Author: Circe Stumbo

Honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Over the past year, many amazing national and local activists, thinkers, and leaders have shared their knowledge, strength, and experiences. We have been introduced to new leaders, learned from experienced social justice leaders, and laid to rest leaders and community members who left us charged to do more and to keep working towards a better, more equitable today and tomorrow. 

This year, to honor the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, West Wind is highlighting a few youth activists, entrepreneurs, and scholars who have committed themselves to equity-focused causes within their communities. We have so much to learn from these young activists and the strategies they are using to create positive change.  Continue reading “Honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

Twenty years ago today … West Wind was founded!

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Today marks West Wind Education Policy’s 20-year anniversary! 

Over the years, West Wind has been honored to work with and for amazing educators, researchers, policy makers, students, and families working to imagine and enact education systems that overcome historic and persistent inequities and engage each and every child in learning. Through partnerships with state education agencies, districts, schools, federal centers, researchers, technical assistance providers, and education leaders at every level of the system, our team has been working at the leading edge of education policy and practice. 

Continue reading “Twenty years ago today … West Wind was founded!”

Black-Owned Business Gift Guide

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With multiple holidays during the winter months, it can seem overwhelming to find the perfect gifts. As we approach this holiday season, many of us are shopping in ways to support our local businesses. We encourage you to seek out businesses in your community owned by people of color. For those of you in Iowa, we have some suggestions for Black-owned businesses across our state where you can find gifts.   Continue reading “Black-Owned Business Gift Guide”

Racial Equity, COVID-19, and Our Schools

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Many thanks to all our educators and education leaders who are doing everything you can to help your students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased that equity is a primary consideration as K-12 systems across the country are pivoting to provide learning opportunities, food, and social connections to support students and their families during this crisis.

While many aspects of educational equity seem self-evident among the considerations that schools and school personnel are weighing, we have been asked many times,

How do we keep racial equity front of mind?

We will be offering a series of blog posts about equity considerations during this pandemic. What we offer here, in our first post on the subject, is what we consider to be the most important consideration when it comes to racial equity:

Do everything you can to avoid conflating race, poverty, and trauma.

Given the speed by which big decisions are being made in conditions of tremendous uncertainty, we ALL are going to be making assumptions about who is most vulnerable right now. This is inevitable. What research tells us about implicit bias is that our assumptions are informed by and they reinforce bias.

Those of us motivated to overcome bias in our everyday lives will want to regularly ask ourselves — whether reflecting on our own thinking, the decisions we are making, or the ways we are communicating — several questions:

  • “What assumptions am I making about my students of color?”

For example, consider that the upper middle class white student whose single parent is not handling the stress of the economic downturn may struggle to focus on school work, while the black student who has both parents working from home may be energized by new ideas they are encountering while following the curriculum their parents put together during the school closures.

  • “How do I know how my decisions will impact students of color?”

What evidence do I have that my students of color need something or can’t do something or will struggle with something? Who am I relying on for current information about my students? There is tremendous diversity among students of color and just because we think we know the family situation of one student does not mean we know it for all students. It is better to be modest and to recognize we have to make decisions with limited information.

  • “How can I ensure I am not reinforcing stereotypes and implicit biases about my students and their families in the ways I communicate about my decisions and actions?”

One of the most insidious problems with race in America is that we do not have to explicitly announce the race of students and their families when we are talking about helping marginalized community members for the message to trigger and reinforce implicit racial biases. It can be helpful to identify who the community LIKELY will assume a solution is targeted to and to be very careful in public communications that we do not reinforce these assumptions about who is at risk. Offer counterstories as much as possible. This helps us just as much as it helps our communities.

We absolutely must be prepared to support the students who are the most vulnerable and who will suffer during this pandemic. However, the national narratives about race and poverty in America feed assumptions that our vulnerable students are universally black or that our students in poverty are universally in harm’s way. These tendencies to lump students into categories will seep out in surprising ways among well-meaning educators and education leaders. While the correlation between poverty and race is too steep, it is not perfect. There are many people of color who are not poor; the conflation of the two is seriously problematic.

