When I graduated college, my college professor pulled me aside to give me the piece of advice that would go on to stay with me year after year. She said…
“Rafranz, you’re black. When you get into that school, you can’t be mediocre. You have to go above and beyond and be amazing. On top of that, you’re a woman. You’ll have to work much harder. You don’t get to have an ‘off-day’ “
I remember walking away from that conversation wondering why in the heck my white professor was reminding me that I was black. Then I thought about what she was saying and I felt empowered.
Those words were in my head every time my work was doubted. When kids assumed that I was there to serve them lunch, those words were in my head. As teachers looked down upon what I had to offer, those words were in my head. As my classrooms remained filled with students refusing to leave, those words were in my head. In my school, in my hometown where black voices were minimal, I had to be the best. I had no choice. Dr. H reminded me of that.
Making the transition from my classroom life to my connected life, I chose to walk in Dr. H’s advice. It didn’t matter if I had one follower or ten thousand, I would tweet and share as if my future depended on it because I learned back then that my voice mattered!
According to the Pew Research Centre, the most represented population on twitter are african americans. However, I’d go on to add that educator demographics must be skewed quite differently. One would be hard pressed to count ten sharing during the most active educational chat on twitter, edchat. Follow other state specific chats throughout the week and you might even count ten more. There are important conversations happening via social media that are changing the course of our children’s education and we are in essence not a part of the conversation.
For me, this topic has grown in its importance since connecting with other people of color (POC) via twitter. Through my connection to Jose Vilson, I’ve felt the strain of the missing black voice through his vocal conversational pieces about the lack of diversity in multiple arenas.
With that said, through my connection to other POC because of Jose, I’ve grown in my own perceptions when it comes to race. I’ve managed to live my own life void of some of the same issues that others face. However, the more connected that I’ve become the more aware that I am about the plight of others and about the future of our children.
Our voices are important, warranted and just as loud as those that we praise above our own work. It’s time that we step from the shadows of watching the connectedness of others and tread those grounds ourselves. A few months ago, my friend Kristy wrote a piece questioning whether social media has in fact made racism a non-factor. Clearly it has not. Everytime I see another “top list of” that avoids listing any contributions of POC, I am reminded of the fact that even as far as we have come as a society, there is much more to go.
There is still a gap but that gap gets thinner the more that we add to conversations and step out of our comfort zones into an arena of sharing.
Our kids matter and so do we.
Dear Educator, you have unique insight to share. To many of our children of color, you represent something bigger…possibilities, hope and dreams. Own that! The world needs your voice too.
Connect. Speak. Be heard.