The 10 Antiracist Commandments (lyrics)

I been in this land for years, they see me as an animal

Time to end these racist lies, just read a manual

A step by step booklet for you to get

Time we learned how to be anti-racist

Dr. Kendi laid out the blueprint of how to do it

You wanna be an antiracist this is how you pursue it

Said it ain’t just good enough to say what you ain’t

You gotta do the work, box that hate out the paint

Start by checking yourself why you got those fears

Look at who’s been teaching you those racist ideas

White hate black, black hate white, black hate black

When it comes to being racist we should all step back

And check it all from how we police clothing and behavior

To how our system’s based off the need for a white savior

From power and body to class and biology

The racist roots of society is our biography

But it ain’t gotta be just because it’s how it was

We can’t keep the status quo just because

With our future on the line I believe that it’s time

To look in the mirror start to change our design

Rule nombre uno:

Gotta let people know

The racist views you hold

And how you plan to let em go

#2: here’s a good next move

Get a good reading list that challenges your views

#3: Never trust nobody

Who says they ain’t racist when actions speak loudly

#4: Know you heard this before

“Some of my best friends are black” don’t say that no more

#5: you don’t want racism to stay alive

Learn how it all started then make sure that it dies

#6: post-racial rhetoric, forget it

Think voting for Obama stopped racism, forget it

#7: this rule is so underrated

Understand why our neighborhoods are still segregated

’cause money and race don’t mix

Like Trump havin’ real ethics

Find yourself impeached real quick

#8: Never keep no hate in you

Exorcise it all costs maybe lose some friends too

#9 shoulda been number one to me

Know from day one we been a racist society

#10: a strong word called “alignment”

Get with like-minded people is your next assignment

Follow these rules your racism starts to shake up

If not, maybe hundred more years until we wake up!

The Case For Impeachment (updated lyrics)

We got a president that wants to be king

A media that obsesses on the pettiest things

A republican party that will do anything

That the President says man, he’s pulling their strings

Well he ain’t pullin mine I’ll say what’s on my mind

Cause some seem scared to charge Trump with high crimes

And misdemeanors, while his team ignores subpoenas

Fell in love with North Korea while our country’s getting meaner

A puppet of Putin, on that ain’t no disputin’

Helsinki press conference showed which flag Trump’s salutin’

His treasonous acts give us reason to act

Like the Oval Office meeting with Sergey Kislyak

Or not firing Conway for axing the Hatch Act

Or his support for Neo-Nazis and continued press attacks

And I beg your pardon, gotta talk about pardons

And how he sells us out from the White House Gardens

With his hourly lies more 12,000 times

Or how he sits with then hates on the New York Times

Or how he oversteps the law with legalese

And offers to pay violent supporter’s legal fees

If they attack a demonstrator, but he’s the real hater

And if you work for him and disagree? See ya later

Come on homey, Look at how he did Jim Comey

If that ain’t obstruction congress what’s your function?

