Telling the Truth – Video Link and Resource List

This list of resources include books, videos, articles, and other media sources that were curated to coincide with the Telling the Truth: Constructive Ways to Teach about Race and Our Racial History” panel discussion sponsored by the UU Church of Urbana-Champaign on November 17, 2021. You can view the recording of the panel discussion by clicking this link.


The list below is by no means intended to be a complete list of resources on the topic or race, racism, or racial history.  It is a starting place.  We recognize and acknowledge that everyone is at different spots on their racial healing journey, and we want to provide opportunities and options to meet people where they are. 

If you have any questions or would to discuss these topics further, please feel free to email me at don@lead4equity.com.  – Don Owen, Lead for Equity and Engagement LLC. 


Acho, E. (2020). Uncomfortable conversations with a Black man. New York, New York: Flatiron Books.

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Grann, D. (2018). Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage murders and the birth of the FBI. New York, NY:  Vintage.

Grant, A. (2021).  Think Again: The power of knowing what you don’t know.  New York, NY: Viking.

Griffin, J. H. (1962).  Black like me. New York, New York: Penguin

Ignatiev, N. (1995).  How the Irish became white. Oxfordshire, England, UK: Routledge Press.

Joseph, F. (2020). The Black Friend: On being a better white person. New York, New York: Penguin Random House

Kendi, D. I. X. (2020). Antiracist baby picture book. New York, NY: Kokila.

Kendi, D. I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning. Avalon Publishing Group.

Loewen, J. W. (2018). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. New York, NY: New Press.

Lowen, J. W. (2006).  Sundown Towns: The hidden history of American racism. New York, New York: Touchstone Publishing

Noah, T. (2016).  Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Audible Solutions.

Oluo, I. (2018). So you want to talk about race. Seattle, WA: Seal Press.

Singleton, Glenn. (2014).  Courageous Conversations about Race. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Wilkerson, Isabela. (2020). Caste: The origins of our discontent. New York, NY: Random House.

Winters, Mary-Frances. (2020).  Black Fatigue: How racism erodes the mind, body, and spirit.  New York, NY: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Winters, Mary-Frances. (2017). We Can’t Talk about That at Work!: How to Talk about Race, Religion, Politics, and Other Polarizing Topics: a Guide for Bold, Inclusive Conversations. New York, NY: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.


DiAngelo, Robin.  “No, I Won’t Stop Saying ‘White Supremacy.’” (Published June 13, 2017); www.yesmagazine.org): https://www.yesmagazine.org/democracy/2017/06/30/no-i-wont-stop-saying-white-supremacy/

Tejeda, Andrew. “Representation Without Transformation: Can Hollywood Stop Changing Cartoon Characters of Color?”  (Published July 24, 2020; www.tor.com):  https://www.tor.com/2020/07/14/representation-without-transformation-can-hollywood-stop-changing-cartoon-characters-of-color/


“#RaceAnd… [Videos]”  RaceForward: https://www.raceforward.org/videos/RaceAnd

“Independent Lens” PBS home for independent documentary films: https://www.pbs.org/independentlens/

“Jubilee – Middle Ground” YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/jubileemedia/about

“Media Bias Chart”  ad fontes media: https://adfontesmedia.com/interactive-media-bias-chart/

“Talking about Race”  National Museum of African American History and Culture: https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race

“Under Our Skin” Seattle Times Project:  https://projects.seattletimes.com/2016/under-our-skin/#

“What is Systemic Racism? [Videos] RaceForward: https://www.raceforward.org/videos/systemic-racism


“Code Switch” National Public Radio:  https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510312/codeswitch

“Everyday Conversations about Race for Everyday People” Race Convo:  https://raceconvo.com

“Nice White Parents” New York Times:  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/23/podcasts/nice-white-parents-serial.html

“Renegades: Born in the USA” Higher Ground: https://brucespringsteen.net/news/2021/renegades-born-in-the-usa


Call It What It Is


The headline on this article published on the Hechinger Report website, Seems to indicate that poverty is the largest hurdle that public education must overcome.

You don’t have to read very far in the report to understand that the headline is fairly misleading. Most of the report deals with the institutional, systemic, and societal racism that creates poverty in brown and black communities.

It is imperative that we, educators, and anti-racist leaders, accurately identify and discuss racism, and not hide discussions about racism behind the more palatable social problems, like poverty.

Call it what it is.


“I Have to Ask… With Elizabeth Hess”

Two weeks ago, I made one of the most difficult personal decisions of my career as an educator. I resigned my position from Urbana School District after almost 30 years. The last six of those years, I had the honor and privilege to serve as Superintendent. In that role, I focused on students, and I especially focused on how as a system (not just Urbana School District #116), public schools fail to serve students who have been traditionally marginalized.

