NorCal Colleagues Engage in Transformational Learning at Equity Institute 2.0


After an inspiring and transformative experience at SoCal Equity Institute 2.0, we couldn’t wait to make our way to Northern California the following week to continue this “deeper dive” into equity work at San Jose City College!  On November 1st and 2nd, 59 colleagues, including 5 students, from 17 colleges in the region as well as a representative from the California Community Colleges’ Chancellor’s Office, gathered for this remarkable event.  Facilitators Lauren Servais and Nika Hogan guided the group to view equity as a wayfinding experience, one that requires our embodied action as well as critical reflection.

Day 1 began with a warm welcome from Dr. Elizabeth Pratt, Vice President, Academic Affairs (and BSILI 2019!) and Mr. Roland Montemayor, Acting President of San Jose City College.  We were thrilled that Dr. Byron D. Clift Breland, Chancellor of San Jose Evergreen Community College District attended and spoke of his journey as a first-generation community college student and an equity-minded educator.

After setting goals for the day, participants worked together to read and discuss the Brave Space text set, which challenges the notion of “safe spaces” in diversity and social justice dialogues, emphasizing “the need for courage rather than the illusion of safety.” We used this paradigm to create community agreements for the institute, explicitly welcoming the risk-taking and discomfort that would be necessary to come together as learners around issues of equity. Many participants noted how the Brave Space paradigm could be applied at their home campuses to create more meaningful conditions for learning in classrooms, meetings, and professional development settings. 

The morning continued with practicing two other embodied actions for equity: serial testimony and the Critical Friends protocol. Both of these protocols structure group conversations so that everyone in the group has opportunities to speak and listen equally. First, we reflected on our own experiences as insiders and outsiders in school through serial testimony. Then, we shared one problem we were experiencing in our work and received feedback from the group through the Critical Friends protocol. At the end of the morning, we reflected on how these conversation protocols might be useful in our work as educators on our home campuses.

Day 1 concluded with an activity designed to prepare us for the night’s homework reading. It can be intimidating for colleagues and students alike to tackle challenging readings like Ibram X Kendi’s “This is what an antiracist America would look like. How do we get there?” and Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility.” So instead of sending us home with the assignment to read on our own, the facilitators engaged us to read excerpts from just one of the assigned texts and to respond to specific passages with a gallery walk activity. This gave everyone a preview of some key terms and concepts as well as questions and insights to help guide our independent reading.

Day 2 began with some time to review the readings and to find “strong lines” that brought up questions or insights for us. We shared those and engaged in a silent dialogue through a write-around activity. It was an opportunity for all involved to reflect on what it means to be anti-racist and how to process and overcome white fragility, both in our personal lives and as educators. 

The heart of Day 2 was a Theatre of the Oppressed activity that challenged the group to really consider the roles we can play in enacting equity. Participants formed scenes with their bodies and then observers interpreted and altered the scenes. One powerful scene about sexual harassment in the workplace inspired over half of the group to stand up and enter the scene. After this activity, many participants shared that they were inspired to find opportunities to listen, witness, stand up, and act to achieve more equitable living and working spaces. 

As the institute came to a close, the group reflected on the courage and connection that allowed transformational learning to take place. Relationships were built, intentions were set, and we were inspired to push forward as we find our way to equity. 

Many thanks to the amazing NorCal Equity Institute planning team, particularly our BSILI 2019 colleagues, for all you did to make this event a success!   

To access the full agenda, click here