Timing is so amazing, great, and sometimes weird. Recently in a Voxer group, members were discussing when and how people of color should speak out and when we should be “cautiously quiet” in edtech or educational spaces. As a weird coincidence, at almost the same time this discussion was taking place, I was completely blessed by the opportunity to meet and hear Mrs. Ruby Bridges speak. It was an amazing crossroads of conversation and opportunity that really hit me more emotionally than I thought it would.
Hearing Mrs. Bridges (Hall is her married name) speak was both deeply emotional and thought-provoking. The experience was made even more memorable because I had the chance to share it with both my mom and my daughter. It was an honor for my daughter, mom and me to hear first hand the emotions, feelings, and experience of a civil rights icon. It was so powerful and surreal. It was moving to hear Mrs. Hall vividly recount her first day as a first grader as she made these powerful statements:
- She was placed in a class by herself with one teacher. She only knew other students were in the building because she heard their voices every day through the wall in the closet where she hung her coat. Not until her teacher threatened school officials was she allowed to see and interact with the other students in the building.
- Her entire neighborhood walked alongside and behind the car the entire trip, she, her mom, and the US Marshals rode to school that first morning.
- She was one of six other children of color who passed a biased and rigged test that determined who would be allowed to integrate all-white schools in New Orleans.
- Both of her parents were sharecroppers, neither of them made it past 9th grade. Her mom convinced her dad to allow Ruby to integrate William Frantz Elementary School.
To be able to hear about a six-year-old girl and her parents who made the decision to not be cautiously quiet is almost indescribable. This unapologetically bold decision has forever changed the face of education in this country. Equally amazing is the confidence and strength portrayed in images of Mrs. Hall’s first day. Her visible confidence, unwavering determination, and boldness are so inspiring. As a woman of color, it is these same characteristics I wish to instill in my daughter as well as bring to my job every day. Sitting back and being cautiously quiet is not where change is made or things are fixed. Being cautiously quiet is almost as dangerous as silence. It shows you accept status quo. Be bold and purposeful with your actions and words.
Is there some danger in speaking out? Absolutely. Is there a chance you are labeled or ostracized for standing against something? Definitely. I realize there are inherent risks involved in advocating for students of color, speaking against inequities, and asking for less bias and privilege in the world of education or educational technology. However, the thing I’ve realized is all great leaders presently or who’ve come before me have been bold and purposeful with their words and actions. These great leaders are not cautious or quiet, have boldly done the work, and in some cases, are relentlessly continuing to do more. Those who are unapologetically bold in education, demonstrate their unwavering determination and are “about that life” as my friend Jose says. The risk of being unapologetically bold for what is right is worth the reward. It is my duty to use my abilities, talents, and voice to continue to raise questions and bring light to inequities that marginalized individuals face in education. If I don’t, I nullify what an unapologetically bold, beautiful brown girl did in New Orleans in 1960. Being unapologetically bold is authentically who I am and what desire to cultivate in my daughter. I don’t know how to be any other way.