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My world is chaos. Everything is in flux. My life is so crazy right now that All State insurance called to see if I could substitute for Dean Winters as Mayhem in their next commercial. The level of upheaval right now is dizzying. Just when I think I can’t take it anymore the universe reminds me once again that death is just around the corner. Today the grim reaper was lurking in the shadows. Ready to gain his next victim. If I squinted my eyes I could see Mot in the corner waiting to carry away another soul. Luckily he was not waiting for just yet.

Death is a fascinating and fearful irony of life. We live actively attempting to block it from our thoughts yet it is the very thought of death that makes living so very precious. Who appreciates time more than someone who knows they don’t have much left? Who values each breath more than the person who knows it may be their last?

Every day I walk into school and see kids who place little value on the time they have. They aren’t wasting it. More like unaware of it. Oblivious of the preciousness of each second that passes. Heedlessly going about their lives with the luxury only known to children. I sometimes envy these children. The ability to float along in school unconscious of anything but the next pleasurable activity they will come in contact with.

Tomorrow I will go to school physically and mentally drained. The alarm will sound way too early and my eyelids will pretend that gravity has increased its power dramatically in the past eight hours. My car will almost drive itself to work and as I walk toward the school I will hear the beep of it locking potential strangers out of its personal space. The school doors will open and I will smile at each person I see as I walk down the hallway; greeting them with a great big hello, acknowledging our mutual time and space collision. I will sit down and open my email wincing in anticipation of which parent is going to have an issue with the explicit attention of various identities we discussed in class. My calendar will remind me that I have many miles to go before I sleep. The paperwork will be awaiting laughing at the thought of my Sisyphean attempt to conquer it.

Yet I will push forward. Renewed not with enough sleep or the heroic caffeine crusader coursing through my veins. Instead, I will be revitalized knowing that my time is finite and that I need to stay focused on what matters. What matters is demonstrating love to my students in a way that can never be second-guessed. Showing them how my passion for movement and learning can benefit them now and in the future. Co-creating a space where they have voice and choice. The final push is coming. The grueling marathon of the school year will take a spring break and then sprint to the finish. Now is not the time to slow up. It is time to double down. I don’t know when my time is coming but I do know that when I see the Grim Reaper appear for me I know I made the most of the time that was afforded to me.


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This Friday I attended another ECET2 (Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers). I have to admit these have been some of my favorite conferences. This year was Jen Sarravallo was the keynote speaker. Well she wasn’t exactly the keynote. It was a question and answer session with the legendary  Barry Saide asking her the questions that were preselected from the crowd. I don’t know if this was because Barry wanted to get some stage time or because this was a nice twist on an opening keynote. Either way it was really cool.

There was one part of the interview/questions that was super interesting. Barry asked Jen why it was important for classroom libraries to reflect the broad range of students in the world even outside their class. It seemed like Jen struggled at first but then she told a story about how she was running professional learning and the teachers were balking at the idea of having diverse books. She then told them that her daughter would not have any books showing families like hers with two moms. I had not known that she was part of the LGBTQIA community and it was awesome watching her calmly state this fact in front of the crowd. I don’t know if everyone picked up on this. In fact, I later had a conversation with a teacher who watched the keynote and hadn’t picked up what Jen was putting down.

After the keynote I presented with the legendary Valeria Brown. The session was titled Community Building Through Movement. The session was not heavily attended. By not heavily I mean there were 7 people including Val and I. Two of the seven were people I had texted to make sure they would come. I personally don’t care how many people attend my sessions and it shows how teachers don’t value movement in their classroom enough to choose that session when there were other banging sessions at the same time. This brings me to a pet-peeve I have. Why don’t local conferences spread out the sessions a little more of people who present for a living or present at numerous national, state, and local conferences? Anyway if you are interested in the session slides click here.

The rest of the day was a blur. I went to Valeria’s session about creating equitable schools and was faced with the colorblind kindness individual. This person overtook the session with the idea that if we were just kind to each other schools would be more equitable. We didn’t have enough time to properly address this in the session. The bottom line is we can not undo 400 years of brutal treatment and the flourishing of America on the backs of black and brown people with simplistic idea that being kind will solve all our problems. We need to be explicit about who and what our students are as well as viewing what they bring into our schools and classes as being positive. In order to accomplish this we must understand that their identity matters and we as white teachers need to learn more about our students who don’t look and act like us.

I have to thank Barry and Glen for hosting and bringing in some fantastic people. It was a blast hanging out with Juli B and seeing some of old coworkers. I hope people understand how much work that Barry and his crew did in order to pull this off. If you have a chance you should check out ECET2 if they have one near you.



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Mere Civility

One of my favorite podcasts is called Philosophy Bites. The idea behind the podcast is: “top philosophers interviewed on bite-sized topics”. One of the most recent episodes talked about the idea of modern-day civility. The philosopher they interviewed on the episode is Teresa M. Bejan who is the author of Mere Civility and also has a Ted Talk about the same subject.

What interested me about the podcast was when Ms. Bejan spoke about modern call-out culture. It always has interested me how more and more people are calling out injustice when they see it. This idea that we “call out others” and “cry out against injustice” while not allowing the feelings of those that are actively harming students specifically in our schools stop us from speaking truth to power. This does not mean that we go out purposefully attempting to harm people. It means that we don’t allow other people’s sensitivities to get in the way of us getting the truth out or compromising our views.

In the interview, Ms. Bejan talks about the idea of civility skepticism. Civility skepticism is:

“…the idea that civility is not a virtue at all. Its a way of trying to silence the speech of others. The way of trying to suppress ideas that you don’t like or even exclude or marginalize those twithwhom you disagree or don’t even see as members of a civil or civilized polity. Civility in an unjust society isn’t a virtue at all. Not only do we have a duty to tell the truth and not to censor ourselves out of respect for someone else’s feelings it’s actually a duty to offend their sensibilites because those priviliged by an unjust status quo will always be offended when they are presented by the truth.”

