Celebrating Black History Month with Maisha & Torry Winn
Maisha T. Winn is the Chancellor’s Leadership Professor in the School of Education and co-founder and co-director of the Transformative Justice in Education Center Center at UC Davis. She is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Science at Stanford .
Lawrence “Torry” Winn is an Associate Professor of Teaching and the co-founder and co-director of the TJE Center. He was the recipient of UC Davis’s Distinguished Teaching Award for Undergraduate education.
They each received a Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community in 2019. Follow them on Instagram at @tjecenter.
February is Black History Month—a time to share stories and to reflect on Black history across the country. This year’s theme is “Black Resistance.”
Right here in Davis, two professors are working to resist and disrupt racial inequities in education. Maisha and Torry Winn are co-founders and co-directors of UC Davis’ Transformative Justice in Education Center, a community-University collaborative supporting “researchers, designers, and futurists engaged in equity-oriented, justice-seeking education projects.”
They spoke with The Dirt about their work and their vision for Black History Month:
Can you explain what you mean by Transformative Justice? What exciting work is on the horizon for the center?
In the world of restorative justice—which is the theory and practice that guides our center—there is ongoing dialogue and self-critique about the limitations of restoration and who gets deemed as being worthy of restoration. Many theorists and practitioners of restorative justice have called for a transformative justice in education where one might seek out change of our systems to be more equitable with more robust learning opportunities for all children and especially those who have been denied such opportunities.
Torry is the lead editor of a forthcoming book along with colleagues Vajra Watson and others examining the Sierra Health Foundation’s Black Child Legacy Project with Cornell University Press and Maisha is completing a book manuscript titled Futuring Black Lives: Independent Black Institutions and the Literary Imagination under contract with Vanderbilt University Press.
With two boys at home, your partnership is one of collaborator and spouse but also parent. How will you be marking the month as a family?
For our family, Black History/Futures Month is really every day. We are intentional about making sure our children know the diversity of Black experiences throughout the African Diaspora, and are surrounded by books (and are reading them!), traveling, attending events at Black bookstores, and visiting exhibits that feature or reflect our contributions.
What do you hope other families might take away from this month’s theme, “Black Resistance”?
I love the idea of Black Resistance because it is part of the Black experience in the United States. However, I am also hoping that people realize that being Blackness/Black people/Black lives should not be synonymous with resistance.
When you look at struggles that have been at the heart of social movements organized and led by Black people—the desire to have your child educated wherever you choose with access to resources that all children deserve; the ability to purchase homes without dealing with racial covenants and redlining and I could go on—I want everyone to understand that this is what most people want for their children and families. Black resistance also paved the way for other marginalized communities—Asian Americans, Latinx Americans, LGBTQ, white women—to be seen as human and enjoy the freedoms and opportunities in America. Black resistance is also about joy, love, and humanity.
Honoring Black History Month locally:
- Center for African Diaspora Student Success: Join CADSS for a game night, mindfulness class & more throughout the month.
- Davis Phoenix Coalition: Their event “California Transcends” will honor the Black queer community. Check DavisPhoenixCo.org for updates.
- UC Davis Basketball: The Coalition for the African Diaspora Student-Athletes (CADSA), African Continuum (a network of Diaspora-identified staff and faculty members) & UC Davis Black Greek Letter Organizations will be at games on Feb. 9 & 15 to meet attendees, provide special performances & more.
- Mondavi Center: Zach Norris, an advocate for community-based justice systems & author of Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons & Punishment visits on Feb. 16.
- Manetti Shrem Museum of Art: Listen to art historians and curators Bridget Cooks & Nana Adusei-Poku discuss “The ‘Reckoning’ in American Art History & Museums,” on Feb. 9.
- Gallery 625, Woodland: Attend The Black Woman Experience, a solo exhibition featuring the work of artist, community activist & founder of the Sojourner Truth Art Museum in Sacramento, Shonna McDaniels.
- Stephens Davis Branch Library: Children’s author Nikki Shannon Smith visits with her latest books, Love is All Around and Our Beautiful Colors. Her books center on understanding Black joy and love as a universal message that can be applied to all children.
- Avid & Co: Black-owned brands will be featured all month.