Note: This update was originally included in the Literacy First June 2020
e-newsletter. To receive the e-newsletter regularly, please subscribe to our e-mail list using the form at the footer of any page on this site.
Friends of Literacy First,
I write today in the shadow of the immense turmoil and anguish we face as a nation. The ongoing violence and injustice inflicted upon the Black community, compounded by the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has produced, have left many struggling to see a path forward. At Literacy First, we believe strongly in the power of early literacy in addressing educational inequities and racial disparities, and so we remain deeply committed to our mission of teaching students to read.
As we stand with our community in the fight against systemic racism, we know that the pursuit of justice and equity is more than a moment in history — it is a sustained movement. We are sharing below some of the actions Literacy First has taken internally to dismantle injustice, but fully acknowledge that we have only just begun this work. We pledge to continue learning and engaging as an organization and as individuals.
Mary Ellen Isaacs
Literacy First Director
Literacy First Anti-Racism Work
Literacy First is an active member of ServeAustin, founded in part by Literacy First Director Mary Ellen Isaacs, whose collective vision is for Central Texas to become a racially and economically equitable community. The collaborative’s strategic plan prioritizes a mutual commitment for the 9 Austin AmeriCorps organizations to become more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.
In 2019, all staff members of ServeAustin member organizations participated in a 2.5-day “Undoing Racism” training, “an intensive workshop designed to educate, challenge and empower people to “undo” the racist structures that hinder effective social change” from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
Literacy First and ServeAustin have partnered with Promise54 to conduct surveys with staff and AmeriCorps members on their experience of diversity, equity and inclusion within their respective organizations, both in 2018 and 2020. Promise54 is a nonprofit founded on the belief that organizations maximize their impact when “their teams are diverse, their cultures are inclusive, and their practices model the equity they wish to see in the world.”
Literacy First staff have formed a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee, whose purpose is to make recommendations, in part informed by Literacy First’s Promise54 survey results, for embedding our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout our strategic plan.
The Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, where Literacy First is housed, has also engaged Promise54 to support the Center’s own Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative. Literacy First staff continue to participate in this process alongside our Dana Center colleagues.