I walk into the workshop…the conference…the meeting…the event…the opportunity. My eyes involuntarily dart around the room. I realize immediately what I am looking for. I am looking for other people of color in the room.
Then the sad realization hits me that I am the only or one of a few in the room. This situation has happened in my life time and time again. With no control over changing that fact, I became resigned to it. I would take a seat at the table (the opportunity) and learn from others who were supposed to be there. At times, I would feel like “the other.” Even if I knew without a doubt I got there because of my hard work, I would still question whether I was there because I checked a box as a person of color or because of my worth. I would also question who else was questioning my worthiness as well. However, this has changed after attending the Our Voice Academy (OVA).
When I was first invited to OVA, I had my reservations. A program to help people of color become keynote speakers? Even though I knew the company who sponsored the event was worthy (thanks so much EdTechTeam) and the people running it were legit (I mean how can you beat Jennie Magiera, Dee Lanier, Monica Martinez and Sarah Thomas), I was still hesitant. Any time I hear of programs for people of color, I have to question the reasoning behind the program. Is it a program to close any gaps in opportunity or is it a program because we, as people of color, need help to be comparable to those not of color? I decided to take a leap of faith and attend.
I am thrilled that I did. This was a life-changing, empowering event. To be in a safe space with people of different races, genders, and nationalities, but all people of color who have experienced some of the same situations was transformative. One situation we had in common was seeing the same people presenting and keynoting at conferences over and over again and wondering how we could get a seat at that table. I went to the event with the hope that this event would either open a seat at the table or at least teach me how I could ask for a seat! However, this event taught me so much more!
I learned that I had to change my mindset about that special seat at the special table. Of course, I still want to be humble and thankful, but understand that I deserve a seat at the table and that whoever owns the table is lucky to have me sit there. I should be grateful for the opportunity while also understanding that my talent and what I can offer teachers is the reason I am there. I also learned that we can create tables of our own as well! That is where having a strong professional learning network (PLN) plays a part. I am so inspired and motivated to work together with my PLN to create opportunities for us and others! Working together is the key because I feed off of the positivity, brilliance, and innovation of the others in this group (I am honored and lucky to have met them). Being able to let my guard down and just learn from others to better myself was and is invigorating. Besides this, learning some of the technical aspects of keynoting was well worth it as well. I learned what makes a great keynote, how graphic design can relay my message, how I can use physical movement to make my point, how to stay authentic to myself and my message, and how to brand myself and get my message out there to the world.
Seeing myself and others change and grow over the span of the 4 days of the Our Voice Academy was unbelievable. I will never forget this experience because it has changed me to my core. The amazing keynoters who attended OVA have become part of my family. I think I can speak for all of us when I say as we go back to our everyday lives, we are inspired to turn tables so our voices can be heard. We are here, we are ready, and we will be heard.
Educator Alexander Consulting
Regional Director of North Louisiana
Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL)
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