In the Beginning
Originally founded by James Banks in the 1990’s as the Center for Multicultural Education, the Banks Center opened its doors in 2018. The Banks Center’s origin story intertwines with the stories of Eagle Shield, Moore and Kha.
Since opening and even and especially during a global pandemic, its director, programs, faculty, and undergraduate and graduate students are continually evolving and influencing one another and the wider world. Examples of this work-in-progress include the Tulalip Culturally Sustaining Education Project, the Distinguished Summer Scholars and Artists series and the Black Student and Faculty Mentoring Collaborative.
"What we've been trying to do in the Banks Center's work and across these three projects is to join the work of Black and Indigenous communities," says Paris. "That includes families, tribes, neighborhoods, the land, from the youngest to elders, artists, scholars, to join folks in understanding the connection between the past work and the work in front of us."
After beginning in the winter of 2020, the Tulalip Culturally Sustaining Education Project shifted from in-person to online during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work involves learning alongside the culturally sustaining educational work of partners Chelsea Craig, the assistant principal at Quil Ceda Tulalip Elementary and a Leadership for Learning doctoral student, and Dr. Anthony Craig, an affiliate faculty member at the Banks Center and the Leadership for Learning director.
“Even working remotely, one of my favorite things is being in community and seeing how family can be an amazing support system," says Kha.
This healing work of resistance and sustenance the Tulalip people have forged in and beyond educational settings also resonates for Moore. "We have been learning how they have sustained Tulalip lifeways over time," she says. "As an educator, I see Chelsea navigating her position as an administrator of a local elementary school, and I think about the harm done in our state-sanctioned schools and ask, are they redeemable and how do we sustain our young people within schools in the meantime?”
The answers do not come from any one person. "They are teaching the children, and the children are teaching them," says Kha. "They've also invited the elders. I've been fortunate enough to be in the presence of Grandma Patti (Patti Gobin), hear the stories of her struggles, and see she still has hope for the current and future generations to reclaim what they've lost."
More than hope is the promise of combined intergenerational vision and wisdom. “I've always loved sitting at the feet of the elders and learning,” Kha says. “It's even more powerful when elders are willing to sit at the feet of young people and recognize that they aren't just future leaders but are leaders now."
The Distinguished Summer Scholars Program offers another way for students to experience new and inspiring perspectives and potential pathways. "It's always exciting to learn who is coming," says Moore. "The first summer of 2019, the course with Sandy Grande and Leslie Williams was pivotal in my whole graduate trajectory. The second summer with Alexis Pauline Gumbs, I learned about practice versus performance. Schools want students to perform and show up in neat narrow boxes, but what happens when you stop performing and start cultivating a practice for living and being?"
"Django does an amazing job of finding people doing liberating work and challenging norms," says Kha. "In 2020, when everything was online, the course reminded students, Black, Indigenous, and students of color, that writing doesn't have to be for others. It can be for you and your community. The best thing was that it challenged you to find yourself in community and center that."
"I'm a huge fan of the summer series," says Eagle Shield. "I had no idea what to expect. When I started my Ph.D. program in 2019, I did a summer class first. The Black and Indigenous Theories of Education Liberation and Resurgence course was the most beautiful opening class I had ever taken. It set the bar for what could be. There was a peeling and healing that I had to do. I hope the series continues forever."
In its first year, the Black Student and Faculty Mentoring Collaborative gives an additional avenue for collective growth under the leadership of Rae and Django Paris and with support from the UW Black Opportunity Fund.
"We spent this year moving with care and compassion," says Moore. "We're still in a pandemic, and people are still carrying a lot." She describes how they partnered with undergraduate student Navon Morgan (director of the UW Black Student Commission) to identify interested undergraduate students and paired them with faculty members.
The stipends and honorariums went toward different projects, artistic processes and professional development work. "We gave people a wide berth in how they wanted to spend their time in the pairings, and people are still sharing what took place. It will be great to see where we take it next year," she says.