And I think Bob Mueller made it pretty clear

About obstruction actions, y’all should have no fear

C’mon man, look at how he did Don McGhan

Or how to get noble prize nod, he calls on japan

If y’all would just give a damn it’s easy to understand

Need to reach Heather’s Heyer ground and save this land

And he’s guilty by association, check the cohort

Flynn, Cohen, Gates, Stone, and Paul Manafort

Stormy days on the horizon, or should I say Stormy Daniels

Americans lookin’ sad dog ears like cocker spaniels

Wasting our tax dollars, the man ain’t frugal

50 trips to Mar-a-Lago, payoffs to McDougal

He supports neo-nazis while so many will not see

His racist tendencies favor white supremacy

Says he’s the President who will bring law & order

But acts lawlessly just look at kids on the border

Trapped in cages, babies to teens of all ages

More dying by the month as this created crisis rages

And in DC can’t forget emolument’s clause

And how he profits from that office man, it’s time to pause

Cause anyone’s who’s sane gotta mention Ukraine

And that quid pro quo and withholding that aid

Where they gotta kiss the ring if they wanna get paid

To get that military help and their country saved

A Bill taylor-made case has been laid plain by dems

Add Volker, Vindman, Sondland, and them

The list goes on and on time to end this song

This man’s been driving the country down the drain for far too long

If he’s not impeached now we’ll be sending a message

That presidents are above the law they’ll be no vestige

Of a constitution set up to provide a solution

For corruption from the oval office institution

And they can Hunter Biden all they want the real hunt should be

For Trump’s taxes to see how he betrayed the country

Start with him then investigate the whole family

Cause we can’t let the Trumps become a dynasty

America if you’re listening hope you can find

The 30,000 reasons to impeach this guy

And if we really don’t impeach yo I gotta ask why

We didn’t vote y’all in office to watch the country die

I’m Black Before I’m A “Person of Color” Or “Minority.” Companies, Schools, & TV MUST See Me.

In my work over the past few decades in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I have always done my best to make sure that the language I use is respectful of all of the communities with whom I work. Now I don’t just throw out words just to please people. I do my research and combine my knowledge with how people feel they want to be identified. For years, I have used the term “people of color” in my writings, presentations, and speeches, but over the past year, I have grown uncomfortable with the term primarily because my experience as a black person in America are getting lost in that expression. Add the word “minority” to the conversation (a term I never use) and one can hopefully see how the black experience is being forgotten for the sake of overall diversity and inclusion.

Across multiple industries, we see “people of color” and “minorities” being used in literature. Companies often speak of how their numbers have increased in terms of “minority” representation but the numbers rarely match for African Americans and black people overall. For example, when some companies state that they have increased hiring of “minorities”, that could mean anyone from white women to Asian-born Indians and everyone in between. This was indeed the case with affirmative action, where research has shown that the majority of people who benefitted from it are actually white women. To be clear, I believe that all traditionally underrepresented groups in company spaces should have opportunities to have their numbers increased. What happens unfortunately too often is that after those numbers are met, there is no longer a need to reach out to the black community.

Relating back to “people of color,” all challenges affecting what I would call non-white people are not the same. For example, the many cases of police shootings of unarmed people is specifically an issue facing the black community. The preschool to prison pipeline is primarily a problem affecting black students. When comedian Shane Gillis was hired then fired from Saturday Night Live over his racist comments towards Asians, I read one tweet by an Asian activist who wrote that the term “chink is like the n-word for people of color.” History lesson: “people of color” are not called the “nigga” or “nigger.” BLACK PEOPLE are.

So today, when I hear “people of color,” it sounds too universal and I feel lost in it. I don’t besmirch people for using it, I just know how it makes me feel. I am a black person before I’m a person of color. Furthermore, using that term actually puts white people at the center, like a white piece of paper and then everyone else is colored in. Historically, white people were not the first to walk this earth. Black people were and so this also may subtly reinforce a white ethnocentric, even a white supremacist idea.

At the end of the day, if we are going to be serious about diversity, equity, and inclusion, we have to be mindful to make sure we are being inclusive of all groups and their experiences. Truth be told, some companies get away with touting an increase in their black representation by hiring non-African American black people such as people from the Caribbean, the African continent, Europe, and elsewhere. This is also a discussion happening in our colleges and universities and even in Hollywood, as we have seen with the release of the movie Harriet. Personally, I am fine with an overall increase in black representation but if the intention is that African Americans come with too much baggage to employ, the real issue may be the stereotypes that employers have about African Americans that need to be challenged. Challenging our stereotypes and overall actions starts with companies doing a deep dive into their statistics and getting to root of what is behind the hiring process and I truly enjoy working with companies who are doing just that. If your company isn’t there, it’s time to get to work! Let’s go!

