In the last year we’ve seen an increased attention on social justice, race and diversity in our community. Many of us are encouraged and inspired by this development. Today, the leadership of Mindful Schools is announcing our commitment to supporting these conversations and furthering this work with the formation of an Inclusion and Diversity Action Team.
There are many deep and historical traumas that reach from the past and into our lives today, and as a mindfulness organization we must not turn away from the opportunity to come face to face with the complexity of issues related to diversity, race, and social justice. As a community of educators and mindfulness practitioners––with a shared intention to notice the impact of our actions and be aware of the habits, biases, views, and attachments that we carry with us––it is essential that we elevate into the light of our awareness and practice what is so often kept in the shadows.
For Mindful Schools, inclusion has a foundational value because of our commitment to creating a culture of safety, openness, kindness, and acceptance.
It is crucial that we are able to cultivate practice environments that welcome educators, students, guiding teachers and staff of all backgrounds, and that we stand up to bias, discrimination, and harassment that might threaten that culture and the individuals within it.
For these reasons, we’ve created the Inclusion and Diversity Action Team (IDAT) who will lead us in this work.
The IDAT will initially be comprised of longtime Mindful Schools community members, Jill Guerra, Amy Love, and Christine de Guzman. In the coming months these guiding members will enlist and collaborate with other members of the Mindful Schools community to develop recommendations for how we can foster and demonstrate a culture that values inclusivity, diversity and social justice. Their work will also explore and develop ideas for how to integrate these recommendations into our curriculum and courses. In addition, based on the development of a shared set of values, the IDAT will surface new ideas for how to provide easier access and greater retention for historically oppressed and marginalized populations.
Reporting to me as Mindful Schools Executive Director, and coordinating with Mindful Schools staff member Kory O’Rourke, the IDAT plans to begin with a series of community discussions to identify current needs relative to inclusivity, diversity and social justice. They will also conduct an analysis of engagement and demographic trends based on quantitative and qualitative data from Mindful Schools’ program participants. Over time, the IDAT will provide input and guidance based on regular assessments of current community needs and feedback from the implementation of their recommendations.
I have a strong sense that Mindful Schools has an important role to play in the wider conversation about racial bias and social justice. We also have much work ahead of us to achieve greater diversity in our own community. This is why I strongly believe that the activities of IDAT are critical for the future of Mindful Schools. And even though we don’t know exactly what the outcomes will be, or where the conversation will go from here, my hope is that out of these sincere efforts will come creative ideas, meaningful insights, and new possibilities that can transform the way our community learns, teaches, and practices together.
Lastly, I want to express my sincere gratitude to Jill, Christine, and Amy, for coming forward to lead us in these efforts. I ask you to please give them your full support and I wholeheartedly invite you to participate as the opportunities arise.
Meet our Inclusion and Diversity Action Team
Jill Guerra is the yoga and mindfulness prep teacher at an east Oakland elementary school where she is proud and grateful to serve 380 students per week. She was a classroom teacher for thirteen years prior, teaching elementary grades from a social justice lens. She completed the year-long Mindful Teacher Certification Program (2016). She is the author of, Long Hair Don’t Care, a poem picture book about boys with long hair and is working on her next two children’s books about yoga and peace. Jill is committed to serving communities of color and working towards liberation for all.
Amy Love has been an urban public school educator for over 25 years. During this time she has been a classroom teacher, intervention specialist, peer coach, professional development specialist, and curriculum writer. In addition to teaching and practicing mindfulness with students, teachers, and administrators in schools, Amy has taught mindfulness in a variety of other settings, such as prisons, community outreach programs, and yoga communities. She is a graduate of the Mindful Teacher Certification Program (2016) and is also on staff with Mindful Schools as a guiding teacher. Amy is also a graduate of Against the Stream’s Community Meditation Facilitator program. She currently facilitates for Meditation Coalition’s People of Color Sangha as well as offering mindfulness programing through Insight LA. Amy is particularly interested in bringing mindfulness practices to communities who have been impacted by historical racial trauma and well as those experiencing suffering related to issues of poverty and migration.
Christine de Guzman has been a mindfulness practitioner since 1999 and is a graduate of the Mindful Teacher Certification Program (2014). In 2004, her practice changed and deepened in unexpected ways when she became a mother for the first time. Christine began teaching mindfulness to children in 2013 and has brought the Mindful Schools 16-lesson course to schools in Sacramento, Elk Grove, and Davis, CA. As a mindfulness in education consultant, she has given presentations and led workshops, trainings, and group work on mindfulness in schools, and provides individual coaching on teaching mindfulness.