Changing the Climate on Climate Change (a poem)

Our house is on fire

From this climate quagmire

Yes our house is on fire but more and more of us are inspired

And we’ll keep reaching higher until some of these bank CEOs are fired

We have less than 11 years but we will have no fear

Because we understand that the science couldn’t be more clear

And these banks are not as innocent as they seem to appear

As they defund climate change

We won’t shun moral outrage

You see we’ve done the work, we’ve followed the money

Financial companies putting Mother Earth on one knee

From Bank of America to Chase JP Morgan

These toxic investments are killing her organs

From the lowest to the highest funder of fossil fuel expansion

We will Chase through all types of distraction from taking real action

To understand this climate emergency

They must emerge and see that whether we’re talking tar sands in far lands

Or oil pipelines on indigenous sands

We can’t have a Dakota pipeline if it cuts off our lifelines

And for those who say it’s wrong to protest we say it’s the right time!

Because too many are silent which is being compliant

To continue to put people over profit?

It’s high time to stop it

We will stay on mission to cut these emissions

For every billion for fossil fuel expansion moving us closer to defeat

We’ll hit the streets with a billion voices and a billion feet

Until these companies confess that it’s best to divest

Every day we must put their commitments to the test

And we don’t care if we risk our careers or risk an arrest

Because if we don’t act now they’ll be nothing left

Because it’s not a loss to stop profiting from climate chaos

Put people and planet over profit and you’ll never have a financial loss

Because financial fossil fuel profits simply do not fit

A clean earth CEOs, don’t you want your grandkids to enjoy it?

Instead of having more and more fear let’s get more and more clear

Because we can take control and force companies to stop investing in coal

For our world’s peace of mind

We the undersigned are telling you that clean energy transformation leaves no one behind.

We’ve cried hundreds of tears

And our indigenous sisters and brothers have been saying this for hundreds of years

But today we stand arms locked with Standing Rock

And all these megabanks we’re demanding you stop

These banks that we’ve trusted with our life savings are destroying our lives

But we will make them ALL switch sides

Because a cleaner planet is the prize!

 

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!

 

 

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

TV Show Arrow Has Every Right To Discuss #BlackLivesMatter

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/tv-show-arrow-has-every-right-to-discuss-blacklivesmatter_us_59babf92e4b02c642e4a14a7

Trump: The Racist President WE Made In America

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-the-racist-president-made-in-america_us_59960b5de4b033e0fbdec27a

4:44 – The Album JAY-Z Always Wanted To Make…But We Wouldn’t Let Him

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/444-the-album-jay-z-always-wanted-to-makebut_us_595e6066e4b08f5c97d067b3

I’m a Preexisting Condition (a poem)

I’m a preexisting condition because I was born
I breathed
I sneezed
I wheezed
I coughed
I delivered
I was born
I loved
I worshipped
I immigrated
I crawled
I walked
I marched
I talked
I yelled
I resisted
I persisted
I served
I taught
I sought
I said my life matters
I said my zip code shouldn’t
I said my education shouldn’t be separate and unequal
I bled along side my oppressed people
I’ve been told that poverty is expensive
I’ve been sold on the false directive of equality
I’ve been told inequality shouldn’t bother me
I see daily the rich getting richer
I was born into a world that doesn’t want me
I was torn by a past that continues to haunt me
I was ensured my country would cover this
I know no insurance policy that can cover this
I’m still waiting for this country to be as good as its promise
I just hope my preexisting condition won’t kill me in the process

Is It Time to Revive Critical Thinking in America?

This article appears in The Huffington Post, where I am a contributor: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/is-it-time-to-revive-critical-thinking-in-america_us_58e6c72ce4b0d6001f07f330