Dr. Darnell Fine - "Freedom Work is Healing Work."

Darnell’s episode originally aired December 2020. 

Powered by RedCircle

There are three words that have been dominating the world through the media in the last few years: diversity, equity, and inclusion. As people and organizations begin to reexamine exclusion and racism in the US, it’s sparked a lot of questions about whether these conversations are happening internationally. 

Educators have been determined to ask for more diversity in the hiring process and accountability of individuals to have these conversations and decolonize school curriculums worldwide. 

 

I had the privilege to have an open and candid conversation with educator and instructional coach Dr. Darnell Fine about incorporating these conversations into the curriculum in the schools he’s taught abroad and the work he’s doing to help others understand systemic oppression and push the diversity conversation forward.

The Transition

Darnell has roots in Atlanta, where he began teaching after attending Brown University. Working in Atlanta, he was one of the educators working to “fix the system” in education and talking about subjects revolving around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). 

After teaching for five years in Atlanta, Dr. Darnell Fine decided to bring his teaching skills to a school in London that had been asking him to take the leap and work there. Before moving to London, Darnell had never traveled outside the US nor had a passport. 

Since starting his DEI work in London, he’s been able to live in several other countries. He’s currently based in Singapore and helps institutions, organizations, and individuals continue the conversation about exclusion and racism. He’s reached far beyond the schoolyard to host workshops and seminars to help change the dated curriculum that is generally white-washed.

Miseducation in Independent Schools

Darnell told me about how different it was for him to work in public schools in independent schools. He spoke about memories of different students and the different depths to which their thinking was, and there was a pretty big difference. 

This isn’t to say that students from independent schools aren’t capable of deeper thought. Still, it was just miseducation on important topics like freedom movements, etc. He goes on to say that it’s not necessarily ignorance but the miseducation these schools present since they’re teaching curriculum from decades ago. 

Seeing these differences made it even more apparent to Darnell that he had the opportunity to push conversations about diversity and these incidents forward. 

The Assumption of Responsibility for Changing the System

Something Darnell Fine struggled with when transitioning from his activist background into teaching was finding a way to make that type of difference. He found that working in these independent schools allowed him to organize groups to teach more about diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

He talks about how he felt this guilt for leaving his community in Atlanta to teach in more “resource-rich” schools because he felt like he should be working within his community. Many people of color feel the weight of responsibility like they’re the ones who have to change the system, and Darnell is just one of them. 

While the assumption that the responsibility should only fall on him is something he struggled with, he understands how important it is to bring conversations about race, inequality, and incidents throughout history that surround these issues to light and start deeper conversations. 

Inclusivity and Anti-Blackness

Our conversation then moved on to inclusivity and anti-blackness. A lot of people will claim ignorance and that you don’t know what you don’t know, but Darnell has a different opinion, at least within the context of his DEI work. 

He states, “A lot of times, people would say that it’s based on lack of education and ignorance, and I think that’s false. Folks know what’s happening.” People know enough to know what’s going on and that they might dabble in black culture but aren’t interested in living the black experience because they know anti-blackness has reached worldwide. 

Sure, we all think of white supremacy, but even within communities of people of color, there’s an anti-blackness. You’ll see stores in West Africa and Asia selling whitening lotions and products in an attempt to lighten dark skin. 

Darnell talks about how anti-blackness is a global issue, and many people refuse to admit that it’s persuasive, which means not enough people are willing to put in the work to change things. That’s just one of the reasons he’s so passionate about incorporating DEI work into his classrooms and beyond.

The Work Continues

Throughout Darnell’s time working in independent schools, he’s made it a point to incorporate DEI work into his classroom. Whether it’s talking about recent events that are racially geared, like George Floyd, or older historical situations, he makes it his mission to educate people on these historical catastrophes. 

He wants to remind people that events like George Floyd aren’t just singular incidents that continue to happen but catastrophes. 

Upon arriving in London at the independent school he was teaching at, conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion were happening, but not at the level they should. He started incorporating discussions on this into the curriculum to help students progress toward becoming global citizens. 

Since he has an activist and organizing background, Darnell started to push DEI conversations outside the classroom. He talked about fair wages, hiring a diverse staff, and more with coworkers and the parents of the students who attended his school.

From there, he’s designed workshops and groups where people can gather and work on “fixing” a system that is essentially anti-black. 

Final Thoughts

Speaking with Darnell about his DEI work and the issues black educators face, domestically and internationally was absolutely worthwhile.  

Learning from someone who has their boots on the ground when it comes to DEI work worldwide allows for a better understanding of what’s going on in our world and where the conversation surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion stands. 

Voices like Darnell continue to push these needed conversations and actions that have an impact in international schools globally.  

Skip to content