Advocacy @ TSS

You may have noticed something earlier this week. It may have been an explicit noticing or maybe something felt new, yet you moved on to your next email in your inbox.

On Monday, Jody Donovan wrote an email to the organization titled “Peaceful Demonstration Tonight — Black Lives Matter”. A portion of it read:

Many have asked how they can support racial justice in the wake of continued violence against and murder of black people and the escalating and open brutality propagated against those who are peacefully protesting that violence. While each of us is responsible to find our greatest expression of action to build community and combat racism in ourselves, our communities and the systems that shape/guide our lives, consider this opportunity to make your support visible. A community member is organizing a peaceful, silent demonstration tonight at 7pm on Town Square in Jackson. Please see details here.

This important email said several things in it:

  1. We are committed to combating racism in ourselves, at TSS, and in our community.
  2. Each of us is responsible to act.
  3. Here is one way to act.

There is an inaccurate historical legacy at TSS that “we don’t advocate”. I hear different reasons why people believed this was true — it threatens our non-profit status, it risks community support or donations, it isn’t true to our role as a school or an educational institution. None of these are true.

TSS has and will continue to take positions on topics that align or threaten our ability to support our students, our mission, and the vision TSS has for the world. It doesn’t mean TSS will take a position on every idea, policy, or piece of legislation up for vote in Cheyenne, WY or Washington, DC.

TSS stands for something. We do envision more sustainable, socially just, and economically vibrant communities. We do believe transformative place-based education creates courageous citizens that can change the world for the better. We do have core values of inclusion, accountability, stewardship, collaboration, and innovation. If we don’t stand for anything, we aren’t living up to our students, mission, or vision for the world.

Additionally, as a predominately white organization with influence in our community and the world, neutrality acts against our core values and vision. Said another way, by “being neutral” we actually further racist systems and prevent the full realization of our mission and vision.

You’ve likely already read my Open Letter To Our Community and I hope you attended the Crucial and Candid Conversation with LEAD Houston last night. Listening, learning, and acting are key ways White people right now can be better allies to Black people and people of color. On Monday, the Executive Team made an intentional decision to send the email to the organization:

  • It supported a more positive and inclusive learning environment for all of our students (check)
  • It aligned with our values (check)
  • It furthered our vision for the world (check)

For our students, for our mission, for the world, TSS believes Black lives matter. We used our judgment to determine this opportunity aligned with our organizational belief. We shared the opportunity with staff.

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