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Women’s History Month Salute to Teachers: She/Hers/Nation

How absolutely blessed I am to be a third generation educator. I proudly identify as a middle-aged, Black woman educator, Pan-African Nationalist, granddaughter, daughter, Mother (intentional capital ‘M’), and educator. In fact, like many other educators, the bulk of whom are female, I am/we are every woman – she/hers/nation . . .

Women educators are empowered, life changing, Revolutionary, nation builders. I know because not only am I striving to live up to this fine tradition; I am also blessed to come from the greatness of which I speak. How fortunate that I have inherited a legacy of service as an educator on good authority and with this gift of inheritance I hereby salute ALL educators, for their daily sacrifices on behalf of the greater good. I suspect there existed a legacy of service (teaching, healing, giving) in my extended matrilineal line to include my great grandmother Bigmama Carrie and my great, great courageous and ultra Revolutionary grandmother Mary Ella. However, for my own beloved grandmother Lestine (for who I was named), she was a life preserving and enhancing scholar/pastor/humanitarian who was also a devoted wife to my equally impressive grandfather Jefferson and a revered biological mother to ten children-5 girls, 5 boys. As such, my Bigmama’s distinction is that she birthed her very own village and embodied a role as a community mover/shaker and nation builder in her own divine right. She not only physically birthed, nurtured and raised her own ten children (and countless more of her more than 30 grandchildren) . . . but she saw fit to earn advanced degrees from such esteemed universities as the University of Michigan and Cambridge, so that among other meaningful goals she could study and show herself approved to teach high school at Central HS in Detroit, MI and later led her own flock of faith filled worshippers in her small, uniquely-branded African Methodist Episcopal Church in Detroit’s historic Russell Woods neighborhood. Thus far, in my own divine right life path I have followed in my Bigmama’s footsteps both literally and figuratively by being both an educator and to starting off my teaching career in the very same neighborhood high school where her instructional experience base was cultivated so many years earlier. Ultimately, in addition to being a supreme wife, Queen Mother, and AME preacher; my Bigmama was first a teacher: she/hers/nation . . . What a powerful legacy indeed!

My warlike, Revolutionary, activist, Queen Mother JoAnn – Assata is, like her empowered mother before her, so many iterations of greatness to so many people that it is hard to limit her areas of expertise to a mere few words. But among all of the things which make her special she too, inherited the legacy of being an educator, she/hers/nation – first and foremost. Early on in life, after trailblazing a first generation college graduate legacy at the time, and earning her Bachelors degree in social work from the esteemed University of Michigan, my parents who had met, married and had the first two of their four children while still in college, later moved to my Dad’s hometown of Benton Harbor, MI. Here in this rural, small town marked by the gross disenfranchisement of the overwhelming population of Black residents, my parents leveraged their newfound status as college graduates and their own admirable brand of Black Nationalism as members of the Black Panther Party to making positive change in their local community. My heroic, educator mother served as the director of nurturing childcare center and didn’t hesitate to expand upon her educational training and certification (even after earning her undergraduate degree), by subscribing to the coursework required by the State of Michigan to obtain the license to operate the daycare center in alignment with recognized ‘best practices’. Similarly, my own small business, Educate to Liberate LLC will soon expand to include a licensed African centered childcare iteration – the more things change, the more they stay the same!

My accomplished mom later went on to birth my younger brother Stephen B., to lead the local branch Y.W.C.A. in Detroit and to later transform her organizing and grassroots activism expertise into a national antiracist platform of fighting racism, sexism, and oppression from an impactful executive leadership post from the organization’s headquarters in New York City. After having a fourth child, a baby girl who is now a brilliant attorney, my trailblazing mother could have been content to simply assume safe, corporate positions of power in various capacities. Instead, she chose to continue to fight injustice by bringing her talents back home to Detroit and opting to lead the largest branch of the N.A.A.C.P. in the nation. In this role, her leadership was cemented as one who was fearless, committed to ending oppression of our people and who did so on notable fronts such as via the National Anti-Klan Network – yes, the Ku Klux Klan is still very much alive and well even in 2023 – and leading the national call for Reparations as a national staffer for a legendary Black Congressional member and Dean of the CBC. All of the aforementioned years of dues paying and notable work ethic contributed to her being successfully elected to represent the city of Detroit as an esteemed city council member at-large; a post form which she retired as an emeritus in 2013. In true, African genius, holistic and spiritual manifestation manner my Mom’s life has now come full circle as she has leveraged her “retirement” to being a senior pastor of her own faithful flock of unity, truth seekers and to teaching, full time as a beloved and ever-popular college professor of English. After all these years of meaningful work, my mother still is//we are every woman – she/hers/nation . . .

