Last week I was awarded the Educator of the Year Award during the National Black Girl Excellence Awards presented by The Lifted Lifestyle. Their website states that “the Black Girl Excellence Awards is a national event that celebrates the important role that African-American Women play in every industry of our society and the invaluable impact of positive representation”. The event also highlights next generation vendors, including business owners between the ages of 8-18.
As promised I’m posting this blog to share my remarks. Admittedly the written version will be much more concise, but my hope is that the message was clear in that moment as well.
Thanks again for all of the congratulatory messages.
First and foremost, I’d like to thank The Lifted Lifestyle for selecting me as this year’s honoree. I’d also like to thank my friend Dr. Jerry Wallace for nominating me, my parents for driving me (because no matter how old you are, you never stop being a child), and my husband in his absence as he supports our other children.
After hearing such great advice from other award recipients, I think the advice I would like to share with you all is that beside faith and kindness, education is your greatest superpower. In a world with countless systemic injustices, knowledge provides you with the tools to change the world and deconstruct barriers. The beauty of education is that it can never be taken from you. Please know that when I speak of education, this is not exclusive to a college degree. Education is gained in countless ways and above all you should never stop learning. Even though I work for a university I recognize that everyone is not ready for the college experience at 18 and for some people there are other avenues that help them cultivate their purpose.
Educators who work in K-12 are often praised for their efforts and contributions to society, but I ask that you extend that gratitude to educators that work in higher education as well. People like me are not only committed to student success both in the classroom and beyond, but we are also committed to deconstructing the systemic barriers that prevent students of color and other historically marginalized communities from obtaining a college degree and continued success. Whether it be through curricular or co-curricular experiences we are plowing through discriminatory practices and working to build infrastructure that is inclusive and meets the needs of all students. Essentially we are finding ways to fix broken systems or practices from within. This is achieved through teaching, scholarship, service, partnerships with businesses and the community, and many other innovative initiatives.
As adults we must encourage the children in our lives to cultivate and nurture a spirit of curiosity. Rather than teaching children to stifle their interest, we should teach them cultivate it into a tool that contributes to their purpose. There is so much power and knowledge to be gained when we allow ourselves to ask why and there is just as much power when we allow ourselves to answer why. In these moments we sharpen our knowledge by learning more about our ourselves and the way we respond to things we can control, as well as the things we can’t.
As I close I want to sincerely express my thanks for this honor and appreciation for the other inspirational moments today.