Tag Archives: Ethnic Studies

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.

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

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. 

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

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.

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

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?”

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

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.

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

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?

Continue reading Ethnic Studies Educator Shraddha Shirude on Giving Math Purpose

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.”

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

OPINION: Racial Equity Education Launches National Crowd-Sourced Public Education Campaign

by Racial Equity Education


A cultural revolution is happening in Seattle and around the country as we experience a collective awakening of individuals and institutions to the damages caused by centuries of white supremacy and systemic racism. It is becoming more apparent that K–12 schools continue to contribute to racial injustice, even in some of the most progressive districts.

Seattle Public Schools, despite passing a resolution in 2017, has yet to mandate, implement, and fully fund ethnic studies curriculum districtwide. While the Seattle district office claims to be committed to centering youth voices and serving students furthest from educational justice, they continue to merely pay lip service to the demands that have been clearly voiced by Garfield students for years. Yet the district’s recent decision to remove Tracy Castro-Gill as Head of Ethnic Studies for Seattle Public Schools has set back years of work by discrediting their own Ethnic Studies program and the many dedicated educators who have built it.

Continue reading OPINION: Racial Equity Education Launches National Crowd-Sourced Public Education Campaign

Ethnic Studies Educator Amanda Hubbard Takes Us Above and Beyond the Winner/Loser Binary

by Ari Robin McKenna

This is the first 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 series intro, click here.


To Amanda Hubbard, ethnic studies is foundational; it is the basis for effective instruction in the classroom, from kindergarten to twelfth grade. Period. She’s done with students of color being given a footnote’s worth of space in the curriculum — an elective if they’re lucky — while the Eurocentric victors’ tales are taught, definitively, as “history.” She’s done with a White supremacist educational culture that defies all the current best-practice research emphasizing both the process and the power of learning from mistakes — in favor of maintaining a biased, high-stakes hierarchy of winners and losers.

And so, Amanda Hubbard is working, beyond her teaching hours, to develop a better way.

Continue reading Ethnic Studies Educator Amanda Hubbard Takes Us Above and Beyond the Winner/Loser Binary

OPINION: Ethnic Studies Could Dismantle Systemic Racism in Our Schools

by Ari Robin McKenna


As fresh droves of people grapple more seriously with the slippery concept of systemic racism, now is the time to support the efforts of educators working to mainstream antiracist education. Three years ago, the future of ethnic studies in Seattle Public Schools (SPS) looked assured, after the school board unanimously approved a resolution in support of it. Yet the district now seems to be reversing course, and there is a closed hearing today, June 8, about the removal of SPS ethnic studies program manager, Tracy Castro-Gill, a former regional teacher of the year whose integrity and ability to cooperate are being questioned. As a massive cultural uprising marches forward seeking to address systemic racism nationwide, apparently a few folks high up in SPS’s district office seem to think it makes sense to defund ethnic studies and head in the opposite direction. Continue reading OPINION: Ethnic Studies Could Dismantle Systemic Racism in Our Schools