Hello Educators. I hope you and yours remain well and continuously motivated during our current context.
On July 17, 2020, our world went dark for just a moment as we lost the light of an icon, a legend, a leader, an activist, an agitator, a visionary, and also an implementer. Congressman John Lewis was not solely an orator but a change agent. He not only talked about the shifts required for civil rights and social justice but he lived the challenges of the walk. He stepped into the discomfort of the work, often while putting himself in harm’s way, to increase the likelihood that justice for all would become a reality.
As I remember and review the life of this man, I find myself wondering, what am I willing to push into with this level of intensity? How deep am I willing to go to do my part in committing to change? How uncomfortable am I willing to get? There is a lot of talk and learning about equity, racism, social injustice, etc. at this time and there is a risk that we can become caught up in the learning, the conversations, the self-awareness and social awareness of the issue and how we are individually positioned within the context without ever moving towards a space of activism and of change. In education, we run the risk of flooding the districts, schools, and classrooms with well-founded intentions at the start of SY 20-21, only to have the impact of deepening inequities and disparities as we do more of the same to respond to growing gaps that inequitable systems conveniently created.
When a legend like Congressman John Lewis leaves us, it creates what feels like a void but is also an opportunity for us to step up and take on the charge. When asked if he feels like any changes have taken place in this country as racism and injustice continue to roar in this country, he stated in referencing his work during the civil rights movement…
“Fifty years later, we can ride anywhere we want to ride, we can stay where we want to stay, those signs that said white and colored are gone, and you won’t see them anymore except in a museum, in a book, or on a video. But there are still invisible signs, barriers in the hearts of humankind that form a gulf between us.”
Those invisible signs, the barriers that he references, are the ones that we are charged with dismantling. They uphold systems of oppression, inequitable learning practices, exclusionary discipline policies that treat student behaviors as the root cause rather than symptoms of greater issues. They are the foundation of the silencing and ignoring of black and brown voices and identities in the classrooms and a demand for compliance for the sake of control, meeting standards, and elevating test scores. They set the stage for welcomed limited expectations for students of color, equal resource funding structures which lack the responsiveness required to meet the apparent demands, and opportunities to start the year with a focus on wellbeing and climate for some schools while others are forced and praised for diving into instruction on Day 1 despite the presenting needs of students.
At some point, we have to say…” enough is enough!” We have a role to play in this work and this year will be a watershed moment on where we stand personally and collectively. The way we allow the legacy of individuals like John Lewis to live on is by taking up the torch, lighting our own flame (as dim as it may be at first), and choosing to be the difference that our spaces require and our young people deserve. Whether you are a custodian, teacher, counselor, school, or district administrator…you have a role to play.
Is it possible that we are more powerful than we give ourselves credit for? Is there a possibility that as we make a decision to affect change, we can begin to create classrooms and schools that fuel liberation because we chose to do the internal work and follow up with aligned action? Is it possible that we each have the nature and drive of John Lewis to affect change within us? I say yes. I believe that the discomfort that we feel within is due to the dissonance of what is and what we know can and must be. The only way to quiet our hearts and minds around this issue is to step up and do what is required of us during this time. I’m reminded of Marianne Williamson’s quote …
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness That most frightens us.”
We can do this. We must do this. It is time to shine our own light, lift our own voices, shift our own practices, and push forward for as long as it takes to see true change. If those before us can do it, so can we.
“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” – Congressman John Lewis
Sometimes when I think about the year 2020 I shake my head in disbelief wondering how on earth can it get any more surreal. Then there are moments like this when I wonder, how many more opportunities and pathways can we be given to remake the reality that we live in. What a time that we are in. It is hard and there seems to be no finish line at times but it is an opportunity for radical change and I am choosing to be in the arena and on the field and leave the spectating for others. How about you?
Thanks again for taking the time to read and stay engaged. If this post or any others on the Awakened Educator has resonated with you, I encourage you to share the blog with others. Also, if you haven’t become a subscriber, be sure to do so by clicking this link and put your email where requested. You’ll receive an email alert anytime I publish a new post. I am looking forward to remaining in conversation and action with you.
In Solidarity and Love,