One of the people who reached out to me was a journalist, who has transformed her own life drastically over the past two years. After leaving the News-Gazette, where she was the only progressive, feminist voice on the editorial page, she has become one of the best independent journalists in the area. She uses an in-depth interview format that is both insightful for the listener and intimidating for the person being interviewed.

Last week, she invited me to her studio and asked me some of the most meaningful and challenging questions I have been asked by a journalist in a very long time.

Here is a link to the interview on the Apple Podcast site. Here is the same interview on SoundCloud, if you prefer that platform. I welcome comments, as does Elizabeth. I strongly recommend subscribing – her interviews are easily on par with NPR greats Terry Gross or Jeremy Hobson.



Once you know the story, you’ll hear it everywhere in your culture, and you’ll be astonished that the people around you don’t hear it as well, but merely take it in

Ishmael, (Quinn, D. 1992, p. 36).

It is hard for me to believe that it has been over 25 years since I first read Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn. For at least 15 years, I read, re-read, gifted, and re-gifted this book. Recently, a friend, I will call him “Steve,” told me he was re-reading one of the sequels to Ishmael. That inspired me to find an old copy on my Dad’s bookshelf.

It is not an easy book. To read. To enjoy. To understand. It is the most influential book on my thinking, my understanding, and my activism. I don’t like the main character. I don’t like the setting or context of most of the story. I am surprised I got through this book when I was 26 years old. It is one of the few books that has truly transformed the way I think and view the world around me. It is impossible for me to write about the book, because to do so – well, as Dr. River Song often says, “Spoilers!”

Ishmael is a call to action. To fight racism, to fight climate change, to fight bigotry, to fight wars. Daniel Quinn challenges the reader to relearn everything we know about ourselves simply by gently pointing out not only what we have become, but how we got here.

If any of my readers wishes to join me in a book study, please shoot me an email, or comment on this blog.

Right here, right now… Watching the world wake up from History

Mike Edwards (“Right Here, Right Now,” Jesus Jones)


Combating Racism – AVID Summer Institute 2019

From 2019 AVID Summer Institute – July 1.  Minneapolis

Leadership for AVID Schoolwide

School Culture Shift

Small Group Assignment

Prompt: Based on our mission, what do we need to STOP allowing?

Create a single sentence using the following Sentence Stem:

Because we believe__________________, we need to STOP ___________________, so that _________________.

Because we believe in all students achieving, we need to STOP low expectations that are the result of individual racial bias and institutional “isms”, so that ALL student succeed.  

WICOR strategies:

  • Table Talk
  • Carousel
  • Sentence Stem
  • Share Out

Progress – The American Way!

I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually. 

James Baldwin

I love public education!  Anyone who knows me, knows this.  I am a passionate and sometimes strident advocate for universal public education.  For this reason, I see it as my duty to perpetually criticize it.

The image above is American Progress, painted by a Prussian immigrant, John Gast, in 1872.  I vividly remember this image in almost every American History text I have picked up.  I remember one publisher was so kind as to include this image in the transparency collection that came with the teachers’ edition of the text, so that I could place it on an overhead projector, and have my students use visual thinking strategies to analyze it.  When I taught 8th graders at Urbana Middle School, my student’s discussion was rich with criticism about the imagery of light and dark. The problems with the concept of Manifest Destiny. My students inspire me to see the world through other perspectives.  

I recently participated in a Crossroads Anti-Racism workshop about dismantling systemic and institutional racism.  The facilitators projected this image, and participants used a variety of strategies to discuss the roots of racism portrayed in this image.  I was so familiar with this lesson plan, I leaned in. It had been 15 years since I taught American History. I was curious to see how adults responded to an image with which I was very familiar.  I was not prepared to be surprised.  

Joy:  “What book is she holding?”

Derrick: “No… It is not the Bible.”

If you have the ability, zoom in.  The book is labeled simply, horrifyingly, obviously, “School Book.”  From the first public (tax-payer funded, Colonial) schools in New England in the 1630s, the purpose of school has been to “Americanize” to “socialize” to “educate” to “assimilate.”  Schools as institutions, and public education as a system have, from the beginning been the standard bearer of White Supremacy. “Progress” is pushing this concept of superiority and oppression based on race across the country.  “Progress” is erasing aboriginal culture through genocide and… education! “Progress” is ensuring that the purpose is so entrenched that the “progressives” and idealists are unaware of how successful schools are at marginalizing, excluding, and perpetuating White Supremacy. 

I love public education! We must do more than invent more progressive programs that approach inequities through technical solutions.  We must examine our personal belief systems. We must study how those belief systems have been created and formed over time, specifically to perpetuate segregation, subjugation, marginalization, and indoctrination.  As individuals, we must continually question policies, practices, and long held beliefs. As a society, we must organize. We must change. Not progress, but radical change.  


Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger!

