(Photo source: Courtney Primus)
I was very fortunate to be able to attend the Association for International Educators and Leaders of Color (AIELOC) and Women of Color in ELT Conference on 12 and 13 November 2022. The virtual conference covered a plethora of topics that are engaging, relevant, and necessary. The discussions took the participants on a journey from self-discovery to reflection to awareness and finally to a place for safe sharing. The presenters shared research on social justice, multilingual learners, liberation, solidarity, recruitment, belonging, diversity, equity, inclusions, and justice (DEIJ), anti-racism, healing, and much more.
The opening keynote by Yasmine Sadri set the tone of the conference, solidarity, and awareness of what is happening around us. Yasmine discussed the current situation in Iran sharing personal experiences that rattled my inner conscience and provoked me to take action to talk about the plight of the brave people of Iran who stood up against the dictatorship and now face death. 15,000 people will be executed if we just sit and watch, yet another genocide where we, the so-called educated leaders of the world, have chosen to overlook this heinousness. My personal takeaway is that the hope lies in telling the story to the world and starting a movement so powerful that it uproots the very foundations of this kind of systemic oppression. If this execution goes ahead, we will truly see the beginning of the end of humanity.
This is urgent. This needs all of us. Support Sadri by following her on LinkedIn. Support the AIELOC and The International Educator by joining the movement.
(From left to right) Slide from the opening keynote by Yasmine Sadri and AIELOC's Stand for Iran statement.
This session was aptly followed by a workshop by Adrienne Waller to lead the participants to discover their authentic selves. We were guided to reflect on our identity, who we were, who we are, and who we want to be in the future. I was in a breakout room with fellow educators, and I truly got an opportunity to reflect on my journey as an educator, a woman of color, and most importantly, as a leader. A very useful tool was shared by Adrienne to help us navigate through this complex path of finding the authentic self by identifying our personalities within the brand archetype available on Iconic Fox.
This was the beginning of the two days of workshops which is still resonating with my values and philosophy as an educator and a citizen of the world. While it is difficult to capture all the sessions and workshops, my personal five highlights were the following:
- The students from the American School of Johannesburg’s discussion on the power of the voice of the youth.
- Katrina Daniel-Samasa’s discussion on the strategies for implementing a powerful diversity, equity, and inclusion plan.
- Cheryl-Ann Weekes’ session on setting boundaries to protect wellbeing and nurture healthy relationships.
- Lachanda Garrison’s discussion on healing for DEIJ to impact the movement in education.
- Homa Tavangar’s session on diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging (DEIJB) and leadership skills, and what governance brings to the table for DIEJB discussions.
Slide from Cheryl-Ann Weekes’ session.
My heart is full, full of love for all those who presented and those who participated and, of course, for AIELOC for putting together this wonderful conference. My heart is full, full of solidarity with all of us who are still struggling to find our place in the world of international education, who are fighting for justice, who are raising our voices for justice, who are standing up against discrimination, who are women of color.
Slide from Lachanda Garrison’s session.
A few quotes that I gathered as key takeaways from this conference:
- "Don't apologize for setting boundaries." Cheryl-Ann Weekes
- “Remember the person we were and reaffirm who you are now.” Adrienne Waller
- “Transform-Surrender-Liberation” Lachanda Garrison
- “When you listen to a witness, you become a witness.” Elie Wiesel
- “What moves you? What brings you joy? What can you celebrate?” Rebekah Macden
- “I am enough, all I need is within me.” Kelisa Wing
- “Things are not getting worse; they are getting uncovered.” Adrienne Marie Brown
- “Every voice matters; every voice counts.” Tiwana Merritt
- “Justice is what love looks like in public.” Professor Cornell West
- “Listen to students, let students lead, the power of voice, the power of community.” Kristina Pennell-Götze
Shwetangna Chakrabarty is the editor for The International Educator and the assistant head of secondary and university counselor at Utahloy International School Guangzhou, China. She has been a university counselor for over 10 years, actively advising students and families for university application and selection. She has toured over 60 universities across the world to develop a wealth of experience in college counseling. She serves in the Council of International School’s Global Forum Planning committee 2022 for university guidance and admissions.