It looks like she is actually making the case for being uncivil. We have a duty to ourselves to be open and honest when we have a disagreement. Dr. Brene Brown calls this “clear is kind”. There is a point to disagreement though where being uncivil is counterproductive to our goal of engaging in the disagreement.

“If civility is a kind of claim to regulating or governing our disagreements on the basis of something shared then what really matters is exactly what we need to share in order to have a civil disagreement. Rejecting civility all together under-reacts to the challenges that disagreements particularly disagreements about questions that we deem fundamental, maybe questions about religion and politics (and race), that go to the heart of how we see the world and each other. That those kinds of disagreements are hard to have and yet we need to be able to have them. When we talk about civility we talk about what are the qualities of a conversationalist that make those really difficult disagreements possible. “

To me, this makes civility a fluid idea. Civility would vary by who we interact with and what both of us consider civil. This also raises the idea that being civil with people who do not honor your humanity is a pointless endeavor. If we both don’t come to the disagreement with the idea that the other deserves the basic rights and privileges of a human being on this planet than we don’t have a disagreement, we have incompatible views of right and wrong. In my opinion, civility is not called for, nor needed in this scenario.

The gold nugget from the podcast was Teresa M. Bejan’s philosophy of Mere Civility.

Mere Civility I would define as minimal conformity to social norms of respectful behavior. Specifically the minimum necessary to keep the conversation going. You can tell the demands of Mere Civility in any given conversation are highly context-dependent and highly audience dependent. Instead of fixating on rules of civil conduct we think about civility as a prudential or practical judgment about what’s required in a given conversation with a given conversationalist so that conversation can continue. But then it has this other element which is that it remains committed also to telling the truth to our interlocutors and part of that truth involves telling them what we really think of them and their views. Mere Civility is a commitment both of not pulling our punches but also to not landing them all at once so that conversation can continue.

This was mind-blowing to me. I recently have had a friendship stop because I landed all my punches at once. The conversation no longer continues. That is not what I wanted to happen with this particular relationship. There have been other times where I have been in disagreements with those I have no social capital with and Mere Civility was not necessary because I did not want nor need the conversation to continue.

As always I appreciate you taking the time to read and engage in my work. If you have anything you would like to add or discuss please leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter @schleiderjustin or join me on Voxer as we discuss everything education.

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This week New Jersey Association of Health, Recreation, Physical Education and Dance had their 100th convention! Holy shnikes was it amazing. I am going to go straight into my glows and grows cause there is so much to discuss!


GLOW: Meeting Kim and her son Joey Catalfamo.


Kim is an Adapted PE teacher and Joey is a pleasure. They have been coming to the convention for years. While I have interacted with Kim before we did not hang out and really talk. That changed this year. Our conversations went well beyond surface level and Joey is a wealth of knowledge. It was truly a pleasure hanging out with both of them.

Glow: Jody Duff (@JodysAPE). Yep, All of Jody is amazing. It started out with me attending her session. What she does in an adapted environment is nothing short of remarkable. She uses leaf blowers and some sort of magic electric switches to create an environment where her students can succeed. We progressed past mere professionals when she willingly opened up about her personal life when we hung out after the social. Her contributions in my session helped everyone refocus on why identity is so darn important. If you get a chance to hang out with her. You will be a better person for it.

Groan: The hotel did not accept credit cards for lunch. We were given a voucher for lunch but that alone wasn’t enough to purchase something decent. I don’t carry cash and it would have been cooler if we could have used the voucher and debit card to purchase food.

Glow: The games social. All credit goes to Nick Kline (PeTop5) and US Games for sponsoring it. EVERY conference should do this. So the first part is we had the band Front Lawn Barbeque.  They were amazing! On top of that vendors allowed us to use their games. To summarize there was food, drinks, games, dancing, and great people. This is a relatively easy way to get people who love to play games, eat, drink, and listen to music to come to the events that are planned.

Glow: Stephanie Morris SHAPE America CEO. 1Stephanie is leading us through one of the most turbulent time in our organization’s history. I was lucky enough to connect with her in various sessions and at the social. We have numerous conversations and I believe that she is the right person to lead us through these turbulent times. We will come out stronger on the other side as long as we continue to support our national organization.

Grow: The technology at the conference needs to be stepped up. There were multiple issues with projectors and not all the rooms were hooked up with speakers. Someone needs to talk to the technology director of NJ AHPERD and get them to step up their game!

Glows: The speakers at the conference. Between Dr. Repollet, Judy Lobianco, Cory Booker, and Stephanie Morris this conference was supported to the max!

Glow: The free breakfast was fantastic!!!

Personal Glow: My presentation on identity and social persepective went well. If you would like to access it here is the link: Tinyurl.com/njahperd

Conclusion: This conference was the best one I have attended yet. The quality of presenters, the social, the breakfast, the vendors, and the participants were fantastic. NJ AHPERD is a shining example of what conferences can be if members attend, people volunteer, and the national organization is supportive. What an amazing time!


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Social Identity Theory

The other day I was attempting to learn how to go deeper with my students and their identities. I stumbled upon the idea of  Social Identity Theory. I will attempt to tie this theory into my Physical Education and Health Class. I am not an expert in this area and if you have feedback or push-back I gladly welcome it.

Social Identity Theory was created by Henry Tajfel in 1979. “Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.” (link)

“Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory explains that part of a person’s concept of self comes from the groups to which that person belongs. An individual does not just have a personal selfhood, but multiple selves and identities associated with their affiliated groups. A person might act differently in varying social contexts according to the groups they belong to, which might include a sports team they follow, their family, their country of nationality, and the neighborhood they live in, among many other possibilities.” (link)

This is where the theory gets super interesting. When we see ourselves as part of a group Tajfel labels this the “in group”. The other comparable groups that we are not part of “out groups”. This creates us verse them mentality. Think of how nationalism works. I was born in the United States. I look at other countries as being the outgroups. Before I delve more into the in groups and out groups lets look at how Tajfel tells us how we break down groups and how we act upon that information once we do.

