Gloria Ladson-BillingsFeb. 9, 2024 - Registration is open for CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI)’s 13th Annual Conference for Social Justice in Education, scheduled for Saturday, March 2 in the Grand Salon on the CSUCI campus. The keynote speaker is nationally renowned educator Gloria Ladson-Billings, Ph.D., author of numerous critically acclaimed books on culturally relevant classrooms and practices including “Dream-keepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children” and “Crossing Over to Canaan: The Journey of New Teachers in Diverse Classrooms.”

“The purpose of this annual event is to showcase the social justice-oriented work being done in and around schools and educational institutions in the region and to network with others who believe in the power and necessity of such work,” said CSUCI Dean of the School of Education Elizabeth Orozco Reilly. “We want to learn from one another about how best to teach, learn and lead in ways that promote equity, peace, and integrity in public education.”

Teachers, parents, administrators, students, school board members or anybody interested in being a part of the continual evolution of education for P-12 students is welcome to join the free conference, which will include free parking, continental breakfast, lunch, and a swag bag with Ladson-Billings’ latest book.

The theme of the event, which lasts from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., is “Equity and Justice: Transforming the Educational Landscape.”

The conference will begin with remarks from Orozco-Reilly and CSUCI President Richard Yao, followed by a panel of elected representatives from area boards of education at the county office and in school districts. CSUCI Chair of the Department of Educational Leadership, Charles Weis, will moderate the panel discussion about how each member fosters equity and social justice in their respective districts.

Before the keynote speech from Ladson-Billings, the participants will engage in breakout sessions to brainstorm and share their best practices with one another.

Orozco Reilly said Ladson-Billings was chosen as the main speaker because of her lifelong commitment to social justice. Ladson-Billings is currently a University of Wisconsin Professor Emeritus of Education, but has continued to speak, write, and work toward social justice, and toward serving the students of classrooms of the 21st century, which are diverse in culture, religion, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual identification.

“My deep fear is the destruction of public education,” Ladson-Billings said. “We look at the pattern we call the evacuation of public space. We used to have good public transportation, and decent public housing. Once all of that is gone, public education becomes the last domino.”

Ladson-Billings believes culturally relevant teaching centers on three main tenets: 1) student learning; 2) cultural competence; and 3) sociopolitical or critical consciousness.

Student learning involves seeing that the student really grew and learned some strategies they will use in the future, rather than just memorizing lessons. Culturally relevant teaching involves inviting students of all cultures to learn and share aspects of their culture such as food, tradition, proverbs, etc. while becoming fluent in at least one other culture.

The sociopolitical critical consciousness aspect of the culturally relevant classroom is teaching students to question what many may see as fact or dogma. It’s helping students find the enduring theme in each lesson and to challenge students to find out how what they are learning is helping them solve today’s problems.

“We need people to understand that education is not making workers, but making citizens,” Ladson-Billings said. “Everybody is not going to become an environmentalist, but everybody will have a chance to go into a voting booth and vote on what we do about the environment.”

Ladson-Billings and her older brother grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the time she can first remember, her parents impressed on her the importance of education. Her mother had a high school diploma and her father left school after the third grade.

Ladson-Billings’ mom worked as a clerk for the federal government and her father did hard labor in a steamy laundry plant where workers stirred massive vats of laundry in 9-by-12-foot rooms.

“My father said, ‘You can mess around in school and do this, or put your head in your books and do something else,’” Landon-Billings said. “He worked there almost 30 years with no retirement plan.”

Ladson-Billings knows the power one teacher can have on a student’s life. She, herself, went to a segregated school but had one fifth grade teacher who helped her see beyond the limits: Ms. Ethel Benn. 

“That woman changed my life,” Ladson-Billings said. “She was someone who would give us a kind of fugitive pedagogy. She would teach us things that were not supposed to be taught. She would appoint us in turn to be lookouts in case the principal came by.”

Ms. Benn introduced Ladson-Billings to everything from the works of W. E. B. DuBois - who became the first Black American to graduate with a Ph.D. from Harvard University with a Ph.D. - to Gregorian Latin.

It is this sort of vision Ladson-Billings wants to encourage in today’s P-12 teachers, a quest she shares with Orozco-Reilly and the organizers of the conference.

“In my opinion, we are at an inflection point where voices who have not been the squeaky wheel are heard and part of the conversation,” Orozco-Reilly said. “We need to address issues of equity and justice in ways that broaden the tent of American participation.”

To register for “Equity and Justice: Transforming the Educational Landscape,” visit:

The University encourages persons with disabilities to participate in its programs, events and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation, or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact the respective area below as soon as possible, but no later than seven (7) business days prior to the event/activity:

CSUCI Students

CSUCI Employees and Members of the Public

Back to Top ↑