Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

"Hey All You White People..." Women's March St. Louis 2018

Last January, I trekked to DC on a bus with one of my daughters and with 100+ other women from my community. We all bonded. We shared stories of #Laughter and #Love and #Truths and #MeToo and so much more. And I learned so much. I postedMy daughter posted. And we all vowed to stand in solidarity. To do our part. Because #Times Up. #NoMore.

This year, I marched in St. Louis. And I learned so much more. In listening to some extraordinary women of color speak and perform, to hear them share their truth, I was moved and awed and touched. Not only are they in it, I was reminded just how deeply they've BEEN IN IT. For a very long time.

And then a white woman took the stage. Reverend Ranita Lamkin. A preacher from Cape Girardeau's St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church

And she let us white people have it. Appropriately so.

"I'm gonna talk to the white people for a minute, if that's okay." She paused. And then she let out a penetrating laugh. It was part witch, part hyena, and part big sister. You know, the big sister that you simply can't lie to? Hide from? She's gonna use it as leverage. And you never win. That kind of laugh. (Of course this is not a transcript, but it's close.)

"Hey all you white people taking selfies with Black people just so you can post it on Facebook to show you were a part of something. You're not allowed to do that. You can't do that! That's not right. Shame on you. Stop it."

"Hey all you white people. Going to church and hoping and marching and praying? Thhpptpt" She let out raspberry sounds. A few times. "That ain't enough! Prayin' ain't gonna change policy. Open doors. Prevent injury. Provide food, clothing, shelter, health care. Prayin' ain't enough."

"Hey all you white people. I know. There are laws. And you like to follow the rules. But when the rules are wrong, when people are struggling, when people are dying, you can't keep wondering about when the rules are gonna change. CHANGE THEM! Stop following the rules and push back on the rules. Make things right."

"Hey all you white people. If you're not out here when the confrontations surface, when the tear gas erupts...if you're not out here to protest police brutality arm in arm with all your brothers and sisters, to feel the pain of mace in your face as you protect our youth, then your presence here today is vanity." And she smiled at the women of color, the other speakers, sitting around her. And looked back at us, as if to say, "These women have been doing this for a very long time. For generations. Where have you been? What are you doing? Besides marching?"

"Hey all you white people, if this march is all you're doing, that's being a sloppy human being. Use your position, your skin color, your privilege to make things right. Stop being a sloppy human being."

The overall message of the morning was positive. We are better together. We are effective united. We must #speakourtruth. And we women must also adopt an unapologetic attitude. #NoMore.

This moment spoke to me. My honest reflection on what I've done with my time during the past year is ongoing. As for the upcoming months, my presence will be more than last year's and deeper than the intellectual space I find comfortable. 

March. Act. Vote. #WomensMarch2018

PS It wasn't lost on me that the one year anniversary of the first march also corresponded to a government shut down. And who the greatest victims of that shutdown will be. We have MUCH work to do.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Great American Eclipse, 2017...

...What's My Take?
Here's what I'm sharing with my department. Wanted to share with you, too. Would love to hear about your experience, as well.

I must admit, I was way more excited than I thought I'd be. Being outside the band of totality, I was surprisingly moved. When I finally let go of all the anticipation and allowed myself to absorb the experience, I couldn't help but dance and stare and hug and sing...and wonder...

After a while, serenity set in and my amazement amplified. A calculated shadow gently blanketed our country, one location at a time, carefree and careless of the ongoings of our sometimes empathetic and sometimes shameful behavior, highlighting the magnificence and beauty of the universe. And I was part of it. I was in that shadow. There's a reason why this celestial event is referenced repeatedly over the centuries in history, in science, in literature, in the arts. I believe insightful authors and artists knew that future generations would experience the same event, but with new context. There's faith, even desperation in that wisdom. What do you hope will be cradled in the next eclipse's shadow? And how will you contribute to that vision?

