A List of Things I’ve Learned in 2015

Jose Vilson Jose

For one, don’t make lists because it makes people reach for things that aren’t there.

2015 is the year people forgot some of my titles. I am a full-time teacher at a middle school with a predominantly Dominican-American student body. I am a father to a toddler, a partner to a wonderful woman, a writer for some prominent outlets, and the founder of an activist collective. I don’t get much sleep, and don’t eat as well as I should. I am invested in making my thoughts into reality. I am overweight, but that hasn’t slowed me down much. I contain multitudes, and some take priorities over others. I am a proud Black Latino man, working hard to understand what that means in the context of today.

This post is dedicated to a whole list of folks I’ve had to leave behind in 2015, including some of your favorites, folks writing indirect posts at me until I had to call them out on it, folks jacking my style and using it in unethical ways (I see you), and supposed allies who created parody social justice accounts with my name involved thinking I didn’t peep that. (We did, though.) I walked into many a lion’s den and still came out roaring. I angered and vexed a few folks who once endorsed my book This Is Not A Test. Even some family and friends tested my mettle, and that provided plenty of learning experiences as well. With more speaking engagements came more opportunities for well-meaning white educators to walk out on me when I said the words “Black lives matter.” I haven’t stuttered all year on that principle, though.

Wouldn’t you know? We been hurt, been down before. When our pride was low, looking at the world like “Where do we go?”

I’m also dedicating this to the folks who stuck by me in solidarity and empathy, helped me become a better person, and figuratively kept me afloat when the folks in the first graph tried to drag me asunder. The students are at the forefront of my work, but my backbone is the set of folks in my private messages, on my phone list, and in my e-mails who I turn to, and keep pushing me to be better. This work is complicated without the folks I consider friends, whether they live under my roof or 3000 miles away. I spoke with and in front of thousands of people at this point, so many of them receptive to challenging their own notions of how the world works.

Solidarity has so many layers to it, but the understanding is that we come together in the hopes of making everyone involved whole.

With so many speaking engagements, writing opportunities, and connections, I should celebrate, but I rarely do. The reason? A chance encounter in Washington D.C. with Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond. She asked me what I was doing there, and I told her I had a set with Wes Moore, Dana Goldstein, and David L. Kirp. She said, “Yeah, you belong there.”

Mike Doyle kept telling me that, for many, I already arrived a few years ago, and, thanks to the support of so many of you, I believe it now.