When Kristen invited me to contribute to this month’s Black SEL newsletter, I was honored and humbled. Kristen suggested that I write a call to action piece for Black SEL leaders and practitioners in the field, this immediately led me to recall my experience at the Black SEL Summit. I thought about all of the meaningful work that so many Black SEL leaders were already doing for our children across the country. Attending the Black SEL summit highlighted the amazing work being done by programs like Jamila Sams’s We Do It 4 The Culture and Kristen Hopkins-Vincent’s Dangers of the Mind who seamlessly weave culturally relevant curriculum and practices to affirm and strengthen our children’s SEL skills.
So a call to action that asked folks to do what I knew they were already doing for our children didn’t seem like the right approach, instead what came to mind was a call to action for Black SEL leaders to leverage their adult SEL skills in service of themselves and each other. The names and faces of so many Black women and men whose lives have been cut short by disease and suicide rang in my head and their pictures flashed before my face, the images and names of black leaders whose worth and integrity have been publically interrogated and diminished flooded my brain like a Instagram reel.
The impact of systemic racism is literally killing us. My plea to our brothers and sisters in the work is to model what it looks like to center self-compassion and care as a by-product of community care. Create networks with one another where you not only come together to discuss and strategize around the work of Black SEL but where you hold space for venting, crying, affirming and building up. Come together and reach out to one another to center Black joy and resistance, Black health and wellbeing. Social and emotional learning is certainly not a cure all for all that ails our society, but as leaders and practitioners within the field we know the power these skills have in supporting us as we navigate through what sometimes feels like minefields. Transformative SEL asks us to lean into our identities and tap into our agency to co-create spaces of liberation and change. Using our collective problem solving to reimagine new solutions to old problems.
Let’s leverage these skill sets for the wellbeing, and upliftment of us as adults. In this age of reality TV where our children are exposed to infighting and back stabbing as central themes for entertainment, providing them with more examples of what it looks like to create a community of care where competition is decentralized and collaboration and partnership are cornerstones is critical. Modeling what it looks like to nurture a group of individuals who are unapologetic about coming together with the sole purpose of centering joy and uplifting one another is just as important as us coming together to do the work. Because, afterall, isn’t that also a part of the work?