Looking Ahead + New IDEA Website, Staff & Updates

May 19, 2021 | IDEA Newsletter

Hello Friends and Family,

IDEA is hoping that each of you and your families are healthy and well right now. So much is and has been happening in our world. From continued racial injustices on almost every social front to a pandemic that continues to ebb and flow at its own pace, we and our communities find ourselves dealing with a lot.

We recently participated in a small conversation organized by civil rights icon Bob Moses that dove into discussions about caste systems in United States education. It was an enlightening sharing among people from many places across the country, one that created a free-ranging conversation about the impacts of “education castes” on communities across the country.

We explored how these systems and their inner workings in education have historically left and continue to leave the most disenfranchised communities at high risk with little to no reward or generational advancement in society.

We see so much work happening to break the caste system from so many entry points. There are people who go unnamed every single day who wake up to dismantle barriers to success for all children.

The push we have to make is for this work to extend beyond community-by-community approaches that are only sustained by privilege or philanthropic whims. This work has to become a habit of our country; it has to become the “American Way.”

Our country is standing in the mirror, and we have to decide if “We the People” are satisfied and comfortable with what we see. Though our worlds are vastly different in many ways and some inequities are especially more visible in these times, we still hold hope that the will of the people will eventually bend towards inclusion and equitable participation for all people.

We send love and light to every person everywhere with deep gratitude and appreciation for what we all do to create a more fair and just world.

Forward in Justice & Equity,
Albert Sykes and the IDEA family

Spring 2021 Updates

We are excited today to be reaching out to you. It has been a while since we have shared a general update, and there are some awesome things going on in the IDEA world:

  • IDEA’s brand new website
  • Introducing Toya Washington as Mississippi Program Associate
  • Some updates on our work and from across the community

As the pandemic continues to influence all of our lives, we are grateful to have a supportive community, let alone a newsletter.Love and light to you and your family. Thank you for all that you do.

IDEA has a Brand New Website

Same URL (democraticeducation.org) with a brand new look and an updated reflection of the who, what, & where of IDEA.

This is IDEA’s first major website overhaul in well over five years. Thanks to the support of The Space Global, we are thrilled with how it turned out.

Want to know exactly what IDEA is up to these days? The brand new IDEA website will take you there. 

From Who We Are to What We DoWhere We Work to an updated set of Values, the new site does a great job of accurately reflecting the who, what, and where of IDEA in 2021.

Please take a look around, and as always feel welcome to reach out with any questions, concerns, or ideas for collaboration.

Welcoming Toya Washington – MS Program Associate

Toya Washington - IDEA, Mississippi Program Associate - Institute for Democratic Education in America

We are beyond excited to welcome an outstanding addition to the IDEA staff, family, and community. Please join us in welcoming Toya Washington as IDEA’s new Mississippi Program Associate:

Toya Washington was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina. During her childhood, she moved frequently until she settled in Jackson, MS her 10th grade year. Enrolled at Provine High School, Toya started finding her passions in different extracurricular activities like yearbook, honor society, volleyball, and more. After high school, Toya got accepted into Belhaven University. Because of her introduction to community advocacy in high school, she immediately jumped into multiple Belhaven opportunities. Through her jobs and school involvement, Toya participated in press conferences, community meetings, educational campaigns and more around educational resources and community health. At Belhaven, Toya presided over Belhaven United (mental health group), Intervarsity (ministry organization), and the Black Student Association. In 2020, She graduated with a Bachelors of Art in Classical Education, with minors in Psychology and Biblical Studies. Since college, Toya has worked with the OurJPS Coalition as the Community Schools Team Coordinator and serves in the Jackson Cohort for the Ashe Fellowship.

Updates Across Our Work

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic brought some pretty major challenges to almost all of our programming. Like most organizations, our original vision was not to go 100% virtual, but we did. We are fortunate and grateful for our partners and communities – they are a key reason we have been able to to keep our connection and momentum alive even in the middle of the pandemic.

Here are a few highlights of what we have been up to:

Mississippi Teacher Support Circle, Spring 2021

IDEA’s ongoing series of meetings led by restorative facilitators provides a safe space for teachers to share their experiences, dialogue, and find healing together as they do the important work of educating the youth of Mississippi. Teachers from all over the state are welcome at circle meetings, which take place over multiple sessions each semester.

The spring 2021 season saw six circle sessions and supported 30 educators as they moved through yet another hybrid semester of public school in MS.

