In the future when we look back on Summer 2020, one day, we will note it was a memory marked by many unprecedented crises and challenges, but also accomplishments that impact the work we perform as higher education professionals. Whether the global health pandemic or quests for human, social, and ethnic justice, higher education is always involved in addressing the problems, providing the solutions, and facilitating resolutions. I am reminded that education is empowerment because it can provide the tools for managing and overcoming issues of inequality to promote social justice and provide the need panacea or cure through research.
On a personal note, as a preschool and elementary student, I had the opportunity to participate in activities and receive education with the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). I attended pre-school at one of the organization’s early childhood centers in Mississippi and entered elementary school as a fluent reader because of my preparation in the school. The Director, Jackie Smith, took us everywhere (parks, museums, zoos, television shows, etc.). Also, I witnessed the events the NCNC chapter sponsored in my local community including an international festival where they recognized the beauty of diversity of the world.
The national founder of the organization, Mary McLeod Bethune (the daughter of former slaves), advocated for human, civil, and women’s rights. She was an educator, businesswoman, activist, national leader, United Nations participant, and a director under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s who also established a school and college. As a young child throughout adolescence, I saw the efforts of NCNW on a local and national level through these women’s achievements including within my own family.
I come from a lineage involved in community service and activism with my mother serving as a first African American, African American woman, and woman in corporate as well as political settings. The experiences within my family and from NCNW were very powerful and left an indelible imprint and impact on my life today and my career choices as well. I knew whatever I chose to pursue in life that I wanted to make a difference and to use opportunity for advancement. One of my aunts always encouraged us to “be a blessing on the job” every day. My step aunt was a Dean of International Studies and so my family hosted people from all over the world who stayed in our home.
Within my core being, because of the experiences these African American women exposed me to, I would not accept limitations nor allow challenges to define, dominate, or destroy me. I have had to overcome challenges in life that were gendered and intersectional and unfortunately those facilitated by colorism. I am an academician, but also a survivor.
I share these experiences for two reasons. Our current challenges provide points of clarity and perspective that there is unity in the challenges all citizens are currently facing. We are all impacted by some challenge or even opportunity this summer. I have seen posts citing, “mi lucha is tu lucha” as my Latinx colleagues are supporting issues facing my African American community. And I found great excitement and immense joy with chill bumps of victory when hearing about the Supreme Court announcement to uphold protections to Dreamers!
Secondly, higher education is always involved in different movements, paradigm shifts, and global changes. Although we face many challenges and have some victories this summer, let us do what we always do i.e. continue rising to the occasion and making a difference. People look to and up to us. It’s within all of us as either scholars, practitioners, scholar practitioners, and practitioner scholars to do!
Again, in the future when we look back on Summer 2020, one day, we will note it was a memory marked by many unprecedented crises and challenges, but we should be able to say “we made a difference.” Now, our personal goal on this day, this month, and this summer is deciding and defining how we will make a difference. Our response in the future is predicated on what we are doing right now.
Last, one recommended resource is The National Women’s History Museum. I encourage everyone to go to the website (https://www.womenshistory.org/) and learn more about dynamic, diverse women making a difference!
Always surviving and by faith, overcoming,
Lisa D. Hobson, Ph. D., TACT President