Minneapolis, MN — Alexander Leonard knows personally the impact of systemic racism and trauma on individuals in the education system. He also knows it is possible to equip educators with embodied practices that can build the endurance, stamina and discernment required to engage white body supremacy. As co-founder of the innovative Community Connected Academy at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis, he has seen the graduation rate soar to 99.8% in five years. Daily he witnesses the power of educators to inspire students, provide them with hope, and encourage them to become their best selves. He understands, though, that racialized trauma must be addressed to sustain Black and Brown teachers, who are essential to the success of Black and Brown students. He believes that Somatic Abolitionist practices can help educators heal and enhance capacity for change. To introduce somatic methods in education, he will seek mentorship and coaching, delve more deeply into the history of Black educator organizing, and form a collective of Black and Brown educators.
What has informed your approach to leading change in your community?
My approach to leading change is born out of my experience as an educator and school counselor. I’ve had the privilege of working for some great principals. I’ve also done somatic work with Resmaa Menakem which helped me process the impacts of the pandemic and teacher’s strike in ways that my fellow educators did not or could not. I knew then that this work really matters.
What lessons have you learned from failing?
I’ve learned the power of adapting and that if you pay attention to failure, it will teach you how to get better. In reality, there is no such thing as true failure. Everything we do is a process of learning. Frederick Douglass said, “without struggle there will be no progress.”
What is your favorite quote or expression?
“When ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ even illness becomes wellness.” — Malcolm X
I believe this with my whole being. Healing happens best communally, and this quote exemplifies everything my work is about.