As my tenure as Urbana School District 116’s Superintendent draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve this community.. When Meg and I moved to Urbana-Champaign, 30 years ago this summer, we did not expect to stay past the completion of her master’s degree at the University of Illinois. We also did not expect to fall in love with the community, school district, students, and families. We are proud that both of our children are graduates of Urbana High School, and we are grateful to the educators who challenged and supported them.

My inspiration has always been the students. Increasing opportunities, access, and positive outcomes for all students has been my primary objective. As a district, we have stated for years that “failure, for any student is not an option.”  Urbana School District 116 has been addressing the issue of racial inequities by challenging individual and institutional racial biases and starting to dismantle inequitable policies, practices, and systems. I am proud of the work we have done and the direction in which we are headed.

I look forward to continuing my career in Urbana School District 116. While I was disappointed that the Board of Education did not grant my request for a public hearing regarding my non-renewal as Superintendent. I wish that the larger Urbana community could have heard what was said behind those closed doors. My plan is to continue to serve the students and families of Urbana School District 116 in the role to which I was assigned by Human Resources: Restorative “U” Room Teacher at Urbana High School.

I am proud to have always led with honesty, integrity, and fiscal responsibility. During the last six years, with the support of professional and talented administrators and educators, the gap between White and Black students’ high school graduation rates is now insignificant, and both are now above the Illinois state average. We significantly reduced the number of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions between August of 2015 and December of 2018. We also saw the Education Fund Balance grow from less than $1 Million in 2013 to over $ 5Million in 2018. In my new position, I will be able to directly affect systems and structures that have lead to the racial disparities in student discipline. I have worked hard during my leave to support students and families, and I will continue to push the boards and the school districts in this community to ensure better outcomes for all students regardless of race or any other factor that has traditionally been used to oppress and marginalize. As we move forward, I will continue to ask the Urbana School District 116 Board of Education for complete transparency and accountability. It was truly an honor and a privilege to serve the students, families, educators, and community of Urbana as Superintendent.


“The Undefeated” – Book Review

The Undefeated. By Kwame Alexander; Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. 2019. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. It may even be necessary to encounter the defeat, so that we can know who we are. So that we can see, oh, that happened, and I rose. I did get knocked down flat in front of the whole world, and I rose. – Maya Angelou

Photo of Don Owen reading The Undefeated.

The Undefeated (2019), is a powerful poem that samples words, ideas, and imagery from across American History. The poem is inspiring and lyrical, powerful and profound. It relates a history that has been ignored, forgotten, or diminished in the curriculum of American schools. The history of people, ideas, and movements that have shaped and continue to shape this country. This is an outstanding book to generate questions, because the featured historical figures are not described or discussed directly in the poem, but rather presented in the powerful artwork of Kadir Nelson. Dozens of people, from Phillis Wheatley to Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland are featured heroes who represent the fighters and martyrs of justice in this country. At the back of the book, there are very short bios/explanations for the people and events featured in the illustrations and poem; however, each bio only sets the stage for more investigation.

Kadir Nelson’s artwork is as powerful and direct as Alexander’s poem. His paintings and drawings are recognizable to anyone who is a fan of Caldecott Medal books. The images in The Undefeated, demonstrate the strength of heroic images of individuals with the symbolism of monarch butterflies and great white egrets (both symbols of perseverance, strength, and rebirth) flying across the pages, barely noticeable, while at the same time, carrying the poem forward on their wings.

As, Kwame Alexander, writes in his Afterword, this book transcends the stories represented by the people in the book, but it serves as a reminder “to never give up. An outstanding picture book for readers of all ages.


A New Chapter!

I am an educator and educational leader who is passionate about public education, equity, and excellence. This blog represents my thoughts on a variety of issues.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.

-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Urbana High School, January 2019
Constructed 1914, Architect – Joseph Royer

Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution

Happy Sunday. 

“Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution” was the title Dr. Martin Luther King Jr gave to his last Sunday sermon, delivered on March 31, 1968. He based the first part of his remarks on Revelations, “Behold, I make all things new.” 

Like many of Dr. King’s sermons, this one resonates with me, not because of his theology or interpretation of scripture, but rather because Dr. King uses scripture to eviscerate the racism in our society. 

He dissects the popular phrase, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Dr. King argues, rightly in my opinion, that, “It is a cruel jest to say to bootless man, that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

We must all remain awake during this Great Revolution. We must ALL commit and challenge ourselves to be anti-racist.

Know your LGBTQ History

In preparation for Champaign Urbana’s 2019 Pride Fest, organized by the UP Center of Champaign-Urbana, I compiled short list of web resources for people to learn more about LGBTQ History. This year also marks the 10th Anniversary of the UP Center and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising.

undefinedLogo by Allen Armstrong

On Friday, August 9, 2019, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker signed House Bill 246 which requires that the contributions of LGBTQ individuals are taught in public schools.  Below are a sample of links to LGBTQ History sites that go beyond the “great people, and significant contributions.”