The past years have been filled with uncertainty, change, and loss for many. Students have borne witness to our nation confronting its deeply rooted engagement with racism and systemic oppression while also experiencing upheaval from school and their communities.

As educators, how do we prepare to provide context to the loss of Black lives and protests happening across the country and the world? How do we engage youth in meaningful conversations that help them unpack systemic issues on a level they can comprehend? And where do we turn to in a sea of resources and determine what and how to share with students?

For the past 250+ years, Britannica has reimagined how the world discovers and learns. Dedicated to promoting equity in education, Britannica, in partnership with Urban Word NYC, an organization promoting student voice and leadership, youth development and critical literacy, has developed the Critical Conversations online series. We will address current racial and systemic issues affecting today’s students, while equipping educators with resources needed to address these tough conversations. 

This is be a 4-part series to support educators, starting with a live panel conversation with educators and youth, followed by 3 webinars filled with practical tools for application in classrooms and schools.


Addressing Trauma in a COVID and Racial Justice-Centered World

As we re-enter the classroom, it is important to consider the toll that a pandemic and the mass awareness of systemic oppression and police brutality has had on our young people. Join us as we address the emotional and physical responses that our students may bring with them to learning spaces and how to address them effectively and appropriately.


Allison Briscoe-Smith, Ph.D., is the Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and a full-time faculty member at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA. She is also a senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, where she serves as one of the hosts of the center’s popular Science of Happiness podcast. After earning her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UC Berkeley, Dr. Briscoe-Smith’s research has focused on trauma/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how children understand race. She lectures widely and leads workshops on these issues for parents, educators, and many others.


Breaking Barriers: Navigating School Policy to Transform Classrooms

How do you break the barriers to culturally responsive sustaining education practices on state, city, district, and school levels? This webinar will discuss ways for teachers and administrators to implement, as well as navigate resistance to, the changes needed to make the classroom and school a place where all students are affirmed and see their identities reflected. 


Founder / director of the Integration and Innovation Initiative (i3) at NYU Metropolitan Center  for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and member of Mayor de Bill Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group.


Poetry, Hip-hop, & Youth Voice: Using the Arts to Improve Classroom Engagement

This is more than just playing a Tupac song in class. Join Urban Word NYC as they discuss techniques to infuse the arts into your lessons as a means to engage students in critical analysis and active discussions that lead to socio-emotional growth and self-awareness. Prepare to write; participants will be led through a sample Urban Word poetry workshop to open the webinar.


Urban Word NYC provides critical literacy, youth development and leadership through free and uncensored writing, and promotes  college preparation and poetry and performance opportunities. Urban Word NYC improves self-confidence and strengthens educational achievement for New York City’s inner city students.


Discussing Race & Systemic Oppression with Children & Youth

This panel will explore critical questions and offer ways for educators to effectively lead and facilitate conversations on racism, systemic oppression, bias, and action.

  • How can educators, as well as parents, address seemingly complex conversations about racism?
  • Is a child too young to learn about race, racism, and the victims of violence by law enforcement officers?
  • What complexities should educators consider when having these conversations in virtual environments?
  • For students who have their own lived experiences, trauma, and triggers, how can educators facilitate safe spaces?
  • What self-work practices and education should educators participate in before facilitating conversations with students?

Dr. Jamila Lyiscott is a community engaged scholar, a nationally renowned speaker and a spoken word artist. She serves as an Assistant Professor of Social Justice Education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a Senior Research Fellow of Teachers College, Columbia University’s Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME).

Across these spaces, Jamila’s work focuses on racial justice, community engagement, and youth activism in education through the lens of what she has termed, “Vision-Driven Justice.” She has been invited to over 100 institutions throughout the nation where she works with youth, educators, and people across disciplines to inspire vision and action. Her scholarship and activism work together to prepare educators to sustain diversity in the classroom, empower youth, and explore, assert, and defend the value of Black life.

As a testament to her commitment to educational justice for students of color, Jamila is the founder and co-director of the Cyphers For Justice (CFJ) youth, research, and advocacy program, apprenticing NYC high school youth, incarcerated youth, and pre-service educators as critical social researchers through hip-hop, spoken word, and digital literacy. She is the recent recipient of the 2019 AERA Outstanding Public Communication of Education Research Award and the 2019 Scholar-Activist & Community Advocacy Award (AERA).

Jamila is the author of Black Appetite. White Food. Issues of Race, Voice, and Justice Within and Beyond the Classroom. She is most well known for being featured on where her video, 3 Ways to Speak English, was viewed over 4 million times, and for her commissioned TED Talk, 2053 in response to the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States.

