EMAC Conference focuses on building trust and breaking through fear
By Jean Conley
B uilding relationships of trust, breaking through fear in order to bring about change and actively resisting attempts to turn back
the clock on immigrants’ rights were themes that ran
through the 2017 Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee
The two-day event, titled “Getting Real About
Race,” was held Dec. 1 and 2 in Framingham. It
featured speeches, discussion and workshops on
helping students and their families cope during a
time of open racism and hostility toward ethnic
minorities and other groups.
EMAC Chair Yan Yii opened the conference
with a charge to stand up to racism. “Being silent just
isn’t an option anymore, so I
implore each and every one
of you here to get involved,
get talking and get woke,” she
Yii told the crowd that
workshops and discussion
topics were chosen by the
committee to “help us all get
real about race, diversity and
“We hope that this will
inspire you to bring these conversations back to your
communities,” she added.
As MTA President Barbara Madeloni welcomed
participants to a dinner on Friday night, she recalled
that during the 2016 EMAC Conference, many in
attendance were in a state of shock about the recent
national election. One year later, she said, many of
the fears expressed had come true.
“We are in a dangerous moment — a moment in
which the racism and violence that people of color
in this country have experienced for hundreds of
years are now not only out there for all of us to see
every day, but are being promoted and fed by our
president,” Madeloni said.
She congratulated the committee, the presenters
and the participants for being willing to speak
bluntly about racial issues.
“Use the time this weekend to ready yourself for
the work we need to do — and to build relationships
of trust that are going to carry us through these hard
times,” she urged those in the crowd.
Noting that the 2017 conference marked EMAC’s
38th year, MTA Vice President Erik J. Champy
recalled the names of many of the ethnic minority
pioneers in the association, including longtime activist
Louise Gaskins, who was in attendance.
“I believe that our commitment to ethnic
minority affairs is commendable,” Champy said.
But challenges persist, he noted. “We still have
so much more work to do: increasing resources,
improving curricula to build greater understanding
of ethnic minority history and issues, and organizing
and identifying ethnic minority members for
leadership positions within the MTA,” Champy said.
“I am confident that we will embrace these
efforts and the many incredible individuals who
make our community so rich,” he added.
The six workshops at the conference and a
“world café” discussion centered on matters of
equity and racial and social justice.
Sharron Burrowes, who works at the Galvin
Middle School in Canton, said this year’s intriguing
workshop titles persuaded her to attend her first
EMAC Conference. Burrowes, who is African
American, said she has worked in special education
for about 15 years and is currently an applied-behavioral analysis tutor.
She attended two workshops — “Culturally
Relevant Pedagogy: Should It Be Part of the
Curriculum in Urban Schools?” and “Creating
Diversity Change Agents through Community-Based
Learning and the Arts” — and said she appreciated
being able to go to sessions that were germane to
her work and at the same time focused on social and
Though the workshops were very different in
approach, they shared a common theme: “investing
in children and learning who they are — and not
stereotyping,” she said.
“Having that mind and heart, to take the time to
invest in the kids instead of prejudging them — that
was powerful,” Burrowes added.
Rocío Inclán, director of the National Education
Association’s Center for Social Justice, presented
one of two keynote addresses.
As a child, Inclán would get up at 3 a.m. and
wait for more than two hours each day with her
mother and siblings to cross the border from Mexico
so the children could attend school in Arizona. Inclán
said the hard work her family did to make a life in
the United States was built on her mother’s dream
of providing all of her children with a great public
Continued on next page
made a point during
a “world café”
on the impact of
white privilege on
the classroom and
the community. At
left, members of
cultural arts group
dinner on Dec. 1.
Photos by Jean Conley