Why I Celebrate Black History
Black history is yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I am Black history. My late mother is Black history, and my children are Black history in the making.
In our home, we lead with our individual and collective power as a people. My children understand that what they do today will impact the Black children who have yet to be born. Each day, we reflect and ask ourselves, “What will we/you do with the gifts, power and positionality that has been given to you?”
I, Anashay Wright (or “Miss Teach ‘Em Right” as a parent once called me), look to Black history and our ancestors for lessons on how to lead and how to live.
Over the course of two decades, I have taught more than 2000 students ranging from PK to college freshmen, and I have served in multiple roles at every level of the K-12 system.
In each learning environment, I find myself in one of two places: teaching or supporting those who teach. Both positions hold a lot of responsibility. We make up a multi-billion dollar industry that shapes where power lies everyday. My mother used to say, “To whom much is given, much is required.” I have given two decades to this system. I’ve also entrusted it with my two most important creations: my children.
No One is Exempt from the System
I have an eight-year-old daughter going on 80 named Bertha. Okay, her name isn’t Bertha, but we call her that because she acts like a lot of the 80-plus-year-old “Berthas” I’ve known and loved in my lifetime. I also have a 15-year-old. He’s a sophomore and future CEO. Both of my children are currently in public, predominately Black Title I schools on purpose.
Why? Because working in the education reform space for as long as I have gives many of us the false idea that we are saviors of kids. And that mindset is dangerous. Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other communities of color have always been powerful. History shows us that. We don’t need saviors, we need allies, co-conspirators and bold leaders to align their resources and follow our lead.
Somehow, I too drank the savior Kool-Aid until it hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought I was “super woke,” woke enough to spot the red flags a mile away. But no one is exempt from the system.
Harm hit home
At the time, I was in Texas working with state and district leaders as part of a national education nonprofit. I knew all the edujargon. I was the poster child for “rigorous and standards-aligned instruction” and “core knowledge.” What I wasn’t prepared for was the psychological harm it could cause in instructional content. You see, my joyful, peaceful, and powerful Black child was at a predominantly White and Latinx private school. We selected them because of their high-quality curriculum and learning environment. This is where the heart of the problem resides: who gets to define quality?
One day while eating dinner, out of the blue, my four-year old said, “Mama, I don’t wanna be Black no more.” It was a punch in the gut. While we pride ourselves on being wokedy-woke, woke, woke, we weren’t woke enough to put our kids in the same schools that we were supporting or that needed to be disrupted.
You see, my child’s teacher gave her an assignment to reinforce colors at a high-quality, private, Christian-based school. I pulled out her bookbag and there it was:
“Dark means sin, and I can’t get in…”
The assignment read:
“We’re the Gospel Fuzzies. We’re the Gospel Fuzzies.
We’re the Gospel Fuzzies and we wouldn’t hurt a flea.
Gold stands for heaven. Gold stands for heaven.
Gold stands for heaven where I want to be.
Dark means I’m a sinner. Dark means I’m a sinner.
Dark means I’m a sinner and I can’t get in.
White means I’m washed clean.”
The white fuzzy on the outline of my daughter’s hand stared me in the face as a symbol for “washed clean.” This assignment reinforced messages of powerlessness that the Black community works daily to disrupt. The message was clear: Unless you’re white, you’re not washed clean, you’re not worthy. As a result, my child did not want to be Black anymore.
I immediately took a picture and vowed to never let myself forget. This is why Black history is not just in February. In our home, Black history is yesterday, today and tomorrow. Every time assimilation rears its ugly head, I #self-disrupt.
Self-Disrupt of Self-Destruct
Everything we do in education has to start with disrupting the stories we have been sold and told as a society. Stories that continue to embed messages of disempowerment in the Black community. We are more than an equity metric and data point. Shift your thinking, and lead with the power, the promise, of the Black community. You can’t lead with the power of the Black community if everything you say is about the deficit.
This assignment was a defining moment for me and my entire family, so we made a vow. From this moment forward, our Black children would only go to predominantly Black schools, in Black communities, with Black teachers at least until they were age 12. This would give our baby girl at least eight more years of preparing her brain and heart to sync and disrupt. We removed our daughter the next day. After two weeks of searching, we found a hidden gem located in a tiny house called Organization for Black Unity. We immediately enrolled her in this amazing African-centered school, and the rest is history.
Embrace Their Genius, And Let Them Lead the Way
My daughter fell in love with who she was as a Black child. And it brings me back to what I knew to be true in the first place, but I was distracted by the golden handcuffs: money, fake power and disconnected solutions.
This defining moment didn’t come to me until the harm showed up in my home. That irreparable harm is happening daily, because it’s in the air we breathe. It hurts us all.
This is why we all must lead with the power of Black children, families and communities. Getting started is simple. Each day, lead with the power and promise of Black children:
- Remind them of their greatness daily.
- Greet them in powerful ways by saying “Good morning, future CEO, civil rights attorney, teacher, business owner.”
- Make the shift from saviorism to “servant leader.
The Black community doesn’t need another savior, we need pro-Black leaders and disruptive allies to align their resources and follow our lead! History has revealed time and time again that Black people are joyful, we are loving, and we are damn for sure powerful. No matter what comes up, still we rise.
In closing, I say to all the educators, philanthropists, organizations like Leading Educators: you have a lot of power. Make good on your commitment to equity by leading with the promise and the power of Black women who disrupt the status quo. This is the work. I’m on a mission to find other trouble-makers and disruptors for good to join me in this movement. I will not stop until I see us on the path to advancing it.
We all have the power to interrupt dangerous messages of inferiority by reminding Black children of the greatness they were born with and challenging the lies and stories we have all been sold. Black history is our history. What side will you be on?
Anashay Wright is a Managing Director of Networks at Leading Educators and the founder of Disruptive Partners. She identifies as a “life-long disruptor of inequitable systems”. A national award-winning educator, speaker, and educational consultant with over 20 years of experience, she has coached and developed leaders at every level.
Across the K-12 sector, Anashay has designed innovative programs and led teams at national education nonprofits and community-based organizations including TNTP, The Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes Foundation, and The Black Teacher Collaborative. She has also served as an adjunct professor, education advisor to elected officials, founding board and advisory member for organizations like Relay Graduate School and Compass Rose Academy (a BES charter school) in Texas and Georgia. She is also a certified Power & Influence executive coach and system-level strategist.
Anashay’s work has resulted in national recognition from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, NPR, The 74million, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Good Day Atlanta, and numerous media outlets. She is active on Twitter at @anashaydisrupts.