The Buffalo Public School District and the Office of Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Initiatives was proud to host Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz on March 15, 2022 to kick off the seventh annual Urban Forum. Stakeholders from all parts of our District community, including teachers, administrators, board members, students, parents, and community partners, were provided with the opportunity to boldly embrace healing spaces, as well as engage in a shared dialogue around culturally responsive and anti-racist healing practices.
Dr. Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, a national expert on racial literacy, associate professor at Teachers College, Columbia University, and published poet, centered her keynote address on the importance of creating healing educational spaces to support academic achievement. With the theme of love threaded throughout her speech, Dr. Sealey-Ruiz encouraged district stakeholders to interrupt racism and inequality on both a personal and systemic level, further emphasized by her statement, “Our students deserve a different way of life than what they have inherited.” She also spoke directly to empowering teachers, “Teachers have power and influence … They influence the lives of children for years to come. Children remember the teachers that love them, that care about them, that support them!” Dr. Sealey-Ruiz concluded her speech by sharing her own personal motto: “It has been, and will always be about love. Love is the answer.” This opening session inspired participants to consider their role in creating healing socio-emotional spaces for students that provide students with opportunities to liberate themselves from narratives that have been written about them.
For the remainder of the day, participants continued to boldly embrace healing spaces by engaging in several breakout sessions, such as Addressing Racial Trauma in the Classroom, an Indigenous Healing – Virtual Blanket Exercise, and the infusion of healing-centered culturally responsive arts and music practices.
Several sessions on the infusion of the Emancipation Curriculum, the diverse Rising Voices book collection, and the 1619 Project’s books, A New Origin Story and Born on the Water, raised awareness about the importance of providing our students with accurate history and multiple perspectives, as well as creating opportunities that support a shared reading experience at home and in the classroom.
A focus on centering joy and actionable practices served as the foundation for Healing-Centered Mindfulness Moments with Distinguished Scholars and Hope and Healing from Our Schools. As one distinguished scholar highlighted, “All of us here in this space are resonating and connecting with one another, whether or not we have the same circumstances.” By the end of the Urban Forum 2022 experience, many participants commented that they left feeling better than they did before.
The Office of CLRI sends special gratitude to the Department of Staff Development and all facilitators and presenters who provided support with Urban Forum! Their support truly helped make Urban Forum 2022 a successful and inspiring event!
Urban Forum Background Information:
The first Urban Forum in the Buffalo Public School District was held in March 2016. The district continues to hold this event annually. The intended purpose of the Urban Forum is to open a shared dialogue with all stakeholders--teachers, principals, students, parents, district leaders, board members, and community partners. Each Urban Forum kicks off with a profound keynote speech from an expert in the field of culturally responsive education. Participants are then provided with opportunities for breakout sessions on culturally and linguistically responsive structures and instructional strategies that will enhance the learning outcomes of all district students.