As many of you are aware, I’m pretty passionate about social justice issues and fighting for civil/human rights. You’ve read my pleas for all moms, but especially white moms to care about murdered Black children. You’ve read my story of learning my own prejudices and how I work to change them. But, you’ve never heard how it all started for me.
I attended the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor from the Fall of 2001 through the Spring of 2006. The year I enrolled at the university I found myself on a campus dealing with inner racial turmoil as our administrators (and their lawyers) prepared to battle their right to use affirmative action in the admissions process. During college I participated in rallies, marches, days of silence, and refused to cross picket lines to support causes on campus like affirmative action and pay raises for Graduate Teaching Instructors. I even traveled to Washington, DC to march at the Supreme Court the day they started hearing Michigan’s now famous affirmative action case. I was never loud or in the front, but I was there as support behind the scenes and standing in solidarity. I took classes that opened my eyes to systematic racism, gender inequality, and oppression; and learned the power of the written and oral word during my introduction to rhetoric and social movements. I also learned the power of simple conversation when I enrolled in an intergroup dialogue course titled People of Color and White People. It was the first time I sat in a room with white people and really talked about the hard stuff. The things that we typically only share behind closed doors in my community. The following semester I applied to facilitate a dialogue and had the pleasure of being assigned to Women of Color and White Women. I did not realize it at the time, but these experiences were preparing me for a future in sharing the hard moments to bring about change.
After undergrad, my social justice advocacy went on a bit of a hiatus, but once I started teaching freshman composition courses I found myself back at it. Now I push my students to think beyond what they read in history books and find the larger issues. I use the work of great rhetoricians and social justice advocates like Sojourner Truth, Malcolm X, Mary Church Terrell, and Stokely Carmichael to show them how to use their words to motivate others to fight for change. I push them to find things they are passionate about and create essays that motivate their peers. I facilitate the hard conversations about race, social class, sexuality, and gender issues.
I also found myself once again a minority while taking my own classes and socializing as a graduate student, but instead of freezing up when uncomfortable topics came up I spoke up. I shared my own experiences and pushed my classmates to look beyond the black and white (heavy on the white) world they experienced. Even when I didn’t want to be the “black representative,” I answered questions that helped them better connect with their students and me. I’d like to think my willingness to be a teachable moment has changed their lives as much as it’s changed mine. My work both in and out of the classroom continues to prepare me for my next challenge of influencing change in the parenting realm.
Becoming a parent increased my passion for social justice exponentially, but in a new way. There are many parenting methods to choose from, but in the end we all want to not only protect our children, but also raise upstanding citizens of the world. However, shielding our children from the injustices of our world is not the way to do it. I realized that the choices we make as parents could very well change the need for social justice advocacy in the future. This realization led to me creating the series, Raising an Advocate. Beyond the fact that parenting is an exhausting task, my introvert personality is overwhelmed by the thought and act of constantly attending rallies and marches, but as I learned while teaching that does not mean I cannot make changes happen in other ways. That’s why I’m teaming up with VelveteenMind and #MyPledge15 to use my voice on social media to make real change.
#MyPledge15 is to be your teachable moment through both my writing and having the difficult uncomfortable conversations. I will make myself accessible as a mom of color to white moms who want to have hard conversations with their children, but don’t know where to start. I will share resources that help us all raise the advocates we’re only just becoming.
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Interested in learning more about raising social justice advocates? Check out Raising an Advocate.