Your Gaze Doesn’t Define Me – The Identities of Mixed-Race People

I decided to write this blog post because I recently came under attack with accusations of being a “racial imposter,” using my “proximity to Brownness” for personal gain. While I can easily dismiss this accusation from someone who doesn’t know me or my work, the accusation has dredged up a lot of the trauma I’ve experienced around navigating a mixed-race identity; never being enough of one and too much of the other. I thought that since I’ve written a bit on this topic, it would be helpful to hear from others about their mixed-race identity, specifically folx who are mixed with European (white) ancestry, like myself. First, I want to share a bit about me and my experiences as a mixed-race person.

Here is a picture of me and my dad. This was taken in late November, long after the melanin Seattle’s summer sun blessed me with had started to fade. My dad is usually darker, too, spending a lot of time in his backyard garden watching his corn grow and feeding his chickens gravel. Our last name, by birth, is Castro. My grandfather, my dad’s dad, was in the Navy during the Zoot Suit Riots in Southern California. This was a time of extreme anti-Mexican, specifically anti-Pachuco, racism and violence. My grandfather tried to protect his children from this violence by helping them assimilate as much as possible, which is why we don’t speak Spanish. When my dad was attending school in Southern California, speaking Spanish in school was illegal anyway.

Growing up in Southern California, surrounded by people who looked like me, there was never a doubt about my identity. I was always seen as, and have always claimed, Mexican-American. Even though my grandfather tried to distance us from that identity by not teaching us the language, we remained part of it because of geography and the culture of the communities we were immersed in. It wasn’t until I was in high school and learned about the Chicano movement from my Mexican-American peers that I started to claim Chicana as an identity. I don’t have proximity to Brownness. I am Brown. Of course, part of being mixed with white is understanding the light skin privilege we may bear. I certainly do receive it, and reflect on it quite frequently. 

This is me and my mom. I think my likeness is closer to my dad, and I don’t really see my mom when I look in the mirror. My mom’s family is so far removed from their ethnic heritage that they had nothing to pass down to me. In fact, I would say their ethnicity is Ozark, the region of the US my maternal grandparents are from. Their sayings and food reflected the Ozark culture more than the German or Dutch they thought they may have descended from. But yes, the DNA my mom provided for me came with undeserved privilege. I work to recognize and challenge that every day.

The same person attacking my character and identity said, “There are such things as white Latinas.” Yes, there are. I’m not one of them. I can trace my ancestry to West-Central Mexico. My people are Nahuatl and Purépecha. And while I don’t claim to be Indigenous with a capital I, I am the descendant of Indigenous American people. I am also the descendant of Spaniards, Nigerians, and Senagambians – all on my dad’s side. Am I light-skinned? Sometimes. Am I white? No. I’m Xicanx – an American of Indigenous Mexican descent, with all of the racial, ethnic, and political connotations that come with that identity. 

Below are some reflections from mixed-race folks on how they identify and why. I am deeply appreciative of the contributors to this piece who were willing to be vulnerable and claim their identity in the ways that they understand them. Tlazocamati.


Chris Colley

He/Him

Dutch/German father. First generation Chinese American Mother

Mixed Race Chinese American

My identity has evolved over time. Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, in a predominantly white community, I referred to myself as half Chinese. With family roots in Hawaii (Chinese, not native Hawaiian) we did use the term Hapa while on the Islands or within our Chinese community. That term is loaded, and I personally have struggled with how, or if, to use it. I have two children who are also mixed race, though more white presenting than me. I call them mixed-race Chinese American, too, and it feels inclusive within our family to use the same identity for me and the kids.

Melanie

she/her/hers

Mixed Filipinx

In my mirror, I see my mother: her cheekbones, the warm undertones of my skin, the roundness at the end of my nose. I see my father, too: the red that tinges my otherwise dark hair, my light hue in winter, my height. It’s all there and that’s the point. To claim one would be to deny the other. I am mixed Filipinx. I could slip through the shadows and pretend to be white. Many people prefer it. They point out that I am “white passing.”I reject that term. It infers that white is something to aspire to and evokes duplicitousness – always“passing”but never full, a membership easily revoked depending on who is looking and who is in power. I claim full identity, which is that of a person born in PI who came to the U.S. young, raised by an immigrant and a white American in a school/town where my siblings were the only other kids who were not white; a person enduring microaggressions and the pain of bearing witness to racism’s impact on family members, who lives with polarizing emotions of guilt from benefiting from being light-skinned and the loneliness of not belonging anywhere, of feeling my pain has no place; a person who is learning daily to subvert that guilt, to unravel the unconscious racism and privilege that have root in me and to use privilege to stand in solidarity to undo systems of oppression to fight for me and for others.

Rachelle Horner

She/Her

I am Half Black and Half White

Biracial African American

I Identify as biracial African American because I did not grow up in a biracial household. I grew up in a Black household. My father, who is white, left while my mom was pregnant with me and they were divorced by the time I was born, so I never knew the white side of my family. This is why I include the African American (more often I just say Black) in my identity. It is home, it is family, it is culture. However, I am light-skinned. Out in the world, though people very clearly don’t code me as white, they don’t really know what I am and I get asked the, “What are you?” question a lot. This is one reason I identify as biracial and not only African American or Black. Another reason is I am very aware of the privilege I possess because of my light skin. I would be denying that privilege and the unearned advantages it has provided me in the world if I did not acknowledge that I am biracial and that whiteness, white privilege, and white supremacy have played a role in how the world has treated me differently as a person of color than it has treated my mother, my aunts and uncles, and my grandparents. To deny that privilege as a way to prove my Blackness is white supremacy at work. It is a lie, and it engages in oppression Olympics, ultimately using me to invalidate, and silence Black people who do not get to benefit from the ease with which whiteness paves your way.  I identify as a Biracial African American because, in owning all parts of myself, I better understand how to wield that identity to dismantle institutional racism and not let it be used as a tool for white supremacy.

Shawna Moore

She/Her

African American, Puerto Rican, Filipino and Portuguese. 

I identify as multi-cultural. I was raised to honor and take pride in all the parts of me.

