I signed up for Kevin Kumashiro’s Leading for Social Justice workshop, because a colleague told me about it. I had these imaginings that several of us in my college’s school of education would go, especially many of my POC colleagues, many of whom are program directors among other leadership roles. I thought that we would learn together, develop a model for our context together, and such. Turns out only one of my colleagues was able to go. Still, incredibly rewarding.
I think part of my desire to be surrounded by work-kin was to know that I would be comfortable.
I often attend workshops as a writer and teacher educator. I always want to grow and learn, expanding on my strengths and working on my areas of growth. As a teacher, I took professional development seriously, continuously working on my craft, and that has persisted. I am a lifelong learner.
It’s not without a cost, though. Oftentimes, I go into spaces as the only POC or WOC. In addition to the challenge of facing microaggression after microggression and having to often educate colleagues about white supremacy, patriarchy, or general problematic biases (for my own well-being and safety and that of others), I also have health issues. I’m allergic to just about all life, I like to joke, though it’s not a joke. I have a few extreme food and contact allergies. I’m also allergic to about 50+ things in the environment. The most extreme things for me are peanuts, hazelnuts, and latex. All cause me to break out in hives. Peanuts and hazelnuts have effects on my gastrointestinal system and my ability to breathe. I freak out when I realize that someone has these two things in the same room as me; I immediately have to leave.
I’ve been to conferences where my peers have tried to kill me despite me telling them over and over again my allergies. I’ve had a colleague and students bring peanuts to class and literally have to wipe down the tables and knobs and wash all hands before I could come back to the class. I’ve had welts appear on my hand after touching raw hazelnut – I had never seen them raw before – and showing them to someone else, have them not bat an eye in concern as I left the room in a panic, searching my bag desperately for an antihistamine.
Conferences can be sites of great fear and anxiety. Academia trying to kill me.
Kevin’s workshop has been different. When I realized that meals would be offered, I emailed him about all my needs. He sent an email to everyone within an hour, giving details about the upcoming workshop and identifying my needs in the plural (some in our group have severe allergies), because my concerns were collective concerns. My health was our health.
I also arrived late to the workshop yesterday as I had a gig at the Museum of the African Diaspora first. Immediately on my arrival, I was welcomed to an Oakland mansion, where one takes off shoes to enters (feels like home) and I was immediately welcomed by those eating dinner. Every instance of the workshop has been filled with folks telling authentic stories about themselves as people and as leaders. It hasn’t been about primping or positioning oneself as better than someone else. No, everyone was interested in just engaging in the conversation together and unpacking the ideas presented.
Everyone takes care of one another: folks exchange seats if someone is uncomfortable; if there are dishes, someone just steps in; if folks want coffee, someone steps in to make it. There’s camaraderie in every space of the house.
And the food and snacks have been on another level good. This is the first workshop I have ever attended where I can eat everything, where I feel so honored in care for my spirit, mind, and body.
And there’s even morning meditation, which, I believe, has helped to set me on the right path and counter the jet lag.
This is only day two and I feel like I am also building relationships with so many other similarly minded leaders.
I’m already thinking of when I can next work with him. Totally recommend this workshop to any leaders with the aim of doing social justice work. I’m not even done the full experience.
I’m just so grateful to my fellow participants and to Kevin Kumashiro for creating the space, sharing the knowledge, and living/demonstrating a humanizing care.
#twt, #27of52, #52essays2017