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We All Belong: A Critical Urban Education Speaker Series Event with Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa

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Over a hundred local teachers and community members along with Montclair State University faculty, students, and graduates convened in University Hall on January 25, 2018 for the latest Critical Urban Education (CUE) Speaker Series event with Dr. Ariana Mangual Figueroa, We All Belong. The CUE Speaker Series, a bi-annual event hosted by the Dean’s Office of the College of Education and Human Services, brings leading and emerging national scholars to Montclair State University. Open to all community members, CUE provides a forum to develop attendees’ racial and political analysis through a series of lectures and workshops focused on social and cultural issues influencing urban schools and communities. The January 25 event with Dr. Mangual Figueroa spotlighted voices of undocumented students not often heard in educational discussions of equity and social justice.

Representatives from various local and university-based organizations stood at information tables and greeted event attendees as they approached the lecture hall. The organization fair included: Make the Road-New Jersey [], a group that builds the power of immigrant and working class communities in New Jersey to achieve dignity and justice through community organizing, legal and support services, transformative education and policy innovation; American Friends Service Committee Immigrant Rights Program, a Quaker organization devoted to service, development, and peace programs throughout the world; Rutgers Immigrant Community Assistance Project, an organization that provides educational programming to the greater New Jersey community in the areas of immigration law and policy, immigration benefits, and “know your rights,” among other topics.

In addition to these local organizations, Montclair State University students Joseph Scarpa and Cariesha Black among others represented Justice for Education, a campus-based student group seeking to raise awareness for social justice in school systems and in the community. Staff and faculty from Montclair State’s Latino/a Caucus also participated in the fair.

Co-organizers, Drs. Tanya Maloney (Secondary and Special Education) and Bree Picower (Early Childhood, Elementary, and Literacy Education) opened the event, introducing the guest speaker, Dr. Mangual Figueroa, associate professor at Rutgers University. Before her keynote, students from Make the Road-New Jersey shared what they hoped teachers would understand about their experiences as undocumented or documented immigrants. One student shared, “Language matters! Some of my teachers use the term, ‘illegal aliens.” That language is not acceptable in our community. We prefer the term ‘undocumented immigrants.’” Another student advised, “On the topic of immigration, we don’t know everything. We should be used as a resource and not an expert. We do not have all the answers to your questions.” 

During the main keynote speech, Dr. Mangual Figueroa provided ethnographic evidence of the ways in which citizenship status and educational practices affect the participation of children and families in schools. She suggested ways in which educators play an important role in caring for students with uncertain legal status, and will call on educators to assume more responsibility in this area. 

In their evaluations, attendees shared:


“The presenter was very engaging and thought provoking. I appreciated the discussion around the importance of language,” 

“I appreciated the atmosphere when I arrived – made with music, friendliness of people at tables – there was an excitement and energy”

“I appreciated: 1. having high school students speak about what they wanted from teachers 2. Focus on power of language/word choice/silence in a way to be more compassionate to undocumented students”

Don’t miss their upcoming event! On April 18, 2018, CUE will host a daylong summit. The summit will begin with local youth spoken word poets and a DJ to kick the day off and build a community that values youth voice. Next will be a keynote, The Racialization and Re-imagination of Teachers of Color: Resisting Pushout from K-12 Schools, will be delivered by Rita Kohli, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of California-Riverside. Following a communal lunch, participants will have the opportunity to attend two rounds of workshops lead by urban education scholars.  Topics will include: ethnic studies; trauma and healing; race and racism; supporting teachers of color; stem and social justice among others. Register here.

Thank you to our co-sponsors: Early Childhood, Elementary and Literacy Education Department; Education for Justice; Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Project; Center of Pedagogy; Montclair State University Network for Educational Renewal; Newark Montclair Urban Teacher Residency; Secondary and Special Education Department; and Latino/a Caucus.