Being raised multi-cultural and not denying any parts of my culture and heritage has shaped the individual I am today. With my Puerto Rican grandmother teaching me that being sun-kissed, curly haired, hip swaying, mango-eating, and family is everything; to my Filipino/Portuguese grandfather born and raised in Hawaii, that family, faith, community, and giving is life; to my Filipino great-grandfather and Portuguese great-grandmother that worked on the Dole plantation, but somehow found love in one another in the middle or inequities and injustices; to my amazing mother who wanted to make sure I could navigate life, because society would see my father’s African American skin before they saw my mind, my heart, my inner beauty, or my passion. People don’t get to decide who I am, or how I represent. I do!!

When Anti-Racism and Anti-Blackness Collide: A Seattle Education Association Story

by Tracy Castro-Gill, Shraddha Shirude, Sara Lockenvitz, and Amanda Hubbard

What follows is a story that is, no doubt, playing out in organizations across the globe. It’s a story of what happens when anti-racism and anti-Blackness collide. It’s a story that is trying to be hidden, but we have come together to make it public – as a cautionary tale – for others in the work. Slow down. Look around you. The urgency is real, but moving without reflecting and assessing is how stories like these come to be told. It is written and published with the express permission of Marquita Prinzing.

What is now known as the Center for Racial Equity (CRE) began in 2016 as an NEA Lighthouse Grant. The grant came with no directions on what to do or how to do it, so Seattle Education Association (SEA) leaders, John Donoughy, Phyllis Campano, and Michael Tamayo, were tasked with hiring a project manager to create a racial justice program within SEA. Enter Marquita Prinzing. At the time, Marquita was teaching 4th grade at Dearborn Park Elementary School, and was a veteran, K-5 educator.

As a mixed-race Black woman, Marquita has always been passionate about racial justice in education. This was an opportunity to employ her personal experiences and education in union activism. Marquita was well aware of the tokenizing space she was entering, and that she would have to be strategic if she wanted to make a sustainable, systemic change. Her first goal was to recruit critical educators, educators who already had a deep critical race lens, to be on the plan and design team of this nebulous program she was charged with creating. She did this by hosting listening sessions, and from those sessions emerged the team. The team headed to Montgomery County Education Association in the fall of 2016 to learn from their model. This group consisted of Marquita Prinzing, Michael Tamayo, Reiko Dabney, Tracy Castro-Gill, and Kate Eads. This is where the concept of the Center for Racial Equity was born, including the beginnings of the mission and vision statements. 

From the start, the vision for CRE was to be a place where anti-racist educators, with an emphasis on BIPOC educators, could be a place to grow their anti-racist practice, advocacy, and leadership skills. It was never meant to be a one-stop shop for solutions to racism in Seattle Public Schools (SPS), but, lacking critical racial equity literacy and what it takes to build and sustain a movement, SEA leadership relegated it as such. Neither Marquita, nor her role, were elevated to SEA “leadership.” She was left out of decision-making processes and not invited to strategic meetings. When leadership wanted to boast about their anti-racist efforts, however, they had no qualms about showing off their token program led by the token Black woman they hired.

After a disagreement between Washington Education Association (WEA) and SEA about the legitimacy of Marquita’s position belonging in SEA, SEA leadership determined it would be in their best interest to make the position an elected one, thus securing it from moving into the purview of WEA. Even with this controversy, Marquita won her first election with overwhelming support, and despite this, she had to continue to fight to be considered SEA “leadership.” At one point, during the Campano-Tamayo tenure, Marquita would be brought into “leadership meetings” for the first half to give a report on CRE, but then would be asked to leave when decisions were to be made. Eventually, through strategy and advocacy, Marquita was invited to lead bargaining for racial equity. Her fight to be part of decision-making in the leadership of SEA, however, continues to this day.

One reason SEA leadership may have balked at including Marquita is that Marquita has always made it clear that she does not represent the entire body of SEA members. Educators in Seattle Public Schools (SPS) have a long history of racism, not just against students, but families and fellow educators as well, so much so that SPS came under federal investigation for its severe racial disparities in discipline in 2013, and five years later, in 2018, data indicated the disparities grew. For these reasons, Marquita refuses to represent educators who aren’t 100% behind dismantling racial oppression in SPS. Her role, and the Center itself, are for advancing racial equity alongside those members who are aligned with the mission and vision statements of the Center, not for representing all members of the body. This, of course, upsets the status quo apple cart.

One tactic Marquita used to work toward dismantling oppressive systems was to create an advisory board. This advisory board is not mandated, but was something Marquita felt she needed to be an effective, reflective, and responsive leader. In an attempt to flatten hierarchies and de-silo work across the city, she invited individuals from both inside and outside SEA membership. She included principals, assistant principals, and leaders employed by the City of Seattle. Their purpose has always been to advise Marquita, not advise SEA, and definitely not to make decisions for SEA. Many are, after all, not SEA dues payers.

The recent election cycle ushered in new leadership. Prior to the election, long-time SEA Executive Director, John Donoughy, moved into statewide office at WEA and was replaced by Yvette De La Cruz. Jennifer Matter became SEA president in a contentious runoff election against Jon Greenberg which came down to nine votes. The Vice President role was vacated by Gwendolyn Jimerson after the election, and Matter appointed failed SEA presidential candidate, Uti Hawkins, to the role. Both Uti and Yvette identify as women of color, but that hasn’t improved the working conditions for Marquita. In fact, the marginalization of her work and her role has intensified with the transition of power. 

As this piece is being written, Marquita is on an extended personal leave of absence, partially because of the stress and anti-Blackness she experiences on the job. Immediately prior to her taking a leave in January, she received an email from Uti and Jennifer announcing they planned to convene the CRE advisory board to make changes to the program and bylaws. Marquita explicitly stated that their actions, in doing so, would be an overstep of power. She reminded them that the advisory board serves no role in SEA – or even CRE – decision making. Uti convened the advisory board almost immediately after Marquita took her leave. 