3 & 1/2 ways private & wealthier public schools can attract black teachers

For over a decade, I have worked with private, public, and charter schools across this nation on issues relating to diversity, culturally relevant instruction, and student leadership. The work I do takes different forms in different schools. In some schools, I am brought in to work with faculty on ways they can reach their more disenfranchised students. In other schools, I speak to students about their role in creating communities where everyone feels celebrated and not tolerated. Some schools seek a combination of work with both students and faculty. In all of the private schools and wealthier public schools I have visited, one glaring question always rears its head: where are the black teachers?

To be clear, I am specifically speaking about black classroom teachers who do not coach athletics, and I am not referring to building services such as security or custodial staff. Of course, there is no shade being thrown at either profession because all positions are of value when it comes to making a school function. I am speaking specifically to the dearth of black teachers in more privileged schools today. Below are three and ½ steps schools can take to start recruiting more black teachers.

  1. Go to where black teachers are.

While it is of course true that black people live in every state in the United States, it is obvious that more of us are concentrated in urban areas. Despite this fact, I still encounter schools in cities like Washington, DC and New York where I am told that it is hard to find black teachers. I do not believe this to be true. More effort needs to be placed in going to where black teachers are and recruiting them early. If you play a role in recruitment in your school, you should start partnering with schools of education and inquire about their black enrollment. If you are fortunate enough to have an Historically Black College & University (HBCU) in your vicinity, definitely reach out and conduct recruitment fairs on campus and invite potential teachers to visit your school. Well-intentioned recruitment efforts can go a long way for helping a teacher decide where to work.

In addition to partnering with these institutions, there are also events such as the Teacher of Color Recruitment Fair. Your leadership team should also attend conferences such as the People of Color Conference (POCC), The Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color (COSEBOC) conference, and several others that can be found with a simple google search. At these conferences, you get to see many presentations by actual teachers and not only professional speakers/trainers such as myself. These organizations also have regional events and provide great opportunities for networking. As important as it is to attend events like these for the content, it is equally important to attend as a potential recruiter.

  1. Be bold in your diversity statements and practices surrounding diversity & inclusion

I am not saying that every black teacher cares about issues relating to diversity and inclusion. Some of course just want to come in and teach like they see their white counterparts do on a daily basis. I do know, however, that many black teachers doindeed care about where a school stands on issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I know this because I have actually met black teachers in many of the schools I have visited over the last 15 years and this has been brought up nearly 100% of the time.

Like many black parents, many black teachers are also looking at school websites for statements on diversity, equity, and inclusion. They are looking to see what progress has been made because they do not want to come to your school and instantly be “The diversity guy” or “The black guy.” These are the teachers who have all the troubled black students sent to him, usually is asked to speak to black parents (or at least be in the room for representation purposes), and are often made to feel like they have to “speak for the race” when racial issues arrive. This is an extremely stressful position for black teachers to be in, yet it happens all the time. Startingwith a diversity statement is a great way to start attracting the attention of black teachers, yet I am still amazed by the numbers of school that I visit who still do not have one.

  1. Use social media to recruit teachers

You cannot be at every recruitment fair every day. Many successful black teachers have a very active presence online, particularly through LinkedIn and Twitter, but on all major social media sites. They are not only posting thoughts about their school day, but they are also writing and sharing powerful content that will show you where their values are and demonstrate that they could be a good fit for your school. You can use the hashtag method to find educators that are writing and talking about the areas you are interested in such as #diversityandinclusion, #blackteachers, #blackeducators, etc. You never know. Some of these teachers can be right in your vicinity!

3.5 Treat your current black students as future teachers.

By this statement, I do not mean that you should look at your third-grade black students and start to actively recruit them. That would be…weird. What I amsaying is that many schools treat their black students so poorly that they never want to become teachers when they get older. I have generally met two types of black teachers. There is one group that teaches for the love of teaching. There is another group, however, that teaches for the love of teaching but alsosees their job as an actual mission to show black students that a teaching career is possible. They also want non-black students to see black people in positions of leadership and authority in the education space and go beyond the sports and music stereotypes they may have of black people.

