My Expertise in Edtech Isn’t Just Diversity and Equity

At ISTE(International Society for Technology in Education), I was exceptionally proud to be named this year’s Outstanding Leadership Award winner, especially knowing that it was for the body of work that I do in my school district.

I started my career in a school district where Technology was led by a woman and her leadership is what inspired me as I navigated my way towards this path. Here, I was the first in this position and have worked night and day to collaboratively lead this growing ecosystem of digital understanding…in rural East Texas.

It’s funny though because as much as I dreamed about being a director of instructional technology one day, I almost didn’t even apply because for a second, I didn’t believe that I was qualified enough. I’ll always be thankful for that friend who demanded that I do otherwise.

Being in this role has been equal parts scary, brilliant and stressful but I have loved every single second of growth that I’ve seen in our staff and students. This also applies to my own growth because what I can tell you is that I could not do this without being connected to great people who do great work that I learn from daily.

…people that I came to know by following the ISTE twitter feed many years ago and finally attending my very first show a year later. This community has been my lifeline in so many forms.

During the conference, I attended a number of meetups. One meetup in particular almost broke my spirit entirely.

Another educator, a woman who I thought I respected no less, sat across from me and proceeded to insist that my expertise wasn’t district technology. Her words…”that’s not your work”….stung. A few moments and insults later, she finally got to the point of her beliefs in a few words, ironically intermixed with an insult…

”Oh, You just do diversity right. That’s your thing.”

It took every cell in my body not to draw upon my ancestors, my late grandmother and my mother who still endures these type of jabs to this day.

…Other people telling you what you know and do not know how to do without knowing you and often while even knowing what you actually do.

I speak up about the lack of diversity in spaces because I choose not to walk through life blind to the fact that we exist.

…that we have much to contribute and that our knowledge is both valuable and valid

I speak up about equity because knowledge and power must be decentralized.

…for some reason my existence bothered her and she believed that she needed to let me know

DWP, when we speak up for ourselves and demand that our spaces be full of the life that represents the world we live in, this does not minimize the technical expertise, leadership or accomplishments that we bring to the table.

If you ask me, those that do not care about equity and diversity shouldn’t be in this field…period.

The difference is that people will see them and never question their abilities to do their jobs.

That, my friends, is reserved for people who look like me.

I don’t have the privilege of walking into a room and not being seen as a black woman first.

Don’t get me wrong. See me for who I am but you will also see me for the work that I have fought like hell to do…including that which brought me to that very room to be reminded of why we do this work.

I had no intention of sharing this incident beyond the post that I created on facebook after it happened weeks ago but today, I clicked an email to a blog post created by an organization that I absolutely love.

paraphrasing….

Congratulations Rafranz Davis, winner of ISTE’s Outstanding Leadership Award for her work in diversity and equity…

The funny thing is that when I read it as they wrote, I am still proud because I know what my voice in this space has meant for the movement to include us at all.

I also know that this blog was created for a company that believes in this work too. It is their mission really.

Unfortunately, this statement took me right back to that night…in that room…across that table.

And I had to say something.

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