A Word from Duanecia: On Coming Home

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In the backyard of my home in New Haven, there is a hydrangea in bloom.

I’ve come to this place by way of Harlem, where I keep my roots and my childhood, and later Bridgeport, where, in many ways, I came of age. 

This hydrangea, with all its symbolism of rebirth and renewal, holds special meaning.

Helming FaithActs for Education, during Jamilah’s sabbatical, is both a new beginning and a renewal of my longstanding commitment to an organization I saw birthed more than eight years ago.

We know that in the Bible, the number eight signifies new beginnings. This legislative session, FaithActs won a historic $150 million for public education, the largest increase in a decade and the beginning of the end of the racism and classism that permeates and defines our state’s public education system. And the vital work continues.

We are charging forward with Faith Votes, making sure our people have the resources and information they need to vote in the upcoming elections. Our votes will usher in new leaders or elect incumbents to new terms, and our voices will hold those elected accountable throughout their tenure.

We are shaping the FaithActs Organizing Institute, which we piloted in Summer 2022, for our new cohort. Through this work, we will put more of our people in decision-making seats, with the tools to advocate for themselves and the issues they hold close to their hearts.

And in this time of new beginnings, we are meeting the moment by structuring FaithActs for long-term health – sustaining the team and the work and developing our leaders so that we can all launch powerfully toward our 10-year anniversary so that the next chapter of FaithActs is the strongest chapter yet.

And as I do this work, I’m drawing from my history in Connecticut, which spans these last fifteen years, beginning as an active and vocal student at the University of Bridgeport. I’m taking with me all that I’ve learned from working with the local Board of Education to certify Black teachers before branching out nationally. I’m taking the profound and resonant lessons I carry with me from my time at University of Bridgeport and my work with Teach For America. I’m bringing with me my lessons from my sisters of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., from Washington, D.C. where I honed my talents, and from Harvard University where I earned my master’s degree in education policy. I take everything I’ve learned throughout the course of my career spent at the intersection of education policy and community engagement, and I’m honored to apply it to FaithActs, which exemplifies the power in that intersection.

And in many ways, I’m coming home. Home is Mount Aery Baptist Church, the best church on Frank Street. The church where the calling for education came as a Servant Leader Intern at Freedom Schools under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Anthony L. Bennett and Rev. Odell Montgomery Cooper. And home is now, the New Haven house I share with my husband and our daughter – a home she’ll remember as she grows. Home is the Sankofa House, where Ada is going to school for the very first time. 

My home in this space and in this seat is as new as it is familiar. And as I reflect on this season I return to the backyard, where, in tribute to rebirth and renewal, the hydrangeas are thriving. 

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