A family affair

March 17, 2021

When Harris and his wife chose Portage PS for their own children, they knew that they had to do whatever they could to maintain the celebration of black culture and black excellence at home. “I think sometimes being a person of color in a marginalized community, in a place where you are the minority, it can do something to you. You don’t have access to your own culture outside of your immediate circle. Our home is the only place where our daughters get black culture, they don’t get it at 12th Street, they don’t get it at West,” Harris explained. “And that was difficult for us. You know, that was hard for us. Although they should be able to make their own decisions, we want them to innately be themselves and be who they are unapologetically.”

One of Harris’ biggest supporters in his new role is his daughter Kailah Gaines, a seventh grader at West Middle. “His position means A LOT to me. He’s always wanted to do something like this, and so now that he gets the chance, I’m extremely proud of him,” she said, sharing her excitement for his work. “Also, as much as Portage Public Schools are amazing, there are some things that need to be done in the diversity, equity, and inclusion fields, and my dad won’t stop his hard work until it’s done.”

Gaines knows firsthand the impact and importance of his efforts. “As a Black student, I have experienced minor racism and / or microaggressions. Sometimes other students or even teachers make slightly racist comments but don’t even know it. It does make me feel like I do not belong in such a highly white community,” she said. “I come home every day to my awesome family and they remind me that us black people will always have to deal with racism, but it will get better.” She also realizes that the Black community is not alone in their experience. 

“Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Indians, Muslims, and even people of the LGBTQ+ community get looked at differently, talked to differently, taught differently,” she observed. “But, I think of it as we are all the same, even if we have different skin tones, ways of life, or beliefs. And that is what I want everyone in Portage Public Schools to see. . . we will all get through this together. It may take a little while, but once it happens, it will be one of the biggest accomplishments that Portage has had in a long time.”

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