As a Black woman working in the education sector, I sometimes wonder how I made it through the education system, considering the odds that are stacked so high against a Black child in the United States.
I have to look no farther than my ancestors, grandparents, and parents for the answer. My dad and his 11 siblings were raised in a three-room house with no running water in rural Ohio. Despite the incredible odds, all 12 graduated high school. That is true education innovation.
Every day in this country, Black, Brown, and Indigenous people are “making a way out of no way” by tapping into their innate fortitude and ingenuity. Communities of color are by definition brilliant, entrepreneurial and creative. We must listen to and honor the perspectives of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities who have been most impacted by biased education systems.
Instead of “helping people” by creating solutions that do not fit, the question is: How do we effectively resource communities of color as leaders and collaborators with schools to create liberatory education innovations?
Over the past three years, in leading our school and community networks in parallel to advancing our commitment to equity, I have been on a personal journey to discover how I can use my platform to be an education freedom fighter for Black, Brown, Indigenous and low income kids.
At Digital Promise, we have been listening, learning, researching, and designing a model of Inclusive Innovation to recognize the talent of underserved communities as leaders, designers, and beneficiaries, working in collaboration with school districts, to redefine education innovation.
Today we are announcing the launch of The Center for Inclusive Innovation, focused on:
Resourcing the creative ingenuity of communities of color to co-create liberatory education innovations designed to enable self-determination for Black, Brown, and Indigenous students.
The Center builds on the foundation of our work with the League of Innovative Schools and Education Innovation Clusters community networks. The work of the Center will spur the creation of Inclusive Innovation incubators across the country—essentially spaces for fostering and deepening collaborations between communities and districts from the League and beyond. The League represents the full spectrum of neighborhoods, teaching and learning contexts, and student populations in the country and will anchor the national footprint for this work. Out of this endeavor will emerge new and differentiated models, tools, programs, and products that are created by and supportive of the needs, interests, and dreams of Black, Brown, and Indigenous students and families.
We are launching this endeavor with several equity-centered research and development (R&D) projects underway, including:
I am excited to launch the Center with my colleagues Malliron Hodge, Director of Community Collaboration and Design; Viki Young, Senior Director of Research; and the Digital Promise team.
Over the next several months, we will create a platform for community leaders, families, and schools to share how they are engaging in this work together. I am honored to build on the legacy of my parents by dedicating my life’s work to being an education freedom fighter and, hopefully, change the game and the odds.
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