Photo by LatheeshMahe © CC BY-SA 4.0
Exciting….exhausting….empowering….are all words that I would use to describe my first ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) conference experience. First of all, I think I bit off waaaay more than I could chew with my commitment to the ISTE Digital Equity PLN and my EdTech Coaches panel…plus my desire to DO IT ALL….attend every meeting, luncheon, breakfast, and meet-up planned for this amazing experience. CRAZY!
As I’ve spent the past few days attempting to process my trip, I wavered on the focus for this post. Should I talk about the meet ups and my sessions? Should I talk about my work with #ISTEDEPLN? Or should I talk about what’s been tugging at my heart strings since Tuesday? My Tuesday experiences are totally unrelated, yet significantly parallel activities – watching Jesse Williams’ BET Humanities Award speech that morning right before heading into the Keynote Address of Ruha Benjamin and the miraculous conversation that occurred with her, Rusula, Mustafa, and Ymasumac.
Anyone who knows me – knows that I have a weakness for the underdog. I’ve spent all my years in education in high poverty/low income schools where the odds are sometimes stacked impossibly high against them even before they exit the wombs of their mothers. I know without a doubt this comes from growing up with parents who instilled in me a pride in who I am and the charge to make this world a better place. My parents were activists in every sense of the word – my mother was actually arrested and imprisoned during the Civil Rights movement for her work while she was a student at Claflin. Both of them were extremely active in our local NAACP, which meant that my brother and I were as well. “Service and Equality for All” are words that I live by. Action – Make this world a better place by being a better person.
Last Tuesday morning, I wasn’t sure if I was going to that morning’s keynote. Most times I have difficulty focusing for that long – so why bother. I sat downstairs in the lobby of a hotel waiting on a friend and as I was surfing through Facebook, I saw the link to Jesse Williams’ BET Award’s speech. I had the time….so I clicked. Oh my gosh….I was blown away!
Now, this award – this is not for me. This is for the real organizers all over the country – the activists, the civil rights attorneys, the struggling parents, the families, the teachers, the students that are realizing that a system built to divide and impoverish and destroy us cannot stand if we do. – Jesse Williams (2016 BET Awards)
And after watching that….hearing that….digesting that…. I was compelled to go to that keynote. And I am so glad that I did. To hear Hadi talk about Hour of Code and CS for All and then Levar Burton discuss the power or reading was powerful – but to hear Ruha……no words….none.
I was spellbound. Her words were a direct connection to what I’d heard that morning and it deeply resonated with me.
Why is it that we can imagine building heart cells in a lab, but not empathy for others who are not like us?……..Children today live in parallel worlds where some are nurtured and others crushed. – Ruha Benhamin (#ISTE16 Keynote)
If you’re interested in reading the full transcript, click here.
Later in the day, still pumped up from the keynote, I found out that my sweet friend Rusul was granted the opportunity to Periscope Ruha. I IMMEDIATELY sent her a message.
Me: You’re interviewing Ruha tonight? Are groupies welcome?
Rusul: You can join us!
That conversation and the subsequent periscope in that nondescript restaurant was EVERYTHING to me. Ruha’s words, quickly gathered after two hours of us just talking about our place in this world….our responsibility to make it a better place, was so powerful the sky opened up. Seriously. A quickly passing thunderstorm showered rain and hail down abundantly. For real.
My heart was so full after that and I was armed with a newfound strength to do what my parents, my mentors, my family and friends expected of me….change the world. Not to get bogged down in the logistics of devices, tech tools, and help desk issues – but to focus on how I can use my influence to provide a better world for our children!
Whether you’ve been actually verbally told that or not…..I believe that we have a responsibility to make this world a better place than it was when we entered it. And whether we want to believe it or not….in some ways….in so many ways – it’s not. We can no longer put our heads in the sand….
As Jesse so eloquently stated….
Now… I got more y’all – yesterday would have been young Tamir Rice’s 14th birthday so I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12 year old playing alone in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich. Tell Rekia Boyd how it’s so much better than it is to live in 2012 than it is to live in 1612 or 1712. Tell that toEric Garner. Tell that to Sandra Bland. Tell that to Dorian Hunt.
Now the thing is, though, all of us in here getting money – that alone isn’t gonna stop this. Alright, now dedicating our lives, dedicating our lives to getting money just to give it right back for someone’s brand on our body when we spent centuries praying with brands on our bodies, and now we pray to get paid for brands on our bodies.
Or should I say…..badges on our profile?
Until the next time,