By February, SEA leadership had completed what can only be described as a hostile takeover of CRE, stepping on Marquita’s role as a leader and ignoring concerns raised by CRE members. Jennifer Matter, Uti Hawkins, and Kaitlin Kamalei Brandon used the CRE advisory board to legitimize a vote to place Kaitlin in an Interim Director position, replacing Marquita. This is the part where it needs to be restated that the CRE Advisory Board consists of people who are not SEA members but were allowed to vote on SEA elected leadership decisions. 

The following is a reflection from Sara Lockenvitz, long-time member of CRE and the SEA Board about what transpired during this time.

What became apparent to me at the February Board meeting was how hard Marquita has always had to – and will continue to have to – fight to legitimize her work. Despite following the norm of reporting out to the union Board and other spaces where I witnessed Marquita share and celebrate the good work in, I found it odd (implicitly and explicitly)  that it wasn’t always clear to some what CRE was all about or “doing”. The continuation of having to legitimize her work had to become absolutely crushing and I have to admit none of us could ever have any idea just how much so. How can someone ever really do “enough”?
 
This status quo reporting system sadly overlooks the grassroots efforts of the CRE work that was dependent upon listening to members, especially those most marginalized by the education system.  This I DO know as a flagship CRE coach, learning and growing alongside Marquita – her leadership style is not to dictate the paths I should take as a leader but to rather capitalize on my assets, my passions, and the skills Marquita always saw in me. Her leadership and friendship have meant the world to me.
 
Rather than uplifting and celebrating the strides Marquita has made, it became about how she may be “holding the work hostage” and making her as one person responsible for being a barrier to the important racial equity work. The conversation saddened me as a colleague, CRE partner, but most of all, as a friend.

At an SEA representative assembly in March, members of CRE and other leaders within the union, spoke against hearing a report from Kaitlin, claiming her appointment was illegitimate, an overstep of Jennfier and Uti, and an act of explicit anti-Blackness. Jennifer and Uti gaslit members, used the illegitimate vote of the CRE advisory board as justification for their actions, then accused the dissenters of anti-Blackness. Since this confrontation, Kaitlin has reportedly moved her work out of CRE. It’s not clear if this is a result of reflecting on the comments made at the representative assembly or if it’s an attempt to starve the grassroots CRE of funding and credibility. 

Our hope is the publication of these events will help inform other education associations and organizations looking to implement similar programs. Unless there is a fundamental shift in the structures and leadership of the organization, programs like CRE are doomed to fail – even when BIPOC folks are at the helm. We have witnessed too many BIPOC leaders be burnt out to the point of mental health emergencies. We can’t lose anymore leaders to this re-whiting of anti-racism. If you are planning a program similar to CRE, stop and ask yourself,“Is your anti-racism top-down, urgent, tokenized, and anti-Black?”

SB5044 OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMUNITY ACTION

If you’ve been following our social media, you’ll know we’ve been tracking SB5044 concerning anti-racist professional development. It has passed the Senate and must pass the House by March 26th. We can use the time between now and then to influence important changes to the language of this bill.

May be an image of text that says 'COMMUNITY ACTIONUPDATE Senate Bill 5044 racist professional development members staff SB 5044 has passed the Senate and now House Committee on Education. SB 5044 anti-racist professional development. WAESN callingfor community amendments, upcoming opportunities. WASHINGTON ETHNIC STUDIES] SB 5044'

The WAESN Legislative Subcommittee has read through the bill and has the following concerns/talking points about this bill.

  • Needs a mandate for PD, not just a list of providers.
  • How do we measure the “ongoing” PD? Need an observable metric, like requirements for clock hours/recertification.
  • Needs minimum time/credit/clock hour measurements.
May be an image of text that says 'COMMUNITY ACTIONUPDATE SUPPORT 5044, but demand more accountability! Talking_points: We need this legislation to hold the education system accountable to mandating anti-racist professional development. This includes mandating minimum time/credit/clock hours dedicated to anti-racist professional development for recertification. The approved list of providers created by PESB, EOGOAC, and OSPI must be BIPOC owned and operated. WASHINGTON ETHNIC STUDIES] SB 5044'

The sponsor for this bill is Senator Mona Das. Contact her office and let her know we are grateful for this step, but it misses the mark.
The next opportunity to provide public testimony is Tuesday, March 23rd at 8am. Registration for testimony is not yet open, but watch our social media channels for instructions. In the meantime, you can help WAESN hold members of this group accountable for authentic, community driven anti-racism in K-12 education by clicking on the petition below, calling the legislation hotline: 1-800-562-6000 and leaving a message for your legislator, and preparing written testimony to submit once testimony registration has opened.

SB5044 Needs Accountability!

Hello Representatives,

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Signing the petition sends an email to all members of the House Education Committee that reads:

I am writing you today in support of SB5044 and in appreciation of the work Senator Das has done to push this important bill forward. This piece of legislation is long overdue. Students of Color have been harmed in our schools for too long by educators that lack the appropriate skills and understanding to meet their needs.

Unfortunately, many districts, board directors, administrators, and educators opt out of professional development and other opportunities to strengthen their practices, including the professional development outlined in this legislation. I am urging you to add an amendment to the bill that provides some measure of accountability, particularly a requirement for in-service educators (educators, for this purpose, is defined as anyone who works in a school setting) to participate in a minimum number of hours per year to maintain their certificated status and/or employment status. Dismantling racial oppression and learning cultural competence cannot be done in the one day set aside in this legislation. It has to be an ongoing commitment. Requiring educators to dedicate at least 20% of their professional development hours to these goals is not an unreasonable ask.

Please also add accountability to the list of providers OSPI must provide to ensure that the providers are organizations owned and operated by BIPOC with expertise in anti-racist professional development for educators. We must value the expertise of the communities most negatively impacted by systemic racial oppression.

Thank you.

Support BIPOC Whistleblowers

Feature image from KUOW

Recently, KUOW published information about the practice of putting children, mostly Black and Brown special education students, in cages. More distressing than the practice is the fact that the practice, itself, is approved by policy in Seattle Public Schools.