And now that my accomplished, esquire sister has seen fit to share her vast talents with future barristers via college campuses and my brilliant, beautiful daughter has (at least temporarily), embraced her inheritance of greatness by embracing the now 4th generation of educators and absolutely shines in teaching high school science, I could not be more proud to salute the women in my own family and those nationwide who make radical change in the most meaningful, and yet unsung way imaginable – as teachers! All I know is that there is perhaps no greater misnomer than the world viewing educators through the myopic lens of being somehow lazy, one-trick ponies; when in actuality, the educators I have inherited my powerful legacy from and those with whom I have tirelessly worked (over the past 29 years) comprise the most impressive group of highly educated, moral, and committed to serving humankind people I have ever known. And since the overwhelming mass of this hardworking, admirable group happen to boast of an intersectional identity which includes being women – she/hers/nation – I salute you today, tomorrow, and always! Ase’

My Bigmama Lestine and her great-granddaughter and future educator

Mother and daughter proudly embrace their legacy of educator inheritance

My beloved grandmother and I on my wedding day – I was her namesake and a teacher!

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We Wear the Mask, COVID Reprise

“We wear the mask that grins and lies,

It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—

This debt we pay to human guile;

With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,

And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Like Claude McKay said, we have always worn the mask. That part of our lives is not new. Only now, it seems that all of humanity wears an external, tangible mask-not just an eerily symbolic one. It’s true that the whole world is donning a mask right now. But your masks still ain’t like ours. We are not the same. When you take off your masks you can breathe deeply again. Fill your lungs with oxygen, expand your chests and breathe life unencumbered by suffering. While all the while . . .

We literally and figuratively: Can. Not. Breathe. We wear the mask 24-7. We wear the mask eternally. We wear the mask and yet, still – We are dying. We are not allowed to mourn or to bury our dead. We attend drive through, virtual or nonexistent funerals for the countless Black lives that have been lost to the pandemics of racism and Coronavirus and we suffer silently. We mourn inwardly, cause we have to work and don’t have the time or capacity to heal. We mourn inwardly because y’all can’t stand to see our pain. We cry intermittently and out of necessity we work, serve, teach, pray, move, sing, dance, pretend, play and all the while . . . we are grasping at breath and dying slow, miserable deaths in alarmingly disproportionate rates to everyone else. We. Wear. The. Mask.

Why should the world be over-wise,

in counting all our tears and sighs?

Nay, let them only see us, while

We wear the mask.

To suddenly see people everywhere wearing a mask should be startling, an anomaly to our very spirits and souls. But somehow it makes sense that the truth of the guile of humanity should be partially hidden in plain sight. As for me… I don’t want to see your smiling faces when your wretched souls harbor such hatred for Black lives. To see Black people wearing masks so faithfully, while others fight to go without and declare their rebellious right, indignation to live freely without them; should be evidence that we are simply not the same. What means life or death to us, is truly a nuisance to others. Your privilege absolves you from the losses of life, agency and joy that this global health crisis has uniquely inflicted on our lives. You seem to only know the inconvenience of Black people and other people of color from faithfully and willingly serving you. While we know all too well the very real toll the violence of dual pandemics of racism and its sister global killer, COVID can and will continue to wreak on Black lives.

Empty streets. Economy at a standstill, sane school systems engaged in online instruction. And yet, the vast disconnect between those who want a swift return to business as usual and those who want a reimagined future (without your oppressive foot on our necks), is only widening. Assault-rifle armed Klansmen, women and children protest at state capitols to demand a return to business as usual. Their efforts encouraged by the demented, unfit madman at the helm of the country who increasingly ridicules, berates, poisons and kills at will in the name of a vast, white supremacist version of America’s greatness as their driving force. And sure enough, slowly but surely, states buckle under the pressure to begin to open (but slowly, in stages), so that they can once again be “served” as Black lives and those of others low on the priority rung, re-assume their essential (read expendable), lives and duties continue to engage in the performative preservation of the status quo.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries

To thee from tortured souls arise.

We sing, but oh the clay is vile

Beneath our feet, and long the mile;

But let the world dream otherwise,

We wear the mask!”

