Education Leader of Color member Robert Simmons, III speaking at the 2020 EdLoC Boulder Fund Interview Day. Photo courtesy of EdLoC.
As the nation grapples with the challenge of re-opening schools amid a global pandemic and racial reckoning, a question has emerged: who will guide us towards a new way of leading schools? It is clear that the new iteration of K-12 schooling should be responsive to the cry for racial justice and begin healing centuries of education inequities; and organizations like Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC) are answering the call.
EdLoC is a membership organization dedicated to elevating the leadership, voices, and influence of people of color in education and to leading more inclusive efforts to improve education. Because they share backgrounds and experiences with the communities where they lead, EdLoC members are uniquely positioned to be advocates for students and draw connections between systemic inequities and student outcomes. Possessing shared lived experiences with communities increases feelings of respect and partnership between EdLoC members and the communities with which they engage. Jared Joiner, Senior Manager of the Chan Zuckerberg Inititiative’s Education team, was recently nominated to join EdLoC. “Having an organization that supports the leaders who are trying to disrupt an educational experience that might cause harm to students from marginalized backgrounds is a huge asset to the field,” Jared says.
Leaders of color often view their roles as part of collective success, and help move their organizations to better honor a community’s right to self-determination. In achieving this goal, it is key that leaders of color not just be developed to meet a diversity quota or enhance representation. “For EdLoC, educational success starts and stops with community. For too long, Black and Brown children have been held back by policies and practices developed by mostly white people who never asked communities for their input. That is why one of our foundational values at EdLoC is to elevate the often-overlooked assets in our communities, and to help build the capacity of local leaders as agents of change. Sustainable change in education will never come unless solutions are developed with, and by, the people they will most directly impact,” says EdLoC Interim CEO, Sharhonda Bossier.
Leaders that identify as Black, Brown, Indigenous and people of color are key players in helping education policy makers see the connection between systems-level education inequities and racial justice. However, these leaders often have not been granted access to influential roles in education in order to impact the experience and outcomes for historically excluded students. EdLoC is there to create an intentional community of support. At CZI, several members of the Education Initiative are EdLoC members. EdLoC provides tools and resources necessary for its members to learn about job opportunities, grow their leadership skills, and find support focused on mental well-being, navigating racial battle fatigue, and burnout.
Sustainable change in education will never come unless solutions are developed with, and by, the people they will most directly impact
EdLoC Interim CEO, Sharhonda Bossier.
“EdLoC provides opportunities to connect and build community with an understanding of the lived experiences of people of color,” says Jared. EdLoC also aims to foster collective power across their membership through networking, relationship building and mentorship. Jared says, “in EdLoC’s signature Boulder Fund initiative, I was able to use my experiences from CZI to help other members strengthen new startup initiatives and endeavors, and support EdLoC’s next generation of leaders.”
Membership in the organization also serves as a call to action for CZI and the field of philanthropy. As philanthropists, we are in a unique position to support leaders of color both internally and externally. Dakarai Aarons, Director of Education, Policy and Partnerships at CZI, has been an EdLoC member since 2018.
“We have the ability in philanthropy to help open doors of opportunity that have historically been closed to leaders of color and unlock the ability to leverage their brilliance to solve some of education’s most intractable challenges,” Dakarai says. “That’s why supporting the work of organizations like EdLoC is so important. Advancing racial equity is the pathway to a more just and inclusive future where Black, Brown and Indigenous students receive the education they need and deserve.”
By investing in the experiences of leaders of color we can support significant shifts towards racial equity in the field of education. As EdLoC has shown us, the leaders are ready to take up the charge.