For an overview of the circle click here, and if you are interested in future meetings please sign up for our MS Teacher Support Circle Newsletter.

Parent Support and Engagement Meetings in Jackson, Mississippi

In partnership with Our JPSOne Voice, & the Jackson Council PTA, IDEA hosts an ongoing series of meetings with Jackson Public Schools parents to discuss their experiences, hopes, and dreams for the school district, and is developing strategies to engage parents in various leadership trainings and to support direct involvement with the school district.

On May 6th, 2021, we hosted our first parent meeting of the season where we discussed the past school year and what parents hope for in the oncoming summer. We will continue this conversation along with many others throughout a series of meetings with parents this summer.

To stay connected with these support and engagement meetings in Jackson, please write to connect at info@democraticeducation.org.

Virtual Learning Series for Nellie Mae’s Amplifying Youth Voice Grantees

Earlier this year, IDEA collaborated with the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to support a three-part virtual learning series for their New England based Amplifying Youth Voice Grantees that focused on 3 key aspects of antiracist education:

  • Session #1: Antiracist Curriculum & Ethnic Studies
  • Session #2: Police-Free Schools & Restorative Justice
  • Session #3: Building School Cultures of Solidarity, Co-liberation, and Decolonizatiom

This series was a virtual form of an IDEA Learning Tour. Learning Tours provide an opportunity for educators, young people, and community leaders to see powerful schools and programs with their own eyes and bring back the learning to their community.

For more information on IDEA Learning Tours and to connect around how you can collaborate with IDEA to develop one for your community, click here and/or write us at info@democraticeducation.org.

A continuation of our Antiracism Courses for White Educators

IDEA antiracism courses, first launched in December 2019, are planned with the support of a multiracial group of educators who play a vital role in shaping and informing all of our course offerings. Current courses focus especially on white educators, reflecting the reality that in the U.S. 80% of educators are white.

The spring 2021 iteration of this course is well underway with 18 participants enrolled. To date, IDEA antiracism courses have supported almost 70 educators looking to deepen their learning and take action to disrupt white supremacy in their professional and personal lives.

If you are interested in future participation, or have a particular interest in IDEA antiracism courses, please reach out to connect with us at info@democraticeducation.org


Bob Moses’ Election to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences

It is a great joy to share here that close friend, teacher, and mentor, Bob Moses, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences for his immense work and contribution with The Algebra Project.

From the Academy: “Academy members are world leaders in the arts and sciences, business, philanthropy, and public affairs. They are based across the United States and around the world. These elected members join with other experts to explore challenges facing society, identify solutions, and promote nonpartisan recommendations that advance the public good.”

For more information  | American Academy of Arts and Science

Teaching Profession Playbook via Partnership for Future of Learning

The Teaching Profession Playbook from the Partnership for the Future of Learning offers a comprehensive set of strategies that work together to recruit, prepare, develop, and retain high-quality teachers and bring greater racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity to the profession.

This guide provides tools for advancing a stable and diverse teaching profession and ensuring that every student in every school is taught by a fully prepared teacher. Read it cover to cover or explore a single chapter or strategy depending on your local or state circumstances.

From Partnership for the Future of Learning | Teaching Profession Playbook

IEL National Conference: Connected Together & Stronger Than Ever

The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) 2021 National Family & Community Engagement Conference is a capacity building experience designed to reinvigorate the spirit of attendees and equip them with confidence and capabilities in various knowledge areas.

Join as state leaders, school and district leaders, administrators, educators, community-based organizations, researchers and parent leaders come together to focus on solutions that enhance and expand engagement through family-school-community partnerships.

Virtual: June 1-4, 2021 – more info & registration | Connected Together & Stronger Than Ever

20 Years of Youth Power: 2020 National Youth Organizing Field Scan

Funders’ Collaborative on Youth Organizing Field Scans provide a wide-angled view of the youth organizing field at a particular moment in time, contextualized in the field’s history and accompanied by a forecast of where the field’s contributions might lead in coming years.

This year, the 2020 National Youth Organizing Field Scan comprises a series of four reports that together offer an in-depth look into a field that has grown significantly over the last two decades. Its contents include:

  • Discussions about the ways in which youth organizing groups navigate complex social and political landscapes to address pressing issues
  • The field’s spectrum of engagement models, budgets, and staffing
  • An understanding of how far the field has come in the past 20 years and a vision of where it is headed

Check out the full report here | 2020 National Youth Organizing Field Scan

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