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The Art of Troublemaking
October 25, 2023
Good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.
-Parker Palmer, American author, educator

In the foreword to Olga Lacayo’s new book, The Art of Troublemaking | El arte de crear problema (Exchange Press), Ann Pelo and Margie Carter write:

Olga doesn’t use the language of ‘troublemaking’ in her bold book, but in the layers of her story, we find troubles from the get-go: a child at the easel creates a portrait of Olga, her Black Garifuna teacher, as a monkey, a drawing which inscribes a historic racist trope that the child says she’s learned from her mother. The stabbing wound of that portrait sets Olga in motion to trouble her long-held, self-protective patterns of silence in the face of racist comments and acts. And in breaking her silence, Olga troubles the calm surface waters of the early childhood center where she teaches. Olga finds an ally in another willing troublemaker, Eliana Elias, the coach assigned to her center as part of their city’s quality improvement system. Eliana encourages Olga to speak up and speak out, working with her to bring the story of the monkey portrait to the staff at the center and to colleagues outside the center as a provocation for reflection and action to unravel racism.

This is what civil rights leader and U.S. congressperson John Lewis called ‘good trouble.’ ‘Necessary trouble, trouble that redeems the soul,’ he called it. Olga’s good troublemaking begins when she names out loud the pain of being called a monkey by a four-year-old child whom she loves, pain exacerbated by her colleagues’ admonishments ‘not to read too much into it.’ Nevertheless, she persists, tugging on the fabric of racism, teasing strands loose, determined to unravel it.

Pelo and Carter offer their encouragement for readers of this new bilingual book, which is part of the Reimagining Our Work (ROW) series:

This is our hope for you, as you read this book: that you, like Olga and Eliana, create partnerships that allow you to stand firmly on the ground of your identity and integrity. That you embrace an expansive image of educators, of coaches, and of the purpose of education. That you find renewed energy for the soulful, necessary, courageous work of making good trouble—opportunities to tug on the fabric of racism and contribute to its unraveling.



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Comments (2)

Displaying All 2 Comments
Kirsten Haugen · October 31, 2023
Eugene, OR, United States

Thanks for adding depth and urgency to this post and Olga's work, Frances, and always holding us to an appropriately high standard.

Francis Wardle · October 25, 2023
University of Phoenix/ Red Rocks Community College
Denver, Colorado, United States

This is a critically important topic. My two daughters who
have children have confronted racism in their children's schools. They have been very assertive when children have engaged in racist language or behaviors - usually towards other children, not their own. Because of their mixed-race heritage, they are very sensitive to this issue. They also learned this courage from a troublemaking mother, a teacher who was very clear about fairness and justice. However, I must point out that the Garifuna people are a mixed-race people - African and Arawak/Carib, with a distinct culture recognized and celebrated by UNESCO. When exploring identity, as this post does, we need to be accurate - especially when the concept challenges our deeply entrenched American views of race, culture and identity.

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