Meanwhile as cities burn and mass protests ensue the pandemic lingers on to encompass a new normal and way of life. One in which there are no more illusions of power, democracy or social justice and order. The masks on our faces only reveal the long term stratifications and intersectionality of identities, layered beneath the surface. Teachers, nurses, doctors, certified nurses assistants, orderlies, maintenance staff, service employees and restaurant staff have now become the essential fabric and components to a society that cannot function without us. America seemingly can’t abide the round the clock, 24-7 realities of life with their own children and families in their own sprawling homes, communities and living freely on their own expansive plots of land. Indeed, from tortured souls arise the cries of a crumbling economy and the disintegration of an age-old facade of a global superpower, now uncovered to be the sordid, broken infrastructure of a vile, racist and rotten to the core cultural framework.

How ironic that as America hastens to its inevitable demise and irreconcilable doom . . . You too, wear the mask.

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A Nation in Grief . . .

REPRINTED by the permission of my beloved journalist Mother, Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson, who has managed to put into words what my tearful, broken heart could not manage to process:

Recent news coverage, including this professor’s first hand account of the tragic school shooting occurring in his classroom at Michigan State University, has been so poignant, so sensitive, and so much a reflection of our troubled times. Thank you for penning what our hearts feel for ALL of the victims; who were young, innocent, bright and so deserving of a long fruitful life!

I am an Alumnus of the University of Michigan, but my eldest Granddaughter, Jendayi, is a recent graduate of Michigan State University, and majored in “Environment Sustainability”- a subject which was not even fathomable during my college days.

In the aftermath of this MSU tragedy, my heart was gripped with horror and pain for the victims and their families. When my Grand baby was matriculating at MSU and staying in a dorm on campus, my deepest concerns were about her grades, her health, and her ability to apply discipline regarding social functions on campus. I drove to East Lansing, MI frequently whenever I felt “Big Mama’s” presence would be helpful (when she developed strep throat, when she was homesick and in need of nurturing or a home-cooked meal).

I am in tears and heartbroken over every student who was senselessly slain. No student should be confronted with ‘Terror on Campus’ and no family should be making plans for their child’s funeral, or maintaining vigils at a hospital’s ICU unit, rather than making plans for their child’s glorious, hope-fulfilled Graduation!

Mass shootings in the USA must not continue to become a ‘norm’ that traumatizes and paralyzes this nation–The USA’s Domestic Terrorism must end with this generation.

Arielle Anderson, 19, was a sophomore at Michigan State University and was a straight ‘A’ student who aspired to be a pediatric doctor.
Brian Fraser, 20, was a sophomore at Michigan State University and was the chapter president of his MSU fraternity.
Alexandria Varner, 20, was a junior at Michigan State University and her father described her as a “beautiful soul.”
An initial message on the rock of the Michigan State University campus.
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No Toxic Relationships in 2023

Without echoing the cliche “New Year, New You” sentiments we seem to traditionally subscribe to and share in the beginning of the (Roman) calendar year – it is possible to firmly set your expectations and intentions at the start of even a new month or season . . . So in that regard, my personal manifesto for this year is to be fully present and make space for spiritual, high vibration energy, relationships and to avoid indulging (even temporarily), in low frequency and vibrational toxic relationships. The featured photograph from our family’s recent and spiritually uplifting Kwanzaa celebration is my own personal reminder and accountability measurement to be true to my word and promise to myself.

I have always, unofficially operated with this as my personal preference, reality mantra, and norm. But even in the past, I would almost always make exceptions for people with whom I worked, worshipped with and/or with family. Well, since even the past 7 days of the year otherwise known as the traditional Kwanzaa season, which my immediate family and I have observed for as long as I can remember. . . My sacred, meaningful observance of the 7 principles of Blackness was marred from ugly, unwarranted, and negative behavior and toxicity which has prompted me to adjust my prior exceptions to the rule of toxic relationships. And never, no more will I embrace exceptions for those with whom I’m forced to work with; happen to be blood related to and/or find myself in sacred worship spaces with. In other words, I pledge to be my authentic self in all relationships and situations, despite my own admitted high expectations of myself and others around me.

By contrast, in making allowances for OPP or other people’s problems/pathologies etc. I have been subject to toxic situations I could and should have avoided altogether. Live and learn as the adage goes. So, there are no mistakes! Only lessons. And best believe, I have learned mine and “here endeth the lesson”. And just in case what I experienced has the unintended benefits of being a cautionary tale of what to avoid like the plague for others, I will share several of the toxic traits and experiences to which I was subject to and have since learned much from.