In 2017, NPR reported on a study stating that having just one black teacherin a school can help keep black students stay in school. They report:

Having just one black teacher in third, fourth or fifth grade reduced low-income black boys’ probability of dropping out of high school by 39%…And by high school, African-American students, both boys and girls, who had one African-American teacher had much stronger expectations of going to college. Keep in mind, this effect was observed seven to ten years after the experience of having just one black teacher.

Representation does indeed matter. It is also important to reiterate that seeing black people in positions of authority is also important for non-black students because it can help non-black students grow into adults for whom working with or for black people will not seem foreign to them. It can also counter the stereotypes that some members of non-black groups possess about black people, namely that black people are lazy and not intelligent.

At the end of the day, there is an old saying that you can’t just talk about it. You have to BE about it. You cannot expect black teachers to appear at your school through osmosis. You have to actively pursue them. I have met so many black teachers who do not see private and wealthier schools as an option because there is a perception that these schools are only interested in checking off boxes for diversity. If you honestly believe that your school strongly values diversity and inclusion, these steps will help you in your efforts to do just that in terms of increasing the presence of black teachers in your school. Let’s GO!

 

 

Workplace Issues Under Trump? Here are 3 ways To Handle It!

I have worked with both the Trump and Obama administrations during my career as a diversity & inclusion practitioner, so I have inside experience on how both administrations work. I have been critical of both administrations for different reasons. From corporations to schools, I have also worked with organizations dealing with the challenges the election of the first African American President brought them, which is a discussion for another day. The goal of this article is to provide some steps companies can take during the presidency of Donald Trump to deal with challenges related to diversity.

Whether you love or hate President Trump, we all know that he has been called by some the most divisive president in recent United States history. Whether you agree with that statement or not, one thing that we cannot disagree on is that since 2016, tensions have risen tremendously in the country in the form of an increase in hate crimes, an increase in tensions between non-white communities and law enforcement, and increased tensions in the workplace. More employees are experiencing tension because of what they are experiencing outside of work as well as on the job. Here are three steps companies can take to start to create a more productive work environment in a country that is only going to become more tense as we approach the 2020 election.

Create Free Spaces

There has been much written about the importance of organizations creating safe spaces, but there also needs to be free spaces where your employees can express themselves without being judged or develop a fear of reprisals. There should be a department or at the very least a representative of your company, not affiliated with HR, where employees can express themselves and their concerns about how the climate of the country (or your company) may be affecting their work performance. You can have employees who feel they are being targeted because of their race, religion, gender, or any other identifier that they feel singled out for. From the rich white male in your company to the Muslim middle-class female in your organization, anyone can feel marginalized at any time. They need spaces to speak their mind!

Create A Diversity Statement AND Diversity Trainings NOW Before…

…the crisis hits and a crisis will hit! I have encountered so many employees who have told me that they feel tolerated and not celebrated in their organizations because their jobs do not have a stated commitment to diversity. The idea of the diversity statement can indeed be controversial, but I believe that it is better to have and not need a statement than need and not have a statement. A diversity statement is a promise to everyone who walks through your door that your company is committed to hiring the best talent regardless of their background. In order to honor that promise, companies must engage in regular events and trainings focused on building a culturally competent work force in order to demonstrate that actions do indeed speak louder than words.

Remember That Silence Is Compliance

As I am writing this, the term #silenceiscompliance is trending in regards to frustrations with politicians not speaking up on some of the issues facing America today. Whether it is the situation with the flag and Colin Kaepernick or environmental issues such as the effects of straws in the environment, we now live in a society where consumers want their companies to take a stand, one way or the other. Even the candy company Skittles, had to issue a statement after the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. In this day and age, you do not want your company to be caught off guard by an issue that is quickly going viral. In the last year, Starbucks, Gucci, Macy’s, Home Depot, H&M, Sephora, Burberry, and so many other companies have found themselves the subject of backlash from issues such as racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination. You want to make sure that your company is proactive in the face of controversy because the companies that are reactive tend to suffer the most criticism from the public (and stockholders by the way).

