Wildflower Schools – Minnesota hosted a virtual town hall with a panel of Black and Indigenous education leaders and institution-builders from around the United States. The panelists shared the life experiences, spiritual preparation, and practical skills they build upon to use Montessori education as a tool for racial justice and liberation.
Koren Clark–a Wildflower partner and founder of Know Thyself Inc.–described education as the practice of holding space for the child’s mental, physical, and spiritual transformation: “What Montessori requires that teachers do is to mirror their own work of inner transformation–to hold space for the spiritual transformation of these precious beings.”
Janice LaFloe–founder and director of the Montessori American Indian Childcare Center–described how she discovered in Montessori the same respect for the sacred nature of children that she learned through her upbringing. Montessori’s concept of the spiritual embryo of the child echoes Ojibwe cultural star knowledge–the idea that every child has a path that they designed for themselves before they are born.
Siobhan Brown is a citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe, a teaching artist, and a founding member of the Weetumuw School. Her advice to educators committed to liberatory Montessori education is to be your whole self at all times and under all circumstances:
“There is nothing about your heritage, race, or identity that needs to change to be in this pedagogy. It is designed to reach everyone. And if you feel it is not–-if there is a training program or something that is not inclusive or anti-racist–speak up and find allies who will support you. These training programs need you to be you. All of the training programs within the pedagogy need to be called in, particularly when they are complicit in the active erasure of Black and Brown children, their experiences, and their aspects of identity.”
Siobhan’s colleague, Dr. Nitana Greendeer is the Weetumuw School’s Language Development Director and lovingly describes their educational practice as “Wampassori.” She shared that their Montessori environment includes language and culture to help students understand that their culture and brilliance are one and the same.
Dr. Ayize Sabater, Executive Director of AMI USA, shared how his experience as a Black parent prepared him to nourish children when school systems and broader society too often didn’t recognize their brilliance or humanity. Pastor Jessica Jackson shared Dr. Ayize’s experience as a Black mother. As she works to launch Morning Glory Montessori, a faith-centered Montessori school for Black boys, she is focused on staying free, staying well, and staying open:
“I can’t usher in liberation for anyone if I’m not free myself …If children don’t see us as free and see us well, how can they understand what liberation is?”
For more brilliance from the compelling panel, watch the full recording below. If you are interested in starting your own liberatory Montessori program in Minnesota or want to learn more about Wildflower schools, you can reach out to Brandon Royce-Diop ([email protected]).