Equity is the goal for nearly every diverse school district in the country. As the ripple effects of generational trauma and systemic oppression continue to be felt in communities of color, especially Black and Brown communities, districts like the Denver Public Schools have created positions and offices of equity, inclusion, or both.
Dr. Darlene Sampson, equity specialist coordinator at the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center and a clinical field faculty in the Department of Social Work at Metropolitan State University of Denver, was once the director of Culturally Responsive Education in Denver Public Schools, bringing with her three decades of experience to a vitally important office, especially as the district sought to end generational inequity and trauma within the school system. In 2006 she stepped into the position, confident and excited to begin the work that not only was she was she passionate about, she had lived it, growing up in Pueblo, Colorado where “there were not that many of us.”
Soon, she discovered that her employer was not prepared to do the work. They were not ready for her greatness, which is to say that they did not establish the conditions under which true Culturally Responsive Education could grow. Instead of building a space for liberation, she describes her daily work as a battle ground, and even finds the term “Racial Battle Fatigue” to fall short in describing what she experienced. It was a plantation experience.
Today, Dr. Sampson shares with us her experiences fighting the good fight, the correct fight, and the work in which she is currently engaged. She harbors no ill will; she simply realizes that her employers were simply not prepared for what Culturally Responsive work required.