As Black womxn educators, we have a connection with education that is ancestral. Even before enslavement, teaching and learning existed in Africa. African communities built cities, states and kingdoms. Africans were skilled laborers, mathematicians and astronomers. Creativity, learning and innovation flourished in African communities, and that heritage lives in African descendants, especially apparent in the way we teach and radically care for our students.

A question Black womxn educators must ask themselves when centering their healing is who you are and where you come from? It’s important to consider how who we are and where we come intersect with how we show up in the classroom. The period of enslavement in our nation highlights Black people’s determination to learn and actualize the opportunities education provides.

This is still a prevalent theme for Black womxn in education. How we care for our students is inextricably linked with how our ancestors cared for others, the children who were theirs and those who weren’t. Healing affinity spaces for Black women teachers are necessary for us to not only honor our ancestors but also honor ourselves and carry on this important tradition of education and learning.

With EdSurge Research and the Abolitionist Teaching Network, we piloted a model for healing affinity spaces centering Black women’s healing while being in community with one another. As the facilitator of those spaces, I will share what I felt and heard from my peers within the healing circles and how impactful this experience was for everyone involved.

We learned that healing is relational, communal, values-aligned, intersectional, restoration, and necessary for Black women educators. The resounding consensus from these 30 Black women teachers and school leaders is that they need affinity group spaces for respite, to connect with one another, and to relinquish the burdens of trauma in an affirming and empathetic environment.

In a study examining the effects of trauma on Black women educators, researchers Abiola Farinde Wu, Adam Alvarez and Nina Kunimoto uncovered ancestral connections embedded in Black women’s teaching styles. They assert that the “lifeline” of Black women’s conscious and subconscious practices is rooted in African spirituality – that is, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and other African ethnic groups trafficked from Africa to American shores during the Middle Passage.

The idea of healing circles is not new. As Jennifer Richardson describes in her research on the nexus between Black women educators’ self-care and transformational learning for students, Black women have organized healing circles in various forms.

In “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen: The Emotional Lives of Black Women”, clinical psychologist Inger Burnett-Ziegler uncovers an alarming estimation: 80 percent of Black women have experienced trauma in their lifetime. This includes several forms of trauma, like intergenerational, childhood, abusive relationships and pregnancy trauma.

In her book, “The Spirit of Our Work: Black Women Teachers (Re)member”, Cynthia Dillard explains how the legacy of imperialism and the enslavement of our ancestors endures in teaching and learning; yet, it’s presumed that Black folks “just happened to be here,” to be enslaved.

This residue was apparent in our healing circles—few participants elaborated on what Dillard calls “unmentionable and multiple oppressions.” But they didn’t need to. Instead, they bonded around what Dillard names the “spirit of Black women teachers.”

Read the full article about Black women educators by Angela Harris and Mi Aniefuna   at EdSurge.