Here in the Northeast Kingdom, equity and diversity have been the focus of a great deal of recent discussion. Each Building Bright Futures Regional Council has identified regional priorities for this year, and the Orleans/Northern Essex (O.N.E.) Regional Council’s priorities are “Building resilience in children, families, and communities” and “Family engagement and support.” At our Regional Council meetings, we have talked about ways to put those priorities into action, specifically around equity and diversity. O.N.E. Leadership Team member Karen Hack has taken the lead on promoting and supporting these discussions at Council meetings, keeping the focus on our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in early childhood programs and the wider community.
Now semi-retired, Karen served previously as a psychologist for children’s programs at Northeast Kingdom Human Services and conducted trainings on equity and diversity for their staff.
“I’ve always been interested in the subject of equity,” Karen told me. “I’ve lived up here for 30 years, but before that I was in New York City, and it was quite a difference, moving from there to here. My family adopted a child from Guatemala, and that heightened my interest in diversity and equity, especially in the schools.”
Karen and I received support from our O.N.E. Leadership Team to contract with the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington, Vermont, to present a two-part workshop for parents and educators on talking with kids about racism.
Peace & Justice Center presenters Zoraya Hightower and Rachel Siegel discussed the impact of racism and white privilege on children and helped participants to build skills to be more effective in discussing these issues with children in meaningful and age-appropriate ways. The workshop was well-attended by participants from around Vermont.
“It’s hard to talk about these issues, but it’s really important—especially in Vermont, where white people often say that racism is not a problem here,” Karen said. “But then you talk to people of color in this state, and they say that they feel unwelcome a lot of times, they feel like they’re treated differently, and they feel like they have to be really careful. Some participants shared about instances like that in the workshop, and others said they were surprised—that they didn’t realize it was a problem in Vermont.”
The O.N.E. Regional Council will continue to seek out ways to encourage more dialogue around these issues, which are so important to the health of our communities. We hope in the future to work with other local organizations to present workshops on LGBTQ inclusion and other diversity, equity, and inclusion issues. It’s an ongoing commitment.
Do you want to learn more about how to talk with children about racism? Here are some resources.
- 6 Things White Parents Can Do to Raise Racially Conscious Children (Everyday Feminism)
- 9 Parents On How They’re Teaching Their Kids To Resist Bigotry (Emily McCombs, HuffPost)
- Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk (Aisha Sultan, UExpress)
- The Conversation We Must Have with Our White Children (Courtney E. Martin, On Being)
- It’s My Job to Raise Children Who Are Not Only Not Racist But Actively Anti-Racist (Mandy Hitchcock, We Are Educators for Justice)
- Relevant in an all-White school? (The National Association for Multicultural Education)
- “What If All the Kids are White?” Multicultural/Anti-Bias Education with White Children (Louise Derman-Sparks & Patricia G. Ramsey
This workshop was made possible by a grant from the Ben & Jerry’s Foundation to address economic, social, and environmental disparities in Vermont.