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HGSE Alumni of Color Discuss Education and Racial Inequities at Annual Conference

The Harvard Graduate School of Education hosted its annual Alumni of Color Conference — in a virtual format — on Saturday.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education hosted its annual Alumni of Color Conference — in a virtual format — on Saturday. By Ryan N. Gajarawala
By Omar Abdel Haq, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Graduate School of Education alumni and students discussed education’s intersection with racial inequality and socioeconomic disparities at a conference Saturday.

The Alumni of Color Conference, which has occurred annually since its first iteration in 2003, was themed “Immunity in Community: Resilience in the Face of a Double Pandemic” this year.

HGSE Dean Bridget Terry Long, who gave the welcoming address, highlighted what she dubbed a crisis in educational access due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Long also warned that the consequences of inaction around education gaps are great.

“The widening educational opportunity gaps between children from different backgrounds is undoubtedly one of the greatest risks of the pandemic,” she said. “Predictions suggest that by the fall of 2021, students will have lost three months, up to a year of learning, depending on the quality of their remote instruction.”

Long added that this year’s conference served as an opportunity to reflect on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we near the one year mark, when so many of us jumped to remote learning, it is a good time to consider what we’ve learned and what we want to take forward with us,” she said.

HGSE alumnus Andrew F. Williams, the conference’s host, said in his remarks that the conference should facilitate solution development for current challenges in education.

“We’re coming together to share strategies and recipes for staying strong — for getting stronger,” he said. “We come together to name our pain, but also to find and manifest and share joy in our collective struggle.”

HGSE alum César A. Cruz, delivered a keynote address in which he touched on the importance of discerning the effects of colonialism on minorities.

Cruz argued educators need to fight the long-lasting mark that colonial regimes left on the education system.

“The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor, which is planted deep within each and every one of us,” Cruz said. “It’s so easy to smash on the system outside, but so hard to face the system within.”

As he closed his speech, Cruz called on attendees to continue forming strong educational communities for generations of students and educators.

“May you continue to center yourself, and be part of a community of care, as we create that world that we wish to be a part of,” Cruz said.

— Staff writer Omar Abdel Haq can be reached at omar.abdelhaq@thecrimson.com.

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RaceHigher EducationGrad School of EducationVirtual Education