Similarly, many in the middle class in the US tend to think that students in poverty are universally facing trauma in their homes and communities. However, the original research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) did not indicate a difference in the prevalence of ACEs by family income. Thousands of students in poverty are highly motivated, work hard, and want to succeed in mainstream society. Thousands are in family units where a parent is home with them all of the time. Thousands have families keeping them intellectually stimulated during the school closures–often in more productive ways than working parents of wealthier students.

Absolutely, we need to think about systemic and personal challenges our students and their families will face during these unprecedented school closures. It helps to recognize, however, that we are very likely to fall into various “equity traps” in the assumptions we make regarding vulnerability.

Some things we might do to avoid these traps:

  • Talk openly about who we assume is likely to suffer and who might thrive in this time away from school. Ideally, have these conversations with a small team of colleagues and/or partners able to provide honest feedback to you and to others. Name race, poverty, and gender as we are talking about it seems a solution is targeted to. Do everything we can to problematize assumptions that inevitably will accompany our conversations and planning. Use that information to ensure we are solving real problems and that we are supporting EVERYONE who may face those problems, not just the ones we are conditioned to think about.
  • Be very careful in our public communications not to reinforce biased ideas about who is at risk. Actively provide counterstories when we are thinking and communicating about these topics. Seek out real examples of families of color who are leading the way and actively imagine others. (Research tells us that even just imagining counterstereotypes or counterstories can reduce the impact of implicit bias.) While scenario building requires us to imagine students who are suffering, we also must imagine students of color who are thriving. Keep reminding ourselves that we do not know what is happening for every student at home, and that we are here to support them all, no matter what.
  • Be prepared to ask and to be asked about the equity implications of the ideas we offer. Find a critical friend who can help catch us when we get caught in the cycle of deficit thinking, or when our actions or words perpetuate that cycle. This work is best done with people we already trust. Shared goals and norms also can pave the way for productive collaborative reflection on race.
  • Extend grace to one another and to yourself. You are doing the right work. If someone points out a potential concern with how we are articulating our thoughts, they do this because they assume positive intent and are taking responsibility for impact. (This is one of West Wind’s norms for engaging in racial equity work.) Thank them, pause to consider their perspectives, push back if we need (“silence breakers” can help with this), but work hard to not get bogged down in shame, guilt, or anger at our critical friends for bringing up something we feel is unflattering or incorrect.

Research on implicit bias tells us that it is important to vet our assumptions with others and to imagine counterstories to counteract the stories and images we have been bombarded with over the course of our lifetimes. This is vital to the process of inoculating our decision making against bias.

It is especially important during this pandemic.


Biernat, M., Manis, M., & Nelson, T.E. (1991). Stereotypes and standards of judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60. 4, 485–499.

Blair, I.V., Ma, J.e. & Lenton, A.P. (2001). Imagining Stereotypes Away: The moderation of implicit stereotypes through mental imagery. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 5, p. 828-841.

Boser, U., Wilhelm, M., & Hanna, R. (October 2014). The power of the Pygmalion Effect: Teachers expectations strongly predict college completion. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Devine, P.G., Forscher, P.S., Austin, A.J., & Cox, W.T. L. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 48(6): 1267–1278.

DiAngelo, R. (N.D.). White Fragility Reader’s Guide. Penguin Random House: New York, NY. Accessed February 19, 2020, from

Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. (2015). Implicit Bias: State of the Science. Retrieved from

Lopez, Gerardo. (2001). The Value of Hard Work: Lessons on Parent Involvement from an (Im)migrant Household. Harvard Educational Review 71(3):417-437.

*This was originally posted on West Wind’s Educational Equity Resources Portal.

Understanding the School-to-Prison Nexus

Understanding the School-to-Prison Nexus

Reading Time: 4 minutes

At West Wind, we are examining a relatively new concept: the “school to prison nexus.”

