Friday, January 31, 2014

Witness to History: Everyday Revolutions and the Struggle for Justice @FairfieldU 2014 @YohuruWilliams

The legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. continues to provide a vision for educators in the 21st Century. 
Dr. Yohuru Williams, Vision Award
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” ~ MLK, Jr.
Since arriving to Fairfield University in 2011, I’ve sought academic mentors who are willing to model community activism - the men and women 'for others'  who pay attention to the world around them and who empower young people and their teachers through helping them to find a voice in the American landscape. For these reasons, I quickly learned of Dr. Yohuru Williams, his historical wisdom, and the willingness he has to speak-out on issues that matter, especially for those living in marginalized  communities across Connecticut.

For many of us who work with local schools, the extreme achievement gaps existing in Connecticut are the civil rights movement of our time. While standards grow tougher on students and teachers, the resources that are available to them are diminishing. Dr. Yohuru Williams, however, is not afraid to confront these challenges. In fact, he faces institutional disparities head on and motivates students and colleagues to take action. He has written against the top-down, market-driven school reform. He's argued for larger conversations about Connecticut's minimum wage and asked his readers to look deeper at the constructs that cause poverty, rather than making short-sighted solutions to pacify guilt. In everything he does, Yohuru Williams interrogates the socio-cultural and historical foundations that have led to the inequities across the nation. Further, he asks policy makers and politicians to invest more in the public good. His promotion of National Dialogue on Race Day hosted in September, for example, invited students, parents, and educators to Fairfield University to discuss America's racial disparities. As a teacher in attendance that night remarked, “Dr. Williams not only improved my talents as a classroom educator, his wisdom change my life forever.” 

For these reasons, I view Dr. Yohuru Williams as a leader, a sage, and a mentor. I also feel extremely fortunate to have him as a colleague. Last night, Dr. Williams received Fairfield University's Faculty Vision Award at the MLK Convocation - a long overdue recognition of the phenomenal contributions he makes each and every day.

Coach Johnson and Wil Haygood
I felt lucky, too, as Sonya Huber and I were asked to present awards to the CWP-Fairfield/Connecticut Post MLK Essay winners. As a result, I was able to snap a photo of my friend, Coach Sydney Johnson, and journalist, Wil Haygood, author of The Butler

The power of last night will be with me for some time.

For now, however, I must be short. I'm heading to lead a 4-hour workshop with 90 middle schools in the Oak Room (if you're on campus, stop by). 

I leave this morning post, though, with one line that struck me. While Wil Haygood spoke, he reflected on the decades that Eugene Allen served in the White House as a butler,
 "Everyday his presence in the White House was a revolution."
And with that, I'm inspired to lead the second Writing Our Lives conference: We Are Upward Bound! and assist the Poetry for Peace ceremony this evening as the week's events come to a close.

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