If you’re part of the Impact Public Schools community, you know about our core value of Brave Solidarity. As a founding member of the Impact team, I’ve been immersed in this work since 2018. I know how hard it is, how long the journey may be, and how important it is to stay committed.
Though I didn’t always know it, I’ve been on a journey towards the values of Brave Solidarity my whole life. I come from a multicultural background: one of my parents is Japanese, and the other is Singaporean and Swedish. Growing up in Baltimore, and especially attending an elite private school, I absorbed the idea that being American means having a certain identity that didn’t look like mine. I felt like I didn’t fit in.
In college, I gravitated to East Asian Studies, and traveled to Japan to learn the language. I was excited to explore such a big part of my heritage. But I didn’t fit in in Japan, either; as an American who speaks my mind, I felt out of step with cultural expectations for Japanese women. From that experience, I realized that I had to find and embrace my own identity, regardless of what the dominant culture says. And I realized how important it is to have spaces--including schools--where everyone’s identity is affirmed, where kids like me can develop a strong sense of self.
It’s one thing to publicly commit to an ideal, and another to bring it to life. I’ve worked in places where, even though leaders valued diversity, we didn’t prioritize nurturing students’ pride in who they were. That’s what brought me to Impact. I saw that the founding team was ready to walk the walk. I was excited to help build the values of Brave Solidarity into our schools from the ground up.
What does Brave Solidarity mean? It means working hand-in-hand with our community, creating schools where everyone has equitable opportunities to grow and lead. It means embracing and celebrating the diversity of identities and experiences among our scholars and staff. It means identifying and working to dismantle the forces of white supremacy, both inside and outside our school walls.
The five principles that guide our living commitment to Brave Solidarity include:
- Committing to Sustained Results for Students of Color & Low-Income Students
- Building Diverse Teacher & Leader Pipelines
- Brave Solidarity Professional Development Series
- Equity-Driven Student Projects
- Curating Libraries that Celebrate the Diversity of Our Community
This work isn’t always easy. As a young organization, Impact has grown so much in this work. When we launched Impact, we knew Brave Solidarity would be a core value of the organization. The challenge came in moving it from a core value on paper to something we were truly living within our systems, processes, and relationships. To do that right, we quickly learned that we had to provide additional professional development and coaching for the team to help us each begin to dismantle white supremacy norms within ourselves and across our organization.
We committed to figuring out how to put our commitments into action. We started by engaging with experts in the field of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), including Cheyenne Batista of Firefly Worldwide Inc. and researchers from Beloved Community. In collaboration with these partners, we have developed a robust plan to infuse Brave Solidarity into all parts of our organization, including designing deep and ongoing professional development for everyone across our organization--including faculty, managers, families, and board members--on topics such as race, white supremacy, gender, sexual orientation, and mores. We have deepened our commitment to equity within our talent, HR and compensation strategies, policies and systems, and we have continued to diversify our curriculum. We are analyzing all sides of our organization with an equity lens and taking concrete actions daily.
As a member of the Brave Solidarity Steering Committee, I am proud of the progress we have made to date. As a small, nimble organization, Impact has been able to act quickly to address the challenges that came up in our first year of Brave Solidarity work. Today, over 83 percent of Impact’s staff stay with us from year to year.
This work is ongoing; there is always room for growth. But when I see our scholars and staff uplifting each other and celebrating the diverse identities that make up our schools, I’m reminded that this is all worth it. It took a long time for me to find my own identity, and I’m proud to be helping create a space for others to do the same, by living out the values of Brave Solidarity at Impact.