This post is part of AACTE’s Black History Month 2022 Blog series.
Every February, during Black History Month, we celebrate the countless contributions and achievements of notable Black inventors, educators, lawyers, and politicians from over the years. However, as I reflect, I remember to pay homage to the heroes and sheroes in my life who sacrificed to create a better tomorrow, from the Black teachers who inspired me during my PK-12 journey to the Black professors at my HBCU (Jackson State) who saw my potential and pushed me beyond my comfort zone. Because of them, I knew that getting to this point was possible.
Have you ever felt like you were in the right place at the right time? Attending Washington Week during the early stages of a global pandemic was an experience I will never forget. It honestly helped solidify my why and purpose.
As a first-year Ph.D. student, I was looking forward to the learning experiences that laid ahead. However, I did not expect them to come so soon. During my first week in the Ph.D. program, I attended the 2020 Holmes Program Washington Week sessions. Between work and school, I was “Zoomed” out. So, I was skeptical of the impact this would have since it was virtual. As a natural extrovert, I was unsure how I would connect with others. So, you can see why I had my doubts.
Weade James and Jane West could not have hosted a better virtual Washington Week. Since my time as an admissions recruiter at the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, I have always been interested in policies, particularly educational policies that impact historically marginalized populations. From the achievement gap to the allocation of resources, I have witnessed first-hand how this hinders the success of students and educators within urban school districts. Attending Washington Week provided me with some fundamental tools to make a difference in my corner of the world.
During Washington Week, I learned how to connect with state senators and representatives regarding policies and ideas to move education forward. West insisted that Twitter was a great platform to connect with government officials because, believe it or not, someone is always watching. I had an opportunity to engage with dynamic leaders from across the world who are doing great work on behalf of students and educators. Everyone that spoke during Washington Week mentioned that there is much work to be done. The participants also talked about knowing that they make a difference motivates them to do their job. Despite the politics that come with policymaking and seemingly seeks to undo the impact educators and policymakers strive to have, they have no choice but to show up because people need them.
During our discussion, I heard that if you don’t have a seat at the table, you might end up on the menu. This phrase may sound a bit cliché’, but during Washington Week 2020, I found my voice. This statement will stick with me for the rest of my life. From this experience, I am looking forward to claiming my seat at the table and making a difference.
Anthony Webster is a Holmes Scholar and Ph.D. educational leadership and policy studies candidate at Wayne State University.