Dr. Rosemarie Allen is a 21-year Lone Tree resident, founder and CEO of the consulting firms The Center of Equity and Excellence and Institute for Racial Equity & Excellence, as well as associate professor in the School of Education at Metropolitan State University. A nationally renowned expert on implicit bias and culturally responsive practices, Dr. Allen has also written two children’s books to help students and teachers better appreciate the experiences of young Black children. She recently gave a presentation titled “Building Inclusive Communities” sponsored by Arapahoe Libraries and attended by many residents of the South Metro area.
Highlands Ranch Lifestyle Magazine caught up with Dr. Allen recently to talk about race in our community. Find out more at Rosemarieallen.com.
Tell us about your background.
I was raised in Los Angeles, California. As a curious and very active child, teachers didn’t know what to do with me and I was suspended multiple times. I decided to become a teacher, so that other children would not feel as misunderstood as I felt. After graduation, I worked with young children, and moved to Colorado in 1994. I grew into leadership positions and eventually became the Director of the Division of Child Care at the Colorado Department of Human Services overseeing more than 9,000 child care facilities, adoption agencies, and foster care homes. Motivated and profoundly impacted by the racial inequities in our education system that I experienced myself and observed, I earned a doctorate in Equity and Leadership in Education at the University of Colorado, Denver. As an associate professor, I now work with future teachers to teach the tools to address inequities in their classrooms.
Tell us about your work in early childhood education, and how that relates to the work you do with your consulting firms..
During my tenure at Human Services, my primary focus was on ensuring high quality early childhood programs for all children. Research shows teachers often judge children’s behavior differently based on race and implicit bias impacts teachers’ behavioral expectations of children and contributes to poor outcomes for children of color. On every indicator of child well-being, Black children are at the very bottom. It became my mission to close these gaps. I asked, “What good is a high-quality early education program if those who need it most are denied access through disproportionate suspensions and expulsions?”
IREE and CEE were founded to address these gaps in three major focus areas, 1) Professional Development, 2) Family Advocacy, and 3) Culturally Responsive, Community Based Child Care Licensing. CEE provides equity training, including 43 State Departments of Education, Law Enforcement Agencies, and Mental Health Organizations.
How do you define racism?
Racism is not who you are, but what you do or fail to do. When racist practices, policies, and behaviors are promoted and upheld, and you fail to take action against these, that is racism. There is no neutral place when it comes to racism. Either you’re upholding it or you’re fighting against it. When my son was the victim of racist calls, my neighbors and the Lone Tree Police Department asked how they could help and devised a plan to put an end to it. That is anti-racism.
What changes would you like to see to make the south Denver suburbs a more diverse and inclusive place?
Colorado, especially places like Lone Tree and Highlands Ranch, can be difficult places for Black people to live; residents have little exposure to Black people. This leads to avoidance, reliance on stereotypes, and microaggressions. People assume I don’t live here. Several times neighbors have called the police on my son, reporting a ‘strange Black man’. Often people make judgements without even knowing it. Refrain from comments like “You are so articulate”, “How can you afford to live here?” or “Do you like fried chicken?” These questions are alienating.
Catch yourself when you’re feeling uncomfortable around a person of color, and ask yourself ‘why?’ One of my favorite sayings is, “Aware is half way there”. Authentically engage with your Black neighbors, create a welcoming atmosphere and more people will view our community as a place that honors and embraces difference.
What else do you want our community to know?
That I belong here, I am not a guest nor a visitor. I chose to live here so that I could build an amazing life for my family, just like most of you. Won’t you be my neighbor?