working Group meetings will be held virtually. For more information please contact Jennifer Betancourt or Liz Vincent.

>> Educate Yourself & The Children You Love

To become an actively anti-racist school, we need all members of our community to be taking their next steps on the journey from awareness towards action. This includes Morse School parents, caregivers, educators, and even children. Please take a moment to peruse the Resources for Parents & Caregivers that we have assembled to help you educate yourself and the children you love. If you are just beginning to think about how race and racism might affect you and your children, then the articles, podcasts, books, and films we have linked here will offer you a place to get started. Even if racism has become a regular topic of conversation in your household, you may find among these resources some reaffirmation, fresh perspectives, and new ideas for framing your discussions with friends and family members.

>> Expose Your Children to Books and Movies That Challenge Racial Stereotypes

One important step you can take is to disrupt patterns of systemic racism is to intentionally and regularly expose your children to books, movies, and television shows that include positive portrayals of characters of color. Common Sense Media offers a list of age-appropriate books featuring characters of color. We have also compiled a list of great age-appropriate feature films that include characters of color in positive and prominent roles.

>> Organize & Collaborate

The Friends of Morse, our school’s parent association, is partnering with the Race & Equity Working Group to fund events, speakers, and materials that support our school’s anti-racism efforts and goals. You can contribute by making a financial donation through the Friends of Morse website, or by participating as a parent volunteer, organizer, or FoM officer.

The Morse Parents & Caregivers of Color Affinity Group is intended as a safe space for the purpose of building community, sharing information, and empowering each other to advocate for our children to be heard, seen and thrive at the Morse School. For information, please contact parent facilitators Alba Alexander, parent to 1st and 4th graders, Jennifer Betancourt , parent to a 4th grader, and Kim Bostic-Williams, parent to 3rd and 5th graders. During the winter and spring of the 2020-2021 school year, the group will meet on the following dates: January 7th, February 11th, March 4th, April 29th, May 13th, and June 19th. At our next meeting on January 7th, the group will be joined by Cambridge School Committee Member Ayesha Wilson. Please see this flyer for the Zoom link and more information!

The Cambridge Families of Color Coalition was created to advocate, support, and amplify the needs and voices of parents and students of color. If you are a parent/caregiver of color or have children of color and you would like to sign up for their email list, please click here. Learn more about CFCC by following this link.

We are eager to identify white parents who are interested in organizing an affinity group aimed at learning, growing, and working together to advance our school’s anti-racist initiatives and stand in solidarity with our school’s communities of color. If you are interested in participating or helping to organize such a group, please write to Principal Chad Leith.

>> Share Resources

If you have resources to share, please write to Principal Chad Leith to have them added to this website!

Thank you in advance for joining the members of our community in remaining committed to moving our equity work forward during this pivotal moment in time.

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