I am an Associate Professor of Special Education at Indiana University Purdue University - Indianapolis (IUPUI). I have expertise in bilingual/multicultural special education and apply my skills in working with families of Color, specifically Latinx immigrant families of children with dis/abilities, in family-centered projects. My scholarship focuses on the ways community-engaged partnerships with families and other stakeholders can transform inequitable practices impacting youth with dis/abilities at the intersections of race, language, and other identity markers of difference.
I am one of the Editors for the journal Multiple Voices: Disability, Race, and Language Intersections in Special Education, the former AERA SIG Program Chair for Spirituality and Education and served six years as a Board Member of IN*SOURCE (Indiana Resource Center for Families with Special Needs). Further, my scholarship has been nationally recognized through The Ernest A. Lynton Scholarship of Engagement Award (2019) and AERA’s award for Exemplary Contributions to Practice-Engaged Research (2019). Selected publications include: Co-investigation and co-education in ‘Family as Faculty’ approaches: A repositioning of power (2021), Examining preservice special education teachers’ biases and evolving understandings about families through a Family as Faculty approach (2020), and Models of School-Family Relations (2020).
I am the founder and main contributor of EduSpirit, a spiritual community of educators. I understand this community to be made up of anyone who is dedicated to the transformation of current educational systems. These are change agents who advocate for non-violence, radical love, and heart-centered practices that consider and fight for students', families', and communities' well-being. My work centers on social justice praxis and the progressive movement toward equitable and sustainable "acts" of peace.
I currently write blogs for EduSpirit which include video blogs and interviews with other educators and community activists. I also write the occasional poem.
I am a "mother-scholar" (to quote Dr. Cheryl E. Matias) of three girls, a Zen Shiatsu practitioner (in my other life), and a cancer thriver.
Lots of life lived and lots of love to give!
In the third part of this session, Cristina ties her experiences of meeting two young men from Jalisco, Mexico to St. Teresa’s understanding of “travelers” – that is, we are all on a journey as human beings traveling through this world in need of certain elements to keep us warm, fed, clothed, sheltered, and happy.
Becoming (Remember) was recorded on April 18, 2021. Lynn began the session by reading her poem, “Becoming Reach” which encapsulated the ideas, feelings, and energies of the previous session.
“The Birds Who Flew Beyond Time” by Anne Baring and read by Pat Berberich. Here is a summary of the book found online:
A modern retelling of the Sufi parable, “The Conference of the Birds,” a poem written in the thirteenth century by Farid ud-Din Attar. In this retelling, the birds of the Earth, led by the Hoopoe, respond to Her call for help and set out on a journey to find the Great Being over the edge of time. In the course of this journey they encounter and overcome the power of the seven invisible monsters who are threatening the life of the planet.
In this part of the session, Cristina talks briefly about Dr. Cynthia Dillard’s latest work, “The Spirit of Our Work: Black Women Teachers Remember.” She also discusses her positionality in relation to her ancestry.
Further, here is an online description of The Spirit of Our Work: Dr. Cynthia Dillard centers the spiritual lives of Black women educators and their students, arguing that spirituality has guided Black people throughout the diaspora. She demonstrates how Black women teachers and teacher educators can heal, resist and (re)member their identities in ways that are empowering for them and their students. Dillard emphasizes that any discussion of Black teachers’ lives and work cannot be limited to truncated identities as enslaved persons in the Americas.
To set the tone for “Becoming (Reach)” we used a quote from Michelle Obama who states: “For me becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
Please enjoy the following materials that we used for dialogue during this session:
What is hope? Howard Thurman, one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s mentors, writes, “Hope is the remembrance of radiance, the assurance that Light will be Light, even when walking in dark places.” Martin Luther King Jr. tell us that, “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.” Today’s conversation #8 focuses on the theme of hope.
Who are we? And, who do we want to ‘be’ and ‘become’ in this new year, 2021?
