This month we had the opportunity to chat with our Director of Equity Learning about her vision for Equity work at PLC. Clare Wildhack-Nolan has been with Peace Learning Center over a decade.
1. What is your vision for our Equity pillar moving forward? What do you foresee in PLC’s future in this area?
My vision for the Equity pillar is to create strong and brave leaders for equity work in our city. I believe the Peace Learning Center can do that by facilitating dialogue, offering awareness building workshops, and supporting leaders in connecting with resources and community relationships to better move their own institutional change forward. Right now in our state, as in many states across the nation, educators and educational institutions, youth and families, are being targeted in anti-equity legislation, especially around race and LGBTQ+ oppression. It is important that we know our rights as well as feel a sense of communal power and bravery in order to continue the long history that we have in the United States of educators being key leaders in our work for multicultural democracy and human rights. I hope that we can play a part in supporting people being catalysts for peace, justice, and equity.
2. What is your why? What brought you to this work?
As a young person, I was brought up with a lot of strong values and morals in my family around kindness, love, compassion, and community strength; however, as I got older, I saw a disconnected and hypocritical reality in our society, where those values were not honored, followed, or upheld. Growing up I had friends who were picked on or bullied for their differences, and as I matured and grew, I saw how that harm was also connected with societal and institutional oppression, such as racism, sexism, heterosexism. and classism. It hurts my heart to know that people are being impacted by this violence every day in our community. I am a mother, a teacher, and someone who is watching and paying attention. Thus, it is my moral obligation and responsibility to act in a way that creates the world that I believe can be a reality if we choose it. That is hard work, but it is the the main creation activity that my heart longs for. Especially, because I love children and want them to inherit a loving, caring, safe and exciting world full of different cultures and places to exist fully as themselves, no matter who they are.
3. How can Equity learning benefit the reader?
I believe Equity learning can be transformational learning, as well as empowerment learning. When we’re aware and thinking through a lens of analyzing power and have awareness of our own interactions and perspectives, biases, and how they connect with others, our ability to understand who we are, and who others are, and how we impact each other can grow. This humanity and connection can be used to develop and change our institutions and systems to be equitable and humane and liberated as well. This is a beautiful thing.
Equity Learning can benefit us by helping us understand and reshape our future from a violent past. It can take bravery and vulnerability to share about hard things that have been going on in our culture for centuries. It can take being really honest about the harm that has been caused, however, the goal of it is to create an equitable, healthy society that is healed from that past, and can move forward with deeper friendships and deeper relationships and connections, to build a society we can feel fully proud of.
Thus equity learning can really give us spaces to learn and grow in our deepest elements of humanity. To me this improves our institutions, businesses, workplaces, our personal practice, and insights into ourselves, as well as our relationships with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. Doing equity work has been not just an intellectual process, but a spiritual reckoning. In my own life, especially as a white middle class woman, Equity learning has helped me to understand a larger picture of our world and different experiences outside of my own.
Equity learning has taught me to really listen and think for myself, and ask great questions. It dismays and disappoints me when I hear politicians and media personalities messaging anti-Equity Education or anti-critical race theory, anti-talking about gender and sexuality , because these are realities, and nothing that has been avoided or ignored or covered up, has ever been able to heal or be solved as a problem. In conflict resolution, we know that if you let a conflict sit ignored or avoided unacknowledged it usually explodes. I know that it can be an exhausting process for many people to engage in Equity learning, but I also think it can be a rejuvenating and humanizing experience that helps us to develop our community to be stronger together.
4. What is most essential for the reader to know about what Equity IS and IS NOT?
I’d rather not answer this question. I’d rather just invite people to come to some of our workshops, especially our Analyzing Power For Equity workshop, and then they can have a better understanding for themselves of what they think it is and is not. Please come and join us. I would love to meet you and hear about your life and your commitments and questions about Equity. If you have specific ideas or needs in your community, please let me know. In my new role I am currently trying to listen to people to hear where needs might be and how it fits into what Peace Learning Center offers.