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Detroit Enterprise Moves for Change Through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force

Black History Month, which takes place every February, is a time to recognize and reflect on the significant roles African Americans have played in shaping U.S. history. At Detroit Enterprise Academy (DEA), recognizing Black figures and being movers and shakers for change is not limited to once a month; it’s woven into the school’s  culture and has become a natural component of daily learning.  ​​​​​​​
 

After seeing a former student participating in a march for Black lives in Detroit, Emily Gagnon, principal at DEA, asked herself how she could represent care and promote change. This encounter and question ignited a fire in Gagnon to establish the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force. “We have to be a voice for our children and a voice for change,” she said.  ​​​​​​​
 
The DEI Task Force is co-chaired by two staff members, Munira Spiller, first-grade teacher, and Jessica Little, second-grade teacher. The committee aims to determine how Detroit Enterprise will continue to encourage change and what action steps will be taken by their school. ​​​​​​​
 

Little emphasized the importance of doing this work in schools, especially at DEA where 95% of students are Black/African American, saying, “I will teach my students with an anti-racist and trauma-informed lens so that I maintain the highest standards of empathy and understanding. It’s my job to speak out and continue to fight for justice in every area of my life, work and personal.”
Last June, DEA set the trajectory of the task force when students and staff stood and walked in solidarity while sharing a message that Black Lives Matter. To continue the conversation, the task force hosts various learning opportunities throughout the year. ​​​​​​​
 

Thirty minutes are set aside at every staff meeting for a professional development session regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. Every month a Black author is highlighted school-wide, and staff work to empower students daily. “Our students need to see people that look like them and represent them,” said Gagnon. “It shows them what they can do, who they want to be, and how to make it a reality. Whether they are Black, white, or Asian, we don’t want them to feel limited.”
 
Spiller explained that educating students about Black history is vital. “These are powerful seeds, and we should never underestimate the impact of the seeds that are planted and what they will harvest to become,” she said. ​​​​​​​
 

The task force hopes to be politically conscious, understand their role as educators, and be voices in their communities.