She has also been featured in Spike Lee’s “2 Fists Up,” on NPR, Huffington Post, Lexus Verses and Flow, Upworthy, The Root, and many other media outlets nationally and internationally. Her poetry and scholarly work have been published in several peer-reviewed scholarly journals.


Claire Hartfield is the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Winner and a 2019 Los Angeles Times Prize Finalist for A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919. Hartfield’s award-winning book has also been honored as a Junior Library Guild Choice, a 2019 Illinois Reading Council Top Book, and a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2018.

Claire Hartfield is the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Awards Author Winner and a 2019 Los Angeles Times Prize Finalist for A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919

Hartfield’s award-winning book has also been honored as a Junior Library Guild Choice, a 2019 Illinois Reading Council Top Book, and a Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books 2018.

Hartfield’s Me and Uncle Romie is a historical fiction picture book based on the life and art of world-renowned collage artist, Romare Beardeen. It received national honors (favorable review in the NYT Book Review, Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book of the Year, Junior Library Guild Choice, one of New York Public Library’s 100 Books for Reading and Sharing) and has been reprinted in three textbooks. A lifelong resident of Chicago, Hartfieeldn’s career has centered on providing underprivileged children with opportunity to achieve their potential through education. After graduating from Yale University and University of Chicago Law School, she oversaw development of school desegregation plans for Chicago and Rockford, IL. More recently, she led a non-profit organization that develops leaders for elementary and secondary education. She is currently Board Chair and a senior consultant for one of Chicago’s highest performing charter schools. To learn more about Claire Hartfield, please visit


Founder / director of the Integration and Innovation Initiative (i3) at NYU Metropolitan Center  for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools and member of Mayor de Bill Blasio’s School Diversity Advisory Group.


Meera Dasgupta is the youngest United States Youth Poet Laureate appointed in the history of the country. She is also the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate to have been appointed from New York (as well as the Northeastern region) and the first Asian-American Youth Poet Laureate of the United States, a program pioneered by Urban Word NYC.

Born in Queens, she is a fierce advocate for student voice and gender equality, having worked throughout the city on various projects in order to empower young women and to increase civic engagement within other students her age. A Van Lier Fellow, Federal Hall Fellow, Climate Speaks Winner, & Scholastic Arts and Writing Winner, she has performed at the Apollo Theater, Carnegie Hall, the Texas Youth Summit, and more. Meera has facilitated poetry workshops for Apple, been featured in Poets & Writers Magazine, and has been profiled in a New York City ad campaign for her work around climate advocacy. Meera is presently a senior at Stuyvesant High School and hopes to continue to utilize the intersection between social justice and poetry to uplift the voices of historically underrepresented communities.


Nathaniel Isiah Swanson is an 18-year-old artist and youth activist hailing from Brooklyn, New York. Through Urban Word NYC, he was a member of the Youth Leadership Council, the 2018 National Slam Team, a 2017 and 2018 Federal Hall Fellow and a 2019 Youth Poet Laureate Ambassador.

He has performed at venues such as The Apollo Theatre, The Shed, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, The Brooklyn Museum, Harlem Stage, The Delacorte Theatre and many more.

He has been published several times, most recently in Joy and Hope and All That: A Tribute to Lucille Clifton and the Why Be Heard poetry anthology. Nathaniel has also been featured in videos produced by HBO and NYC Youth, which was nominated for a Webby Award. He currently attends DePauw University with the esteemed full-tuition POSSE scholarship.


Natasha Capers is the mother of two boys ages 16 and 14 who are poised to be the next generation of black liberation leaders, she is a native of Brownsville, Brooklyn, and the Coordinator for the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ).

Having attended public school in District 23 and attended Thomas Jefferson High School, she knows first hand the problems and the promise of NYC public schools, especially those in under-resourced communities. Natasha has served as School Leadership Team Chair, Parent Association President and Vice President for the District 23 Community Education Council.

Natasha began her work with CEJ when her children’s school was placed on the NYC Department of Education’s list for closure. After a successful campaign to prevent the closure of that school, she became a dedicated CEJ parent leader and then took on the role as the Coordinator.

The NYC Coalition for Educational Justice unapologetically organizes in Black, Brown and immigrant communities, and uses parent voices and power to advance research-based strategies to improve academic outcomes for students. CEJ’s current campaign is focused  on pushing NYC to adopt Culturally Responsive Education, including cultural competency training for teachers and school staff, diverse curriculum and a DOE Office of Culturally Responsive Education.

It is clear to her that the path to our collective liberation is through organizing, collective community building, healing for the generational effects of white supremacy, actively envisioning our freedom futures and embodied joy. Through her work with CEJ, Natasha gives parents the tools to use their power and wisdom to transform a school system that has historically underserved Black and Brown children.

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