The educator who blew the whistle, named in the KUOW piece, is Jackie Flaherty. Jackie is a veteran kindergarten educator and a Black woman. The Executive Director of WAESN, Tracy Castro-Gill, spoke with Jackie recently. Jackie explained that she has always received negative treatment from the principal who resided over this practice, Ed Roos, but that negative treatment and retaliation intensified when she started to push back against harmful student discipline practices, like locking children in cages.

Many in our community are offering support to the families and students being impacted by this practice – and rightly so. For that reason, WAESN, whose members are overwhelmingly educators, is working to provide support for Jackie and other BIPOC whistleblowers. Without them, justice can never be met, and SPS has a horrible track record when it comes to anti-racist educators who blow the whistle on their harmful practices.

Please join WAESN in supporting Jackie and demanding that, in addition to dismantling abusive, racist discipline policies, SPS protect Jackie and other BIPOC educators, who will no longer be silent witnesses to racial trauma in our schools, from retaliation.


Signing the petition below will send a message to all of the school board directors letting them know you demand they change their discipline policy and protect Jackie and other BIPOC whistleblowers from retaliation.

Support BIPOC Whistle Blowers

School Board Directors

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OSPI Ethnic Studies Failure

Directors and members of WAESN have been participating in and following the work of the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction’s work on the legally mandated creation of a K-12 model Ethnic Studies Curriculum. WAESN board president, Amanda Hubbard, is an official member of this committee and has witnessed fragile whiteness in both the leadership of this committee and the creation of the framework. WAESN board members have held several meetings with Senator Bob Hasegawa, a sponsor of the ethnic studies legislation, and Superintendent Chris Reykdal to outline our concerns and advocate for a course correction, but we have seen only further backsliding into whitewashing of this important effort.

WAESN board members co-authored a letter to Superintendent Reykdal outlining our concerns and demands for change that could lead to a more authentic, BIPOC-centered model curriculum. If you are interested in supporting our advocacy, there is a petition you can sign that will send a letter to Senator Hasegawa, Superintendent Reykdal, and the OSPI Social Studies lead who facilitates the committee, Jerry Price, and his supervisor, Kathe Taylor, OSPI Assistant Superintendent.


Superintendent Reykdal,

We, the Executive Team and Youth Advisory Board of Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN), are writing to you today to address concerns we have with the Washington State Ethnic Studies Advisory Committee. Our Executive Director, Tracy Castro-Gill, and two of our Board Directors, Amanda Hubbard and Jeff Stone, have been present during several meetings that were very troubling. Tracy and Amanda have raised their concerns regarding the disproportionate representation of white members on the committee and asked that better outreach and recruitment efforts for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of Color) members with experience in Ethnic Studies be conducted. 

The entire process started off in the culture of white supremacy when the lead role was assigned to a white man, Jerry Price, who lacks any expertise or experience in Ethnic Studies and was given the role simply because he’s the social studies lead, which is evidence of the systemic failure to understand that Ethnic Studies was born from the efforts and struggle of groups of Color. Assigning Ethnic Studies to social studies further demonstrates a lack of understanding at OSPI about the scope of Ethnic Studies. Additionally, there is concern that several members of the committee don’t have a basic understanding of anti-racism and/or Ethnic Studies. At least one member has made statements regarding Ethnic Studies epistemological ideology stating that it’s “problematic” and “divisive” and called Tracy a racist for demanding voices of Color be centered in this work. It is disconcerting to us that someone who makes these statements is involved in creating a model Ethnic Studies curriculum for the State, and this is a reflection of the systemic racism that prevents authentic, anti-racist intitiatives from succeeding.

Tracy and Amanda have repeatedly asked for these issues to be addressed in committee meetings, and though Nasue and Jerry conducted one-on-one interviews with all involved, we feel that our concerns were largely unheard and dismissed. At that point, we sent our concerns as WAESN to Jerry. After we initially shared our concerns with Jerry Price, Nasue Nishida, and Kathe Taylor in April, Jerry and Nasue created learning opportunities for members of the committee. Unfortunately, not every member took advantage of the opportunities, including those who need the most help. Tracy had a phone conversation with Kathe, who indicated she would “circle back,” but we have yet to hear from her. Additionally, it is problematic that OSPI is taking time to “train” white members instead of recruiting experienced and highly qualified BIPOC members. This is an example of institutionalized racism where unqualified white educators are privileged over qualified BIPOC educators. Institutionalized racism is also at work when BIPOC experts are expected to teach white committee members instead of being part of decision making. This is the antithesis of the tenets and goals of Ethnic Studies and anti-racism.

We are supporting Tracy and Amanda’s call for better outreach to:

  • BIPOC students 
  • BIPOC families
  • BIPOC educators, including BIPOC Ethnic Studies professors
  • BIPOC CBOs 

who meet these minimum requirements:

  • proven experience in leading discussions on anti-racism and/or Ethnic Studies
  • documented work on creating and/or implementing Ethnic Studies curriculum
  • proven advocacy of Ethnic Studies programs.

WAESN formed to advocate and support Ethnic Studies programs Statewide, and part of that advocacy is protecting the integrity of Ethnic Studies in its creation and implementation. We are available and prepared to assist you in this effort. Our organization has members from across the State of Washington who have created a network of critical, anti-racist educators. Please reach out to us for any assistance you may need.


Demand a BIPOC-centered Ethnic Studies Committee and Model Curriculum for Washington State

Superintendent Reykdal,

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Remove Denise Juneau; An open letter to the Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors

By Rita Green, NAACP Education Chair for Washington, Oregon, and Alaska

Recently, the King County NAACP, in support of the Washington State NAACP Youth Council, called for the removal of Superintendent Denise Juneau. Below is a detailed rationale for their actions written by Rita Green.

To support the efforts of the NAACP, please sign the petition at the end of this open letter.


Denise Juneau continues to fail our students and our community as outlined below. Chandra Hampson is one board member that is trying to hold the district accountable and as a result an erroneous complaint has been filed against her.  SPS has a historical issue of running amuck and does not like the fact that there is finally a board member who is astute enough to ask challenging questions and demand results for all students, particularly students that the District continues to fail. The board’s push for serious performance audits of programs at the District, with the audit firm reporting directly to the board, is long overdue.  We need to hold the district accountable and this is one mechanism to assure they are. We believe that Director Hampson should continue to push for racial equity within SPS and that Denise Juneau’s contracted needs to be ended immediately.

