Home Local News Education leaders weigh in at Real Talk Virtual Summit on Racial Justice

Education leaders weigh in at Real Talk Virtual Summit on Racial Justice

Clockwise from top left: Henry Sanders, Michael Johnson, Dr. Joan Prince, Dr. Jack Daniels, Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, and Kaleem Caire

Multiple educational leaders in Wisconsin joined Madison365 on Friday for their all-day virtual summit on racial justice. 

The summit, called Real Talk Virtual Summit on Racial Justice, was an opportunity for community leaders to discuss policy, criminal justice, community building and more in the context of social justice and recent protests nationwide. During this segment of the summit, called the Education Reform and Justice Panel, the panelists dived into the role educators and institutions play in social justice and racial equality.

The panel featured Madison College President Dr. Jack E. Daniels III, UW Professor Emeritus Dr. Gloria Ladson Billings, One City Schools Founder Kaleem Caire and UW-Milwaukee Vice-Chancellor Dr. Joan Prince.

“The reason we’re doing this is because what happened to Mr. Floyd, being murdered is awful, but this has been happening to Black folks for generations,” Madison365 Publisher & CEO Henry Sanders said. “And it’s not just what the police are doing, it’s what the business community, the educational community, nonprofit community [are doing], it’s all connected. If we don’t address the whole part of the body we can never move forward.”

The panelists discussed how institutional systems historically contributed to and promoted the lack of appropriate education for black youth. Dr. Ladson Billings said when black children were allowed to go to school, they were “never given the mandate to be educated.”

“Our children are required to go to school, they’re not all getting an education,” she said. “Initially they weren’t even allowed to go to school but when they were first allowed to go to school, they were sometimes told that they could go there and be trained in a vocation or some trade that will not take the job of some white person. Now we’re in the midst of two pandemics. We’ve got the COVID-19 but we have a pandemic of white supremacy and its byproduct is the racism we are seeing. My deepest concern is that we are going to try to go back after the COVID pandemic is lifted. There is no going back because what they were in was broken, so you want to go back to brokenness?”

She said that now was the time for a “hard reset.”

“We got to wipe everything clean, that’s what we have to do for our children,” she said.

For Dr. Daniels, an institution should be able to engage with young folks so they can be vulnerable in talking about 

“It’s important for us to understand where they are coming from,” he said. “We have to ask them ‘how do you feel? But it has to be from an environment in which they can feel that? Oftentimes our institutions aren’t that environment and part of what I have to elad is an effort to create that environment. If you can create that environment you can support our young folks. We gotta understand who they are, what their issues are and go from there.”

To deal with educational reform in this time, especially in Wisconsin — which has the second widest achievement gap between black and white students in the nation — we have to look at the educational pipeline, Dr. Prince said.

“What COVID-19 did was expose the inequities particularly in education,” she said. “They do not have the same resources and access that others might have. At the end of the day, we have to look at the K-12 pipeline. When you talk about the inequities in education, we need to be much more vocal and focused on all of those inequities that are going to be the life-long challenges. People that need to come to the table are those that have no hope. Those are the ones we need to talk to, to try to help them see past what they feel is a marginalized world where their end will be Goerge Floyd.”