“The first is categorization. We categorize objects in order to understand them and identify them. In a very similar way we categorize people (including ourselves) in order to understand the social environment.  We use social categories like black, white, Australian, Christian, Muslim, student, and bus driver because they are useful.

In the second stage, social identification, we adopt the identity of the group we have categorized ourselves as belonging to.  If for example you have categorized yourself as a student, the chances are you will adopt the identity of a student and begin to act in the ways you believe students act (and conform to the norms of the group).  There will be an emotional significance to your identification with a group, and your self-esteem will become bound up with group membership.

The final stage is social comparison.  Once we have categorized ourselves as part of a group and have identified with that group we then tend to compare that group with other groups. If our self-esteem is to be maintained our group needs to compare favorably with other groups.” (link)

For the purpose of this blog let us look at this from a Physical Education class lens. Our students could categorize themselves in various ways. One way they could categorize themselves is by sex. We know that there at least three sexes although most of our students would fall into the male/female trap. This is one reason why dividing groups up by boys and girls are a problem. We have the issues of students who don’t identify with the sex they are born with, are intersex, or are gender non-conforming and would find the idea of being in the male/female as an issue because this is analogous to them having to choose a gender.

Let’s say that I am a teacher who doesn’t care about their students and just said boys and girls split up. What is the identity of the groups that were just separated? Society has told us that males act a certain way. They are aggressive, don’t cry, and should care about winning. If I associate myself with the male group as being the “in group” how will that impact my actions? What if I am not aggressive and hate athletics? Where does that leave my self-esteem?

When we flip the script and I am in the female group how does that impact my actions? Society tells me I should be docile and passive. How does this impact the way I interact during the activity with other girls? What labels will be put on me if I am aggressive and care about winning?

Finally, what happens when the ingroups compare themselves to the outgroup? How does this impact the female group’s self-esteem when they compare themselves to the male group? I am not looking at this from a deficit mindset either. The female group may be more athletic and better at the activity than the male group. That would positively impact their self-esteem. Would that negatively impact the males’ self-esteem?

There is so much more to social identity theory and I don’t have the time to really break it down like I should; however, this is something that we as educators should look at. How do the categories that our students identify with the impact their thoughts and actions? There is so much more to unpack when we think about race, religion, ethnicity, SES, physical ability, and all the other categories that our students own. Hopefully, this blog will make you go check out the links and start understanding how being part of a group impacts how we think and how we act.




Dear Physical Education Teachers,

Can we talk, please? It is time that we come to a consensus about what our job is. I understand we can’t fight the past, so articles will come out that pick at the low hanging fruit of horrible past experiences. However, this isn’t just about correcting the ills of the past. We already know playing dodge ball psychologically and emotionally traumatizes students. We also have the other side of the spectrum that believes that Physical and Health Education should be all about fitness.

We are not fitness experts. We do not run fitness classes. We are not fitness trainers. I am not knocking fitness nor do I believe that teaching about fitness is an issue. What I am saying is fitness is only one part of Physical Education and Health. I vehemently disagree with using MVPA, heart rate monitors, fitness testing or the Perceived Rate of Exertion as the sole focus of my class. The reason I believe this is because we are losing sight of our students. We are boiling our children down to numbers.

Now that I have told you what I believe Physical Education isn’t let’s delve into what it is. I will use Dr. Lynch’s words because I haven’t heard it phrased any better yet.

Educating the whole child means understanding that they are gifts that walk into our class and we need to appreciate them as such. I know that sounds like kumbaya hippie garbage but it is the truth. When we realize that each student is a gift walking through our doors we will see them. I am not talking about watching the children enter your area, I am talking about actually seeing them for who they are. We will see the gift of their race, sex, religion, gender, socioeconomic status, language, family, sexual orientation, and everything else that makes up their identity. We will see their humor, their energy, their enthusiasm, and even their attitudes as being a part of the class. This will erase the deficit mindset that we will have to “overcome” what they bring to our class. Once we fully see them then we can start to provide meaningful experiences for them.

Meaningful experiences are created when we can get to the core of the students. This takes hard work and lots of listening. We need to ask our students how they feel about our class. Figure out how to tweak our teaching so that we provide an atmosphere where our kids want to be there. Together we can co-construct a program where students walk away feeling ownership of their learning.

When we explicitly focus on the interpersonal aspect of our class we are allowing the students to focus on their social wellness. We can teach students how to engage in conflict resolution, interact with people they don’t like, and be assertive with what they want and need.

There are few people more critical of a theory or idea than myself. Here are some critiques that you may have that I can address right now.

Do I just let my students run the show? Why do I even need to be there then? I am not saying that you as the educator should turn your program over to the kids. What a co-constructed program looks like is the room for voice and choice. Our job as teachers is to know when to facilitate and when to direct. There is a need for both in our classes. Their knowledge and our knowledge work in tandem to create a learning space that allows everyone including ourselves to learn.

It sounds like fitness has no part of this “dream” program. Fitness is a part of a quality physical education program. We should teach about fitness and incorporate fitness into our program when we can. This means limiting the time students are standing around and not being engaged. I refuse to believe a student doing jumping jacks in line is learning more than a student who is blindfolded and being given directions by a partner. Fitness has its place in our program but it should not be the main focus.

The system of school doesn’t allow me the freedom to do this. I get it. Mortgages need to be paid. What we can do is slowly work identity, voice, and choice into our program. We give out surveys to students and show our administrators the how and why we are progressing towards a more inclusive program. We read and learn about child development, play, movement, and pedagogy. Then we can challenge the status quo with facts and data.

School is not a place to speak about identity. Identity is who our students are. If we ignore who they are then we are teaching what WE want them to learn and who WE think they are. This doesn’t bode well for creating meaningful movement experiences. Our students will go through the motions and then either forget our class or worse begin to hate our class. This negative association can have a long-lasting impact that may never be unlearned.

What about physical literacy? Here is the best part! Physical literacy will be in our class like it has always been!! Students will want to move more because they have a voice/choice and they are being seen as a human being. They will not be afraid that they will be made fun of because of the way they look, act, or their physical skills. The more they move and participate the more they will become confident and competent. The more confident and competent they are the more likely they will become life-long movers. Physical literacy is a result of our quality program that we have created just not the reason for it.

