Tag Archives: Ethnic Studies

The Unspoken Truths Museum to Open at ARTS at King Street Station Gallery

by Melia LaCour


“Resistance, Resilience, Remembrance, and Liberation”: poetic words straight from the heart of multiple award winner, community scholar, ethnomuseumologist, and second-generation storyteller Delbert Richardson. His soulful words describe the theme of his upcoming installation, “American History Traveling Museum: The Unspoken Truths,” which will open at the ARTS at King Street Station Gallery on Nov. 16, 2021, and continue through Jan. 15, 2022.  

“My work is primarily geared for children and young adults,” Richardson shared. “No professional development, no white teachers. It’s really around identity development and self-actualization for Black kids, right? When we think about slavery and, historically, our story starting from 1619, then that becomes the placeholder of who we are and how we see ourselves and how we allow ourselves to be seen. So, I was determined to challenge that narrative. That’s what my museum does. It challenges that narrative based on my own story.”

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Filipino Community Members Make Modern History

by Jasmine M. Pulido


What does the making of modern history feel like to those of us who have been systematically erased from it?

In Washington State, it was only a little over two years ago, on May 7, 2019, when our Gov. Jay Inslee officially signed Filipino American History Month (FAHM) into law. While the Washington State Legislature has proclaimed October as Filipino American History Month since 2010, organizations like Filipino American National Historical Society (FANHS), along with other local Filipino community members and activists, have recognized it for decades and have pushed for it to be commemorated more seriously by lobbying for the signing of SB 5685.

Passing FAHM into law was a major event of modern history for Filipino and Filipino American community members. For Filipino American community members with real stakes in the larger goal of Filipino American culture and identity, having a legitimate home within our rainy city, it feels like the beginning of a deep wrong finally becoming right.

Local Filipino American community members and educators don’t take this step lightly and, in fact, have used it as a means to catapult Filipino American studies and language into Seattle’s public school curriculum within just a month’s time.

This October, multiple Filipino American organizations in Seattle have worked together to rapidly progress two City initiatives within the public school system — the development of a Filipino American curriculum and, separately but within the same month, the paving of a way for students to more feasibly receive school credit for learning or already knowing Filipino languages like Tagalog, Ilocano, and Visayan.

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Washington Ethnic Studies Now’s Third Annual Assembly to Take Place April 24

by Ari Robin McKenna


The “Washington Ethnic Studies Now (WAESN) 3rd Annual Assembly on Organizing for Ethnic Studies” will be held virtually on Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It features keynote speaker Dr. Verónica (Vero) Vélez, an organizer, activist, and award-winning professor at University of Western Washington, as well as keynote panelists Brent Jones Jr., the incoming interim Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools (SPS), Brandon Hersey, the SPS South End board director of District 7, and more than 20 other speakers.

In recent conversation with the Emerald, Tracy Castro-Gill, the executive director of WAESN, says the goal of the assembly is “to build collective capacity, and let people know where they can plug into existing efforts, or how they can start their own efforts.” She stressed how this assembly differs from standard professional development workshops for teachers, saying, “There’s people who are individually trying to do this in their classroom, but we know that to teach ethnic studies well, you need a community behind you. It’s not a traditional education conference, it’s about organizing and networking and building community. It’s a lot of how to do those things on different levels.”

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Michelle Sarju Talks About Her Candidacy for District 5 School Board Director

by Ari Robin McKenna


On March 19, Michelle Sarju announced her candidacy for the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) District 5 School Board Director seat. SPS District 5 includes most of the downtown area from the Sound to Lake Washington and, specifically, the neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, the Chinatown/International District, First Hill, Leschi, Madison, and the Central District. Outgoing District 5 Board Director Zachary DeWolf has been one of those who have endorsed Sarju as her campaign launched.

In an interview with the Emerald, Sarju reflected on her professional life and how she feels it has prepared her to step into this role at this particular, historic moment. She also spoke about why she thinks it’s important the board includes a Black resident from the Central District who has had three children in SPS.

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Why We Need Black Lives Matter at School in 2021 — and How to Get Involved

by Alexis Mburu


Three years ago, if you were to ask me what the Black Lives Matter movement meant to me, I’d have given what I would now consider a lackluster answer. This is because three years ago, I was a seventh grader with a limited grasp on my identity and the world around me. Now, Black Lives Matter is a movement that holds so much weight it’s hard to imagine a time when I was so inattentive.

The 2017/2018 school year was the first year I participated in a Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action at my school in Tukwila, Washington, and it felt like a whisper. There was no energy or enthusiasm by the teachers I had because they were just doing what they were told,  going through the motions with slides that were provided by anti-racist teachers with real passion, ones who educated and liberated their students all year round — teachers who saw the necessity in decolonizing the education system one step at a time, and, for the most part, knew how to. I was lucky enough to know such a teacher: Erin Herda, who has been teaching ethnic studies for years, despite endless push-back.