Mass incarceration has been widely researched, with well-known analysts (Alexander, 2010) and documentarians (Duvernay, 2016) identifying ways that both formal and informal structures have contributed to an explosion of prisons and prisoners in the US.  The Sentencing Project finds that, “[t]here are 2.2 million people in the nation’s prisons and jails—a 500% increase over the last 40 years. Changes in law and policy, not changes in crime rates, explain most of this increase.”  The Sentencing Project further finds that communities of color have borne the brunt of this explosion. “Today, people of color make up 37% of the U.S. population but 67% of the prison population. Overall, African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, they are more likely to face stiff sentences. Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Hispanic men are more than twice as likely to be incarcerated as non-Hispanic white men.” Continue reading “Understanding the School-to-Prison Nexus”

We’re Back!

We’re Back!

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Welcome BackWe took a hiatus from blogging as we re-doubled our efforts to build our racial equity programming and our work on personalized learning and equity. As the 2018-19 school year is about to commence, we are excited to be back on our blog!

Watch this blog for new posts and follow the Creative Corridor Center for Equity’s Facebook page for important articles and happenings around eastern Iowa.

Black History Month Events in Iowa City

Black History Month Events in Iowa City

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Black History MonthI recently heard yet another story of black youth who feel left out of their school community year round, but who feel it especially strongly during Black History Month, which has gone mostly unrecognized at their school.  I hope that voices of these youth will spark a review of curricular offerings, celebrations, and school culture in their buildings–because I believe ALL youth will benefit from a more inclusive school curriculum and community. Continue reading “Black History Month Events in Iowa City”

A MLK Day to Remember

A MLK Day to Remember

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I hope you had a meaningful MLK Day yesterday!  We are proud that our very own Alecia Brooks was honored yesterday at the 1st Annual Stride Toward Progress Bell Ringing and Awards Ceremony here in Iowa City.  Royceann Porter, 2014-15 African American Achievement Award Recipient, took it upon herself to publicly acknowledge the hard work and spirit of service among black leaders in Iowa City.  She identified over 150 community members to honor!  We prepared certificates of acknowledgement and gratitude and Royceann worked with a local vendor to get T-shirts for all of the award recipients.  It was inspiring to meet so many committed Iowa Citians! Continue reading “A MLK Day to Remember”

Marking the One Year Anniversary of Our Local Equity Report

Marking the One Year Anniversary of Our Local Equity Report

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One year ago today, the Coalition for Racial Justice released the report, Racial Equity in Iowa City and Johnson County.  This report was a major impetus for the partnership we have developed with Diversity Focus, so that we might address some of the challenges described within.

Our very own Alecia Brooks wrote an op-ed to mark the occasion, which was published in our local newspaper today, All residents deserve an equitable chance to thrive.

I hope you will join us as we embark on the exciting work ahead to ensure our community is inclusive and responsive to all!

West Wind hosts student art show

West Wind hosts student art show

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student art_300x250_scaled_croppAbout twice each year we coordinate with a local school to have artwork by their students turn our office walls into our very own art gallery. This month we hung a new batch of work and invited the students and their parents to come by for an art show so we could thank them for letting us brighten our office with their projects.

The current artwork is from Hoover Elementary School in Iowa City. Art teacher, Cerina Wade, had the 6th graders at Hoover do a project based on artist Faith Ringgold’s Quilt Stories. Ringgold began making story quilts as a way to have her voice heard and in the hopes that her stories would be published as books. Wade liked having her students create their own quilt stories because they involve a number of creative processes. The students first write a very short story with the understanding that they will need to draw a picture depicting the story too. Once the story is written and drawn it is pieced together with a variety of patterned and colorful paper cut to emulate quilting blocks. The final step is to piece the whole work together.

It has been such a treat to read all of these stories accompanied by the drawings of what the story looked like in the young authors’ minds as we walk down our colorful gallery hallway.

You can view this video to see and hear Ringgold discuss the creative process with her most famous quilt story, Tar Beach, which was published as a book.

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