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The Freedom Hill Coalition: ‘We are all standing up against oppression’

“We are doing this for babies who can’t read yet. We are doing this for students who are right here in this moment. We are doing this for principals who need their voices raised and supported and for equity. We are doing this for families that have been silenced. We are doing this for children who can’t be seen in our curriculum, they’re not reflected in our history,” said Janeen Bryant, director of operations of the Center for Racial Equity in Education (CREED).

“We are doing this so we can pursue liberation. We are doing this to center racial equity. We are doing this so that we can grow in ways that we know and understand these systems. We are doing this so that our voices can be raised not only for Black students but for all of our students so that we know when our Black students are experiencing violence that we are raising our voices in coalition with them. We are doing this so we recognize and understand collective activity.”

On Saturday, June 13, 2020, CREED’s Freedom Hill Coalition held a virtual public convening to talk about “what we need in this moment” with William Jackson, founder and chief dreamer at the Village of Wisdom; Christina Spears, special assistant in the Office of Equity Affairs, Wake County Public School System; Deirdra Reed, partner at The New Teacher Project; Daniel Valdez, director of North Carolina and mid-south operations of the Hispanic Federation; and Connie Locklear, director of the Indian Education Resource Center, Public Schools of Robeson County. More than 150 people participated to “reimagine all that is possible” in a safe and inclusive space oriented towards radical candor, fun, and appreciation for one another.

The conversation covered lots of issues, including access to the internet and remote learning; the impact on COVID-19 on people of color; culturally-affirming education and learning environments; asset-based, community-led education plans; rejecting proximity to whiteness; and the challenges and opportunities of coalition building.

“People closest to the pain must be closest to the power.”

— Christina Spears, quoting Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

“Racism and white supremacy robs me of my humanity.”

— Michael Parker West

“Equity is not optional or a trend.”

— Avery Kresse

CREED conducts research, builds coalitions, and supports schools with technical assistance to improve educational outcomes for students of color. James E. Ford is the executive director.

“We center students of color, inspire institutional change, and facilitate better educational practice to transform the education system,” said Ford.

Freedom Hill is in Princeville. It marks the first establishment of formerly enslaved Black people in the United States. “It’s an idea of being able to determine your own future, to be self-determined, to be free,” said Ford. “We have yet to reach Freedom Hill.”

Mebane Rash/EducationNC

This is what the multi-racial, multi-ethnic, cross-class coalition stands for…

Here is a list of specific inequities CREED and the Freedom Hill Coalition will address…

In a quick poll of those attending the convening, access to high-quality early education, equitable practices in support of getting more teachers of color, and support for higher levels of engagement for parents and community members ranked most important.

A student, Eden Perry-Benton, highlighted the need for more educators and administrators of color, asking, “How do I believe you?” If you don’t put educators of color who understand students of color in leadership positions, then she said, “You didn’t create this for us.”

The coalition is moving through the organizing process of convening stakeholders, identifying key issues, re-imagining what’s possible, and getting tactical, all oriented towards taking action.

In case you missed it, here is the convening so you can join the coalition…

On Twitter, check out #istandonfreedomhill #wecannotrest.

Here is the Freedom Hill Coalition commitment form.

Here is the Freedom Hill Coalition committee interest form.

Here is where you can subscribe to “The REWire,” CREED’s newsletter.

Here is “On the Margins,” CREED’s podcast.

Here is the application for CREED’s equity fellowship.

“This is our moment. This is our time to do this work for real,” said Bryant.

“Let our light shine, and we are going to do that from the top of Freedom Hill.”

Mebane Rash

Mebane Rash is the CEO and editor-in-chief of EducationNC.