At the end of the day, we live in a society that is on the brink of something beautiful or on the brink of something disastrous. Your company should not wait to respond to issues regarding diversity and inclusion. I have not yet read a study saying that companies that are more diverse and celebrate its diversity are less profitable. Forbes, for example, reports that companies increase their revenue by as much as 19% when they embrace diversity. As the country becomes more diverse and the world becomes smaller, you owe it to your employees and your consumers to continually be ahead of the curve. As Dr. King stated, the time is always right to do right. If your company is strong in one or two of these areas, strengthen yourself in the third area. If your company is shaky in all three, there is no time like the present to fine tune your programs by working with experts in this area. If your company is proficient in all three, do not get comfortable, for as Zig Ziglar said, you can always better your best! Let’s GO!

The Case For Impeachment (Lyrics)

We got a president that wants to be king

A media that obsesses on the pettiest things

A republican party that will do anything

That the President says man, he’s pulling their strings

Well he ain’t pullin mine I’ll say what’s on my mind

While Pelosi seems scared to charge Trump with high crimes

And misdemeanors, while his team ignores subpoenas

Fell in love with North Korea while our country’s getting meaner

A puppet of Putin, on that ain’t no disputin’

Helsinki press conference showed which flag Trump’s salutin’

His treasonous acts give us reason to act

Like the Oval Office meeting with Sergey Kislyak

Or not firing Conway for axing the Hatch Act

Or his support for Neo-Nazis and continued press attacks

And I beg your pardon, gotta talk about pardons

And how sells us all out on the White House Gardens

With his hourly lies more 10,000 times

Or how he sits with then hates on the New York Times

Or how he oversteps the law with legalese

And offers to pay violent supporter’s legal fees

If they attack a demonstrator, but he’s the real hater

And if you work for him and disagree? See ya later

Come on homey, Look at how he did Jim Comey

If that ain’t obstruction congress what’s your function?

And I think Bob Mueller made it pretty clear

About obstruction actions I don’t know what you fear

C’mon man, look at how he did Don McGhan

Or how to get noble prize nod, he calls on japan

If y’all would just give a damn it’s easy to understand

Need to reach Heather’s Heyer ground and save this land

And he’s guilty by association, check the cohort

Flynn, Cohen, Gates, Stone, and Paul Manafort

Stormy days on the horizon, or should I say Stormy Daniels

Americans lookin’ sad dog ears like cocker spaniels

Wasting our tax dollars, the man ain’t frugal

50 trips to Mar-a-Lago, payoffs to McDougal

He supports neo-nazis while so many will not see

His racist tendencies favor white supremacy

Says he’s the President who will bring law & order

But acts lawlessly just look at kids on the border

Trapped in cages, babies to teens of all ages

More dying by the month as this created crisis rages

And in DC can’t forget emolument’s clause

And how he profits from that office man, it’s time to pause

America if you’re listening hope you can find

The 30,000 reasons to impeach this guy

And if we really don’t impeach yo I gotta ask why

We didn’t vote y’all in office to watch the country die

JAY Z Is A Billionaire. What Will Black Boys In YOUR School TODAY Be Tomorrow?

I felt so inspired by what my teacher said,

Said I’d either be dead or be a reefer head

Not sure if that’s how adults should speak ta kids

Especially when the only thing I did was speak in class

JAY Z, So Ambitious (Blueprint 3, 2009)

There are many reasons why I decided to write my doctoral dissertation and forthcoming book on JAY Z (born Shawn Corey Carter). I could speak about him becoming hip-hop’s first billionaire or his marriage to megastar Beyoncé. I could speak about his rags-to-riches story or his incredible, yet silent activism such as bailing out fathers and financially supporting organizations like Black Lives Matter. All of these facts are relevant and worthy of their own chapters and articles but the aforementioned quotation from the song So Ambitious speaks to me as an educator who works with schools on elevating their black males like no other JAY Z line. The lines resonate because I realize that we spend so much time celebrating JAY Z while ignoring or outright ostracizing the JAY Zs in our classrooms today.