The organizations and people in support of Juneau have adult relationships and skin in the game via programs they are receiving payment from the District for or hope to receive payment for. They are not thinking about ALL SPS students, just their personal benefits. This role is not about someone’s personal gains, this is about students’ lives. The fact that Juneau has failed to collaborate with anyone that she does not see can be a benefit to her is an issue.  This job is not about individuals; it is about the systemic issues that need to be addressed.

Juneau has failed the community, school system, teachers, leadership, families, and students by poor:

1. Communication

2. Recording, figuring out recording systems

3. Reset of expectations and human resources

4. Providing support services particularly to students when unfortunate things happen in the classroom 

At $250,000 plus a year we expect for a Superintendent to come in and hit the ground running. We believe Superintendent Juneau has failed to move Seattle Public Schools in the right direction for the long term, and students, families, and our community are suffering because of her poor leadership. We do not have time to wait for her to get up to speed as our students’ lives are being negatively impacted.

Juneau does not prepare or share concrete details as she is incapable because she lacks the understanding of the issues at hand. Much like Trump, Juneau does not seek authentic engagement. She only seeks input from those that will agree with what she wants to hear.

She lacks vision and takes credit for work that was already done without giving credit where credit is due. The African American Male program was implemented before Juneau’s arrival and the design was a collaboration of the community and SPS.  The work that is being done is a result of relationships that tenured SPS employees have in the community.

She claims to be a person of color, yet she has done more harm to students, staff, and families of color than previous SPS Superintendents. She does not even have strong ties to the Native community. Juneau displays a pattern of discriminatory behaviors towards people she deems to be powerless.

In order to move the strategic plan and the district forward, it is imperative that we remove Juneau and hire an interim Superintendent that is willing to collaborate with all and not a select few.  Collaborate means to work jointly on an activity to produce or create something. Merely stating that you meet with groups is not collaboration. Never having the answers for or following through with commitments that she makes to community partners is not collaboration either.  

COVID-19 Crisis 

We’re here for families. It is great for Juneau to say 30k laptops were delivered (We have 53K students). Were they working? SPS was – and is – far behind other districts due to Juneau’s firing of the Chief Information Officer and demoting the IT position.  This caused our response to be slow as we did not have a person with the experience needed to handle the IT needs that were thrust upon the District. Currently students are using the professional version of Teams, not the one designed for schools. The group chat for classes can be accessed by students who are not in the class.  All they need is to have the teacher for another class period. If they do, they can see the chat for all the teachers’ classes. This is because the wrong version was used and operationalized. 

Reasons NOT to reinstate Denise Juneau:

I have compiled a list of reasons why Denise Juneau’s SPS contract should not be extended and/or renewed. This list includes input from more than 30 Community Organizations, SPS Staff, Educators, and Family members. Some organizations are requesting an immediate end to Denise Juneau’s contract.

We are calling for an overhaul of the SPS Strategic Plan. We want to see Black and Brown professionals represented on all levels of district staffing and regular and ongoing open meetings with Black and Brown CBO’s, families, youth and elders. We want accountability, transparency, and systemic change.

Please note that there are many issues that have not been included below and there are many issues that those who provided input below are unaware of, so this is not an exhaustive list, but is a list with enough issues that support not continuing a relationship with the current Superintendent.

1.    Staffing Issues:

a.    ­ Purging nearly all administrators of Color from her small cabinet while appointing and promoting more than a dozen white women.

–        While some African American men have been recently hired, they are in lower level non decision-making positions. They have no historical knowledge to understand they are not being told the truth.

b.    Lack of support for African American Principals

c.    HR is failing to support staff experiencing issues with supervisors, pushing them back to unsafe environments.

–        A lack of exit interview process leads to the continued disproportionate discipline of staff of color.

–        Juneau has failed to hold Clover Codd, Chief of Human Resources, accountable for her failures brought to light by KUOW, ­creating a dangerous, toxic and traumatic environment for staff and leading to an increase in lawsuits brought by parents, students and staff.

–        Juneau’s personal attacks against the Ethnic Studies Program Manager (an educator of color), have created an environment of fear and intimidation for other educators of Color.

–        Juneau refuses to apologize for transgressions and offenses.

b.    Many teachers are reaching out to the NAACP for support because of experiencing racial trauma on the job.

2.    SPS continues to feed the School to Prison Pipeline by not addressing to Racist Staff and Educators:

a. ­   There has been no improvement in Black and Brown suspensions.

b.      There have been approximately 300 calls to Seattle Police Department which resulted in arrests of students.

–     ­Why are calls continuing to be made disproportionately on Black and Brown students?

–     Calls are being made on students in elementary school.  This is unacceptable and must be addressed.

3.    Minimizing/Ignoring Hate Issues targeted towards People of Color:

a.       ­­Juneau did no ot investigating Swastikas at McGilvra Elementary School.  

–     Juneau considered this normal vandalism, when it is a crime for hatred.  

–     This was done by former students and 2019-20 students that were allowed to graduate with no consequences to these racist actions.  

 b.       Juneau has not addressed Leschi racial incidents.

 c.    ­   Juneau consistently puts white educators in lead positions of strategic plan goals meant to impact students of Color, including a culturally responsive workforce and recruiting and retaining educators of Color.

d.    There has been an increase in lawsuits brought by parents of color. Recently $350K was settled and two $500K suits are pending.

4.    Attack on any group focusing on improving outcomes for Students of Color

­a.    ­ There has been a lack of collaboration with leaders in the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group (ESAG). 

 ­b.     ERAC, the Superintendent’s Equity and Race Advisory Committee to address educational equity practices in our schools and central office, has been dismantled. Prior to it being dismantled it was mainly white people making decisions and giving input for BIPOC  communities and families. 

5.    Attack on Ethnic Studies

a.     ­Personal attack on Ethnic Studies Program Manager (a Woman of Color) who has received nothing but praise from non-racist educators, students, and communities that are pushing for Ethnic Studies.