In a way, this is what we've chosen to do for a living. We hope that our students will be able to navigate their life experiences with a deeper understanding of their surroundings. And of themselves. And contribute to their world in a way that makes it better than the way they found it. We use our classrooms as an opportunity to practice and investigate those possibilities. That may seem far-fetched, exaggerated, but I truly believe each teacher does that, in big and small ways, every day. For that, I'm grateful, and in awe. The Great American Eclipse 2017 is committed to my memory, and hopefully yours. Here's hoping the next shadow captures a greater version of ourselves—individually and societally—than who we modeled this time around.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh Such Incredible Women!

This post will not be lengthy, much to your relief. This is because I haven't yet determined how best to share the impactful movie theater experiences I've had over the last two weeks.

Suffice it to say, I highly recommend Lion, Hidden Figures, and I Am Not Your Negro. These are "must see" shows.

There is a great deal to learn from these movies. They are potentially life changing. And what I found potent were the two inescapable themes:

1. Women are spectacularly strong.
2. A sense of belonging shapes our identity, and vice versa.

There is a universal need to feel accepted, to have family, to know your history and how that shapes your current sense of belonging. Understanding the connection of where you came from gives you the courage and wherewithal to pursue the trajectory of where you're meant to go. And these four women—Brierly's Moms, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Counts—in the midst of heartache and adversity, exemplified living in a manner indicative of pure love, unfettered determination, and inexplicable beauty all stemming from the foundation of believing in what their life's journey was meant to be. 

Like so many other women I look up to, I found these stories inspiring. It's a gift that there are these real life examples being shared in the theater for our young women to see. And it's about time. #StillShePersisted

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why My Daughter Marched...A Guest Post

The following was written by my youngest daughter. She gave me permission to publish her work as a guest post. I'm certain her words resonate with so many of us, and I couldn't pass up this opportunity. So thank you, Kira. Well done. I'm so very proud of you.

"Why I Marched" ~By Kira Bolos
In this photo my mom and I climbed up a fountain and were looking out at hundreds of thousands of marchers; the crowd extended literally as far as the eye could see. It was impossible not to get choked up, to not be moved by that sight. Everyone was kind, everyone was full of love, and everyone was fighting to protect one another. It was the largest sign of unity I have ever seen and likely will ever see, and the most beautiful part was that this is just the beginning of a fight we will not lose. This incredible experience and all the amazing women I met this weekend inspired me to share #WhyIMarch.
As a college student, I see and experience what happens to the women on my campus. We go to these parties and we keep one eye out for those men staring at us. We keep our drinks in our hands at all times because putting it down means we are a target. We go to bars where men touch our backs and grab our hips, and we don’t get a choice. We walk five minutes off campus and are cat called if we are alone. We walk home at night clutching our pepper spray, the whole time the “1 in 5” statistic ringing in our ears, permanently burned in our brains. It is not something we can escape. And maybe more terrifying than all of this, these instances where we are most uncomfortable are not even when we are most vulnerable. We are most vulnerable around the men we know and even trust. These women are scared, I am scared. And I am so tired of holding my breath and making myself small when an unknown man approaches me. Of having a slight alarm in my head whenever I start to have a close relationship with a male, because this is who I am taught to be afraid of. Most of all, I am tired of feeling LUCKY that I have not been assaulted—because it is absolutely unacceptable that this isn’t the norm.
This is why I march. But that is not all; the reasons are infinite. I not only march for my fellow college women, but for women of every shape, size, and color. I march for women all over the country who have the same statistic ringing in their ears. I march for the victims of domestic violence (which 1 in 4 women will experience in their lifetime). For the young girls who do not know they are allowed to say no, for the ones who were told not to be raped when no one told their attackers not to rape them. I march for 12-year-old me who was cat called for the first time. I march for the women who were born biologically a male and are now trying to find their place among our community. I march for the women of the LGBTQIA+ community. I march for the black women who are the most educated group in the country but yet are still among the most underrepresented, undervalued, and underpaid. I march for all the little girls across the world who do not have access to education. For women in other countries who are even worse off and unfathomably oppressed. I march for my incredible and passionate female friends and family members who are too beautiful and strong to put into words; for the dreamers, the fighters, the women who are unstoppable in a world trying to prevent us from soaring. I march because the patriarchy hurts us all. Because women’s rights are human rights. Because we will only be free when we are equal. We are the ones who will make America great. Girls, stay nasty ;)