Physical and Health Educators let’s come together and start to figure out how to produce a program that starts creates a love of movement, educates the whole child (socially/emotionally) de-emphasizes hyper psychomotor focus (strength, flexibility) and start to teach through a sociocultural lens. Only then will we able to say that we are truly doing what’s best for kids.


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World Read Aloud Day

Confession: I am a book nerd. I took Harry Potter books on a ski trip and curled up by the fire reading when I was in college, read a book in the middle of a party in high school, and would sneak a flashlight under my covers and read till the wee hours of the morning as an elementary school child. Growing up my friends all made fun of me because of my affinity for reading.

My parents had the most ingenious way of helping me read. When I messed up they would punish me and send me to my room. Now when I was a kid (I am laughing so hard at that phrase and how that sounds in my head) I had nothing in my room but books. No radio, no television, no toys, nothing. What was a boy with attention issues going to do in a room with nothing but books? He is going to read! And read I did. I read everything and anything. It didn’t matter if it was written by James Patterson, Nora Roberts, or Sun Tzu. If it had words on paper I was devouring it.

I have plowed through books that are windows, doors, and mirrors. “A window-type book is one that engages children into imagining what the world looks like in places and circumstances that they have never experienced.” Books allow me to see the world through the lens of characters that don’t look and act like me. I recently read Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The story is told through the lens of a young black girl. I was able to see life from a different vantage point. We need to “see” through these windows if we hope to grow as humans.

Books open doors to places that my mind couldn’t possibly create on its own. I have traveled across galaxies, been to foreign lands, battled impossible odds, and have even climbed in the middle of a giant peach!

Finally, books can be mirrors that show characters that look and act like me. It is important to see characters that reflect myself because it allows me to identify with the characters and normalizes how I look and act. As a child I read Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys, and The Outsiders identifying with the characters who either because of the illustration on the cover or the description stated I identified as white males. It was easy for me as a white cisgender male to find books that acted like mirrors. This was not as easy for black and brown students, although #DisruptTexts is making sure this is changing.

I tell you all that above because February 1 is World Read Aloud Day. This is not to be confused with Global Read Aloud created by Pernille Ripp which, “picks a book to read aloud to students during a set 6-week period and during that time tries to make as many global connections as possible.” “Every year, on World Read Aloud Day, people all around the globe read aloud together and share stories to advocate for literacy as a human right that belongs to all people.” Andy Milne has organized the hashtag #HPEReadAloudDay for Health and Physical Education teachers to post under if they want to participate. #WorldReadAloudDay is the official hashtag of the event. You can read all about his idea here.

I am going to be reading a variety of books that are doors, windows, and mirrors for my students. I will start off with my 2nd-grade class reading Donovan’s Word Jar. The cover shows a black boy who is approximately 9 years old.

“Donavan Allen doesn’t collect coins, comics, or trading cards like most kids. He collects words—big words, little words, soft words, and silly words. Whenever Donavan finds a new word, he writes it on a slip of paper and puts it in his word jar.
But one day, Donavan discovers that his word jar is full. He can’t put any new words in without taking some of the old words out—and he wants to keep all his words. Donavan doesn’t know what to do until a visit to his grandma provides him with the perfect solution.”


My kindergarten class will be reading Skin Again written by the queer feminist writer bell hooks. They will also be reading the book Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

“Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside. Looking beyond skin, going straight to the heart, we find in each other the treasures stored down deep. Learning to cherish those treasures, to be all we imagine ourselves to be, makes us free.

This award-winning book, with its myriad of faces, introduces a strong message of loving yourself and others that will appeal to parents of our youngest readers.”


“Dreamers is a celebration of what migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own gifts wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless.”


My third graders will be reading the Giving Tree. It is a classic book that for brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

“For those of you who don’t remember, The Giving Tree is a 1964 children’s book about a tree who happily gives what she can to a young boy.  First, she gives him shade.  Then apples.  She even lets him carve initials into her.
As the boy grows up, he needs more. So he takes her branches and eventually cuts down her trunk. At that point, the tree is alive, but nothing but a stump.  Yet the boy, now an old man, still needs more.  He needs a seat.  She gives it to him. “And the tree was happy.” (The last line of the book.)


My first graders will be reading the book Princess Truly in I Am Truly. I picked this because the main character is a young black girl. This will be a book that is both a window and a mirror for the various students in that class.

“Brimming with warmth and color, Princess Truly’s rhythmic rhyming adventures are a celebration of individuality, girl power, and diversity. A perfect graduation gift, this heartfelt story is a reminder to young girls everywhere that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it and dream big!”


My fifth graders will be reading two books. The book is called For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever. I am choosing this book for two reasons. First I want to start the conversation about what exactly gender is. This will be a perfect lead into the idea that because you may identify with a gender does not mean that you will automatically like certain things or that certain subjects are off limits to you. The second book is my favorite book of all time called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls. This book shows various women (including Women of Color) throughout history and give a one page summary of their accomplishments. The illustrations are fantastic and will hopefully help combat the idea that only white men have made all the major breakthroughs throughout history.

As you can tell it will be a busy day. I hope you will stop your class and read a book aloud even if it is for five minutes. It doesn’t matter what the subject area is; we all need to support reading. Lastly, remember to post on Twitter under the #HPEReadAloudDay as well as #WorldReadAloudDay. If you want more resources or to register for World Read Aloud Day go to this website created by the creators of the event Kidlit.

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I Have A Dream

This year I have picked some quotes from Dr. King’s most famous speech that most people have not read in its entirety. If you would like to read the entire speech click on this link.

“So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice.”This

This speaks of the urgency that Dr. King felt in 1963. Too many white people have accepted the “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”. We allow People of Color to suffer believing that as long as there is some progress towards racial equality that is enough. While we stand on the sideline observing this slow progress to occur, our black students are being harmed. If you are not addressing race in your class you are willingly ingesting the drug “tranquilizing drug of gradualism”.