Unfortunately, the experience of only getting to have the necessary conversations, read the important books, and be taught true history if you have the right teachers is all too common. 

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Youth Shall Lead: Youth Activists for Systemic Change Livestream Demands Action on Racial Equity

by Mike Davis


The brilliant council members of the Youth Activists for Systemic Change (YASC) organized a livestream event on Sat. January 23 in partnership with Town Hall Seattle to present a panel discussion on their thoughts and demands for creating a better future.

In June, these youth organized the Seattle Children’s March that was inspired by the Birmingham Children’s Crusade March of 1963. The members of YASC hosted a rally at Garfield Community Center, before leading a crowd of about 3,000 people on a march through the Central District. I, along with my daughter, attended that march and rally, and I remember being impressed by the passion and creativity of these youth who not only verbalized their demands, but performed music, dance, and poetry for the large crowd that included many youth like my daughter — who was inspired by these young activists.

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Tracy Castro-Gill Is Insuppressible, and So Is Ethnic Studies

by Ari Robin McKenna

This is the sixth in a series of seven articles about ethnic studies. Find the first five here.


On January 30, 2020, during the whir of a work day, the Seattle Public Schools Ethnic Studies Program Manager, Tracy Castro-Gill, was placed on paid administrative leave. She was told she needed to be out of the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence (JSCEE) effective immediately. As Castro-Gill was escorted out of the building with all of her belongings, she remembers that time seemed to go in reverse as she passed coworkers she’d called out for their actions or words supporting systemic racism — in a district office that has presided over a school system with decades of appalling racial disparities. The Ethnic Studies Advisory Group (ESAG) that Castro-Gill had assembled to develop K–12 ethnic studies content began a boycott of SPS the next day in protest. Mandated by a unanimous 2017 School Board of Directors order, the Advisory Group’s work has remained on a district hard drive somewhere inside the bunker-like JSCEE, despite the winds of change swirling outside. A white man Castro-Gill worked with later mocked her with casual finality: “How’s that call-out culture working out for you, Tracy?”

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Heather Griffin on Why White Parents Shouldn’t Be Threatened by Ethnic Studies

by Ari Robin McKenna

This is the fourth in a series of articles featuring the words of local ethnic studies educators who are doing work to address systemic racism in our classrooms. To read the first, on Amanda Hubbard, click here. To read the second, on Bruce Jackson, click here. To read the third, on Shraddha Shirude, click here. To read the series intro, click here.


Editor’s Note: The following article includes a discussion on the racist attitudes some teachers harbor towards BIPOC students. This content might be disturbing, so we encourage everyone to prepare themselves emotionally before proceeding. If you believe that the reading will be traumatizing for you, we suggest you forego it.

If ethnic studies were to become an integral part of Seattle’s K–12 public education system, as Heather Griffin hopes, it could result in a profound shift away from systemic racism, led by youth, towards a more equitable future for this city. But for this to happen — sooner rather than later — Heather knows many of Seattle Public Schools’ white parents will have to reckon with their doubts, reason through their concerns, and reach for an understanding of the deeper fears they may be gripped by but hesitate to give voice to. Heather Griffin knows, because she has.

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Ethnic Studies Educator Shraddha Shirude on Giving Math Purpose

by Ari Robin McKenna

This is the third in a series of articles featuring the words of local ethnic studies educators who are doing work to address systemic racism in our classrooms. To read the first, click here. To read the second, click here. To read the series intro, click here.


Early this past spring just before the pandemic emptied classrooms, math teacher Shraddha Shirude floated a novel course offering to sophomores at Garfield High for the 2020–2021 school year: Ethnic Studies Math. The result was confounding; 90 students signed up … for an elective math class. How could this be?

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Ethnic Studies Educator Bruce Jackson and the Beautiful American Story Never Told

 by Ari Robin McKenna

This is the second in a series of articles featuring the words of local ethnic studies educators who are doing work to address systemic racism in our classrooms. To read the first, click here. To read the series intro, click here.


When Bruce Jackson was a child, his household was swept up into a greater story that still reverberates across the world today. His uncle, Zayd, was killed defending writer and civil rights activist Assata Shakur during a confrontation with police on the New Jersey Turnpike. A documentary about Shakur’s life ends with the following words regarding her chosen surname:

“It is a name that I took to carry on the name of Zayd Malik Shakur in honor of his family, and in honor of the forces of beauty and good on this earth which I’m grateful for. That is my name.”

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