In the most recent, inexcusable case of toxic behavior, I encountered ableism – and trust me, within the past 7-8 years I’ve seen and personally experienced much more of this prevalent form of discrimination more than I ever even imagined existed, when I was still a young, naive and fully functioning, able bodied cis person. But ableism – please click HERE for a salient explanation and point of reference for exactly what ableist means – is extremely common, grossly inappropriate and deeply harmful, discriminatory, and traumatizing to the disabled persons who are regularly subject to this level of toxic behavior and abuse. Namely, while in our church’s annual Watch Night service on NYE I ran into a parishioner who attends the church very infrequently and no more than 1-2 times per year. As a general rule, I engage with her sister, a regular member, as infrequently as possible and with a long handled spoon or at a distance (for a short history of troublesome incidents). However, in just speaking to and exchanging pleasantries with the infrequent ‘guest’, after we exchanged what I wish had only been a routine conversation about how our respective, young adult children were . . . Her follow up ableist and inappropriate comments alluded to our collective need to focus on self-care and making sure that we were in the best possible shape and health, since our now grown children have their own lives and would soon have their own families. Of course my eyes (which are truly windows to the soul), were communicating: Now, what now?! And, Bye, Felicia . . . w/ your ugly acting, messy ass. But because we were in church and in the past I had/have made exceptions for this kind of toxic behavior and energy, I said nothing. Lesson learned though and in the future, I can’t promise that anyone who would deign to test me will come out unscathed. 👀

Sadly, this type of ableism is a form of discrimination which is admittedly new to me but is nonetheless encountered almost daily within public spaces. It’s why I have made a conscious decision to make my home a place of spiritual refuge and I rarely, if ever, venture out unless related to work, worship, or family. In my own personal case, I have an “invisible” disability, which renders me vulnerable to additional slips and falls and which has plagued my physical mobility for years now. Though I do use a mobility aid (cane), to get around outside of my own home – my disability and/or the fact that I have a full leg of hardware (from my femur to my tibial plateau; achieved in separate implantation surgeries, two years apart) – my need to use the cane is not readily visible to the naked eye. I am admittedly a robust and even physically strong and formidable appearing woman of large stature, standing 5’9 in height and weighing over 300 lbs. So, upon first glance, I just look like an overweight, middle aged Black woman. And to see me with my cane, which I have used since my early 40’s is admittedly surprising to some since I don’t present as “disabled”. However, just because someone isn’t frail or have a visible prosthetic limb, does not mean that they are as able bodied as they appear. Yes, although my right leg appears intact, and the 30-40 inch long scarring from the two prior surgeries (in 2015 and 2017 respectively), have healed nicely over the years, there’s no provisions for the residual nerve pain and joint damage (or just general, daily stiffness and discomfort), that one experiences. So, the bottom line is that whether a person looks disabled or not – don’t assume that your brazen, arrogant, and unsolicited weight loss tips/self-care advice or crass comments regarding what happened to another person is appropriate and/or warranted! When in doubt . . . Just err on the side of caution and STFU especially since a person suffering fibromyalgia, enduring stage 4 cancer, and/or valiantly managing one or more invisible disabilities is in need of your simple minded, judgmental, and toxic opinions. Full stop.

I will end this cathartic blog post by sharing how and why I have similarly come to the conclusion that family values and/or love of our relatives should not exempt the people to whom we’re blood related from the same high standards and vibrations to which the rest of our relationships are subject. Within the past few days, I have relinquished my own power, energy, and peace of mind to extend olive branches to family, who were woefully undeserving of the same. On Christmas morning, I called an Aunt with whom I have held a grudge for almost a year (for publicly speaking negatively and hurting my mother’s feelings), and unexpectedly wished her happy holidays. The brief conversation seemed to start well enough until I made the grave error of extending an invitation to the informal, family Kwanzaa gathering I was soon hosting at my home. Well, I should have kept my happy holidays call and warm invitation to myself, because this seemingly innocent extension on my behalf only seemed to re-ignite the original drama and toxic behavior. Needless to say, my aunt vehemently refused my offer (completely within her rights to choose to opt out and to not be ready to forgive and move forward). And she also shared that anything she said to my mother was not directed to me anyway (sad because the total absence of remorse only means that my response was warranted). Sigh . . . Of course I am aware that all things are in divine order and that to everything under the sun, divine timing and universal order reigns supreme. But it does bear mentioning that family members are just the people to whom you happen to be related – it doesn’t require there to be a relationship to even send them love and light. And trust me, I do send them positive energy across the miles. Being in one another’s presence is not always warranted or easy. In fact, I have personally noticed that family disputes and drama has been more prevalent since the onset of the global pandemic and I could care less how a person is related to you by blood. Attitude and behavior speaks volumes and it is much more desirable to maintain your personal peace and high vibrational energy and joy than to force toxic alliances with family.

Ultimately, I plan to keep my own company, forge relationships with others who are equally yoked and to reject any/all relationships, even those tied to my livelihood and employment – which requires one to diminish or snuff out their divine light in order to maintain. I consider it a blessing and privilege to have learned this powerful lesson so early in the year. And though in the African tradition, it is really the spring months (March/April), which usher in the growing season, newness and fresh start that European culture reserves for this time of year; I pledge to start with today. No time like the present and when you know better, you must do better. Asé!

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Choosing to Vibrate Higher

As I openly embrace the month of December and universal ritual prompts us to prep for celebrations (the end of the year; the abject commercialism of the Christmas season and the start of 2023), I do so with intention: I choose to vibrate on a high spiritual frequency.

My intention is to elect to vibrate higher than my current circumstances. In so many ways, life is a never ending cycle of uncertainties. For instance, at the beginning of November – just a mere 30 days or so ago – I had an inner sense of calm. I embraced and resonated deeply with the spirit of elimination (which characterized the whole month of November, according to the Unity Church which I regularly attend). And most importantly, there were so many things of which I was absolutely sure. Honestly, even in the areas of my life where there was uncertainty, I was at least optimistic. Because in all things, my innate nature of light and love has this dynamic capacity of seeing the greatest good in just about anything. Now here in the present, the month of December has begun to unravel in such a way as to shatter the illusion of certainty and calm. Where there was once confidence and communal stability, there’s now questionable motives, realities, quiet times and lots of solitude. This too shall pass . . . And in the meantime, I welcome the lessons of this valley.

Despite this perceptible shift, I choose to vibrate higher than my circumstances. I elect to manifest my own destiny and command joy, peace, joy and light – even in the midst of this storm. There is no crisis, doubt, and fear in the world and external forces of the universe, which can supersede the impact of the reality I envision and create within my own life and experience. So with that said, I eschew the unnatural desire to resist change and to seek to hold on to the past. I reject old fears, ideas and assumptions about that which is ahead and is admittedly unknown. I embrace only those things that enlighten, empower, inspire and motivate me and others around me to encounter the greatest, divine right goodness in all things.

I pray, meditate, think about the positive possibilities of life to come and accept that all things are in divine order and timing. I drink water and stay hydrated throughout the day. I eat live foods that nourish the soul, body and mind (fruits and vegetables). I eat no more than one heavy meal per day (not for weight loss but increasingly as a ‘best practice’ for my own sensitive digestive system, clarity of mind and health). I force myself to get restorative rest and beneficial sleep (I have always thrived on 5-6 hours or less but I am conscious to quiet my mind and still myself when warranted). And as I intentionally vibrate higher – I visualize the effortless flow of blessings which are undoubtedly en route towards me and I welcome the manifestation of my spiritual vibration with excitement and giddy anticipation. I Am a child of God, a divine reflection of God and I do not inherit lack, disease, brokenness and/or suffering. I Am (as I proclaimed publicly and quite convincingly amongst a large number of my professional peers, recently), and I repeat: I Am stronger at the broken places. Furthermore, I’m “bulletproof nothing to lose . . . I Am Titanium”.

I vibrate higher, I vibrate highly, and I manifest countless treasures and blessings yet to come. In the words of one of my most beloved, classic poems, “I Dream me a world” of pleasures sublime . . . My heartfelt wish is the same for each of you. Asé

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Academic Travels Gratitude Post

As I depart Albuquerque, New Mexico today, after having enjoyed multiple, glorious days of engaging in professional learning and development with a vast community of both nonprofit and K-12 peers, I’m holding so much space and gratitude for the warm, beautiful Indigenous people of the Tamaya and Santa Ana Pueblo, whose sacred lands cover 73,000 acres east and west of the Río Grande. Within the inviting bosom of their picturesque environment, I am energized, made anew and ever so grateful.

I salute the absolute beauty of my travel experience from the rich, inclusive professional learning sessions I was fortunate enough to both actively co-facilitate and eagerly participate in during what will long be regarded as a life changing and absolutely power packed, 3-day convening with several hundred educators from across the country at the joint Education First, NoVo and Rockefeller Foundation sponsored SEL In Action Conference; to being nestled in the healing space of the luxurious Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa accommodations. After being home bound, like many of you, over the course of the consecutive years of zero travels given the rigors of the still prescient, global pandemic – this initial excursion from the familiarity and safety of the comforts of my own home – was like a warm, bear hug and a spiritual retreat for the soul. Now, even in my travels home . . . My heart smiles from having been blessed with such an opportunity.