“The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.”

White people need to stop feeling anything but a need to help our Black brothers and sisters attain equality. We feel ashamed when we learn the ghastly history of our past without using that to fuel our anti-racist actions in the present and the future. We should be conscience-stricken about the past because it was vile and we (white people) are benefiting from that abuse of Black People today. However, if that is where our actions stop it is not enough. Black People statistically don’t have the power to do the work of changing society alone.

As educators, we have the ability to co-liberate our students and ourselves. White people fail to recognize that we are suffering from racism as well. You see we (white people) have separated ourselves from other Black People who deserve equality. Together we can make a more equitable world where “we could join forces to bring about a more equitable distribution of wealth that would benefit us all”. (link) Most importantly,
“we are missing out on the benefits of deep human relationships with people of other “races” and cultures, and all that can be learned and enjoyed in such relationships.” (link) Segregating ourselves has negatively impacted our souls.

“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.”

Here we are 55 years later and we are still speaking about police brutality. It is more than just the police however. “Bias by decision makers at all stages of the justice process disadvantages black people. Studies have found that they are more likely to be stopped by the police, detained pretrial, charged with more serious crimes, and sentenced more harshly than white people.” We have to look at our criminal justice system and understand that is not working for everyone equally.

Voter suppression is still alive and well. Shelby vs. Holder decimated the voting rights acts. Just look at Georgia in the last election. “African-Americans make up thirty-two percent of the state’s population, but they represent nearly seventy percent of the suspended applications.” (link) We need to call for election day to be a national holiday. Need a day to get rid of? Cancel the false worship of Columbus and now you have the opening to make election day a national holiday.

I will leave this blog with the part of Dr. King’s speech we all know. Honestly, I need some hope right about now.

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

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Mary Turner

Saturday was my son’s eighth birthday. To prepare for his birthday dinner I stopped by Amish market after work on Friday and dropped 25$ on pickles as part of his hamburger bar toppings. I also picked up some chocolate covered bacon as well because well, it’s chocolate covered bacon and it was in the same place as the pickles and I am in impulse consumer with very little will power.

After working my second job at the liquor store till 10:30 and then going shopping at Wegmans after that I was exhausted. I came home and fell asleep. It seemed like 30 seconds later, although the clock told me it was 8 hours, and Saturday morning was here. It was time to go coach basketball. Being my son’s birthday and the fact that I have an addiction to bagels, we stopped and grabbed some delicious pork roll, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches topped with ketchup and hot sauce. The day was going well.

Practice ended and it was time to clean the house and get it ready for the birthday dinner. This means that headphones go on and I clean for about six straight hours. I started cleaning the kitchen and all was going well. I had a clean dishwasher ready to be loaded and the pots and pans were soaking. Motown was blaring in my ears and life was moving along.

I moved upstairs to clean the bathroom and I switched over to Audible and continued listening to #ClearTheAir book of choice White Rage. I had already learned about Reconstructing Reconstruction and was now learning about Derailing the Great Migration. The book is hard to read (listen to) because it shows how black people have been systematically kept down every time it looked like there would be progress. I am ok with hard. Then it became unbearable.

WARNING: The historically accurate narrative I am about to relay is brutal and may cause an intense emotional reaction. The rest of the blog is emotionally charged as well.

Dr. Anderson, the author of White Rage, recounts the tale of Mary Turner. The story starts out explaining just how horrible of a human being Hampton Smith was. Smith was a plantation owner who abused his workers to the point that he couldn’t pay any more people to work on his farm. “Smith often had to resort to the debt peonage system as a way to find workers for his farm. Back then, it was common for cops to arrest black people on frivolous charges, then give them fines they couldn’t pay. But employers like Smith could pay off those fines, then force the black arrestees to work off their debt—a system that took the place of slavery in many parts of the South.” (link)

One day Hampton Smith had the tables turned and he was shot by 19-year-old Sidney Johnson after he had beaten him for not showing up to work because he was sick. It didn’t matter that Johnson had already paid his debt back and was in no way shape or form obligated to work for Smith. Days later Sidney Johnson grabbed a shotgun and killed Hampton Smith. “The following week Brooks County saw a mob driven manhunt which resulted in the lynching of 13 people including some who were in the local jail.” (link) Sidney Johnson was one of the 13 people killed.

There was no evidence that any of the other people killed had anything to do with the death of Hampton Smith. One of the other men who was hung was named Hazel “Hayes” Turner. Turner had a wife named Mary who was 8 months pregnant. She denied that her husband had been involved in Smith’s killing, and threatened to have members of the mob arrested. What happened next is one of the most brutal things I have ever heard.

“According to investigator Walter F. White of the NAACP, Mary Turner was tied and hung upside down by the ankles, her clothes soaked with gasoline, and burned from her body. Her belly was slit open with a knife like those used “in splitting hogs.”[11] Her “unborn babe” fell to the ground and gave “two feeble cries.”[11] Its head was crushed by a member of the mob with his heel, and the crowd shot hundreds of bullets into Turner’s body.” 1

“In their mind, they’d taught her a lesson, made of her an example. And despite the fact that a full report, including the names of instigators and over 10 participants, was given to Hugh Dorsey, the governor of Georgia, no one was ever charged with the murders.” 2

1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazel_%22Hayes%22_Turner
2 https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/sayhername-100-years-ago-mary-turner-was-lynched-1826019454

There have been not been many times when I had to stop reading or listening to something because something shook me to my core. This was one of those times. I started to take long deep breaths. Tears flowed from my eyes. I had to sit down in the bathroom. I paused the book and opened up my Voxer and tried my best to explain to the book chat just how hard that was to read.

I imagined what it was like for Mary knowing the mob was looking for her, what she felt when they found her, and the sheer fear and terror of being tied upside and have gasoline poured on her. She had other children who had just had their father taken from them. She had a baby in her stomach. She knew that she and her baby were going to die a painful excruciating death. The scene played out in my head and I just sat there all sort of shook. It took a good 10-15 minutes for me to get up and start cleaning again.

