Be The Change

By Shantel Sappleton

As socially conscious black women we are always looking at our work in Education through the lens of social justice. There is no off button for us. We are officially the voice of our students and parents and don’t have the option to ignore decisions that are not in the best interest of our families. We don’t have the option of knowing what is happening in the community because we are part of the community.

How do we hold all stakeholders who come into our urban communities to the same level of social responsibility?

Is reading a book about urban environments enough? Is listening to podcast about minority schools enough? How do we hold those who come in, accountable for becoming well versed and knowledgeable about the communities they serve? How do we help them more importantly once they become knowledgeable to become the advocates for our black and brown babies? Our students deserve to have people who will speak up for them at all times not just when it suits them or when they are comfortable.  

One way is not allowing the people who interact with our children off the hook. We must force them to have conversations about what is happening in black communities. We must push them to have uncomfortable conversations. This involves us asking the right questions to help people reflect on their own racially biases and how it impacts who they will then be in school. 

How do you become educated about the community? If we are to truly change the climate of our schools, we have to have people who aren’t just involved in the community when they come to work. People who have friends and associates from the community. People who are okay with their discomfort if it means helping our students and doing what is in their best interest. Holding them accountable further than saying they care about the kids to showing this through all of their choices. It is more than planning quality instruction. It is an emotional investment that is necessary to truly bring change.

The reality is that to enact change our responsibility is heightened. It is our job to no longer let people off the hook for not knowing. In the words of President Barack Obama, “ We are the ones that we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” We must be truly living this statement out in our day-to-day lives at work. It raises our responsibility to be the voice for our children and to hold those around us to have no option but to do the same. 

Dee Gail