SAC faculty helps uncover local stories of oppressed communities

September 1, 2021

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With help from a $5 million grant, a team of San Antonio educators, including professors at SAC, are aiming to tell the stories of groups that have historically been oppressed or silenced over time.

Professors from the Alamo Colleges are working alongside faculty from UTSA on a three-year grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation titled “Democratizing Racial Justice.” The project was among 16 selected nationally from 165 grant applications and the only project awarded in Texas.

The grant funding will support the team’s efforts to identify and share stories that typically are not found in textbooks to provide college students with multiple perspectives in history, literature and art, with a focus on the hidden histories of people of color in San Antonio. The goal is to expand the voices represented in college-level classes at the Alamo Colleges, UTSA and beyond.

Shining a light on the experiences of different ethnic groups is key to solving problems of inequity today, said Dr. Lisa Ramos, co-coordinator of SAC’s history program and coordinator of SAC Mexican American studies program. Ramos is the site coordinator at SAC for the grant project.

“We are focusing on the stories that the community knows that often aren’t in the textbooks and are often more accurate, if not just giving multiple perspectives,” Ramos said.

When students dig deeper beyond what most textbooks teach, they’re often amazed, shocked or even angered, Ramos said.

“Unfortunately for people of color, LGBTQ or other historically oppressed groups, their experiences have often been hidden, denied, overlooked or dismissed,” Ramos said. “It’s teaching what happened historically and how it affected your grandparents, great-grandparents, or the place you live.”

An educators academy over the summer was one of the first steps in the process. The gathering brought together those specializing in Mexican-American and African-American history, literature and fine arts, along with representatives from local community organizations including the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, and the American Indians of Texas at the Spanish Colonial Missions.

The Alamo Colleges District’s role in the grant is to help faculty incorporate multiple perspectives into their curriculums, to assist in creating shareable teaching guides with activities and lesson plans developed with input from diverse communities, and to share those pedagogies with educators both locally and nationally.

Understanding multiple perspectives will ultimately benefit students of all backgrounds. Often students think of racism as discrimination based on outward appearances, Ramos said, but it’s also manifested in policies, procedures, laws and institutions either created to perpetuate racism or that create discriminatory outcomes.

“We’re not creating division, we’re just trying to understand it and make sure that those who are left out get some opportunities now that they didn’t historically have,” Ramos said.