"Start with Radical Love: Antiracist Pedagogy for Social Justice Educators"
Dr. Crystal Belle has been an educator for over 16 years and has worked in k-12 schools in Brooklyn, New York, as an English Teacher, in higher education at the University of Houston-Downtown and Rutgers University-Newark as a Professor and Director of Education, and in the nonprofit sector as a Director of curriculum partnerships at EL Education. Her work is grounded in Critical Race Theory (CRT), Social Justice Education, radical love, and self-care. Also an entrepreneur, Dr. Belle is the founder and Principal consultant of Self Love Life 101, an online coaching business that supports individuals and organizations to implement radical self-care through Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion frameworks. Dr. Belle is currently the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Manager at Ralph Lauren. You can learn more about Dr. Belle by visited her website and you can reach her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For as long as I could remember, I have continuously pondered on the impact of love in my life as a measure of my progress as a leader, learner and lifelong educator. I would often ask myself internal questions like:
- Do others feel loved in my presence?
- What is the importance of love in the classroom?
- How does loving myself more help me love others more?
Much of my successes as a high school English teacher were directly connected to my love of the students in my classroom. I genuinely wanted to understand them on a deeper level, especially since I embrace the philosophy that we cannot teach those we do not love. And that philosophy has stayed with me all of these years, even though I no longer teach high school students.
As I got older and life began throwing various curveballs in my career and personal life, I began exploring the concept of radical love, specifically. I think of radical love as the ability to love freely and without conditions as a way to transform the world, starting with ourselves. Some of the strongest bonds I have formed with students, leaders and staff in the various educational settings I have worked in, started with radical love and vulnerability. Sometimes it is reassuring a student they are on the right path, or sharing some of your professional fears with a supervisor. Both actions require an ethic of care and courage, two ingredients that are vital to sustain radical love.
My upcoming book, Start with Radical Love: Antiracist Pedagogy for Social Justice Educators (Corwin Press, 2024) is a loving and liberating testimony of my experiences as an educator, leader and lifelong learner. The work is centered on a Social Justice Education (SJE) framework I developed that takes into consideration how Critical Race Theory, student visibility and cultural competence intersect in the classroom on a daily basis. Each of us come from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, religions and cultures. When these differences emerge in the same space, having a clear understanding of how to learn alongside one another in a way that is humanizing and heart-centered is crucial for a more social justice-oriented education.
What makes my book unique is the poetic way it infuses personal narratives that highlight the complexity of the human experience in classrooms through storytelling and radical love. There are also practical tools such as sample social justice lesson planning templates, radical love notes and reflection questions to keep you thinking deeply about the role of social justice education in your own lives.
This book is not a teaching guide to plan a lesson and move on. Rather, the book asks you to open your hearts and reimagine education in a way that creates space for us to be who we are, without the masks and within the confines of our deepest vulnerabilities, identities and daily realities in a society that is driven by capitalism and white supremacy. This book will change you by helping you identify the social justice advocate within you, while using the knowledge to impact the work you do, inside or outside of education.