Racial Equity and Diversity (READ) Curriculum: Grassroots Collectives for Racial Justice – Dominique Brown and Brittany Aronson
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has re-ignited issues pertaining to police brutality, active forms of racism and bigotry, and platforms for Black liberation. BLM’s leadership has pushed us to continue to examine larger systems of white supremacy and how this is related to schools, teachers, students, and curriculum. In Cincinnati, like most urban communities across the country, the gap in resources provided to schools primarily serving white students and those primarily serving Black and Brown students is vast. What story does that tell about how we as a society value, quite literally, the voices, experiences, and lives of Black and Brown youth in our education system? The complex challenges facing education do not have simple answers. However, Black Lives Matter Cincinnati (BLMC) is working to develop educational tools that engage these complex challenges. Dr. Aronson says, “Black Lives Matter Cincinnati is a community-based grassroots movement organized to fight for Black liberation and to improve local neighborhoods by defending the rights of oppressed populations. The movement seeks to build Black confidence and leadership and to achieve social justice by addressing institutional racism ingrained throughout systemic issues of police brutality, housing discrimination, gentrification, health and wealth gaps, unemployment, immigration and women’s rights, poverty, and inequities in education.” This begins by engaging youth in asking questions that challenge the dominant narrative and honors Black identity. The BLMC Racial Equity and Diversity (READ) Curriculum program invites K-3 children from Sands Montessori and Frederick Douglas Elementary School to learn through multicultural literature that centers stories and storytellers of color. The goal of the 12-week reading program is to promote racial equity and to encourage children to initiate an active role in changing their communities.
The READ curriculum program was created members of the Education Committee in BLMC. With the help of Dr. Brittany Aronson from the Educational Leadership Department, Dr. Rachel Radina from the Urban Cohort Program in the Department of Teacher Education, and Mona Jenkins, from the University of Cincinnati and a part of the BLMC Leadership, the READ program was funded by the Education Research Service Projects (ERSP) award from the American Educational Research Association. Dominique Brown, a first-year doctoral student in the Educational Leadership, Culture, and Curriculum program, is excited to be joining forces with the team to support their research efforts through the help of an EDL Grant for Graduate Student/Faculty Research. In joining the project Dominique says, “As a person of color in the U.S. education system, it is rare to see yourself ever reflected in the school curriculum. My own mother used to bombard my school every February with posters of famous Black people from U.S. history. If it were not for her, I never would have seen any representation of people who looked like my family in school. My hope in participating in this project is to expose children from all backgrounds to thoughtful representations of images in literature that allow them to see their own reflection, to reinforce that their stories, histories, and experiences matter enough to be in school books. I’m excited to connect with children from my community and explore how the program shapes their understanding of race.”
 We intentionally lowercase “white” as a small effort to decenter whiteness