By Gabriella Anais Deal-Márquez, Research and Policy Associate
“I have a question,” Sacramento said at the end of our training. “It’s not really about this, but I just want to put it out there.” Sacramento, a mother of three students in the Robbinsdale School District, shared frustration about the dangerous place the bus picked up children from her apartment. Rather than driving in front of the building, it simply stops on the corner, at the top of a hill where there is no enclosed place for the children to wait. “What can I do about this?” she said.
I’ve had a seat at the table with the Education Equity Organizing Collaborative (EEOC) for the last two years, but my conversations in Robbinsdale with Latina mothers on the inquiry team have reminded me what is at the heart of this project. I immigrated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin from Mexico in 1998. My family chose to move into the northern suburb of Shorewood because of the highly ranked public schools there.
I often find myself revisiting memories from my childhood, remembering the confusion of that first year, trying to navigate literal translations, new accents, the humiliations of being a stranger in a new land, and understand why my parents were given judging glances and kept at a safe distance. Early on I learned the art of code-switching, knowing how to show different parts of myself, when to highlight and when to drop my accent, as to not make anyone too uncomfortable. Looking back on the challenges of that experience, I’m thankful to have had parents with the language skills to advocate for me in the classroom even when my teachers did not.
From the earliest stages of the Education Equity Rubric Pilot Project, the EEOC has been very intentional about incorporating parent and youth voices to ensure an authentic level of engagement with communities of color and American Indian communities. Parents’ voices have been pivotal in crafting the pilot framework and guide the shape it will take in the different districts. When Sacramento shared her concern about the bus route, it was with the purpose of coming up with a solution, a concrete plan for action. She promptly came up with a plan to call the department of transportation and propose an alternative pick-up location.
The Education Equity Rubric Pilot project is built on the idea that parents and communities of color have the knowledge to bring about the change their children need. I share this as a story of what happens when community sees their power as an asset. If you ask parents like Sacramento and her friend Nancy what they want for their children, what they need for success, they will respond without hesitation. Too often, communities of color are told we cannot hold power in our own hands, we cannot mold change. But with that simple statement and plan of action, Sacramento is already shattering this misconception. The exciting part is that the best is yet to come.