June 19, 2020
Dear KLSD Community,
If your email inbox is anything like mine, for the last few days and again today, you’re receiving messages about Juneteenth, a day that has been celebrated around our country all the way back to 1866. Perhaps you’re getting these messages from corporations acknowledging the day, from a college with which you’re affiliated, from a Facebook post, or from a news source providing resources about the meaning and significance of the day.
I’ve been asked several times if I’d be sending out a list of resources for our community to mark this day. And my initial impulse was to do just that. It would not have been difficult to pull together the resources and cut and paste some information.
But after listening to trusted colleagues, including colleagues of color, I decided it’s more important for me, today, to acknowledge how little I know and how much I have to learn.
Juneteenth is a significant anniversary in the history our country that has been marked for more than 150 years. Yet I didn’t learn about it in school, college, or graduate school. I gained a vague awareness of it some years ago when it started to appear as one of those auto-generated anniversaries on my calendar. Despite several years of effort to support progress in our District (community meetings, increasingly diverse classroom and school libraries, collaboration with organizations committed to racial justice, etc.), it was not until this most recent wave of racist killings and mass protests, that I finally began to read and learn about Juneteenth. The work we have before us must be both personal and systemic.
The amount I have to learn and my uncertainty about the steps forward are daunting to me. But I remain optimistic. I am buoyed by students in our schools who are demanding change, by colleagues who are learning together each day, and by community members who are asking to help. I still trust that by truly listening to others, we can move forward.
I invite you to join me in taking time today to learn about Juneteenth, about yourself, or about the systems that have shaped you. The resources are around us if we’re willing to look, to ask, and to listen. Work this complex will never be easy, and steps forward will likely be halting due to the complexity, but we must keep taking those steps together. As a District, we will.
Andrew Selesnick, Superintendent