At eleven years old, JAY Z was a poor, self-described “half orphan” living in the crime and crack-infested Marcy Projects in Brooklyn. When I interviewed his sixth-grade teacher Renee Rosenblum-Lowden about his three biggest influences at that time, she stated without hesitation: “drugs, drugs, and drugs.” She talked about the pressures hard-working students faced from other children making money as drug dealers. She spoke about having to let some of her students sleep in class because they could not sleep at home with all the gun shots and violence. She spoke about her students walking out of school and seeing dead bodies. Though her classroom was a haven for JAY Z and other students, it is also worth noting that the school itself was so underfunded (like many inner-city schools across the country then and now) that it could only hire a male gym teacher who “supervised” both male and female locker rooms.

What were JAY Z’s life chances? In all reality, this was a boy who should have never reached adulthood but as this article is being written, there are still JAY Zs in classrooms across America who are just as bright and determined but are not being given a chance to reach their fullest potential. It should be noted here that despite JAY Z’s challenges in and outside of the home, he was a child prodigy, demonstrated by the fact that on citywide school exams, he received senior level scores though he was only in the 6thgrade. In other neighborhoods he would have been called a genius, but in 1980s Brooklyn JAY Z dropped out of high school to sell drugs. Did he fail school or did school fail him?

Judging by what is happening with our black boys in schools today across America, school failed JAY Z then just as schools are failing black boys now. Using JAY Z’s lyrics, I will highlight three immediate steps that schools can take to genuinely reach their black male students, and by default, all of their students.

I’m a hustler, accept that

No correctional facility can correct that

NYMP (1999)

These lines remind me of a quotation from Dr. Cornel West, who said that black male rage cannot be destroyed or caged. He said it can only be redirected. Unfortunately, in too many of our schools, the rage that many of our black male students enter schools with or develop while in schools (and of course many black girls too) is redirected towards detention, suspension, and expulsion. It is this redirection that is greatly responsible for what has been called the preschool to prison pipeline. Within schools, however, this is best manifested by black male students being separated from the “general population” by being placed unnecessarily in special education or in-school suspension though what many of them need is the critical thinking skills developed in honors and advanced placement classes. Unfortunately, in many schools, according to Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, about 20% of teachers make 80% of referrals as it relates to discipline and serve as the gatekeepers to who gets to experience advanced courses. Give black male students the same opportunities to excel as all students instead of setting low expectations and not being surprised when they meet them!

Teacher said I was a lost cause ’cause I used to roam the halls

Still I spit knowledge, dropped out of high school, skipped college

Who’d a thought I’d make it BIG like Ms. Wallace?

This Life Forever (1999)

A carryover from the last point, teachers and administrators must set high and honest expectations for black males and verbalize them. I say “honest” because students can always detect fake intentions. I once spoke at a high school where the principal saw a student and smiled in his face and encouraged him to not be late to class. As soon as he turned the corner, the principal said: “You know he is going to make a great prisoner one day.” I believe that student, like so many others, saw through her façade and knew exactly what that principal thought of him. As study after study and educators like Jane Elliott have shown with her brown and blue eye test, students of all backgrounds will rise or sink to the expectations set for them. If you enter your school with low expectations of any student, it may be time to either find the passion for every student that led you to become a teacher or leave the profession.

I went to school, got grades, could behave when I wanted

But I had demons inside that emerged when confronted

Now all my teachers couldn’t reach me and my momma couldn’t beat me

Hard enough to match the pain of my pops not seeing me so

With that disdain in my membrane

Got on my pimp game

F*** the world, my defense came

December 4th (2003)

Whenever I see a mass shooting conducted by a white boy or man, conversations quickly emerge about mental illness oftentimes before the name of the shooter is even known. If the shooter is Muslim, they are automatically labeled a terrorist. If they are black, they are usually labeled a thug. I do not, for example, hear discussions about mental illness in conversations about violence on the streets of Chicago. Do you? Non-white people deserve the same mental health prescription that is assigned to most white male offenders. In order to make sure black male students can reach their apex, schools should survey the services that these students need that could range from mental health services to basic dental care. As Jonathan Kozol talks about in his book Savage Inequalities, a student cannot excel during an exam if he is suffering from a simple toothache. In fact, some children have indeed died in America from a “simple” toothache due to a lack of access to health services. Many of our black male students have those “demons” inside that could be exorcised with the assistance of community and school health services.

