"If what you want doesn't exist, create it yourself"
"If what you want doesn't exist, you need to create it yourself" ....
This statement from a close friend is what kept me going throughout each step that I took towards the EmancipatED vision. I honestly never saw myself as an entrepreneur. I thought it was for "other people". People born into wealth. People without fear.
But here I am...excavating the knowledge and creating the experiences that I wish I had access to as a young Black girl in traditional k-12 environments, and as an educator of Black and Brown youth.
Outside of my Guyanese + African American family, my first deep dive into experiences within the African Diaspora was at Spelman College where all freshwomen are required to take a course called “African Diaspora and the World”...
...Talk about ripping the blindfold off! We read Aimé Césaire, Fanon, Lorde, hooks, Danticat, Dangarembga to name a few; anti-colonialism, Black feminism, greens, beans, potatoes, tomatoes you NAME IT!
A whole cornucopia of Black radical thought.
It was in college when I began to travel the globe and connect with Black folks across the diaspora and began learning about different resistance movements. There's a saying in the Middle East, "same same but different", that pops into mind when I reflect on learning about the nuances of global Black experiences.
I was a culturally responsive teacher (before I knew the term) and my Black and Brown students excelled academically while I tried to [subversively - because “standards”] expand their awareness of nonwhite ways of thinking and being.
But I lost some students to the larger systems of oppression that impact us all, and I was saddened to realize that our magical classroom space wasn’t enough.
I entered graduate school to learn more about those systems of oppression and became steeped in educational psychology, critical race theory, cognitive theory, intersectional theory, etc. But I noticed much of the research focused on Black and Brown students as “problems to be fixed” - or - when we weren’t positioned as problems, we were often discussed as objects that are constantly traumatized and abused.
While not false - because perpetual anti-Black violence continues to deeply shape our experiences - the trauma narratives do not paint the whole picture about the Black experience across the Diaspora.
It was in graduate school - in 2012 - when a seed was planted; nurtured in the fertile soil of my Black-centered travel experiences, my experiences as an educator, my historical awakening about Black resistance across the Diaspora (thanks to Spelman), and my resistance to deficit narratives. But I ignored that little nudge way back when, because who am I to pursue a dream?!
After I received my doctorate, I naively entered the EdReform nonprofit space hoping to upend those systems of oppression and those deficit narratives….let's just say the shenanigans in that space deserve their own posts (or series of books) for another day…
I was disenchanted and disgusted to be honest. I felt trapped. Where tf can someone go who is honestly truly trying to be about this "liberation" life? One of those people I met in the sunken place, a bright Habesha light named Helen, consistently challenged me by saying the only way I could experience this dream world was to create it myself. I ignored the nudge.
Until I couldn't. Her voice continued to ring louder and louder in my head, “Create it yourself! Create it yourself!”
Like Anna Julia Cooper said, “...a thumping from within unanswered by a beckoning from without.”
I refused to water that seed until now.
I asked myself: In what environments do I thrive?
In what environments have Black people, as a collective, thrived?
Historically and contemporarily.
These are the questions that I am called to answer as I continue my own journey of creation.
I'm so thankful you're on this journey with me! Stay tuned for more info.
Crystal Menzies, PhD Founder & CEO - The Emancipated LLC