–        Juneau wrote a letter to have the Program Manager’s teaching certificate pulled. (Yet, she has not addressed racial issues impacting Students of Color)

–        These types of personal attacks are Trumpian like tactics and are unprofessional behavior for a Superintendent.

b.       Juneau has remained silent while the curriculum department continues to water down and whitewash anti-racist curriculum.

c.       The District has not paying the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group for their work on curriculum or professional development

–        This was an effort to slow the forward progress of implementing Ethnic Studies in SPS.

d.       ­Juneau ignored and dismissed input from the community about the removal of the Ethnic Studies Program Manager.

e.       Juneau placed an unqualified leader to head Ethnic Studies (Diane Debacker).

f.        ESAG was not part of a selection process for Kyle Konishita’s replacement

g.       Juneau was caught instructing groups not to work with groups focused on moving Ethnic Studies forward.

h.       Juneau told the Ethnic Studies Advisory Group that they were “wasting time” on Black Lives Matter at School curriculum and that it wasn’t their job. 

6.    IEP/Special Education

a.       Overall concerns exist that IEPs are not being taken seriously and Special Need students are not at the forefront, which plays into our lack of graduating students prepared for life.  And has a greater negative impact on students of color.

b.       The Partnership with Urban Native Education Alliance (UNEA) was terminated, removing unduplicated programs serving low income, Special Education, and high need American Indian/Alaskan Native students.

c.       Proper assessment for students of color are not being conducted.

–  SPS is graduating students who have dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia without providing them the proper services, sending them into the world to face economic and employment challenges.

–  This also contributes to the pipeline to prison. 

–  These students are smart, but they do not know it because they never understand or are taught their style of learning and how their brain processes information and learning. 

7.    Placing administrators in buildings without an interview process that includes students, families, and community despite agreement to continue this process that had been working well and improving over time: 

a.      ­The discontinuance of this process has led to many bad decisions in administrators and has led to lawsuits against SPS.

b.      ­Juneau is complicit in the appointment of new principal at Licton Springs without any Licton Springs parent voice or discussions. 

c.       Juneau regularly moves poor performing principals to other schools who have little or no parent advocacy groups and often in highly populated English language learning communities. 

8.    Failure to work with school communities/ Lack of collaboration with CBOs

a.        Juneau initially refused to hold meetings with the NAACP. 

–        Previous Superintendents had recurring meetings with the NAACP.

–        Upon pointing out that Engagement was included in her evaluation, she recently began to meet with the NAACP local branch; unsatisfactory on family engagement on her evaluation is why she started meeting with NAACP.

–        She does not attend the entire meeting.

–        She is using the meeting to check a box.

–        Nothing is being resolved. Discussions are about goals on items that should already be in place.

–        Juneau is unprepared and does not follow up on questions that are being asked.

b.    ­ Failure of Superintendent to bridge Native based CBO’s with students for resources, financial support and other assistance.

–        ­  ­Juneau has canceled partnerships with Native and Black focused CBOs.

–        ­  Juneau refused to include any CBO representation of American Indian/Alaskan Native groups on the Strategic Plan.

–        ­   There has been failure under Denise Juneau leadership to engage with the community or parents in meaningful and inclusive problem solving related to COVID 19 and School closure issues.

–        ­  ­ Juneau has been unresponsive to American Indian/Alaskan Native parents, elders, and community calling for the restoration of Indian Heritage H.S.

–        ­  Juneau has been unresponsive to parent and community outrage and opposition to the removal of and transition to a remote school with no transportation plan for parents seeking a Native focused education for their students.

­9.    Youth Engagement Failures

a.       ­ Juneau is responsible for the removal of a youth group focused on empowering youth of color at Mercer Middle School.

b.       ­ Youth have left the Superintendent’s advisory group as a result of her failure to take the youth seriously. 

c.       Youth feel like they were only used as a check box and their input was not valued.

­­ 10. Failure to ‘move the needle’ for American Indian/Alaskan Native drop out, completion of high school, and disciplinary actions

­a.          Much of any change is a result of the alleged manipulation of data and push out of Native families from SPS.

This list was compiled by the NAACP with input from various organizations, students, teachers, staff, and parents.

Please remove Juneau immediately so that she will stop harming our students and so that we can get on to the business of educating students effectively.

Fire Superintendent Juneau

Board Directors,

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Petition: Fire Superintendent Denise Juneau

On October 5th, youth leaders of the NAACP Youth Council demanded that Superintendent Juneau be terminated. Below is an excerpt of the speech given by Angelina Riley, co-president of the NAACP Youth Council, outlining the reasons why they are demanding her termination.

One mission of Washington Ethnic Studies Now is to center the voices of BIPOC students, and we are doing that by assisting the NAACP Youth Council in collecting signatures on a petition. By signing the below petition, you will show your support for BIPOC youth and send a message to each director of the Seattle Public Schools school board.

Fire Superintendent Juneau

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In addition to being NAACP Youth Council co-president, Angelina is the founder of Black Minds Matter, a Southend activist, and winner of the Black Education Matters student activist award.


I was a former member of two years for the Superintendent Juneau’s advisory board, and on July 10th of this year, I, and the majority of our original members, formally resigned for a couple of reasons that I’ll explain. I joined the board back in November of 2018 with the promise that my voice would be heard, and that students in schools across the district would be represented, and, unfortunately, throughout my time with the board I didn’t see that happening, and I would come to find that my voice made little to no difference to the system of schooling or the different operatives that our schools had.

On several occasions where we’d ask for transparency or demanded more seats at the table, we were turned away, and we were given tasks that did not relate to the lists of issues that we planned to discuss when the group was first brainstorming its list of demands and its purpose at its birth. And though we had a few occasions where we were able to have slight input on the strategic plan, we didn’t really see many of our ideas reflected in the final product. So, we demanded several changes throughout the years to the structure of the board itself, including a student-elected cabinet and the removal of City Year, which were, you know, individuals who specialize in discussion facilitation, which we felt wasn’t really necessary for a discussion between a superintendent and youth, and that demand wasn’t met.

