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CYP Hosts Third Year of BARWE215 – Building Anti-Racist White Educators Philadelphia

City Year’s work is founded upon 10 core values. Belief in the Power of Young People, Empathy, Social Justice for All, and other values represent the organization’s deepest beliefs and highest aspirations to achieve education equity.

Reflecting on our second core value—Students First, Collaboration Always—City Year Philadelphia (CYP) Impact Director Brendan Morrissey says, “Everyone wants the best for the students but it’s the responsibility of white people to do anti-racism work and take responsibility to combat racism and white supremacy. That’s why we’re all here.”

At CYP, Brendan leads Building Anti-Racist White Educators Philadelphia; better known as BARWE215. BARWE is a monthly reading and inquiry series for AmeriCorps members and staff to engage in introspection about racism in schools, classrooms, and communities. While the space is open to everyone, its specifically for people who identify as members of the white community to interrogate their whiteness and build anti-racist identities and practices in their work. The mission is to equip participants to recognize and resist biases to better support student success.

“We all want what’s best for our youth, but for white educators like me and others, we can unconsciously cause pain to our students of color — even those of us with experience and compassion. The mission of BARWE is to spend time in consistent study and reflection so that we can address our unconscious biases and make changes to better support the academic, social, and emotional well-being of our students of color while building anti-racist identities in practices in our work with students and each other.”

This is City Year Philly’s third year participating in BARWE, which is a national organization with affiliations in cities throughout the country. This year, the group is centering on two key areas: dismantling white supremacy culture and centering Black joy and resistance.

During the 2020-2021 meetings, participants identify the ways in which white supremacy culture appears in schools and teaching practices followed by a discussion on embracing Black joy in schools as a method of resistance. Next, participants set goals for themselves surrounding Black joy as well as ways to center student voices by creating spaces for story sharing and celebrating who they are.

For first-year AmeriCorps member Joalaina Muto, BARWE is a favorite gathering space at City Year. “I find having a space to openly talk about race without having to make others feel uncomfortable or put any additional burden on people of color to explain things is really useful. So often we find ourselves looking to people of color to spell out the means of systemic inequity, but there are so many resources to be explored to further educate ourselves on how to be anti-racist and I really enjoy getting to be a part of the exploration.”

Muto adds, “Every meeting we talk about how we can dismantle inequity in our own interactions, but most recently we talked about Black joy and how important it is that we implement this in our work with City Year to not only make our students feel included, but to remind them that they are loved and important at school and in society.”

Ethan Grugan, another first-year AmeriCorps member shares, “The space BARWE provides has been really great. The discussion groups are insightful and helpful. What I really enjoyed in our most recent meeting was that everyone was given two minutes in a discussion group to speak without interruption. I was skeptical that would work at first, but found it was great because the structure of the conversation ensured that everyone had an equal opportunity, which reinforced that each opinion was valid and equally honored.”

Looking ahead, BARWE participants will continue with community readings and tools to not only reflect on white supremacy culture, but to engage in application and accountability. Participating in BARWE is an opportunity to build community and invest in the ongoing, lifelong work of being anti-racist educators.

To learn more about Building Anti-Racist White Educators, visit BARWE online. BARWE is supported by a grant from Teaching Tolerance and has an accountability relationship with the Melanated Educators Collective in Philadelphia.

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