There are so many lyrics by JAY Z and other rap artists that provide clues about why our schools are failing black males. Rather than ignoring those signs and praising these rappers as the ones that “made it out the ’hood”, we need to do a deeper dive to better understand their stories because theirs are the stories of our students in our classrooms today. The next JAY Z is in your classroom right now or at the very least in your school. He may have aspirations to be a rapper, teacher, sanitation worker, lawyer, or president. Whatever it is, we need to do the work needed to help him reach his greatness. Our black male students should not feel the need to leave school in order to reach their greatness. If we listen to JAY Z beyond the surface level, we will indeed see that he has provided us the Blueprint (pun intended) to do just that.

Is Leadership In YOU? (a poem)

The chosen few are the few who chose

To step up and open doors tightly closed

So you call yourself a leader, but what does that mean?

Getting green, turning green, badly running your team?

Sadly killing the dreams of a hopeful teen?

Madly willing your ideas, not even listening?

Does it mean you celebrate on election day

Because you can add your new position to your resume?

Can you handle criticism when your peers dis’ you?

Because you don’t care about theirs but only your issue?

Pass the tissue, makes me sad how some leaders let

Power get to their head, constituents they forget

You’re just a leader in name if you’re just searching for fame

For acclaim, it’s a shame why some get in the game

Leadership ain’t for the lame, don’t take it in vain

Time to rethink your position, understand why you came

You see a leader’s someone who listens firsts then speaks

Someone focused on being the change we seek

Leaders understand they represent all people

Don’t do that your leadership will never have a sequel

Do you seek to understand before being understood?

Do you take time to visit other neighborhoods?

We need real leaders to step up to the plate

To take a swing at racism other types of hate

To stomp out bullying, help end genocide

Do your best to help others hold their heads with pride

A leader builds a team, can’t do it all by yourself

And a leader remembers to practice good health

Because you’re no good to others if you’re no good to you

So let me ask you again, is leadership in you?

Navigating The Path To Great Student Leadership

“Leadership ain’t for the lame, don’t take it in vain

Time to rethink your position, understand why you came.”

These are two lines from a poem on leadership that I often recite when I speak around the world to student leaders. I share this line to underscore two points. The first point is that leadership is not for everyone. Though everyone can be a leader, leadership is a calling that few people answer and therefore, it should never be taken in vain. The second point is that leaders must always rethink why they chose to be a leader, and whether they still have the capacity or even the desire to lead. In today’s political climate, these two points are more important than ever for student leaders.

Whether one is a supporter or opponent of President Donald Trump, no one can argue that his presidency has not only shaken up our system of government, but has also had an impact in every aspect of our society, especially in schools. Some students feel that they have a leader in office who can speak for them in ways that President Obama did or could not. Others believe that President Trump’s rhetoric makes them less safe in school, evidence by instances of middle school students walking into their cafeteria to fellow students chanting “Build a wall” and others being told that they are going to be sent back to their country, even though they may have been born here. The bottom line is that there is a level of divisiveness taking place in our schools that require our student leaders to “rethink” their position in order to evaluate if they are built for the task of leadership today.

When I speak to student leaders, I challenge them to jump head first into whatever challenges their schools are facing. The example of America’s political climate is on the more extreme side of challenges students may face in school, but there are a multitude of other challenges that student leaders face in school. There are issues from cafeteria food and infrastructure to the curriculum and school climate. Regardless of the issues, there are four simple steps that I share with student leaders that can help them better navigate these issues. The four principles stem from my book G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! 10 Steps To Living Your Best Life. The steps are Give, Release, Overcome, and Win.