How do we get people, specifically our students, to understand exactly how brutal it was for black people? Obviously, we aren’t going to unleash this emotional fecal bomb on elementary or middle school students. We teach about slavery, lynchings, and poor conditions for Black people yet I never understood exactly what that entailed. They were words or phrases that did not paint a very clear picture in my head. It took me seeing pictures to truly understand what a lynching was. How do we shield our children from the trauma of understanding rape, hangings, and physical abuse yet expose them to the truth about just how sickening those things really are on a level they can take meaning of?

Speaking as a parent, I want to shield my kids from this; yet I feel a responsibility that they fully grasp what our country legally sanctioned. They need to understand the true history of our country in order to grasp the conditions that exist for Black people today. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Mary Turner and her child were executed in the worst possible way only 100 years ago. I don’t have any answers for this. I don’t know how we have people grasp the depth of the brutality of the history of the United States. I do know that I will always err on the side of giving too much information to my children instead of too little. At some point, my children will learn about Mary Turner from me and I will be there to hold them as tears flow from their faces.

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Blog Alert!

If your timeline did not have stories about #SurvivingRKelly you need to follow more black women. I say that for two main reasons. First, the black women I follow are brilliant and are tweeting some of the most important events going on in the world. This includes the government shutdown, astrophysics, mathematics, and history. Secondly, black women live at the intersection of both racial and gender oppression. This gives them a point of view that NO ONE else has. Black Twitter was going crazy tweeting about the repulsive story that is R Kelly. Andy Milne’s blog addresses both dating violence and sexual assault.

Andy Milne’s #SlowChatHealth blog Uncomfortable Listening is a crowd-sourced resource of podcasts dedicated about dating violence/sexual assault. I know this is not light listening but if you interact with students there is a really high chance that one of them will experience dating violence or sexual assault. As a teacher, we have to understand what experiences our students are walking into our classes with as well as understand how to broach the subject of violence and sexual assault if the need arises. As a health teacher, we need to be explicitly discussing sexual assault with our students starting in 1st grade. Yes, 1st grade. It should be a simple as discussing what your bathing suit area means and that you have control over your body. If you can listen to the podcasts that were crowdsourced. Surviving R Kelly is linked at the bottom of the blog.

The next blog I read was penned by Sherri Spelic. It was titled Weight Gain. I love reading Sherri’s work because her heart and soul shine through her words. You feel her emotion when you read her work. This weeks blog was no different. In her blog, she relates shame, disappointment, guilt, struggle, expectations, being a woman, the past, the present, and the future all related to her body weight.

Her blog made me think about my weight related to my job, which is Physical Education and Health Teacher and my gender. As a teacher of both Physical Education and Health, I have an expectation that I look a certain way. I don’t need to be jacked but I do want to show students, parents, other teachers and the community that I practice what I preach. This means that I have to be physically active and keep my weight somewhat under control. This will be something that is harder to control as I age. As a male society also gives me a little more leeway in how I look. That will definitely impact how I view my body as I age. I highly recommend you read her blog and see her insight into how her husband, society, and her own views influence how she sees herself.

The third blog I recommend you check out was written by Dr. Ash Casey. The Concept of Physical Literacy breaks down this simple yet complex idea of physical literacy presented in Margaret Whitehead’s 2001
European Journal of Physical Education article The Concept of Physical Literacy. Every teacher should know what physical literacy is just like every like they know what numeracy and literacy are. Specifically, Physical Education and Health Teachers need to understand this concept because SHAPE America has built our future upon it. Here is an excerpt from Ash that sums up why we need to understand this concept:

…”She did, however, conclude by saying “as an aspect of human potential integral to a fully realised human existence and influencing much of life as habitually experience, the achievement and exercise of Physical Literacy plays a significant part in the development of self-realisation, self-confidence and positive self-esteem” (p. 136). Taken this way, Physical Literacy deserves a place in our discussions about the future of physical education.

The final blog I recommend Physical Educators check out is Shane Pill’s blog Closed and Open Practice. The basic premise of the blog is that closed drills serve a purpose.

“Closed drills are those that provide a relatively stable practice environment. For team sports, that means a practice environment where defenders or opposition are removed from the action, or placed in passive roles.”

We are in education so we know that the pendulum swings with gusto instead of gently swaying. There is still a place for working on skills in and of themselves whether they be physical skills or mental skills. Practicing your math facts will make you better at math just as practicing dribbling with your hands and feet will make improve your physical skills. I am not advocating for drill and kill of either math facts nor dribbling. What I am saying is that there will always be a place for honing your skills by yourself or in a closed drill environment.

Hopefully, I have given you something to think about as well as highlighting some people doing great work in the field of life and education. I highly recommend that you subscribe to the blogs I have listed above. As always thank you for your time.

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One Word: Support

Sometimes I don’t want to do things simply because everyone else is doing them. To this day I still haven’t fully embraced the Dave Matthews Band simply due to the fact that everyone around me couldn’t stop talking about how great they are. That’s how I feel about this one-word goal setting blog mania that sweeps the edusphere every New Years. I want to hate on it but I can’t. When I read the blogs every year I get inspired. The kind of inspired you feel when the Patriots lose in the Super Bowl. That is what keeps me taking the #oneword challenge.

Before I get started I will recap my last two one word challenges. In 2016 the subject was fear. It was based on the fear that Donald Trump was going to win the election and what that was going to mean for every student who was not white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, and Christian. What followed was exactly what was feared.

” The report found that 7,175 hate crimes were reported by law enforcement agencies in 2017, up from 6,121 reported incidents in 2016. While the number has increased, the number of agencies reporting also increased by about 1,000.

Of the 7,106 single-bias hate crimes reported, 59.6% of victims were targeted because of the offenders’ race/ethnicity/ancestry bias; 15.8% were targeted because of sexual-orientation bias; 1.6% were targeted because of gender identity bias; and 0.6% were targeted because of gender bias. Sixty-nine multiple-bias hate crime incidents were also reported.”


