We have long taken pride in building communities and supporting those without access to fair education opportunities. In the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the countless others who have lost their lives as a result of institutionalized racist practices – all of us at WITS are reflecting on how to make change through the work that we do.
We have the responsibility to face how centuries-old systematized racism has manifested itself in public education. From actively punishing slaves who sought to learn to read and write, to Separate but Equal education laws, to housing discrimination that to this day keeps schools segregated and perpetuates unequal distribution of funds, the American education system has deliberately kept power out of the hands of Black people.
Through our conversations over the past week, the WITS staff has renewed our commitment to serving Chicago Public Schools students and teachers, with the understanding that everything we do must be through an antiracist lens.
We are committed to being an actively antiracist organization. As a part of our five-year strategic plan:
- WITS will develop a board that is more reflective of the communities we serve, in part by encouraging the Chicago corporate community to identify diverse leadership.
- WITS will offer antiracism training for our volunteers every year and invest in ongoing mandatory professional development for our staff and board.
- WITS will seek to partner with companies whose cultures and businesses reflect antiracist values and practices.
- WITS will form a book club featuring books by Black and Brown authors to foster conversation and build a culture of antiracism.
- WITS will actively promote Black and Brown authors of children’s books in our work with students, teachers, and the public.
This is not a long road. It is a road that never ends.
As members of our committed community, we ask you to be active travelers on this road with us. At WITS, we know books. As you take these first steps with us, we suggest you start by reading.
It matters to us that we are clear and intentional on where we must go. We owe it to our students to do more. We owe it to our students to do better.
Tena Latona Kunik
Chief Executive Officer