Recapping the Anti-Racist Leadership Conference

by Devean R. Owens / Mar 22, 2019

Sponsored by the Spencer Foundation, the Strengthening Anti-Racist Leaders to Advocate for Racial Equity Amongst Political Uncertainty Conference took place February 28 through March 1 at the Illini Center in downtown Chicago.

The event brought together a diverse group of stakeholders that included school and district administrators; scholars in the field of educational leadership, policy, and teacher education; community organizers and activist groups; and sociologists in education.

Dr. James D. Anderson, dean of the College of Education at Illinois, welcomed guests with a charge to think beyond just anti-racist leadership and actualize anti-racist education. Anderson asserted, “This is the time to take American education down a different road so that people are no longer socialized and educated in racist ways.”

Intense discussions about anti-racist education and leadership preparation took place on both days of the conference, as did conversations about the importance of community organizing for education and partnerships among the community, university, and district.

Additionally, the conference had five panels with four to five representatives, a conversation featuring school administrators, and hands-on workshops. Panel titles included Political Context of Anti-racist Educational Leadership, Anti-racist Educational Leadership Preparation and Practice, Community-University-District Partnerships Around Anti-racist Educational Leadership, Activism and Anti-racist Educational Leadership, and Supporting the Work of Anti-racist Educational Leaders.

During the first panel, Dr. Amanda Lewis stated, “We should be deeply suspicious and cynical when people get comfortable—the fundamental undergirding of anti-racist work may be getting lost.”

There were also serious discussions about the reality of the risk-taking involved in being an anti-racist leader, and on being prepared for the resistance when engaging in this work. Organizers are hopeful the conference created sustainable partnerships that will continue.

Overall, participants felt the event provided space and time for education leaders in different sectors to convene, learn from one another, and create lasting networks in the hopes of creating sustainable change.

Dr. Anjalé Welton, Dr. Sarah Diem, and Devean Owens, a graduate research assistant at the Office of Community College Research and Leadership, helped organize the conference.

View photos from the event.