In 2017 my #oneword was disallow. I stated, “The number one reason I am choosing that word is that someone needs to stand up when they see things that go against what they stand for.” I believe that I did start to change how I approached things. I no longer allowed the people I cam in contact with to get away with saying things that were either dog whistles or just plain hateful. This is embarrassing because I came so late to the party. I lived over 30 years either being a white supremacist or allowing white supremacy to continue without ever addressing it. No cookies will be eaten over here.

In 2018 I took a break and took the 100 word challenge from my man Dene Gainey blog. Here is what I wrote:

“Teaching is sharing time with people. Every day I get the opportunity to provide a safe environment for kids to explore and have fun. We form connections and memories that will leave a lasting impression on all parties. Together we enjoy creating new neural connections constantly challenging ourselves to grow. I get to feel that I am impacting the world battling hate and fear. Future generations will be changed for the better if I continuously grow and make a positive impact on my students. I am leaving the world a better place than before I got there.”

Now that I have reflected here is why my 2019 one word is Support. It is time that I consciously make sure I am using my platform to support what others are doing. Specifically I would like to support those who are not white, cisgender, heterosexual males like myself. The reason for this is not because I don’t feel like we don’t have anything to say or that we can’t add value to the world. The reason is because we don’t need the support. It is there simply because of who we are. Here are the three movements that I support through my time, my money, and my standing in the #physed community.

The first person/movement I would like to publicly support is #ClearTheAir created by Valeria Brown. ClearTheAir has allowed me to learn more about race and power than anywhere else. The books, Twitter chats, Zooms, and Voxer groups that Val recommends and creates pushes my thinking and make me extremely uncomfortable. That is probably why I have grown so much in my worldview in the past year. In order to support her I will be donating money so she can start to build the ClearTheAir community further and donate books to those that can’t afford them so they can be involved in the movement. I will also be using my time to show up on Twitter chats, Zoom gatherings, and whatever else she has in mind.

The next movement that I would like to support is the MAPSO Freedom School. The idea behind their organization is:

“Freedom Schools were temporary, alternative free schools for African-Americans mostly in the South. They were originally part of the Civil Rights Movement to organize African Americans to achieve social, political and economic equality in the United States. Our (Maplewood South Orange) MapSO Freedom School events will capture that historical spirit as we struggle together and move forward.
Our classroom sessions, professional development, and community events seek to develop understanding of racial justice in students, teachers, and parents while empowering those same groups to take action in an effort to make social change.”

I first learned of this organization through Okaikor Aryee-Price. She will rightfully say that there are a lot of people involved and doing the work; however, she puts in a lot of work and is the face of it to me. Okaikor is exactly the type of person we need if we are going to make a systemic change in education. She is brilliant, passionate, and willing to give of herself and her time in order to shed light on anti-blackness in America our schools.

I have supported the MAPSO Freedom School by donating money. Secondly, I will be showing up to at least 3 Zooms in preparation for BLM Week of Action at schools and the Teaching Tolerance Workshops. Lastly, I will be attending the Teaching Tolerance workshop in March. If you are interested in supporting them contact Okaikor. Also, follow @mapsofreedom.

The final people I will be actively supporting are Kennedra Tucker and Stephanie Sandino. They are in the midst of creating a Social Justice podcast for Physical Education and Health Teachers. This project has taken a while to get moving but I am so excited to see it come to fruition. Both Kennedra and Stephanie are amazing educators whose passion is apparent to anyone that has ever come in contact with them. I will be definitely be amplifying their work! Follow them on Twitter or join them on the Voxer equity, diversity, and inclusion chat on Voxer.

My goal this year is to continue to de-center myself as well as raise the social consciousness of others who are doing great things in the field of education. It will be a busy and tiring year for sure. That will not deter me from continuing to better myself and those around me by supporting others who are doing the important work.

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Reflection: Grace and More

The end of the year forces us to reflect. This holiday season/new year I am going to focus more in the vein of Yom Kippur than Rosh Hashanah. What that means is I am going to focus more on being forgiven for my sins than celebrating the New Year’s arrival. I believe I have grown a lot both personally and professionally.

The biggest growth I had was in confronting the harm that I had imposed on others. This blog post named the people directly who I have harmed as well as me attempting to repair the harm. It was time that I openly admitted to my errors to these people and the world. This also forced me to constantly remind myself that I make mistakes all the time also prompts me to realize that others are doing the same thing. We are all making mistakes of one kind or another.

Reflecting further I know that I have not reflected the grace that I hoped would be shown to me when I attempted to repair the harm. This does not mean that I need to forgive and forget. It means that if someone did something and truly felt remorse for it I need to make sure I am being as magnanimous as I expect others to be. Honestly that does not always occur.

One of the areas that I am attempting to learn more about is power. I don’t always understand power dynamics. I have come to realize this is because I have usually had the power or possessed the ability to ignore the power in my interactions. My goal is to make sure I listen when people call my attention to this.

This year I brought the idea of identity and intersectionality into my Health and PhysEd classrooms. This was a direct result of me seeing a world that treats people inequitably simply because of their race, sexuality, gender association, religion, and socioeconomic status. I felt it was time that I started showing my students how there are different systems in place that have (and still do) created obstacles for certain groups of people to live their best life in the United States.

Last I am grateful for all the people that are actively working to help ignorant individuals like myself grow. Arthur Chiaravalli wrote a fantastic blog post and follow up thread that names a lot of the people I would like to thank.

To conclude this reflection I would like to recommend some chats and resources you should follow if you want to make changes in your pedagogy and social awareness.

#ClearTheAir Val Brown creates a bridge where people with an open heart can learn without being fearful of being attacked. You will be challenged for sure. It will be uncomfortable no doubt. And you will grow as a human being.

