A Special Message from Superintendent Aleesia Johnson

Dear IPS Families and Community:

I’m sitting in my home trying to come up with the right words to express how I’m feeling after bearing witness to the traumatic killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and riots that have impacted our city and country.

I am a Black woman. A mother of Black children. A wife to a Black man. The granddaughter of a Black man who was arrested and jailed for protesting against the unjust treatment of Black people in his community. I cannot separate my experience in this country or the history of my ancestors in this country from how I’ve experienced this last several days. Feelings of anger, grief, despair and fear to name only a few.

I know that I am not alone in these emotions or the toll they’ve taken on me. Not only are we still in the midst of a pandemic, working to mitigate a virus that has killed more than 100,000 of our fellow citizens in three months’ time, but we are — from my perspective — being asked again to reckon directly with the dark history of our country. A history that finds Black people defined first as not even human and then, once forced to be acknowledged as human, systematically treated — through both individual actions as well as government policies — as inferior people.

As a people, we are tired of this struggle. This means, our Black parents are tired. Our Black colleagues are tired. Our Black students are tired. I hope that, this time, we will respond to the pleas for justice with an affirmation that we are indeed ready to engage so that we can begin healing from our racist past and imagine a new future. A new future that allows us to engage peacefully and create real solutions. A future where respect, love and understanding is given to all people instead of some.

Because we are not free of the effects of our history, you can see it in the neighborhoods across our city. You can see it in our health and criminal justice systems. You can see it in the way our schools systems are organized, and you can see it in the outcomes that our schools produce.

My hope for IPS is that we will bravely engage to set an example of the way forward. In the coming weeks, we will share opportunities on how to participate in a conversation on racism and the impact it has had and continues to have on our community. In addition, I have included a list of just a few resources that I believe will help build our collective knowledge and hope that you will read, reflect and then determine the best way to act. It will not be easy nor will it happen overnight. But, we will fail our children if we leave them a legacy of racism that we can begin undoing now. 

In the days ahead, please be sure to take care of your body, mind and spirit. I pledge to do the same. Together, we will forge our way forward. Together, we will find a way. 

Be safe and be well,

Aleesia Johnson

Resources

If you are looking for resources to support you in talking to your child about race and racism or if you are looking for books by Black authors about Black culture,  you can find just a few suggestions below.

Additionally, check out The Brown Bookshelf’s Summer Reading Program which focuses on the texts of Black authors. These titles can also be counted as part of the Indianapolis Public Library’s Summer Reading Program. 

To learn more about both, please click the links below.

Talking to Kids About Race and Racism

  • “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice,” by Marinne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard
  • “Racism and Intolerance,” by Louise Spilsbury and Hanane Kai
  • “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (Ordinary Terrible Things),” by Anastasia Higginbotham
  • “How to be an Antiracist,” by  Ibram X. Kendi

Upper Elementary

  • “Some Places More Than Others,”  by Renee Watson
  • “The Parker Inheritance,” Varian Johnson
  • “Season of Styx Malone,” by Kekla Magoon

 Middle School

  • “Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice,” by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood
  • “A Good Kind of Trouble,” by Lisa Moore Ramee
  • “The Stars Beneath our Feet,” by David Barclay Moore

 High School

  • “Children of Blood and Bone,” by Tomi Adeyemi
  • “Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America,” edited by Ibi Zoboi
  • “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi