May 25, 2020.
George Floyd was murdered on this date.
This was the day I felt compelled like no other to do something.
To be a part of the fight for change and dismantling systemic racism.
How it Began
Earlier in the year, Shelley Burgess & Beth Houf, the authors of Lead Like a Pirate, invited me to guest facilitate their weekly Lead Like a Pirate (#LeadLAP) chat on Twitter on May 23rd. The title for the conversation I led was, “Changing the Game by Shifting Our Language.” The chat focused on tearing down the presumptions of filling gaps when students return to school from the COVID shutdown the last part of the 2019-20 school year. Shifting our language from deficit thinking to success-based thinking and celebrating the resilience of students, educators, and parents was highlighted. The conversation was to continue as a slow chat on Twitter throughout the following week. In light of George Floyd’s murder, I struggled with continuing the discussion on this topic.
A Pivotal Turning Point
“I have to do something.” That was the weight on my heart as asked myself, “How many more black lives have to be lost in this tragic manner?” I reached out to Shelley & Beth, shared my pain, and asked if I could facilitate a conversation to guide educators through awareness of social injustice, lack of equity, racism, and ultimately, how to take action by becoming antiracist. I had to think about what this meant, what was the goal with the #LeadLAP professional learning community on Twitter, what was I hoping to achieve? It became clear. I wanted to help educators learn, challenge them to become aware of what they may not now, and ignite a fire to make a difference, to be the change. It made perfect sense to wrap the conversation in the powerful title, “Leading by Learning,”
Leading By Learning
Shelley and Beth graciously extended the platform for Leading by Learning and it soon became a series that would continue indefinitely. Understanding the value of allies, after a short while, I went back to Shelley and Beth and requested to enlist the help of another educator, Dawn Harris (this story will amaze you, I promise to share it at another time). Together, with the amazing support and encouragement of Beth and Shelley, Dawn and I continue to lead the participants in the weekly Lead Like a Pirate chat through a journey of powerful and painful antiracism awareness conversations. The four of us have hosted innovative chats including watch parties for, “I am not Your Negro,” and “Thirteenth.” The newest innovation to the weekly conversation was a live Zoom session that Twitter chat participants would watch as the basis for the Twitter conversation. #LeadLAP participants, Henry Turner and Jillian DuBois, have been featured in video conversations with Beth, Shelley, Dawn, and me. We hosted and moderated an empowering and inspirational Zoom panel with guests Jay Billy, Jill Siler, Dr. VaShawn Smith, and Vernon Wright. The four guests have powerful stories of how they are leading with grace, courage, and empathy. The video will be released soon.
The relationship, the bond, the painful and dynamic conversations between the four of us has helped each of us grow and find a support system that is safe, rock-solid, and on fire for helping others learn and grow in these unprecedented times. Beyond the work, the four of us have created a friendship that will last a lifetime. Giving ourselves grace to laugh, to celebrate and encourage one another, and shoulders for support, we eagerly look forward to the day we can see each other in person.
The relationships that have strengthened and new relationships that have developed with #LeadLAP chat participants is a story all its own. Many of us are connecting beyond the walls of the chat to dive further into our own reflection, to learn from one another, and to partner in this work.
Lead Like a Pirate chat participants have shared their growth, transformation, commitment to action, and awakening of others to join the journey. We are all evolving. We are witnessing educators move from leaning on the wall watching to standing in the center of the room bringing others off the wall to take action. Educators are collaborating, being transparent, vulnerable, taking risks, celebrating each other, encouraging one another, learning from each other, and growing together.
GritCrewEDU was birthed from this work. One of the chat participants was the first to secure their services of Dawn & me for her school district. We are blessed to partner with schools and school districts to guide their equity teams to determine their focus, analyze data, educate team members, and ignite transformation of hearts and minds of community members, educators, and students to inspire actionable change.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Sadly, every generation will have work to do in this arena. Those who have pushed and fought before us, those who are on the battlefield with us, and those who will come after us…we all must keep fighting for social injustice to become social justice. We must keep fighting for everyone to understand that privilege in itself means there is an unleveled playing field. We must keep fighting for our black and brown families to experience a day when husbands, fathers, uncles, cousins, and sons can leave home without mothers being on bended knees praying for their safe return. We must keep fighting for the day that men and women have equal pay, people of color have equal opportunities, students don’t have to walk out of school and refuse to go back because of inhuman conditions when schools across a bridge have state of the art facilities. We must keep fighting for the day that people are not judged or treated differently based on the color of their skin, gender, race, culture, religion, or background.
These two words cannot begin to encompass the gratitude that I have for Dawn, Beth, and Shelley, for each of the #LeadLAP participants. Tara Martin is diligent and committed to capture each chat in a Wakelet. Beth continues to capture resources in a Google Doc. Dave continues to be shoulders and encouragement as we push forward. Our husbands and families have been supportive, helpful, and patient. They pitch in and wait on Saturdays to get our day started after the chat. The Lead Like a Pirate chat participants give their precious time each Saturday to discuss equity, racism, and the need for change. A sacrifice that fills our hearts with hope and promise that we are all making a difference together. Your commitment to being allies, to take risks and speak so openly on social media, to learn from each other, to grow together, is how we make a difference.
We are truly better together and we are proving that every Saturday.