Perhaps the best way for me to share just a hint of the tangible highlights of the deeply meaningful time convening with hundreds of educators who are each worthy of salute, for the creative ways in which we have all respectively engaged in the grant award winning, arduous work of imparting culturally relevant and responsive, anti-racist, social emotional learning across K-12 schools and both rural and urban communities across this country, would be to provide insight into the remarkable educators I was fortunate to meet along the way.

I’ll start by extending heartfelt gratitude to Adam from Denver, Colorado who works on a neighboring Pueblo and had a ready smile, sound professional practices, and genuine enthusiasm to share re: having made the 2-hour drive to the conference to represent the meaningful work he and his colleagues do with our Indigenous youth on the Navajo reservation. Likewise, how fortunate I was to have met Stephanie, a middle school principal from Charleston, South Carolina who was determined to take back any/all of our “best practices” to help her ensure that her teachers would feel appreciated, inspired and encouraged to continue in their daily work. This priority was paramount to her because she shared that she increasingly sensed that they were already overworked, overwhelmed, losing strength, motivation and zeal just a few short weeks into the start of the school year. Kudos for any school leader willing, ready, and prepared to center the needs of her overworked instructional and support staff. I was transparent and effusive in my respect for her style of leadership.

I was admittedly impressed by and hereby express gratitude for having met Linda from Illinois (by way of NY), whose work in the community and former work as an engineer, offers her unique insights into how all educators must prepare for what she calls the “long game” of dismantling entire systems of oppression. I’m also grateful to have met Robin, Schevonda, Medina, and the beautiful Evelyn, originally from Cuba and who now lives and works in LA. during a brief yet meaningful roundtable discussion on organic topics ranging from how to engage our students in classroom discussions and manage to distract them from their phones long enough to activate the critical thinking and deep learning which comes from what Paulo Friere refers to as “naming the world” in the liberatory practice of acknowledging the five foundations of discourse.

And no doubt, as confirmation that God had clearly predestined that we share space, despite our meeting place occurring across the country, how fortunate I was to meet a Mother and daughter team from my own stomping grounds here in Detroit, MI. Given the admirable beauty, impressive reach and powerful impact of their nonprofit work with the My Sisters Keeper program here locally, I stood in awe of my newfound sister and an awesome grassroots, community leader in her own right, Tanesha Windom, whose powerful gift of discernment, spiritual anointing and commitment to our children and people, is rather effortlessly weaved through her admirable body of work in the local community. I must also express gratitude for the beautiful energy and infectious joy of my new friend, Anna, from California. She and I had the privilege of breaking bread together over a delicious Mexican culinary feast and then later, she found me and was kind enough to congratulate me on my recent opportunity to bask in the limelight of peer affirmation after I received such an incredible, rousing response from conference participants after having delivered my own Ed Talk. Thanks to her kindness and enthusiasm, Anna and I celebrated this moment by embracing as if we had known each other for a lifetime (fully masked of course), and even did a little celebratory dance to David Guetta’s inspiring jam Titanium, featuring Sia! Eternal gratitude to all who were so affirming and generous to me, in response to my brief personal testimony and aha moment.

I will wrap up my salute to the awesome educators I met (note: there are countless others, too numerous to name and for whom I give thanks), by taking the time to express deep gratitude and respect for the thoughtful and brilliant keynote address we received from dynamic author and educator, Dr. Gholdy Muhammad! From her, we were applauded for our body of collective SEL work, patiently advised how to be much more intentional in infusing joy in the work we do daily, and through her historically responsive framework, we were able to glean from countless, tangible examples, reflective of every grade level and subject area, to cultivate students’ genius in the key areas of identity, skills, intellectualism, criticality, and joy.

Ultimately, my post travel takeaway is that I will long treasure the authentic connections made with like minded educators from all walks of life, this past week. How utterly empowering it was to be in the presence of so many educational leaders, who are humble, talented, creative and intentional in their admirable levels of commitment to the work of advancing the status of what one fellow SEL presenter, Baionne, proudly referred to as the “global majority”, which is to say that together we pledge to increasingly meet the needs of the overwhelming majority of Black students and other students of color in this nation’s schools. And to that I can only say: Asé ✨