The Tide Turns
In April 2019, I was informed of a Instagram post that had a racist remark written on a picture of myself. With the picture and racist comments written, each word felt like a knife being dug into my chest. These authors were the young people I worked with and advocated for everyday. Through this experience, I found an island growing around me and my deep sense of safety eroding. I was naive to believe that with each positive interaction, there was no room for someone to have an ulterior motive. Each day passing from April to the end of the school year, I was asked to shake it off, get over it, and perform.
In this experience, I learned this work is not glamorous. It’s thankless. Growing the best pieces of young people comes with the occasional stab in the back and blind eyes turned. And still…we stand. The last three months of the school year were the hardest of my career and most troubling. I became the person I feared the most, timid to trust, and reluctant to believe. I resonated with the understanding that having hope was not for me. Having years of consistent effort and your livelihood thrown away by an Instagram post, layered with racist comments caused me to retreat from my purpose and my identity.
Create a Game Plan
After this moment in time, I was thankful to have started a journal the semester prior. Coincidentally, the Instagram experience consumed the majority of the journal. By the grace of divine intervention, my mother called me while in the driveway and she said clearly, “if this happened to your sons, what would you want them to do?” With this question, I connected with another educator that saw an opportunity to bring other educators together who were experiencing angst in their current positions or were in need of an outlet or mentorship. Like a light bulb the answer became clear.
While these “things” will keep me busy, it is more important for me to fully understand my purpose, be firm in my beliefs, and unapologetic in who I am as a man, husband, father and educator.Dr. Diggs, Jr.
As I ended the school year and approached another, I created a goal sheet and charted ahead with a new vision for myself and purpose for my career in education. I wanted to pursue other certifications, create a TEDtalk, start an outlet for other Black Male Educators, publish an article, and pick back up my blog/website. While these “things” will keep me busy, it is more important for me to fully understand my purpose, be firm in my beliefs, and unapologetic in who I am as a man, husband, father and educator. As August approached and the teachers returned from their summer break, it was vital that my vision be so clear that the sun can shine on it and colors radiate from it like a prizm.
As a result of my goal sheet and redefined purpose, I took a leap of faith. The result was this picture.
The image on the right was taken before a meeting to discuss the racist Instagram posts. This meeting occurred 11 days after the damage was done. The image on the left was taken after someone took a chance on me to live my purpose and impact young people.
For my educators, I challenge you to be clear, proclaim, and make visible your purpose. What do you believe? What makes your vision for your staff, students and community worth rallying behind?
So let me be clear…
- My Life’s Purpose: Be an example of excellence, a model for perseverance, and committed to being a champion for servant leadership.
- My Beliefs: All will learn and grow at high levels, regardless of ethnicity, gender, race, socio-economic status or disability.
- My Vision: Reach and Teach, Everyday.
- Who am I: Servant, Coach, and Visionary.
Ultimately, I aim to be an advocate for inclusion and equity, as well as a vessel for authentic learning experiences for all teachers and students. For too long in our nation’s history, race and prejudice were a barrier to access and equality. In each setting I am in, we will learn together and grow together. When our children and their wellbeing are made priorities then climate and culture, curriculum and instruction, character and socio emotional support will align because there is no other choice.
August 2019, marks my twelfth year in education. By far, this was my most challenging. In my career, I have experienced racism, bigotry and hate. Early in my career, I had an adult in my school yell angrily at me and call me a “boy”. Others have ran into my office in a heated tirade, leaving me stunned in confusion. Not to mention repeatedly having my thoughts and decisions micro-managed and undermined. I have learned through all this, all of us must be authentic. We must endure because the end result is our students becoming their best selves.
In the next semester, I will strive to continue to collaborate with my students, teachers, staff and community members. I honestly believe the best is yet to come…and I can’t wait to prove it.