Becoming with an ellipse in parenthesis (…) indicates that each of us are to fill in the word that we are striving to “become” this year. On this note, Pat, Lynn, and Cristina center January 2021’s discussion around stories of being on the hero’s journey – in light and dark – and sharing stories that illuminate our path. Becoming (…) for each of us is different and ever-evolving, but we found that it is within and through story that we hold space for one other within the darkness. Darkness here is leveled, meaning that it does not depict just evil or fear. It can be nurturing like a seed that is planted and then gestates within the womb of Mother Earth before it cracks open to extend both its roots into the earth and its branches upward toward the sky. Part 1 begins with Lynn’s poetry titled, “Becoming (Blessing): The Divine Algorithm” where she interweaves the stories told by those who joined us in December 2020 for the last meeting. Cristina then talks about story by introducing Dr. Bertrice Barry’s work and as connected to a story about Representative Andy Kim of New Jersey who unceremoniously helped workers to pick up debris left in the Capitol Building on the infamous Insurrection Day: Wednesday, January 6, 2021.
In Part 2, Pat shares an accordion book she made that is inspired by the Lord of the Rings, specifically by the following quotation said by Sam Wise Gamgee to Frodo at a time of turbulence and peril:
Sam: It’s all wrong By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy. How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened. But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding on to, Sam?
Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for. Subsequent conversations, not showed in this video, connects the Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 to the battle of light and dark in connection to the hero’s journey.
The conversation, Becoming (Blessing) occurred on December 13, 2020. Becoming (Blessing) centers our conversation as we enter into the final month of 2020, a year that has been delineated as Pre-COVID and COVID. A year in which, as Pat mentioned, “we are beckoned to step into the unknown of our own becoming.” Enter, Explore, Return, Listen – words from Pat’s cards we have shared in communion. Occupying this virtual space we become a blessing to each other.
Cristina began the conversation by reading a prayer of blessing from the Diné. The poem is called Walk in Beauty.
Walking in Beauty: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony In beauty I walk With beauty before me I walk With beauty behind me I walk With beauty above me I walk With beauty around me I walk It has become beauty again Hózhóogo naasháa dooShitsijí’ hózhóogo naasháa dooShikéédéé hózhóogo naasháa dooShideigi hózhóogo naasháa dooT’áá altso shinaagóó hózhóogo naasháa dooHózhó náhásdlíí’Hózhó náhásdlíí’Hózhó náhásdlíí’Hózhó náhásdlíí’ Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body. I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me. I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me. I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me. I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful. In beauty all day long may I walk. Through the returning seasons, may I walk. On the trail marked with pollen may I walk. With dew about my feet, may I walk. With beauty before me may I walk. With beauty behind me may I walk. With beauty below me may I walk. With beauty above me may I walk. With beauty all around me may I walk. In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk. In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk. My words will be beautiful…
Linguistic Note: The word “Hozho” in Dine’ (roughly translated) Concept of Balance and Beauty. Consideration of the nature of the universe, the world, and man, and the nature of time and space, creation, growth, motion, order, control, and the life cycle includes all these other Navajo concepts expressed in terms quite impossible to translate into English. Some Navajos might prefer the term: “Nizhoni” meaning ‘just beauty.”
Written by Robert S. Drake, for Tom Holm, PhD, University of Arizona American Indian Graduate Studies Program, Native American Religions and Spirituality.
During the conversation, Lynn shared a poem she wrote that interwove the stories and sharing from all those attending the previous month titled, “Nepantla” (which refers to the space where differing or divergent realities can merge and make sense of the world in mutually beneficial ways).
Pat focused her conversation about “Blessing” by sharing the story told in the movie “Collateral Beauty” and integrating her own insights into the discussion. We need to look around, particularly within the darkest, deepest periods of grief and observe the collateral beauty around us.
This year I have been engaged in many research projects and community-engaged scholarship that involve working with families of children with dis/abilities, particularly Latina/o/x immigrant families. Though some of this scholarship can be found under the ABOUT tab, under Cristina’s work, I would like to take a moment to highlight scholarship that is also affiliated with EduSpirit – either directly (as in book chapter below) or indirectly (with Dr. Lorri Many Rivers Johnson, who I interviewed for EduSpirit in 2017).
