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Author Interview: 'Speaking for Ourselves'

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Daisy Han and Lorena Germán agreed to answer a few questions about the new book they have edited, Speaking For Ourselves.

Daisy Han has over 10 years of experience teaching in the classroom and serving as a socio-emotional learning (SEL) facilitator. She is a partner of Wildflower Schools, a founding board member of Montessori for Social Justice, and a co-founder and director of curriculum at DEEP (Disruptive Equity Education Project). Most recently, her work focuses on adult learning and the spiritual preparation of self in one's own racial and ethnic identity through an organization she founded called Embracing Equity.

Lorena Germán is a Dominican American educator with over 10 years of experience as a classroom teacher. She was the recipient of NCTE's Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award and winner of NCTE's Latinx Caucus Excelencia in Teaching Scholarship Award. As a writer, she has been published by NCTE, ASCD, National Writing Project, EdWeek, Undertone Collective, and others. She co-founded The Multicultural Classroom, an organization supporting educators in developing a culturally sustaining approach to education. She's also one of the co-founders of #DisruptTexts, a grassroots movement to challenge the traditional canon and push us toward a more representative and equitable language arts curriculum. Additionally, Lorena is the chair of NCTE's Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English. Currently, Lorena is an English instructor at Headwaters School in Austin, Texas. Twitter @nenagerman.

LF: How would you describe Speaking for Ourselves?

Daisy Han & Lorena Germán:

Speaking for Ourselves is a book of diverse writings by writers of the Global Majority (aka People of Color). This is for everyone. All people are encouraged to read it. There are poems about motherhood. There are essays about religious matters. There are stories about identity. In the end, it's about self-expression and finding a place where we have spoken for ourselves. Read this at home. Use it with students. Share with friends. Get your own beautiful hardcover copy.

LF: How did you bring all the selections together —what was your criteria?

Daisy Han & Lorena Germán:

Originally, we put out a call for submissions through social media and then later through Embracing Equity and Montessori for Social Justice. We received so many submissions and we were overwhelmed with the beauty of the works. While it was challenging to select the writings, we had criteria that included details such as: works that maintained the mission of the journal; works that did not center oppression or the suppression of others; works by and about People of the Global Majority. Once we received all of the submissions, we created a process with our five Reading Committee members. The Reading Committee members went through an application process to volunteer as readers for this anthology. After reading all of the submissions, completing a rubric twice by two different people, and discussing the submission (without the names of authors) as a group, we had our final list of approved writings.

In the end, the collection includes voices of people of all genders, ages, and various religions and spiritual beliefs, as well as ethnic and racial identities. The experiences portrayed in this collection are broad and will hopefully help the readers celebrate the diversity and variety in our people, contrary to the single story narratives that often exist in dominant-culture publications.

We are proud to share these voices with everyone.

We are proud that there are children and students featured alongside adults.

We are proud that this collection is deep and complex.

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LF: What do you hope readers will get out of the book?

Daisy Han & Lorena Germán:

Readers will hopefully understand that People of the Global Majority have a lot to teach us and a lot to say when not mired by the white gaze. We have power in the wisdom we gain from our experiences. Ours are voices of resistance and endurance. There is joy in the midst of our pain and that survival is in our community. We've been through too much, historically, and that strength is passed on. We believe that educators are uniquely positioned to share this anthology with students and young people, and that they should. We hope that this collection reveals to readers the power in our communities. We hope People of the Global Majority who read this collection feel affirmed and empowered to share their voice and speak for themselves as well.

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LF: Can you share two or three brief selections (two-six lines or sentences each) and explain why you chose to share them?

Daisy Han & Lorena Germán:

"How is it that my people fight in battle with yours, serves your NASA with their unique radio telescope, test contraceptives on their women for you, lets your military practice with live ammunition in Vieques and Culebra, give you countless actors, writers, singers, and more, and still, you have no idea who we are or what they've DONE TO US!?"  -María J. Torres-López, "When Puerto Rico Was Distant"

This passage highlights the tension present in Puerto Rico and for Puerto Ricans. Considering the current political context and motion in Puerto Rico as it relates to the recent protests against Gov. Roberto Rossello, this poem and these lines exemplify the way these people have felt and been silenced for too long. There was power in their rising up and there is power, here, for María to share her voice.

"i learned to defang my words early, neutralize their acid with sugar, strain them of controversy. but you can only swallow your own venom for so long and i for one am choking. the acid in my throat is rising." -Valerie Wong, "Diplomatic"

This piece exemplifies the internalized oppression and colonization that we as People of Color are conditioned to do, almost immediately as a means of surviving the hostility of racism. However, the irony is that the same techniques we have learned—and often been rewarded by—are also the means by which we perpetuate the harm unto ourselves.

LF: "Embracing Equity" is the book's publisher. Can you talk about its mission and purpose?

Daisy Han & Lorena Germán:

Embracing Equity is a nonprofit social-change agency dedicated to centering racial justice in education through racial and ethnic identity development, critical consciousness, and critical action. Embracing Equity supports individual learning and collective healing for racial justice. We facilitate a deep preparation of self in one's own identity and capacity to foster an anti-biased, anti-racist mindset and practice. At Embracing Equity, we believe in a future where people have reclaimed their humanity and are affirmed in their multiple identities. We support people in taking action to dismantle systems of oppression in an ever-expanding cross-racial coalition.

LF: Is there anything I haven't asked you that you'd like to share?

Daisy Han & Lorena Germán:

The next call for submissions is winter of 2021. The best ways to stay abreast is to follow Lorena German on Twitter, https://embracingequity.org/, and @EmbracingEquity on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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The opinions expressed in Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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