Furthermore, the one year ban on SPD [Seattle Police Department] in Seattle Public Schools that was made the week after I, and others in the community, started to push for these changes – Superintendent had initially created that ban for one year with no plan on how different communities would be consulted with. She never consulted with us – her advisory board – or organizers, which she knew, who were on the front lines, and we felt ignored. We felt like she wasn’t engaging with us.

My next point is education is emancipation. As Aneesa had reminded us – and I say this all a lot – the district strategic plan states over, and over again that they will center students furthest from educational justice; however, the superintendent terminated a partnership with the program meant to create a curriculum that centers Black and Indigenous history without consulting her advisory board, and, specifically, students furthest from educational justice. We just want to reiterate that courses that center Black and Brown stories and curriculum that acknowledges our complex history, yet affirms our greatness is important. And, in doing so [terminating the partnership], she has extended inequities that exist in our education, which further effects the future of our society. Those actions perpetuate anti-Blackness, and they perpetuate racism at a time where millions of people are in the streets protesting for liberation. It has shown us that she does not value Black voices, and without honoring Black student voices, they’re neglecting Black education, which is ultimately our liberation. It is subtly showing us that we don’t matter, and we know that all lives won’t matter until Black lives do.

We also want to acknowledge the treatment of our former ethnic studies manager and other SPS staff who have been removed in unethical manners, including being escorted out of the Seattle Public Schools John Stanford building; and the 300 calls to SPD and 40 arrests in one school year; the placement of white staff members with no personal background on BIPOC American experiences in position made to benefit Black students from those communities. We want to acknowledge the lack of follow through on dismantling the HCC [highly capable cohort]. We want to acknowledge the white washing of anti-racist curriculum; the leading with ego; the lack of family engagement; the lack of student engagement.

We want to make this clear that my education the education of my peers is not a service issue.

This is about the fact that I watched my classmates lose interest in every class for years.

It’s about my Black peers that I watched get physically assaulted by teachers and by staff members.

It’s about this fight for Black girls in our schools who are being over-disciplined and criminalized from young ages.

It’s about Black students who feel they need to assimilate to [white] culture in order to get closer to opportunities that their white counterparts do not have to work as hard to be recognized for.

It’s about how our Black Lives Matter week is confined to a week and is only recognized when one of us is murdered.

This is about the fight for LGBT+ youth in our schools who hardly ever get the support they deserve when someone incites hatred towards them.

This is the fight for special education students in my school.

It’s a fight for the students who come to school hungry and don’t find the nutrients they need in our lunches. It’s a fight for educational rights that’s personal, because we’re the only ones the district fails, and we’re the last generation of students that they will fail and that this educational system will fail.

Fire Superintendent Juneau

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WAESN Voting Guide 2020

As a 501(c)(4), one of Washington Ethnic Studies Now’s (WAESN) purposes is to advocate at all levels of government for the advancement of Ethnic Studies and anti-racist practices and policies in public education. As such, we are providing our first, ever, election guide with our choices for state and national level candidates, resolutions, advisory votes, and referendums. We surveyed members of our Executive Team and Advisory Board to determine our recommendations.

Political Offices

President of the United States of America

Joe Biden is the candidate with over 71.4% of our board members’ support. Howie Hawkins received 14.3% of our vote, as did “nobody,” which was an option for all elected positions. This endorsement is more about opposing Trump, and very much not about supporting Biden. Biden holds a lot of responsibility for today’s mass incarceration of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous men and its far-reaching repercussions. 

To be quite honest, there is no candidate we are endorsing this cycle that received our enthusiastic support. More than any election year I can remember, this year is more about holding on to hope out of fear of fascism. Joe Biden is nobody’s first choice at WAESN, but we are endorsing his candidacy, nonetheless.

Washington State Governor

Jay Inslee is the candidate we’re endorsing for Washington State Governor. He received 85.7% of the board members’ support. The other 14.3% went to “nobody.” Governor Inslee receives a decent amount of support from WAESN because of the strong stands he’s taken against Trump’s xenophobic and fascist policies. 

WAESN would feel better about supporting Governor Inslee if he more vocally supported current racial justice movements, including Black Lives Matter, defunding the police, and abolishing ICE. We hope that Governor Inslee uses this upcoming term to surrender some of his power and authority to leaders of Color, particularly grassroots leaders and organizations to move faster toward racial justice in our state.

Washington State Lieutenant Governor

The endorsement for Lieutenant Governor is split 50/50% between Denny Heck and Marko Liias. These are two, mediocre, white, male candidates, both Democrats, each with their strengths. Both have ties to education. Marko supports labor organizing and Denny has a lot of experience as an elected. There’s really nothing that stands out as extraordinary about either candidate.

Washington Secretary of State

Gael Tarleton receives our endorsement with 66.7% of our board members’ vote. The other 33.3% went to “nobody.” Again, this is more a vote against the Republican candidate than support for Tarleton. 

Tarleton has more experience than Wyman, and therefore is more qualified, but this is a race between two mediocre white women who have done nothing for BIPOC citizens of Washington State. Tarleton has been a politician in Washington for 12 years with nothing significant to claim as an accomplishment.

Washington State Treasurer

Duane Davidson is the current, Republican treasurer, which is one reason we are endorsing his opponent, Mike Pellicciotti. Davidson laments about state debt while supporting the regressive tax structure in our state that harms working-class citizens, who are disproportionately BIPOC citizens, and benefits our state’s most wealthy residents. 

While we are not excited about endorsing Pellicciotti (he received 83.3% of the board members’ votes, with the remaining votes going to “nobody”), he does have a record of social justice work. Should he win the election, we would like to see him advocate progressive tax structures and redistribute tax revenue to support BIPOC communities, particularly for education.

Washington State Auditor

I feel like a broken record. We are endorsing Pat McCarthy for auditor but for no other reason than her opponent being such a horrible option. McCarthy received 66.7% of our board members’ votes with 33.3% going to “nobody.” Neither candidate has experience in politics, except McCarthy, whose only experience is her current position as state auditor. 

