“My life's purpose is to work to eliminate barriers that prevent youth from disadvantaged backgrounds from actualizing a world for themselves that transcends their present circumstances. My belief in the power of service to transform lives stems from my own life. I was raised in the Bronx, the product of a single, immigrant mom. I believe that various public/private sector investments in me transformed my life trajectory. Yet I know that these same opportunities are not equally available to all communities. Pursuing true justice and liberation for all requires active resistance in all forms. That cannot happen if I don't undertake the self and systematic work to upend societal barriers created and buttressed by white supremacy.”
“The legacies of oppression, migration, and liberation within my family’s history combined with an unshakable hope for a better, more just future are truths that compel me to do racial equity and social justice work. I want to play an active role in creating a better future for all that is rooted in a shared commitment to dismantle white supremacy through love–radical love. Education is one key to actualizing liberation for oppressed communities of color but without recognizing the omnipresence of white supremacy — and thus racial inequity and social injustice — education is just another building block of the status quo.”
“All learners have the right to a level playing field — to be afforded adequate resources and an engaging education to realize their full potential. I’ve had a privileged upbringing and now, with children of my own, I am intensely aware of the ‘opportunity gap’ that exists and its long-term impact. I do this work to spread the word and to narrow the gap.”
“There are a host of us in this country who are overlooked and undervalued every day, because of the inequitable structures and ideologies embedded in our culture. Many of us question our complexion, try to change our voices, and/or mask our ancestries because they’ve somehow been deemed less valuable by the broader society. Advancing racial equity and social justice creates the room needed for us to take our rightful place back in the center of our own stories and the story of our larger society.”
Danielle Davis is the Director of Equity at iMentor.
“As early as I can remember, I have been acutely aware of issues of racial equity and social justice. The experiences and lessons of my parents and other elders shaped my lens of the world and nurtured my commitment this work. I am conscious of the sacrifices made by others to create opportunities for me and I owe it to those who came before me to continue their work. As a Black woman, I am reminded daily of the barriers that designed to deter my journey. I am determined to channel my power to dismantle those barriers for myself and others.”
Kelli Doss is the Chief Talent and Equity Officer at iMentor.
“The word equity only makes sense in the context of our history; it cannot be discussed ahistorically. Equity begins by recognizing the barriers, the marginalization, and oppression faced by certain identities throughout our history. Because oppression seeks to make itself invisible, equity requires constant reflection and dialogue. It requires us to actively challenge the current culture, systems, and beliefs in order to create a world that is just for all.”
“I engage in racial equity and social justice work because — even if my organization is working on noble causes — if we are not intentionally addressing the apparatus and systems upholding white supremacy, those groups can never truly yield the outcomes they envision for everyone. Without an explicit focus on racial equity and social justice, at best case, we allow racial inequities to persist in society; and at worst case, the existing racial disparities will be exacerbated.”
“Growing up in Richmond, Virginia and attending a variety of public schools, I witnessed the impact of institutional and systemic racism on life outcomes for kids — though I could not name or articulate it at the time. Institutionalized racism is at the core of several issues that have plagued education systems for generations. To truly create change in life outcomes and break intergenerational cycles of poverty for historically marginalized people, our education system must address the institutions, systems, beliefs and assumptions that perpetuate the status quo. More personally, as an African-American mother, wife and sister, I do this work because I believe that it must be done, and I have a personal obligation and desire to do it.”
“Currently, our education systems allow some (usually affluent White) students the opportunity to take charge of their education by engaging deeply with real-world projects/tasks of their own choosing and demonstrating what they know in ways that most suit their strengths. However, we know that poor children, and children of color benefit greatly when given these same opportunities. We are compelled to equity work, especially when working with systems leaders to design high-quality performance assessment systems that result in equitable outcomes for students, because it helps America fulfill its promise. And it’s what ALL students deserve.”
“On a recent episode of my favorite podcast, How to Make Love, David Kim said, ‘To be a person of color...and not be shrouded and saturated with love would really would mean death.’ I’m driven to racial equity and social justice work by love: a fierce love for myself, a powerful familial love for those in my chosen and blood family, a full-hearted agape love for humanity, and a radical love that Reverend Angel Kyodo Williams says is necessary for justice.”
“At Leading Educators, we are dedicated to impacting the learning opportunity gaps for students that perpetuate race outcome gaps. These gaps are what motivated me to enter the field of education as a teacher, school and system leader in Chicago Public schools, and also what inspired me to stay for the past 25 years. There is much work to be done. As an outsider to the community in which I learned and served for nearly 20 years, and a member of white, dominant culture, I am on a learning journey to become an ally in the fight to dismantle systemic racism.”
“I firmly believe that your racial identity should not limit the choices you have. As the child of immigrants and a first-generation college student, I know firsthand the power of education in expanding choice and counteracting social inequities. However, I know that systemic racism and inequities persist past the classroom and permeate the workplace. It is my role to disrupt this cycle and to ensure that the promise we make to our students — that their options are limitless — is fulfilled when they become adults.”
“My commitment stems from lived experiences. We have zero control of the circumstances we are born into. I was fortunate to be raised by parents who had the means to move our family inches inside the border of quality neighborhood schools. I recognized early on in life that fair and equal is never assumed — I claimed equity as my soul mission. I have dedicated my work to creating spaces and opportunities for children who have been purposefully disadvantaged by institutions, structures and environments. It is at the core of the DNA of my personal and professional journey.”
Kimberly Smith is the Executive Director of the League of Innovative Schools at Digital Promise.
“Growing up, my world was narrow. I intentionally set out to raise my children in the broadest world I could — exposure to as much of the world, as many different people, places, and ways of seeing and understanding the world, as possible. All of the systems and structures in society supported me in this. That these same structures and systems actively work against other parents, intentionally trying to keep their children’s worlds as small as possible, isn’t acceptable. Until all barriers are removed, how can I not work for racial equity and social justice?”
“As a first-generation Latina and college graduate I learned first-hand that education has the power to profoundly change one’s quality of life, and that the alluring ideal of a free, public education for all children in the U.S. is acutely flawed and inextricably racialized. I choose to work in education because I want to interrupt the systemic cycle of oppression, inequity, and racism in our public schools, because I believe that ALL children have the right to an exceptional education and the ability to be the best versions of themselves, regardless of the countless identifiers of otherness imposed by society.”
“I engage in racial equity and social justice work because as a design leader, I want my processes and solutions to promote equal opportunity and not uphold the status quo. Technology can establish or reinforce cultural and societal biases. Because of the speed in which technology can be both created and iterated upon, the effective ethical analysis of its impacts are often overlooked. As technology plays an ever-increasing role in education, the frameworks and skills leveraged by educators to ensure equitable opportunity for all students must also be adopted by those developing technology.”