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Courageous Conversations Explores How to Practice Inclusion in Our Families & Schools

Courageous Conversations Explores How to Practice Inclusion in Our Families & Schools

How do we become racially and culturally conscious families? How can we best support inclusion and equity in our schools? On October 14, Barrington community members and guests from across the country gathered virtually for a Courageous Conversation about Parenting for Inclusion. Hosted by Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque and Jessica Swoyer Green, the event featured special guest speakers Courtney E. Martin, author of The New Better Off and The Examined Family, and Grant Elliott, co-founder of Be The Change Barrington, followed by breakout dialogue.

Supporting Inclusion & Equity in Our Schools

A graduate of both Barrington High School (2016) and Northwestern University (2020), Grant Elliott is co-founder of Be The Change Barrington. The coalition of Barrington 220 students and alumni launched in June of 2020 to move the community in a more inclusive direction for students and families of color by improving the culture and discussion around race. During October’s Courageous Conversation, Grant shared alarming data gathered during a recent Be The Change survey of 634 former and current Barrington 220 students.

Here’s what the survey revealed about race and equity in Barrington:

  • 78.8% of respondents agree that racism is an issue in Barrington schools.
  • Only 19.1% of respondents trust Barrington 220 staff to adequately address acts of racial discrimination.
  • Only 12.3% of respondents agree Barrington 220 is/was a supportive environment for students of color.
  • Only 7.2% of respondents agree that Barrington schools effectively address the issue of racial inequality.
  • Only 38.8% of respondents felt comfortable intervening if a student is/was subjected to racism of any kind.


Be the Change Barrington Co-founder, Grant Elliott

“I hope the numbers speak for themselves,” Grant says. “And I hope they convey [discrimination] is not a hypothetical, this is an actual occurrence in this community where we all live. This is not something that is omniscient. It’s something that’s right in front of your face, so long as you’re willing to open your eyes. Please understand, this affects someone that you may know, even tangentially. Always does, always has. And hopefully we continue to move that forward.”

The Be The Change survey findings informed a 72-page report, Recommendations for Racial Equity in Barrington 220 Schools.

Here are Be The Change’s first 3 of 19 recommendations: 

  1. Release a widely accessible statement in support of BIPOC students (especially Black students) that details a plan for racial equity, condemns recent events of police brutality, and acknowledges systemic racism
  2. Design a transparent plan to promote anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion
  3. Mandate anti-racism and unconscious bias training for educators and students

“The great education we get at these schools can be tainted, especially by a social experience. And if that’s not always equal by those who attend, that’s sad,” Grant says. “We at Be The Change want to work with the school district to make sure this is a thing of the past and move forward together.”

Becoming Racially & Culturally Conscious Families

Author of The New Better Off and The Examined Family, as well as a forthcoming book on school integration, guest Courtney E. Martin was invited from Oakland, California to share her journey as a white mother always seeking better ways to care not just for her own children, but all children, in the parenting and educational choices she makes.

Martin began her remarks by praising Grant and Be The Change’s mission: “You’re doing the work of our moment, which is people who have experienced [inequity] going back and saying, ‘Let’s have a moment together to really make this better for the next generation.’”

Interviewed by Rev. Jacque, Martin offered advice from her own experience:

Start Conversations with Kids Early

“My parents raised me with sort of a colorblind ideology,” says Martin. “Which was basically like everyone is equal, we don’t see race, we love everybody. That was the best they could do. But that did not prepare me very well to live in a deeply multi-racial world.”

With her own children, she is charting a different path, starting with questioning conventional wisdom about what are “good” and “bad schools,” intentionally building friendships across racial difference, and normalizing conversations about race at home.

“Most of the conversations are incredibly underwhelming,” she laughed.

Courtney E. Martin

“My experience is that it’s the accumulation of a bunch of conversations where I try to talk about things, sometimes I get no traction, she’ll literally change the subject. But I’m going to keep bringing it up, and sometimes she does go there. I’ve had a couple of really amazing moments where I was like “Oh, this is sinking in.” She’s doing the work in her own little mind and body and heart! And I’m particularly excited when it’s coming from her, instead of me giving it to her.”

“I do want to say,” Martin added, “It’s so much more about the modeling than the conversations. I know I could have a million conversations with my daughter, and it will never matter as much as what she sees me do when I interact with other parents of color on the playground, or who I’m in relationship with on a regular basis. So that’s my first thing: just try to do the work on your own adult self and relationships, and she’ll get that.”

“It doesn’t mean she’s going to have racial harmony her whole life, but she’s going to have some racial stamina for sure. And her body will just know how to be in these spaces, which are the spaces of the future. White people are already the minority in schools. The future of America is not white.”

She admits she does sometimes feel like a salmon swimming upstream. “It’s gotten a little easier in this moment of racial reckoning, because there are more and more white parents who are questioning some of the water we have been swimming in for generations.”

Learn & Act Simultaneously

“I’m really moved by the idea of doing inner work and structural work simultaneously,” says Martin. “So I’m reading books. I’m having the hard interpersonal conversations with people I love, whether that’s friends or family members. I’m thinking a lot about my own hangups — what part of me wants to be a white savior? What part of me is attracted to this because I think that I get some kind of gold star, versus just truly being in community? Really continually looking at myself.”

