I’m Thankful for the Activists Who Are Knocking Down Doors and Taking Their Seats at the Table

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Music Maker 2020 80s Edition

Oncogene

Picture this—it’s Thanksgiving, the whole family’s waiting to eat but as usual, dinner is delayed and hangriness is a whole ass mood—but no one can show it because jubilance and harmony are the only acceptable vibes for the day. 

Just as they’re about to sit down and get to grubbin’, in walks that one cousin that insists on bringing extra guests—friends, long lost family members, maybe even a few of their romantic entanglements—without giving the host a heads up. Now everything is thrown off because there isn’t enough room at the table and the potluck was only supposed to serve a certain amount of people. 

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But, that cousin doesn’t care because they’re known for being disruptive and not following the rules and proceeds with introducing their guests. So here’s who’s crashing dinner!


Jason B. Allen and Tyson Amir

Jason B. Allen and Tyson Amir are two revolutionary Black men who fight to educate and empower Black students. 



Jason hails from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s part of a dope ass trio of activists who host a Facebook live show aiming to liberate Black minds through education called “Talk Dat Real Sh*t”. He’s also a blogger for EdLanta and has been an educator for 15 years, strong.

Tyson is reppin’ the Bay Area in Cali and does it all—rapper, poet, emcee, educator, activist and author of Black Boy Poems. Altogether, he’s a freedom fighter whose long-game is to eradicate the white colonial style education that has excluded the contributions, history and overall brilliance of Black people.

Both Jason and Tyson are working to push the absolute necessity and representation of student voice in decision-making in education and the incorporation of culturally relevant curricula in the public education system.  

Garris Stroud and Zach Wright

Garris and Zach are the radical educators that challenge the traditions of injustice and bias in public education.

As a middle school teacher in Kentucky, Garris advocates against inequities facing students in rural areas, specifically those around teacher diversity. His push for #InternetForAll and to strengthen pipelines for teachers of color has made him a trusted voice on various task forces and committees throughout the state to help carry these initiatives forward.

Similarly, Zach challenges the status quo by having difficult conversations about racism, teacher bias and discipline disparities. Having taught at the high school and college levels, he’s familiar with how an inadequate K-12 education can impact success outcomes in higher education, specifically for marginalized communities. 

That’s why he’s held no punches in his fight for #InternetForAll in the pandemic because he’s not with our kids’ access to education being denied in any way, shape or form.

Khulia Pringle, Chioma Oruh, Natasha Dunn and Joy Elan 

Khulia, Chioma, Natasha and Joy are the Black women and parents that “eff ish up” in their relentless and unapologetic advocacy for the quality of education for Black kids. Here’s how:

Khulia is going to get the school boards in the Twin Cities of Minnesota in line by any means necessary. Back in October, she and a few more activists led a protest calling for a boycott of the entire school district. That work definitely isn’t over.

In Chicago, Natasha put pressure on leaders at Chicago Public Schools to address the opportunity gaps the Black students are drowning in. That led to the creation of Black Student Achievement Task Force that’s now working with the district’s equity office to finally build a bridge over troubled waters.

In D.C., Chioma put Mayor Muriel Bowser on blast for not including the voices of special needs parents in school reopening plans. After circulating a petition to garner support for a parent advisory body, she hit em with a protest—and y’all better believe she’s not stopping there.

And Joy, who’s out in Oakland, she’s reinforcing the need to support students with special needs through her Facebook live show with Zach and Chioma called, “What’s The Big I.D.E.A.?”

Maurice Cook and Dirk Tillotson

When rapper Lil Wayne said, “Real G’s move in silence like lasagna”, he was talking about Maurice Cook—Executive Director of the nonprofit Serve Your City—and Dirk Tillotson—Executive Director of Great School Voices and part of The State of Black Education Oakland.

While they both predominantly work behind the scenes and are hella connected with relationships all over their city, when they do pop out on the front lines the impact is huge. 

During the pandemic, Maurice’s organization raised over $150k to provide Black students with laptops and hot spots to help close the digital divide gap in our nation’s capital.

And just recently, Dirk helped move conversations forward for Oakland Unified School District to transform their unused property into transitional housing for homeless youth. 

Now if you haven’t caught on yet, all of these table crashers are education activists and I’m the disruptive cousin. These dope ass people are mi familia in the brightbeam network.

This cute little, metaphorical picture I’ve painted is really a snapshot of how we’re moving to reimagine education for students of color and disrupt this system that upholds oppression and stifles quality.

So hey, we don’t care if we’re not invited to the table—we’re knocking down doors and taking our seats. And the proverbial family I reference above—who are the gatekeepers to the traditional public education system—can claim to not have enough to feed our kids but, like it or not, they better be ready to pass and share their plates because we’re starving for justice, equity and liberation.

So happy Thanksgiving, y’all—feel free to crash some tables with us!


Journal of Human Hypertension

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