Intelligent Enough To Think Independently, But Humble To Seek Collaboration
“I consider myself a humble, concerned citizen who’s willing to work with others to grapple with individuals in power,” was how our speaker described himself as a scholar-activist. For me, the key word in his self-description was “humble”. Humility is an extremely significant — and often overlooked — trait of a scholar-activist. Yes, it is important to be erudite and astute, but as Professor Stovall stated, “It is equally important for scholar-activist to be transparent and highlight that they do not know everything.” He later went to state that, “Scholar-activists should do their work with humility and reflection.” Similarly, I recently heard Gloria Ladson-Billings say, “Her work is not about her.” When engaging in activism work, the work must be centered on advancing the greater good for many and not just personal gain. The scholar-activists that I admire the most possess a deep sense of community and deference to the individuals that they serve.
Likewise, I agree with Professor Stovall’s sentiments about scholar-activists suspending the notion of being the “expert”. Though scholar-activists are very knowledgeable about their content area, there is always more that can be learned. Just like many other capacities, there is tremendous knowledge to acquire being a scholar-activist. Due to many scholar-activists having demanding schedules, it is impossible to know everything. Rightfully so, it is not the job of the scholar-activist to know everything, but rather, be able to say I don’t know, but also be diligent about the finding the answer. I feel this transparency assuages the connotation of power that most scholar-activists carry. Furthermore, transparency builds a sense of trust and begins to bridge the gap between scholarship and practicality. For example, I study black males and mentoring, but I do not consider myself an expert, nor do I assume I know all the needs of the young men I am mentoring. The first question I always ask is, “What do you need from me?” In my experience, that simple question cracked the barrier of distrust and made the young men feel as if my concerns were genuine and I was not just there to tell them what I posit they need.
Professor’s Stovall’s remarks about collectives being critical to doing change work made me reflect on what I have noticed recently. When it comes to tackling critical issues, especially educational issues, it seems that many of the potential solutions are done in somewhat isolation. What I mean is that EVERYONE wants to start a program and tackle educational issues, but not many people are working together. When in actuality, working together and pooling resources could potentially have a greater effect. If scholar-activists would get together to define the challenge/issue to be addressed, acknowledge that a collective impact approach is required, establish clear and shared goals for change, and identify principles to guide joint work together, some serious change could occur.