In the chapter titled, “How Do We Arm Ourselves With Love? Examining ‘Armed Love’ Through Educators’ Critical Conversations in an Online Platform, I describe EduSpirit.org as a vehicle for addressing how to mend a fractured educational system through critical conversations centered on education through the lens of love. This is an “armed love” (Freire, 2005, p. 74), a radical and fierce one, through which educators contend with and confront deep-seeded fears that threaten to paralyze action and continued movement forward (Fisher, 2017). This love is also a “force that enhances our overall effort to be self-actualizing … it can provide an epistemological grounding informing how we know what we know” (hooks, 1994, p. 195) of ourselves as both individuals and as educators. bell hook’s (1994) descriptive reflections on self-actualization provide meaningful context for educators who want to enact love, but who may not understand that one’s inner well-being is essential in assisting others in their own self-empowerment. These insights along with other authors’ interpretations of radical love are useful in situating five educators’ lived experiences in transgressing boundaries that impede their ability to “respect and care for the souls of our students” (p. 13). Through qualitative methods, I examine the ways in which these educators advocate for their students, combat systemic inequities, and transcend grief or illness for the purposes of creating spaces of well-being in personal and professional spaces. In other words, how do they embody and enact armed love? These educators’ stories unfold through dialogue captured in publicly accessible, video blogs.
United We Stand
The Role of Spirituality in Engaging and Healing Communities
Segments of society are drawing upon their faith and spirituality to develop strategies to mend social relationships and fragmented communities. The Contemporary Perspectives on Spirituality in Education book series will feature volumes geared towards understanding and exploring the role of spirituality in addressing challenge, conflict, and marginalization within education in the U.S. and internationally.
Other scholarship I have been engaged in collaboratively with Dr. Lorri Many Rivers Santamaría is our work on Co-Decolonizing Methodologies. Co-Decolonizing work is distinctive from Decolonizing work in that Lorri and I, as scholars of Color, acknowledge that our positionalities (Black Creole and Bi-racial Mexicana heritages, respectively) in relation to indigenous peoples locate us as co-conspirators in the dismantling of oppressive colonialist ideologies and practices. For example, when working with indigenous or other minoritized populations with whom we cannot claim membership or affiliation, we strive to enact co-decolonizing research. Here we work alongside and support those with whom we share common or similar goals. Neither of us profess engagement with decolonizing research methods or methodologies, particularly when working with indigenous populations, because we have not experienced what it is to have our land taken from us, to be dispossessed by unfair and insidious treaties, or to be displaced in direct and personal ways. That said, as mother-scholars of Color, we recognize other ways we – individually and as a larger collective – have been colonized – mind, body, and soul – by white hegemony and its continued destructiveness. In these ways, under very specific conditions, we affirm decolonizing methodologies as central to our work.
On September 15, 2020 we had the honor and privilege to present at the AERA Virtual Research Learning Series. We co-presented with Mixteca/Indígena co-researchers as well as with Dr. Darold Joseph, Dr. Jenny Lee-Morgan, and Latosha Rowley (Ph.D. candidate at IUPUI).
Through this presentation, many artifacts were produced including an interactional workbook (please check out this eBook!), PowerPoints, and conceptual framings around unlearning colonizing research methods to ensure conscious and deliberate practice of decolonizing and co-decolonizing methodologies. Below is a helix model that I created to demonstrate the movement from these colonizing methodological practices to ones that are participatory, humanizing, and co-decolonizing. Please use this citation for the image below:
In this month’s conversation centered on listening, we draw from Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen’s scholarship and storytelling. Dr. Remen is a professor at the Osher Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also the author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings. For Dr. Remen listening is vital to the healing process: “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is out attention… A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”
Through her poetry, Lynn summarized the previous sessions’ conversations. Here is her poem and the image associated with her words:
“Once Upon A Return” is the series of images for this conversation. Becoming (Joy, Enter, Explore) is about story – our stories. Today Pat, our storyteller, will take us on a journey. Enjoy. We look forward to your responses. Listening attentively allows the other a space to share her story and gives our heart the space in which to expand.