Diversity and Openness at the Bammy Awards, From Errol Smith

Jose Vilson Education, Jose, Race

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An exchange flared by between Errol Smith, executive producer of the Bammy Awards in my post about race within the education reform movement. My point in highlighting the Bammys wasn’t to hate on it, but assure that, as someone vested in true diversity, I would spare no one, liberal or conservative, from facing racial issues with its participants or audiences. I don’t like being the critic, but I can’t not speak about it just so I can get a cool kid card with the connected educatorati. (Yes, I just made that up.) The Bammys weren’t the target; racial diversity was. I applaud Errol for the following comment, however, and publish it in its entirety with his approval.:

We each have a purpose and a role to play in education and in life.  I respect that addressing issues of inequity, real and apparent, is yours.  Your  work matters, your voice matters and I applaud the commitment, passion and courage you bring  as to speak  clearly to what you see is wrong in the education world around you.

Our role and purpose is to celebrate what’s right in education, to push back against the relentless criticism of American education and educators. To acknowledge that it takes a village to educate children and that all contributors to the education village are vital — that  by definition includes “people of color.”

In that context our focus is on being “open.” The Bammy Awards are open to anyone.  Indeed, the sole purpose of the Educator’s Voice Awards is to find  nominees beyond the constellation of the educators we  hear about and read about every day, and to surface people who would typically not be included.

That said, I suspect the complexion of the Bammy Awards roughly matches the complexion of most activities that involve connected educators.  If you follow along on most of the weekly chats, the majority of participants are not people of color. If you look at the attendance at Edcamps most of the organizers and participants are not people of color.   On its face it would appear that Twitter and Edcamp are exclusionary. Are they?

Your comments seem to speak to a model where “the man” is in control  of who  gets what. Therefore we must fight the man, agitate for change etc… In fact, the Internet is perhaps the most truly democratized space in our society.  There are no gatekeepers, virtually anyone can participate and be seen and heard.  I recall when the Berlin wall came down  ( yes I’m that old),  how East Germans struggled to grasp the implications of freedom.  They we were not accustomed to being able to shape their own destiny.  The game had changed, but they were still looking at life through the old lens.

The Bammy Awards are open and inclusive.  There was no one at the virtual or literal door of the Bammy Awards keeping people of color out.  The complexion of the Bammy Awards is a reflection of who embraced the program, participated and showed up.

As you can tell by my earlier posts I’m not much for racial bean counting or gerrymandering appearances to give the “impression” of diversity  —— myopic perhaps and proof that Schopenhaur applies to me as well.   But neither are we oblivious to issues of inclusion, we  simply are inclined toward a more substantive approach.

The board is the reflection of our commitment to inclusion and the “open” process extends that commitment  across the entire program.  This is where our role ends and yours begins.

I now pass the baton to you and submit that the most productive thing that you can do is to engage in a campaign to get more people of color “connected.”  Engage in a campaign to let more people of color know that the walls have come done and that, online, anyone can be seen, heard, participate and have an influence on education issues.

Candidly, I’m not much of a blogger or tweeter. My observation is that after all is tweeted and done much more is tweeted than done.  I’m  a doer and my focus is on getting things done.  I depart from my “to-do” list to address your post because I respect  you and your work and think this issue is important.  But I am acutely aware that while we are exchanging blog posts, there is important work to be done that is being deferred.  So with this post  I head for the exit. I thank you for taking the time to engage me and thank you for your thoughtful replies.  I trust that If we work to ensure that the doors of the Bammy Awards are wide open and you work to get many more people of color connected and engaged, the pictures on the Bammy Awards Website will automatically change to reflect that reality.  There’s much work to be done Jose.  Let’s get busy!

Obviously, I thank him for publishing this directly on my blog. Take note: we have a lot of work to do to make sure we have equal representation in this circle.

I’m not one to rest on my laurels either, waiting for someone to give us what’s rightfully ours. There is much work to be done, and I’m happy we came to consensus through discussion here.