Edit: the title of this post was changed from “why i left #Educolor” to just #educolor because we’re all brothers and sisters and we’re all growing and learning together. It’s all love.
I am writing this post in solidarity with my friend Melinda D. Anderson, who announced her resignation from Educolor this week. I am also writing it, because many loyal Educolor followers and members have questions about my own resignation now accompanied by Melinda’s.
I resigned from EduColor back in March of this year, and I want to share my story as to why I left.
I joined #EduColor in 2014 a year after I started to grow my own professional learning network in the digital space. EduColor was a space for me to speak up on issues that directly impact myself, and many other marginalized groups whose voices are seldom heard.
When Mustefa and I set out to visit Jose, EduColor’s founder in NY, it was our very first time visiting the US. We have purposefully avoided visiting after 9/11, because we were afraid for our own safety. We also never visited the US because it was too much for us mentally to visit a country that has invaded and historically destroyed our own.
And so when I met the founder and learned about EduColor, I truly believed in its mission. I believed that this organization, and more importantly, group of individuals, know what it feels like to be an outsider. They know what it feels like to be pushed out of the system, and they know what it feels like to have their voices silenced by those in power.
When I visited NY, I was inspired to work with the founder and EduColor members to build this organization, which is completely volunteer run, and make it into a safe space for educators and communities of colour to use our voices and make a difference. And I worked hard to contribute with you all in creating this space for us, and I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished together for EduColor and its community.
Over the past few months I’ve had to deal with issues that personally impact me, a board member of steering committee and active leader and voice in our community. These are issues that don’t have borders, and actively threaten my safety as a person. My experience of visiting conferences last year in the US was only possible through the solidarity of Educolor and the safety that it created for our community.
This year, Educon happened the same weekend as the Muslim Ban was issued. And the response to the Muslim ban by Educon attendees, presenters, and organizers was disappointing to say the least. A conference that is known to have a huge Educolor turnout, which I was also supposed to present two social justice sessions at, lightly brushed over protests and an executive order that banned people based on their race and religion. I am lucky I made the decision not to attend Educon after the election results.
Melinda Anderson, a then fellow EduColor steering committee member, and a writer on race and equity, challenged Educon attendees on Twitter. She then sent out an email to advisory committee challenging them on the lack of response, or rather silence re: muslim ban.
Her email was reverberated in silence. As were my emails that push for a public and transparent conversation and discussion by the EduColor steering committee, which were also met by silence. I’ve been lucky to have support from some within the EduColor community as well as organizations that support the safety of Muslims and People of Color throughout the United States. Proactive support and engagement has come from Denver, and it’s come from Orlando, and Virginia. But it hasn’t come from my home, EduColor. It hasn’t been met with the principles of empathy and love, understanding and solidarity.
Educolor also started a conference initiative, without a conversation, or a discussion with myself within the context of the Muslim ban makes me, as an Iraqi visible Muslim woman, no longer feel that EduColor is a safe space for me, or one inclusive of my voice.
When I echoed Melinda’s challenge and concerns, I was also met by silence. When Educolor founder was looking to “elect” more members to advisory, and through a democratic process, 3 of us said this is not the right time, as we have our own processes and issues that we need to reflect and work on before adding new members. I also voiced my concerns again that EduColor has been participating in “selective solidarity” where they unconsciously pick and choose which issues they stand up for.
The role of a steering committee is to openly meet and discuss our growth and changes. I got a private apology from the founder, but an apology doesn’t erase what’s been done.
My concerns were not only dismissed, but were silenced.
As leaders, we need to be able to own our mistakes, be transparent, and more importantly, empathize. This work, is not about being twitter famous, it’s not about holding a sign and protesting. It is not about writing the best blog, it is truly about being connected on a human level and being there for each other. We should not have to prove our humanity to anyone.
This organization now has done exactly what the system does to our own people, it pushes them out through systemic bureaucracy that separates, marginalizes, and silences.
We have a lot of work to do
As a result, I stepped down several weeks ago from my role on steering committee because the committee has shown neither transparency, nor integrity, and the most important of it all, true solidarity.
I am reminded of this quote by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s letter from Birmingham jail about not being able to cure a problem without exposing it “Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
Educolor wouldn’t exist without its people. We rep it and its mission harder than anything because we walk this life everyday as people of colour. And our struggles, our hardships, our pain, no one hears it or understands it all but each other.
I sincerely wish the organization, and its people the best, because as my friend Melinda said “The mission is pure”.
In the spirit of love, solidarity, and justice.