Antiracist Adrian History

Posted on June 3, 2020

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Local folks who have begun to show interest in antiracist education:
I’d like to suggest that you read the book written about AHS by U-M researcher, Todd DeStigter.
You didn’t know there’s a whole book that focuses on the school experiences of Latinx students at AHS? Hmmm. I wonder why?
Todd spent several years at the school, listening and learning from Latinx students, faculty, and community members for the purpose of helping white teachers learn to see and address the racism that mars the school experiences of Latinx students and English language learners. He was an influential mentor in antiracist education for me, and his work shaped my own significantly. (Note the Masthead of this blog.)
Todd, ELL teacher, Elsie Aranda, and I collaborated on a project where my ELA11 students and Elsie’s ELL students studied a work of literature together, had discussions, made art, and learned that Brown students who were struggling to learn English and marginalized white students in poverty faced some common challenges at school and could be allies for one another.
We were invited to make a presentation at the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, and we presented to the administrators, Board, and faculty—-

Just kidding. Nobody in Adrian wanted to see our presentation. Todd, did, however, write an article for English Journal about it, so the information is still available.

It was in discussions with my white students that I decided to “reclaim” the “Go Maples!” cheer. During the Homecoming festivities, my students didn’t participate. I decided to start saying “Go Maples” in my classes to encourage, praise, and celebrate our achievements there, just like I would if my son did something amazing on the soccer field (which he often did!).

Having been a cheerleader in Grade 7, I also had a little cheer with claps and stomps to jazz it up for the students.

When I first started using it in groups where students felt disenfranchised, they would have a negative reaction, but every time it happened, I was ready to counter with, “No. We’re ALL Maples here, trying to do our best at whatever we do. That cheer belongs to all of us, and we can use it like ‘E Pluribus Unum’ to unite and do good work together, whatever we’re doing.”

Eventually, students began to use “Go Maples!” to encourage, praise, and celebrate their achievements, to express disillusionment and sarcasm, to end a class presentation to avoid saying, “That’s it!”….and any number of uses.

Then came the year that the standardized test was being given in the gymnasium, and ALL the juniors were in the room, “socially distanced” at tables far apart, for testing. An admin handed me the mic to give a word of encouragement, and I said, “Do your best on the test! Go Maples!” and I handed the mic to the admin, ready to head back to my classroom.
I had taken about two steps toward the door, when a number of voices from around the gym started chanting, “Do the cheer! Do the cheer!”

“No!” I thought. The cheer is for students! It’s not for this lot!”

But my own arguments about the cheer belonging to everyone echoed in my mind and mixed with my tendency to say “yes” to any reasonable request from a student….and so I was forced to do the “Go Maples!” cheer with claps and stomps for the whole JR class–and in front of a number of grown people.

 

I’ve never seen another adult do the cheer, but saying it became common practice across the district; even the robot voice that makes district announcements over the phone ends with the phrase.
Overall, in my 25 years in the district, some progress has been made in terms of diversity and inclusion; On the other hand, when I left in 2019, conditions looked more like 1992 than they had for my entire career.
Adrian has a long and rich history of racism and antiracism. Todd’s book is an important piece of our history. Most of the personnel in the book have retired from AHS, but not all! Many of the teachers in the district NOW were students then, and they were in the situations Todd describes. If you were at AHS in the early-mid 1990s, you will recognize many community members.
Since this book came out in 2001, I have invited the members of the AHS English department, every AHS leader, every Superintendent, and some Board of Education members to read it. One Superintendent talked about reading it, but there was no evidence that he did.
I wonder if you can guess the number of colleagues that were interested in learning about the school experiences of their Latinx students?
I see that the district has posted a statement against police brutality on FB. I hope this means that they’re finally serious about becoming an antiracist school, but I’ve seen too many public statements like this turn out to be nothing more than lip service. I was involved in nearly every “diversity effort” at AHS from 1994-2019, and there is little progress or change to report, but there is plenty of hand-wringing, white fragility, and whataboutism–unless it’s a full-on defense of white supremacy–to catalog.
If you’re serious about doing antiracist work in Adrian, I recommend that you read this book . Learn the history. Listen to STUDENTS. Many of these students are parents in the district now. I speak with many of them regularly. They often express frustration at the lack of real progress toward antiracist education in the district–especially if they were members of the AHS Multi-Cultural Club during that time, and they believed that their efforts would improve conditions for future students.
There is no book  for me to recommend that focuses on the Black student experience at AHS, but I spent a year listening to and learning from 15+ BIPOC AHS graduates and several parents from a 30-year span, and I have written a performance piece to amplify the voices of these students and community members. It’s called, “Seeing Whiteness At School,” and it’s part of the Unraveling Racism traveling art exhibit that focuses on learning to recognize and dismantle white supremacy. The artist collective hopes to bring the exhibit and performances to more galleries; contact me if you or your organization would like to explore this option.
I wonder if anyone is curious about what the students and community members have to say about their experiences as BIPOC students at AHS?
I’m would be overjoyed to perform the piece for local audiences and engage in discussions about antiracist education with any sincerely interested community members.

Note: The reason the title of Todd’s book does not accurately name the district is that he  was a U-M PhD student when he wrote it and was required to give the school and people aliases. It is a common practice in academic research. I don’t know if he selected the name “Addison,” or if that decision was made by the editor or publisher, but the name has a very different connotation for local readers, so I must admit that it’s an unfortunate choice.

 

Before I end this post, I know that some of my “Seeing Whiteness” research participants are readers, so to you: thank you for being willing to re-traumatize yourself to help white educators learn. When audiences hear your stories, they are MOVED to ACT and tell me to THANK YOU for telling your story. You are making a difference in the community, and I love you. Be well.

 

 

lisa eddy is a writer, researcher, educator, advocate,  musician, and gardener.

On Twitter: @lisa_eddy

On email: lisagay.eddy1@gmail.com