On Monday, we had the great joy to open our doors for the sixth school year at St. Louis Language Immersion Schools – a celebrated milestone in the midst of the Mike Brown aftermath. Our students came to school as they do every day, from 40+ zip codes in St. Louis City and County, representing every type of diversity imaginable—family of origin, home language, economic class— ready to learn. In our schools we acknowledge that we all live in this “accordion” experience. We all wake up each day in our largely segregated communities with all of the messages and history that they bring, and we come to SLLIS. At SLLIS we expect everyone to suspend belief for a few precious hours. We expect our students to believe that our schools are the normal world and that making real relationships across our differences is all that matters. Then each afternoon, we return home to our segregated neighborhoods and lives. Our children are constantly navigating between these two worlds and it’s our job to give value to such relationships and make our normal world the reality.
Over the week I have heard from families who chose to have courageous conversations with their children about the week’s unrest and protests. Families who chose to engage their children in peaceful protest and vigils. Students who asked their families what they could do. Families who were scared for their children’s safety and chose to keep them at home. Families who didn’t know what to say to their children. Families who wanted to keep their children in blissful ignorance, safe in their bubble from the atrocities in our region. I am inspired by all of our families for their honesty, their vulnerability, their courage, and their voice.
In times of intercultural crisis, we can be impatient and focus on the immediate action and immediate change. We ask ourselves “Am I doing enough to change our society?” “What can we do to make life better for our children tomorrow?” “Can I, one person, change the world?”
I couldn’t stop crying on my way in to school this morning. I am supposed to be comforted by the nationwide vigils, peaceful protests, and beautiful displays of love and demands for justice that occurred last night. But vigils and protests will not keep my son safe. They will not keep more young men who look like him from being feared, profiled or vilified in our communities. After I began speaking with parents and going to all-school assembly today, I felt deeply why our school matters so much. We have to teach our children that they can trust and love people who are different from them.
This is what change looks like.
In peace and love,