Thought Leader Thursday : Saying Goodbye to 2020By Anna | December 17, 2020
We are wrapping up 2020 this week and taking a little break. It has been a year full of unbelievable sadness, great loss, and profound change. Here at Integrated Schools, we’ve spent the last year mourning the loss of our founder, Courtney Everts Mykytyn. It shook us to our very core, and none of us will ever be the same. It is a sadness and loss that eclipses the sun. A sadness that, tragically, far too many people have experienced this year in the loss of their own loved ones.
We want to reflect for the next few weeks on how we can honor these incredible humans. How can we feel these deep aching losses and move forward in our work, reimagining a world and a system where we are so rooted in community, so committed to justice, so focused on equity, that it would make Courtney and the others we have lost incredibly proud. As we have heard again and again, we don’t want things to go back to normal, normal wasn’t justice. We want things to be better.
As usual, we invite you into this work with us. Courtney built a big table, and was calling folks with racial and economic privilege in to this transformative work. We came up with Thought Leader Thursday in the months after her death, because one of the things she was really good at was quietly and intently listening to Black and Indigenous and people of color, and allowing their words and ideas and actions to inform and sharpen the work she was doing. She listened to people of color who both agreed with our work and critiqued it, and she was deeply grateful for that critique. So, while TLT is a space to uplift voices in justice who are primarily Black and Indigenous and people of color, we are making an exception this week to include her on our list. She would have liked TLT, we think, because it was what she was already doing. She was always quick to remind anyone who was listening that Integrated Schools was LATE to the game, that the fight for integration had been happening in BIPOC communities for decades. That we are here to gather with our White and privileged people and to join the chorus that has been beautifully and bravely singing. And any organizing of our folks that doesn’t proceed with caution while consistently and intently listening to BIPOC leaders, is destined to replicate the system we want to dismantle.
So for the last Thought Leader Thursday of the year, we are taking a moment to sit with our fondest memory of Courtney. Our favorite quote, her pithiest joke, her most adamant call to action. As we close in on the 1st anniversary of her passing, we want to carve out a little space for all of us here, and you wherever you are, to remember her, feel the loss, along with all the losses that 2020 has so unjustly brought.
Back in 2017, Co-Conspirator and IS Chapter Co-Leader Courtney Martin wrote the following: “This is your assignment. Feel all the things, Feel the hard things, The inexplicable things, the things that make you disavow humanity’s capacity for redemption. Feel the maddening paradoxes. Feel overwhelmed, crazy. Feel uncertain. Feel angry. Feel afraid. Feel powerless. Feel frozen. and Then. FOCUS. Pick up your pen. Pick up your paintbrush. Pick up your damn chin. Put your two calloused hands on the turntables, in the clay, on the strings. Get behind the camera. Look for that pinprick of light. Look for the truth (Yes, it is a thing- it still exists.) Focus on that light. Enlarge it. Reveal the fierce urgency of now. Reveal how shattered we are, how capable of being repaired. But don’t lament the break. Nothing new would be built if things were never broken. A wise man once said: There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. Get after that light. This is your assignment.“
We will be back in 2021, ready to get back to work. One of those “maddening paradoxes” is that Integrated Schools has grown so much this year. Across all our socials, the podcast, so many of you have joined us. Courtney would have been completely overwhelmed. You have supported our work, you have listened, come to book clubs, liked, commented, shared, and most importantly, it looks like so many of you have taken action to get after that light. We are proud and we are grateful, as Courtney always said, to be in this work with you, (quoting Maya Angelou) as we try and know better and do better.
(Courtney Martin made this quote into a collaborative print fundraiser with Wendy McNaughton and you can still purchase copies here)
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