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Despite repeated pleas for diversifying a predominantly White U.S. teacher workforce, a significant teacher diversity gap persists in almost every state of the country (Boser, 2014). Teachers of Color who enter the profession with commitments to social justice, in particular, face an array of racist structural and interpersonal challenges often leading to their burnout and in some cases push out from the field (Kohli & Pizarro, 2016). In response to neoliberal, color evasive, and apolitical approaches to teacher support, educators and organizers have reclaimed and reframed their pedagogies through critical professional development (Kohli, Picower, Martinez, & Ortiz, 2015) to center healing from the damaging impacts of oppression (Ginwright, 2015; Pour-Khorshid, 2016). This three-year ethnographic case study (Yin, 2003) of a California racial affinity group of 12 critical educators of Color (CEoC) committed to healing, empowerment, love, liberation and action (H.E.L.L.A.) offers insights about alternative approaches to teacher support rooted in critical-healing praxes (Cariaga, 2018).

Relying on ethnographic approaches such as participant observation (Wilson, 1977), semi-structured interviews (Patton, 2002), and testimonios (Pour-Khorshid, 2016) as focal methods, I utilized grounded theory (Straus & Corbin, 1998) to examine: (a) the nature of learning and interactions that unfold over time, and (b) the personal and professional impact that members experienced through their participation. The findings from this research illuminate how the group explicitly centered 12 members’ experiences, needs, and collective knowledge to (a) engage in fugitive learning as an act of political and pedagogical resistance to White Supremacy; and in so doing, (b) cultivated a sacred space for soul care and collective healing. I conclude by discussing how and why critical racial affinity group spaces for CEoC offer a more holistic approach to support their personal, political, relational, and pedagogical growth and well-being.


Originally published by UC Santa Cruz Electronic Theses and Dissertations