The Spirit of Our Work focuses on Black women’s ways of knowing, memory, and spirituality. Its author, Cynthia B. Dillard, is the newly appointed Dean of Seattle University’s College of Education. She was previously the Mary Frances Early Professor in Teacher Education at the University of Georgia.
You meet the mothers of Ghana, in West Africa, where the author has spent much time. “I carry Ghana inside of me and the gift of her presence impacts everything outside of me,” writes Dillard. African experience is central to the spirituality of education she offers here. She explains: “Please know that this is not solely a call to return to the continent of Africa as a way to assuage or 'cure' whatever is inside of us that diaspora has wrought. But this is about the absolute necessity for Black people to affirm who we are as Black people, grounded in our knowledges, our cultures, and who we really are wherever we find ourselves on the planet. Ultimately, it is an inside search to that place where we are love personified and where we are loved.”
This love is offered to contrast with “the absences and pathologies that as Black students and teachers we had too often experienced in our schooling.” This is where the “(Re)membering” of the book’s subtitle comes into play — meaning recalling people, truths, and spiritualities that have been forgotten, but also re-membering in the sense of putting physical parts back together again.
Then Dillard shares some of the ways that Black women in the United States have (re)claimed and (re)membered “the rich, beautiful heritage that is Black women from the continent of Africa.” These lessons are “To be a Black woman leader,” “Building a national network,” “No fragmentation, only (re)membering.” Each is explained in detail. She also offers inspiring — and practical — ways that educators might today “create a village that loves the spirit of Black children.” (For more about this, see the excerpt accompanying this review.)
This is a book for Black women and Black educators of any gender, but it should also inspire anyone who seeks to grow in understanding as they love, raise, and teach the next generation.