#EduColor- “was founded by people of color, with people of color, for people of color. We are an inclusive collective, and have co-workers in the work for true equity. Our members come from many parts of the education sector, including educational technology and higher education.”

http://www.peprn.com/ – “The aim of PEPRN (which originally stood for the Physical Education Practitioner Research Network but now, like the BBC or NBC, is now better known for its acronym) is to bring together physical education teachers, coaches, physical activity leaders, volunteers and university practitioners from around the world to talk about practice, young peoples’ experiences of physical activity, and research.”

http://eshpodcast.libsyn.com/  – Dr. Dye runs this podcast that, “Empowerment Starts Here is a podcast that explores power, social change and disrupting the margins.” Dr. Dye allows me to help uncover my blind areas when it come to power. I have soooo much work to do.

Liberal Racist/White Fragility Two Sides of the Same Coin

This month Virginia Governor Ralph Northam admitted to dressing up in black face. His yearbook page featured a white person in black face and someone dressed up in a kkk outfit. What’s amazing is he really didn’t seem to understand why this is wrong until others explained it to him.

“It’s been a horrific week for Virginia. A lot of individuals across Virginia have been hurt,” he said, strategically employing the passive voice to absolve himself, adding, “And so this has been a real, I think, an awakening for Virginia. It has really raised the level of awareness for racial issues in Virginia. And so we’re ready to learn from our mistakes.” (Link)

His white privilege allowed him to either be ignorant of why white people wearing black face is wrong or he is a liberal racist who thought it was funny even though he knew it was wrong.

You may be asking yourself what is a liberal racist? According to Commonweal Magazine:

“Liberal racism…assumes that racial differences are so profound that they are almost primordial,” Sleeper observes, adding that “the fascination with racial differences that prevents many liberals from treating any person with a nonwhite racial physiognomy as someone much like themselves only begets policies and programs that reinforce nineteenth-century assumptions about race that are patently racist. (link)

Dressing up in black face definitely fits into the category of being fascinated by racial differences for sure. Liberal racism seems to walk hand in hand with white fragility. Both ideas interfere with seeing People of Color as being fully human and equal to white people.

White people have a hard accepting that we are racist simply by living in the United States of America. Robin D’Angelo, the author of White Fragility, explains how this happens.

“All of us have been shaped by the cultural water that we swim in. All white people have internalized a racist worldview. Let me own that. As a result of being raised as a white person in this society, I have a racist worldview. I have deep racist biases. I have developed racist patterns, and I have investments in not only the system of racism that has served me so well.” (link)

This week I saw white fragility pop up with the #TMC (Twitter Math Camp) conference. It started when I saw the resignation of Marian Dingle.

I know Marian from #ClearTheAir and it was clear if her values do not align with TMC then they probably weren’t taking Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion into action. I asked some questions and found their blog which gave me a glimpse as to what was going on:

However, we noticed room for growth in the equity statements, both for people who submitted for the equity strand and people who submitted for other strands.

Since this question is new for TMathC we want to communicate our observations. We did not use the equity statement as a factor in determining which proposals we accepted this year. (link)

This clearly shows that the TMC committee was not committed to EDI 100%. How do I know that? I know because if they were committed THEY WOULD HAVE FACTORED THE EQUITY STATEMENT IN THE PROPOSALS!! I asked their Twitter handle why they asked the question if they weren’t going to actually use the information they gathered.

This is where white fragility popped up. Elizabeth Stratmore (@cheesemonkeysf) started to respond very defensively to me. I then saw she posted a couple of blogs about the conference.  In one blog she writes about the conference:

“I do think there was some inartful language in the acceptance letters — and I believe it caused more distress than was necessary. Communication matters, and sometimes we just get it wrong.”

Let me get this right. Elizabeth was upset that white adults had their feelings hurt in their acceptance letter? She cared less that our Students of Color are being harmed by teacher’s color blindness and bias then the fact that grown adults may have been upset that their equity statements were garbage? THIS IS WHITE FRAGILITY!!

In her most recent blog she writes this:

We are still not anywhere near the point of identifying or understanding the unconscious, unspoken, equity-blind, harm-causing assumptions in TMC’s structures. We’re just not. This needs to be a whole-community effort. We’re trying to set new goals but we’re still walking around in the same old consensus trance.

There is no way that a small group of people could tackle this problem successfully. It’s not realistic. It will take everybody in our community to surface and and interrogate the hidden assumptions in our structures. The problem with blind spots is that they are blind spots. If we don’t work together on surfacing and transforming our assumptions, we will continue to just tinker around at the margins and that’s not going to be satisfactory to anybody. It is also not going to unleash the liberatory potential in a a whole-community effort.

This is how white fragility muddles things. You read that and go wow that is revolutionary. She really gets it. But then we have to remember that this is the same lady that pushed back against the “inartful” language that TMC used in their equity proposal responses that weren’t even counted towards the proposals! We can write all the flowery prose about liberation and starting over but it means nothing if you are actively working against progress as it is occurring! In addition, the people who were working together to make sure this liberatory potential came to fruition resigned! I say, people because Tina Cardone has also resigned from their board after Marian!

Liberal racism and white fragility will constantly push back against the progress of equity, diversity, and inclusion. It will be done with the idea that this is all happening too fast. People will object that the language being used is too harsh. They will play the devil’s advocate or explain how some people may take offense to what the organization is attempting to do. Tears will be spilled at being “attacked”. All that will be done under the guise that they actually want progress. It is a smoke and mirrors show. A magician’s trick. Look at my left hand while you continue to be harmed by the right.

Here is why I followed this so closely. I was part of an organization that created an equity statement that showed we were one hundred percent committed to creating an atmosphere of inclusion, diversity, and equity. I was also there when liberal racism struck back from one of the organizing members. You see it is easy to talk about EDI, but when it comes time to sharing power and walking the walk some people will push back. I too left that organization because I am not going to be a part something that doesn’t align with my values.

I will leave you with this final thought. TMC board member Glenn Waddell wrote this to me during our dialogue.

Glenn TMC just hit a huge bump in their journey of equity. Two of your board members have resigned from your organization and it appears to be because the values of TMC do not jibe with equity, diversity, and inclusion. We need organizations to step up now more than ever. Good luck on your journey.