“And then, none of that is really worth a damn to kids of color unless I’m taking systemic action. If you do not change your life — if you do not change how you spend your money, where you send your kid to school, how you advocate for housing policy in your community, how you address your religious institution — then that inner work really doesn’t benefit the kids who deserve it so much, after generations of absolute structural oppression. So we have to keep doing these things next to each other.”

She also cautioned white parents:

“Don’t get so activist-y and righteous — like ‘I’m a white person who came to the table, and I’m ready to take it all on!’ — that you’re showing up without examining yourself, in a way that’s kind of harmful, and not particularly conscious.”

“How do we hang in for friendships with people who are unlike us? I think that’s the work of our time.”

Always Ask the Collectivist Question

“Any time we are going to spend money or time or resources on enriching our kids’ lives, I try to think: Is there a collectivist way to do this? There’s always a collective move. It can be small… it doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture.” 

Martin shared an example of her child wanting art supplies, and buying not just for her, but her whole class, knowing not all families have the same resources. Even still, she tries to always ask “Would this be useful?” before deciding herself what is needed. 

“How do you realize what is an awesome intention — which is to share — in a way that feels like sharing instead of charity? How do you say ‘We’ve ALL got resources — some of us have money, some of us have awesome cultural traditions, we all have beautiful kids. What does it look like to share, and enhance everybody, instead of turning anyone into a community service project?”

Stand with Students & Families of Color

Courtney says the type of multi-racial work behind Be The Change Barrington is central to finding solutions. “A lot of what I see most profoundly happening in multi-racial coalitions is white parents finally taking responsibility for fighting for equity on behalf of all and saying, ‘This is important to us, too’ and ‘We won’t stand for this either.’”

“I really hope white parents are listening. Because districts and educational leaders change when white parents put pressure on them. If they take Grant’s recommendations and say, ‘We are unsatisfied with this school until you have a clear plan for racial equity.’ White parents saying that. Not just parents of color. White parents.”

How We Can Support Be The Change Barrington

Be The Change is collecting narrative surveys to be used in anti-bias trainings for teachers “…so they can understand that real scenarios do happen right in front of their eyes, even if they don’t always know it,” Grant says. “It’s our job to make sure that they are better prepared for the future, and to make this a more inclusive community.”

On behalf of Be The Change, Grant is calling upon the Barrington community to lead with empathy in all areas of our lives. “Each and everyone of us here are leaders. Whether we lead in our company, or our school, or our parents, our kids, our brothers, our sisters. We’re all leaders. And what you do every single day matters. You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse in this respect. And we want to lead through empathy and compassion and awareness in everything we do.”

If you missed October’s Courageous Conversation, here are the questions they posed during breakout sessions with attendees for your consideration followed by suggested reading, resources and a video of the virtual event.

Parenting for Inclusion Breakout Questions

  • The dialogue about diversity, equity & inclusion is growing louder in our nation. Does it show up in your home or classroom? How?
  • What are questions your children or students are asking about diversity, equity & inclusion that you are struggling to answer?
  • When has a parenting or teaching experience caused you to pause and have a moment of moral investigation? What did you discover?
  • Every generation has work to move inclusion forward. What is your generation’s work?

Suggested Reading & Resources:

The second year of Barrington’s Courageous Conversations presented by Urban Consulate and Barrington’s White House will continue with virtual sessions on the second Wednesday of every month. You don’t want to miss the final session of 2020 coming up from 7-9 PM on Wednesday, December 9th.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 – 7:00-9:00 PM (VIRTUAL)

This has been a time of great change, trauma and truth-telling, illuminating fractures in our civic life that require healing and repair. How do we practice that in community? Join Courageous Community for their monthly (virtual!) edition of Courageous Conversations hosted by Rev. Dr. Zina Jacque and Jessica Swoyer Green with special guest speaker Michael O’Bryan, founder and CEO of Humanature. O’Bryan is a practitioner and researcher in the fields of community development, organizational culture, and human wellbeing, with more than a decade working directly with resilient yet underserved populations, including veterans, adults in recovery, returning citizens, and families experiencing homelessness. We welcome Michael from his home in Philadelphia, followed by breakout dialogue.

The price is $15 per person and there are a limited number of free tickets available (Email here to inquire). Advance registration is required to receive the Zoom link.

Click here to register.

We’re attending all Courageous Conversations sessions and will be sharing key takeaways each month right here at For a little of the wisdom shared by special guest speakers during year two of Courageous Conversations, here’s a look back at our previous posts.

Presented by Urban Consulate with Barrington’s White House, the Courageous Conversations series brings together community members & subject matter experts to explore our greatest challenge—how to live together in difference. Sessions take place (virtually) from 7-9PM on the second Wednesday of each month and are made possible by your ticket purchase plus generous support from Jessica & Dominic Green, Kim Duchossois, Tyler & Danielle Lenczuk, Cobey & Erich Struckmeyer, Susan & Rich Padula, Julie Kanak & Mike Rigali, Barrington Area Community Foundation, and BMO Wealth Management. To learn more, visit

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