REENTRY: A Love Letter

This post is part of a series for the National Association of Independent Schools and the People of Color Conference. Liza will be blogging throughout this week related to the conference.

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It's the day after the People of Color Conference. And, social media, like always, is blowing up:

"It's the day after PoCC and I'm sitting at breakfast and I feel like I'm in the sunken place ... all the people of color are gone."
"Feeling energized after a few days at PoCC, and dreading having to go back to being the only one."
"PoCC is over - now I'll have no one who cares about me like this for another 361 days."

The feelings are real, all. 

It's called "Re-Entry."

This past week, I've been blogging from PoCC as a way to give folks a sense of what's going on here, and for people at home to support friends and colleagues at PoCC.

Consider this a re-entry love letter. 

Dear colleagues,

I'm coming back to work on Monday, ready to teach our students, connect deeper with parents, and share with you all of what I have learned this week. BTW, thanks for covering my classes and duties while I've been away. But you know I wasn't "on vacation" right? Just sayin'. You can read this here first if you need to. 

But, this here is a love letter to you. Being in a loving partnership requires us to advocate for ourselves. Remember all those fights we've had about us not being "mind readers" and just being clear and transparent about what we need? Yeah, I'm cashing that in right now. 

I need you to know that I just spent the past few days breathing easier, pulling my shoulders back and holding my head up high. I need you to know that I sat in rooms filled with beautiful and brilliant Black and Brown folks; in sessions led by Black and Brown folks; and I was in dialogue with Black and Brown folks. You know that saying "A fish doesn't realize it's swimming in water?" Well, this past week, I was the fish, the water, and the glass bowl -- and I was being fed from my head to my soul. 

When I get back, you will likely ask me, "So, how was the People of Color Conference?"

This question is fine. And, I'll likely tell you that it was "incredible, totally affirming, and powerful." It was.

But, I need you to ask a different question after that. I need you to ask, "So, how can I support you or what I can do differently to make sure you feel that way when you are here?" And, you'll ask that because what you'll hear in my voice is that I don't always feel "incredible, affirmed and powerful" when I'm not at PoCC. 

And, while I came home with a renewed sense of myself, I also came back with resources. I carried, in my backpack, a whole bunch of books that focus on the experiences and stories of young Black and Brown children. I might feel shy about saying to you, "and, you should read those too." So, ask me to share those books with you. But, better yet, ask me "What about this book feels important to you?" And, then let me tell you all the ways that i feel heard, represented and visible. 

I know that your curiosity might be a little too much for me on the first day. I might be struggling. I might not be ready to give surface level answers like, "It was great" or "It was awesome." I might need a day or so to process being back. I'll be getting used to seeing faces and skin tones that are shades lighter than my own. I might be adjusting back to being the "only one" in our building, in our hallway, or in our grade. This is tough on my heart. If we find ourselves in conversation -- more than just at the copier machine -- ask me, "What are you experiencing now that are you back at school?" 

Finally, I'm coming back with big questions. I'm coming back with big questions about the experiences of students of color; about our curriculum; our hiring practices; our families of color; our (lack of) affinity groups; the cultural taxation of being a person of color in independent schools; and the ways in which we engage our students. You might feel uncomfortable with my curiosity. You might feel fragile or guilty or worried about making change. 

I'm worried about things never changing. 

Hear me. See me. Be curious with me. 

And, like any good love letter, I want you to know that PoCC renewed my commitment to our shared community. PoCC renewed my commitment towards our growth together. PoCC made me want to be closer to you so that we can do this work as a team.

I need you to help me make a smooth landing.

Peace and love, 

Liza T.