OUSD Affinity Groups & Spaces
OUSD supports affinity spaces to advance racial and social justice - to create spaces of belonging and voice for marginalized groups, and to generate space for reflection, action and change by all stakeholders in our school and district communities.
OUSD's Talent Department supports Affinity as a key pillar for staff retention, and OUSD's Office of Equity Family Engagement and Student Intervention teams support family and student spaces to be able to address tensions, create brave space, and empower marginalized voices to participate in our OUSD school communities more equitably.
What is an Affinity Group?
An affinity group is a group of people who share common experiences or interests that supports each other and works together to change the world.
Social change work can be challenging. Acting alone, we may feel powerless to create real change. An affinity group can provide practical support as well as inspiration, motivation, fun, and a sense of collective momentum and action.
Americans are increasingly isolated. Mainstream culture encourages us to be cut-off from each other, relying on money, corporate products, and screen time to fill our needs. In the mainstream culture in the United States, people often act as individuals, rather than in solidarity with others.
Many in the U.S. have lost community-building skills because of this, so we can re-learn them by being part of supportive affinity groups. These skills make us all better educators and leaders. Affinity groups support each other in taking “direct action,” and members can take on different roles so everyone can participate.
Adapted from The Resilience Circle Network
What is a Racial Affinity Group?
The term affinity group is used as a bringing together of people who have an identifier in common, e.g. race, gender, religion, family status etc. Affinity Groups are for individuals who identify as members of the group and can speak to the experience of being a member of the group from the ‘I’ perspective to take action.
Racial affinity groups are designed specifically to encourage dialogue among members of the same racial or ethnic background. Although each of us may lay claim to multiple identities, racial/ethnic affinity group sessions call participants into community and action based on their individual racial and ethnic identity and experience.
What is the purpose of Racial Affinity Groups in OUSD?
To facilitate opportunities for affirming, nurturing, and celebrating lived experience;
Discussing issues related to racial/ethnic identity in a safe environment where people who share that racial or ethnic identity can generate community, fellowship, and empowerment;
Envisioning and sharing strategies to create greater racial and ethnic equity, inclusion, belonging, navigation & language;
Using your amplified voice for collective action to eradicate white supremacy, racism & oppression in our district.
Why We Caucus...
“In integrated spaces, patterns of white dominance are inevitable. These patterns include things like being legitimized for using academic language, an expectation of “getting it right” (i.e., perfectionism), fear of open conflict, scapegoating those who cause discomfort, and a sense of urgency that takes precedence over inclusion. People of color are often so familiar with navigating white spaces that even when there’s a possibility of bringing more of ourselves into a room, we simply don’t know how. We’ve assimilated to white cultural conditioning, and that assimilation has become part of our identity. While this can help us “get ahead,” the compromise is that we forget what it feels like to be our whole selves. These caucus spaces aren’t acts of oppression, but rather responses to it. They are our opportunity to be with each other away from the abuses of racism and our fears. Given that space to breathe, there’s a possibility of healing. Being together can offer resiliency for bringing our fullness into integrated spaces. We have to ask the questions we’re afraid to ask. We have to be with the things we’re afraid to allow. We meet fear with gentleness, and in doing so practice fearlessness. Let us not avoid the sharp edges of reality.”
-- Kelsey Blackwell
Want to start Racial Justice Affinity Circles at your school site, or help to lead a new one?
If you'd like to start up racial justice affinity circles at your school site, here is a folder of resources to get started, and Racial Justice & Healing Taskforce Members can support as well.
If you were not able to participate in the 2021 Fellowship but would like support or information for future cohorts and training opportunities, please sign up here!
If you see a group not included below and want to start a new district-wide affinity circle, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org!
You are invited to participate in Solidarity Affinity Circles for Racial Justice!
Dear OUSD Community,
We continue to be outraged about the systemic and institutional violence that our Black community is forced to deal with on a daily basis, along with the ways other communities of color are targeted, and we know that it can be difficult to hold this pain and anger while at the same time holding increased responsibility to care for our families and move our work forward.
In 2020, we launched racial/cultural affinity groups open to all staff in OUSD, and we heard from many staff that they would like to see these conversations and community-building continue. So we would like to invite you to join us for ongoing affinity space, especially as mental health challenges can deepen the longer the pandemic continues and as our nation continues to grapple with the polarization of racial identity and politics.
These affinity groups are based on how you self-identify to create a safe and open space for participants. These solidarity affinity groups are vital spaces for us to heal, share authentically and openly, and unpack the varying impacts of racism in our own lives as we consider the strategic actions we can take.
If you are interested in participating, you can register to receive announcements for upcoming dates:
Black Staff Affinity Group Register
Multi-Racial Staff Affinity Group Register
Asian & Pacific Islander Staff Affinity Group Register
Latin-X & Indigenous Affinity Group Register
Jewish Staff Affinity Group Register
Arab American Staff Affinity Group Register
White Staff Affinity Groups Register
We shared out reflections from our Racial Afffinity Groups at the February 19, 2021 Buyback Day Racial Justice, Equity & Healing Summit, in an effort to create cross-cultural understanding and build stronger solidarity across racial groups.
We hope you are all taking steps to prioritize your own nourishment during this challenging time, and invite you to this opportunity to find solidarity and common bond in each of our experiences as we build stronger and come together as a unified district.
OUSD Racial Justice, Equity & Healing Taskforce Members
Urana Jackson, Behavioral Health
Cynthia Bagby, Redwood Heights
Mara Larsen-Fleming, Health & Wellness
Priscilla Parchia, Expanded Learning
Chen Kong-Wick, Expanded Learning
Barb McClung, Behavioral Health
John Lauti, Office of Equity APISA
Jenny Nguyen, Office of Equity APISA
Denise Curtis, Restorative Justice Practitioner
David Yusem, Restorative Justice Coordinator
Taji Brown, African American Male Achievement
Allison Henkel, Leadership Growth & Development
Susan Andrien, Behavioral Health
Jehan Hakim, Office of Equity Arab American Excellence
Munera Mohsin, Office of Equity Family Empowerment
Eve Delfin, Latino Student Achievement
Marisa Villegas, Latino Student Achievement
Lailan Sandra Huen, Office of Equity
About the Spring 2021 OUSD Racial Affinity Group Facilitator Fellowship
In the Spring of 2021, OUSD piloted a Racial Affinity Group Facilitator Fellowship designed for facilitators who lead racial affinity groups in district departments or schools - one tool in our toolbelt for racial healing.
The fellowship included a series of four 2-hour training sessions on February 19th, 26th, and March 5th, 12th, and a reflection and goal setting session on April 16th.
25 fellows were in the first cohort, and we will be partnering with targeted school sites to continue to build capacity to hold affinity spaces for ongoing school years.