Her opponent, Chris Leyba, is a cop. Nope. Is this a joke? A police officer as state auditor? They can’t hold themselves accountable. How are we supposed to trust them to hold an entire state accountable?

Washington State Attorney General

Bob Ferguson is the candidate that comes closest to receiving an enthusiastic endorsement from WAESN, having earned 100% of our board members’ votes. I suppose now is the best time to say #WashingtonElectionsSoWhite. We support Ferguson for defense of our Constitutional rights that have come under attack by our current president, but we would love to see candidates of Color who would kick it up a notch (or several).

While Ferguson has earned our support, we call on him to do more about migrant babies in concentration camps and stop the persecution and deportation of Latinx migrants and other migrants of Color. We also ask that he try to look less like Bill Gates.

Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands

Here we go again… WAESN is endorsing Hilary Franz for commissioner of public lands with 83.3% of our board members’ votes, but only because her opponent is a Republican. The remaining votes went to “nobody.” On paper, Franz’s opponent, Sue Kuel Pederson, has more expertise on land management, but WAESN cannot support any candidate from a party that so fervently denies climate science. 

Unfortunately, neither candidate mentioned climate change as an issue that needs to be addressed, nor did either candidate address tribal sovereignty and the land rights of Indigenous tribes. Whomever is elected to this position needs to do a better job, or we need to advocate more qualified candidates to run.

Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction

This position brings us to our first conundrum. WAESN is endorsing Chris Reykdal over his Latina opponent, Maia Espinoza, with 85.7% of the board’s votes. The remaining votes went to “nobody.” WAESN is very specific in supporting and amplifying the voices of BIPOC, especially in leadership positions, but we cannot get behind Espinoza.

Most notably, Espinoza calls for a halt to mandatory sex education in schools stating that it, “exposes our children to inappropriate material like teaching 4th graders about sexual positions and teacher-led role play.” This is absurd. Reykdal has supported this legislation, as does WAESN. WAESN has recently connected with Reykdal about some of our concerns and demands around racial justice in education. We have hope that he will do the right thing.

Washington State Insurance Commissioner

Mike Kreidler received 66.7% of our board members’ votes with the remaining votes going to “nobody.” This is another situation in which WAESN is supporting a white man over his BIPOC opponent, Chirayu Avinash Patel. Kreidler is the more experienced candidate, but that’s about all we can say about him; another mediocre candidate.

Reasons we can’t support Patel, other than his party affiliation, include the fact that he lists Reagan, Jefferson, and Nixon as some of his role models. He also states he wants to use this office to advance his desire to major in every subject in college. It’s unfortunate that we can’t support the BIPOC candidate.

Measures

Referendum 90 Mandatory K-12 Sexual Health Education

One hundred percent of our board members voted to approve this referendum. It’s significant to note that all of our Executive Team members are educators and all of our Advisory Board members are BIPOC students. Research overwhelmingly supports implementing sexual education curriculum to improve outcomes for young people, including

  • increased self-esteem;
  • increased confidence to engage in consensual relationships;
  • decreased teen pregnancy rates; and
  • decreased STD rates.

Advisory Votes 32-35

To save time and space, I am combining these issues here, all of which deal with tax on business in various forms. WAESN is in favor of voting to maintain all of these taxes. In our opinion, businesses in our state are not taxed enough, which has led to scarce resources for education. Additionally, some of the taxes, including the tax on carry-out bags, encourage more environmentally sustainable practices.

Joint Resolution 8212 Investing Public Money

WAESN supports a yes vote for this resolution with 66.6% of the board members’ votes, but with the understanding that it’s complicated. WAESN is an organization that centers BIPOC youth, and the reality is that young people are at risk of not receiving social security benefits when they’re ready to retire, and BIPOC are disproportionately impacted by changes in social security.

WAESN does not support privatizing public funds, but there isn’t a better solution on the table. It is our hope that we can provide stronger social security programs, in general, that don’t require us to depend on capitalists. At the same time, we can’t allow people to slip through the cracks while we wait for a better solution.

Open Letter to SPS: Mobilize the Immobilized

By Alex Ng

Open Letter to Seattle Public Schools Students, Families, Educators, and Communities


“We need to mobilize what works.” – Dr. Nicole Law


Seattle School District leaders consistently do just the opposite. They immobilize what works, even after it has been proven to work. They impede and stall the work our communities call for, and take away from educators the very tools that work to serve our students in this time of dual pandemics. They immobilize ethnic studies by dismissing educators of color most dedicated to this critical work our communities of color are yearning for. They take away platforms like Zoom even after SpEd specialists and families tell us this works better than Teams to meet the needs of our students. Seattle School District leaders immobilize what works, perhaps because they fear the outcomes of a truly just public education system that uplifts our students’ inherent greatness instead of crushing it.


Seattle Public Schools (SPS) accepts and perpetuates incompetence in central office leadership, knowing the most dedicated, most passionate educators at the school-level will step up time and time again to fill in the gaps and fix what central office staff left broken. This is a viscous cycle of inequity and incompetence that leads to defeated teachers and inequitable educational conditions being passed on to students because even the most dedicated, most passionate educators at the school-level can’t possibly fill all the gaps or fix all the broken things central office leaders so willingly passed onto us.


In their directives and desire to wrestle local control way from schools, SPS leaders are causing enormous, unnecessary stress and anxiety for educators, students, and families. They are not prioritizing the uniqueness of each school community, despite explicitly saying they believe in doing so. As with so many inequities and injustices in the time of COVID-19, SPS leaders are further revealing their disregard and disrespect for educators, students, and families. From not paying educators for planning and leading professional development for the entire district and betraying their own official communication and heaping uncertainty onto school communities, to simply being absentee leaders and passing unpaid labor onto classroom educators, Seattle School District leaders are showing themselves for who they have always been: middle managers earning 6 and 7 digit salaries with no real commitment to the communities they are supposed to serve.


Seattle students, families, and educators deserve better. We deserve better than perpetual incompetence. We deserve better than leaders who pay lip service to equity only to reinforce inequities through their rigidity. We deserve better than their casual disregard for the needs of our communities. We need leaders who live the words of Dr. Nicole Law: leaders who mobilize what works.