In the wake of the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd last summer, a group of staff members aligned to combine their talents and work together to address social injustices in the community. Members of the External Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force include staff of various ethnicities, backgrounds, and positions (including clinical therapists, supervisors, program managers, and even our CEO). Over the past year, we have joined together biweekly to inspire each other, brainstorm new ideas, and continue working on the many projects we have in the works.
The initiatives of the External DEI Task Force focus on macro-level change within local systems of government. This year, Long Beach Unified School District approved our proposal to implement a district-wide, emergency response team consisting of two bilingual therapists. These therapists will be responsible for responding to emergency situations across the school district, including: aggressive behaviors, suicidal ideations, and other conflicts on campus. The goal of the emergency response initiative is to decrease police presence on school campuses, decrease suspensions and expulsions, and increase safety and emotional wellness for all students. We are especially focused on students of color who are disproportionately represented in behavior contracts, detentions, expulsions, etc.
Our second initiative includes a training for educators and school administrators that focuses on enhancing their knowledge and understanding of how implicit biases, racial trauma, and microaggressions impact learning and shape the socioemotional development of BIPOC students. Recognizing that youth spend a majority of their lives in the school setting, our mission is to highlight issues that specifically impact BIPOC students and to work towards more culturally-affirming and enriching environments for both students and teachers. The trainings will support teachers and administrators by developing ways to address and embrace ethnic and cultural diversity in their classroom, on the playground, as well as in teacher and administrator spaces. Select members of the task force have volunteered to conduct a 12-week training at Harry Bridges Span School, a Los Angeles Unified School District K-8 public school located in the city of Wilmington, this Fall.
Our third project focuses on creating free classroom resources, including posters, e-books, e-stickers, and more that support teachers in the quest to create inclusive classrooms. Each resource will highlight the strengths of various communities of color to increase classroom discourse and representation for different ethnicities within the classroom setting. We’ve started by creating colorful classroom posters celebrating contemporary and historical African Americans figures. These same figures will be featured in an e-book that teachers can use to encourage exploration and thought about the impact of African Americans on our society. Last, but not least, we are also creating an e-book of Black-affirming cultural concepts for children to read about and engage with artistically.
Through the efforts of these initiatives and tangible and digital resources, the External DEI Taskforce continues to uphold its mission to address Black inequity by influencing and collaborating with policy makers to create change while amplifying community organizations. We look forward to continuing to assess our community’s specific needs that would benefit from our diligence and collaborations.
Contributors to this blog post include the following External DEI Task Force members: Co-Chairs Alana Brooks, and Megan Bunting, ASW; and members Priscilla Amezquita, LCSW; Jayonna Cox, LMFT; and Christina Zavalza, PsyD.