GIVE

                  Student leaders must do a review of the quality and quantity of their giving. Dr. Wayne Dyer said that the more we give to the universe, the more it gives to us. Conversely, the more we take from the universe, the more it takes from us. Student leaders cannot be self-absorbed and only concerned with the title of leadership as a résumé builder for their college applications. Their elected position means that they must always remember that they represent their constituents, even those who did not vote for them. To that end, student leaders must be giving of their attention to students in their schools. They need to be able to do more listening than talking to really understand what is transpiring in their schools and they must be willing to be giving of the time requisite to lead their school towards effective change. I remind them as Les Brown said that we have two ears and one mouth and we should use them in proportion.

RELEASE

                  Student leaders must learn to let “it” go and let “them” go. By “it” I mean they need to let go of any hatred or even simple bias they may have towards certain groups. I study leadership across the globe from corporate CEOs to country presidents. I have seen situations where someone becomes a CEO and actively works to undermine particular departments they simply do not like. I have seen situations where someone becomes president of a country and exacts revenge on the ethnic group they viewed as their oppressors. I encourage student leaders to practice forgiveness and inclusivity, similar to former South African President Nelson Mandela who, upon his release from 27 years in prison, went to visit the home of his former prison guards to express forgiveness.

Once students forgive or let “it” go, they can work towards letting “them” go. Student leaders must let go of people around them who no longer represent where they want to go as a leader. I cite actor Will Smith when I tell leaders that they are a direct reflection of their five closest friends. If their friends are racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, islamophobic, sexist or anything else, chances are the leaders are as well. Student leaders must associate themselves with people who represent not where they are, but where they want to go. Furthermore, student leaders must understand that with the advent of social media, they need to be even more careful with their “friends” because they will be associated with posts from their friends and it could affect their academic and professional careers, most recently evidenced by the students who had their admission from Harvard revoked after their racist social media posts were discovered.

OVERCOME

                  Student leaders must overcome their fears. Leadership can be a daunting task, but it is a task worth pursuing if they are truly interested in serving their communities. I cite Zig Ziglar who said that fear simply means False Evidence Appearing Real. This means that most of the issues they worry about will not happen so they must work daily towards their goals. Student leaders must be guided by their goals and their vision and not by their fears. One cannot govern effectively if they are governed by fear. Fear keeps leaders from thinking clearly. It keeps them often from even attempting to start a program because they fear what people will think. As Dr. King said: “cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right?” Student leaders must acknowledge the fear they may feel but focus more on what is right.

WIN

                  Student leaders must believe they will win if they do not give in. In this age of instant gratification, student leaders must practice patience. They must realize that some of the changes they seek in their school may not occur during their tenure as a student leader. They must think like some Native American communities who believe that they should think of how their actions will affect people seven generations from now. Depending on the schools they are in, at one point their school may have allowed no women or people of color but people fought for the right to attend those schools even though those fighters for equality never did. Students must believe that they will eventually win. Change does not happen overnight and student leaders must not be seduced by the sitcom nature of society where they see problems resolved in a thirty minute show with commercial breaks.

GROW!

                  At the end of the day, if students look at how they give, release, overcome, and win, they can become effective leaders for their school community. If they use these four steps to “rethink” their position, they will better understand the serious job they have undertaken as leaders in their school. As advisers, you can be the ones that can help them along with this process. Your experiences as educators and leaders in your own environments can greatly aid students in their development. Whether it is the National Honor Society or Student Council or any other form of leadership, we need to make sure that students understand the great responsibility of the leadership roles they have undertaken. I fully believe that with your guidance, our student leaders of today can continue on their path to the greatness that we know is inside of them. I wish you the best as you walk this path with them!

Donald Trump Is Losing, But We’re Not Winning…Yet

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-is-losing-but-were-not-winningyet_us_59ca9a9ae4b0e02ffdb77f37